With over 3.5 billion searches happening on Google every day, SEO is something that every company large or small should be investing in. Google and other search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to provide users with the most relevant and best results. In order for your small business to compete with the larger, better-known companies in your industry, you’ll need to utilize and master some basic SEO strategies first.
Your Site Needs to be Optimized for the Correct Keywords
Let me put it this way, your site will never perform if you don’t get this right. Far too often we see smaller sites come to us and the meta title of their homepage simply reads, “home.” They are often missing a description too. The single most important step in all of this, and probably the most important thing I will discuss in this article, is centered around targeting the correct keywords. The only way you are really going to compete is to target the right keywords in your header tags, metadata, and on-site content. The bigger, more well-known companies will always outrank you if you aren’t even the slightest bit competitive. If your business is geographical or local, you also need to send local signals in these sections of your site by calling out where you are located or the area that you serve.
Your heading content or the title of your landing page should show up on your website as an H1 level heading or in the source code, you should see it inside of an <h1> tag. This lets search engines know exactly what your page is about. Additionally, they have <h2> tags which are key subsections of your article and other smaller heading tags all the way down to <h6>. All of the heading tags are used to tell not only your reader but also search engines like Google, what your article is about. Utilizing keywords in your heading content is essential to having your pages rank properly and as high as possible.
Meta Titles & Descriptions
MetaData is another key factor in having your content rank for your target keywords. We often see small businesses using broad meta titles like “home” or just their brand name for the home page meta title. These are mistakes you don’t want to make. Instead, your meta title should be similar to your header content, but a shortened version containing keywords you want to rank for. Having a unique meta title in place for all of your landing pages is one of the single most important things you can do for your website.
Meta descriptions are another key component of your landing pages. They won’t always directly help you rank, but they can aid in clicks. We often find that many websites don’t utilize them whatsoever. They let Google decide what to pull in, and oftentimes Google is going to do that anyway, but you should still capitalize on what should be in the meta description field. The meta description should be a very short description of what content your page contains so the reader or search engine can get the gist of what the article is about without having to read it. Having a call to action like “learn more now” or “shop with us today” is appropriate because it excites users to engage with your page. It could give you a leg over the competition.
Keyword Usage in On-Site Content
On-site content is another way in which you can utilize keywords to better your rankings for search engines. Your on-site content should aid the keywords you used in your metadata and header tags by utilizing those same keywords or synonyms of such keywords. You should also have a consistent supporting content calendar.
A good way to build internal page authority is to continuously publish great content with a clear internal link structure pointing back to your main pages. This content should come in the form of answering questions pertaining to the industry you practice in or long-form keywords that you can provide information about. However, updating older content so it remains relevant can be just as beneficial as a new post. First, you’ll want to ensure that what you are writing about is something readers are actively searching for pertaining to your industry. We like to utilize SEMrush’s Topic Research Tool to find topics with a high search volume to ensure what we are writing about has demand. Then you’ll want to ensure that your content is accurately answering questions that users have. This will not only increase the likelihood that the reader is happy with your article and wants to share it but also increase your odds of being Google’s “featured snippet” for that particular search query.
Make Sure You Have a Well-Designed and Maintained Site
Since you are a small business you need separation, to compete with the big fish. You will want your company to wow users when they land on your site. You want to use proper, high-resolution imagery, but ensure that they are compressed to the ideal file size so you don’t give up page load time. The layout and site navigation is very important as well. You want users to easily navigate your website and have an idea of where they are going. If you owned a clothing store, you wouldn’t necessarily put jeans on the same rack as t-shirts. The same goes for the architecture of your website.
Keep it Clean
Outside of the looks and user experience, you will also want to ensure that your site is properly functioning. Your website will be the first impression you have on consumers, so if your site is outdated or full of broken pages, you will be starting off on the wrong foot. Think of this as if they were walking through the doors of a physical store again. You wouldn’t want the store to be cluttered or contain broken merchandise. The same rule applies to the various landing pages on your site. As a business owner, you will want to ensure that your website has no 404 pages (broken pages), that none of them are internally linked, and that your site is functioning with SEO best practices in mind to put your best foot forward and create a killer online presence.
