The internet is not a new thing - performing a Google search for a product has become as normal for a consumer as heading to the shops to take a look in person.
One thing we often hear from small businesses is that they want to know how to get noticed online and improve their SEO. Many small business owners find that it’s hard to compete against bigger brands, and worry that they will never achieve good rankings in the search engines because they don't have the money or time to put towards SEO.
These simple SEO tips can help your small business to get noticed online, whether you’re a sole proprietor or own a chain of shops.
First things first, what is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. In its simplest form, it’s the process of designing your website (and its content) so that it appears near the top of the list in search results. Search engines use an algorithm to rate websites based on a number of factors, including relevancy, speed and authority. It does this to give searchers the results that best match their question or search term. The better your website meets these criteria, the more likely it is to appear higher up in the results.
Why is SEO important?
According to Smart Insights, the first five organic search results (below the paid adverts) account for 67% of all clicks. After all, when was the last time you went to the second page of Google? The higher you can rank your business, the better the chance of a user finding you.
Are there keywords on your site?
It’s a safe bet that if you make and sell cakes, the word “cake” appears on your website once or twice. A search engine counts the number of times the word a user has searched for appears on a site - this is known as a keyword. The more it appears, the more the search engine thinks this is relevant.
However, this doesn’t mean you should go overboard. Search engines will penalise you for ‘keyword stuffing’ if you simply add keywords to your content without paying attention to how it reads, and will likely not rank your website highly. Remember, you’re writing for a potential customer too, so make sure it sounds as natural and relevant as possible.
A good strategy for small businesses is to take advantage of more specific keywords and local SEO. Most people who are searching for cake are looking for local retailers, so adding keywords such as local towns and cities can really help. Rather than trying to rank just for “cake”, as this is a broad term, you may want to try “cake decorator Blackpool” or “vintage style wedding cakes”. Statements such as “Making cakes, pastries and sweets in the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre area since 2008” can help in local searches.
Not only will you have more chance to rank with these terms, they’ll also be far more intent driven. Customers searching for more specific terms are likely closer to the purchasing stage of their journey and know what they are looking for, therefore increasing your chances of conversion.
Is your website easy to use?
Think about your own web browsing. If you hit a page that is slow to load, is full of errors or has links that go nowhere, would you persevere through to order a product? If people regularly leave your page quickly after arriving, it can negatively impact your search results. Search engines call this the ‘bounce rate’, because people take no action and bounce off your page – the higher the bounce rate, the less likely your website is to be recommended. Here’s some things you need to ensure, in order to keep people on your website:
- Your content is accurate and up-to-date
- Your links work (both to pages on your site and to other websites or social media)
- It’s easy to find out more information and how to contact you
- Most importantly, it’s easy to order products
Is your website up-to-date?
Following on from the above point, not only does keeping your website up-to-date and easy to use encourage people to spend time there (and order products), it also tells search engines that your site is active. A site which hasn’t been updated for a number of years isn’t likely to rank high in search listings, as the search engine doesn’t see it as relevant. Consistency is key with this. Instead of embarking on a massive grind to produce a ton of content, do a little every week.
Remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint!
Here’s some bitesize tasks you could do:
- Write a blog post about your new product launch
- Share recipes or how to guides
- Update a page with new information
- Add links to new products
Having a plan and tackling your website little by little each week will go a long way in helping it stay updated.
Who is linking to your website?
Other websites can link to your website, this is known as ‘backlinking’. For example, here’s 5 digital marketing tips for your business – we’ve linked back to one of our posts, but you can link to other websites too. This may happen if your product or service is featured in an article, you are interviewed as a business owner or your blog is shared by people across social media and the internet.
If you notice someone has mentioned your brand or product, but hasn’t linked to your website, it’s a good idea to ask them to include a link. Send an email, or reach out on social media, thanking them for the mention and asking them to link to your site so their audience can find out more information. This will help your SEO, especially if it’s a popular or authoritative website.
Are you writing for a person?
Ultimately, whilst the above factors can impact your visibility, the most important thing to remember is that your words will be read by a person, not a machine. Be descriptive and think about your content through the eyes of your potential visitors.
When users stay on a page, read the content and interact with your website, search engines recognise this popularity and are more likely to recommend your website to other users.
The world of SEO is complex, so we hope this simple guide has given you a good introduction to the easy ways to manage SEO for small businesses.
There’s a wealth of resources online that can help you to get started on your SEO journey. Google themselves have an accessible starter guide covering all the basics of search, and you can get free digital marketing training with their Digital Garage. Moz offers a free learning centre, covering all the fundamentals of SEO, from link building to local SEO.
No one knows the exact rules that search engines use – it’s a closely guarded secret. However, following the guidelines above makes good business sense and will help you to get noticed online.
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