Make Your Users Feel Safe
Your site needs to be secure. In the past as long as your website was not an e-commerce store dealing with credit cards and other personal information it did not matter if it was secure or not, unfortunately that is no longer the case. Setting up an unsecured website without an SSL Certificate is a HUGE red flag to Google and can have a severe impact on your ranking. Additionally, all internal links on your website should be pointing to secure pages as well. This just ensures that your site is fully secure and can be trusted, which will give users a sense of trust to convert on your website. The added benefit to this is that Google factors this into their ranking algorithm. When we talk about an SSL certificate it simply means that your site is under the HTTPS protocol and all non-secure (HTTP) protocols redirect to the secure version.
The only way your pages are going to rank is if Google can crawl them. Beating out the bigger competition would be impossible if you were blocking pages from being crawled. Signing up for a Google Search Console account and having it track data from your site is important. In this tool you can track index status, meaning how many of your URLs Google is picking up and ranking.
You still have to do your part though. You will want to ensure that your website is set up so that it is easy for search engines to crawl. There are many aspects that can go into this, but I’ll stick to a few of the basics that should get the job done:
- Your URLs should be short and concise and contain the proper key terms.
- You should block any pages that you don’t want to be indexed, like a login portal for existing customers. You won’t always have pages that you want to block.
- You should have an XML sitemap and it should be free from errors, meaning any broken pages. Your XML sitemap URL should also be submitted through Google Search Console and called in your robots.txt file.
Attack the Local Scene
Your business needs to have a Google My Business profile set-up. You should also attack other outlets like Bing Places, and Facebook. You’ll want to create local brand awareness and encourage happy customers to leave you a review. Having a presence in your local community could help someone choose you over a larger competitor.
Google My Business
It’s important to make sure your Google My Business profile is set up properly. You’ll want to make sure key details such as your business’ current address and phone number is correct and consistent with your site, your hours of operations are available and correct, and that you type up a description about your business. They also have new features you can take advantage of.
Google My Business also allows you to advertise and list any promotions you may have going on at no cost to you. You can also share your latest blog posts or articles through GMB now. This will ensure that all of the necessary and latest information about your company is out there and readily available to those looking for it or even those who aren’t, but it can draw them to you!
Many local or small businesses focus so much on Google, that they tend to forget about setting up business accounts on other search engines too. It’s easy if you’re an avid Google user to overlook the other search engines out there (trust me, many people make this mistake). However, you would be doing yourself an injustice if you forget about other search engines local business features such as Microsoft (Bing) which gets 123 Million searches per day on average. Now this number compared to the billions Google gets daily, as I previously mentioned, seems minuscule, but it’s still millions of queries every day that you have the potential to show up for and take advantage of.
Additionally, it is very important that you get your business set up with different social media pages. Again you’ll want to make sure you have all of the necessary information available to the public such as an address, phone number, hours, etc. Social media pages are a great way to gain brand exposure in your local market. Take for example Facebook, users are able to like, share, and review your business for all of their followers to see. Users also turn to platforms like Facebook to get the latest information on your business.
Quality Content is and Always Will be Important
I talked about this a bit when I was discussing keyword usage. Continuously publishing content could help you rank for less competitive terms. While your main pages may target broader keywords with a lot of competition, article topics or long-tail keywords will have less competition associated with them. Some advice I would give is to not be discouraged with the low search volume associated with these longer-tail terms. That’s still 40-50 users you can try and gain if you are awarded the first position.
However, even if you want to go after a topic with higher search volume or more competition, don’t get discouraged by this either. Use the skyscraper technique. Do topic research or see what the bigger players are putting out, visit their page, and make a better one! Supporting content will only aid the main keyword targets you are trying to capture. This is also your opportunity to rank for less competitive terms and for new users to find your business.
Content and SEO strategies go hand in hand and when they are both being executed correctly and effectively, they can correlate to higher rankings and more traffic. Google and search engines alike aim to provide users with the most useful and relevant information possible, so you need to ensure that information is readily available on YOUR website.
Sign Up for HARO
HARO is awesome and FREE! It’s a terrific tool that can be utilized to obtain high-quality backlinks to your website. HARO stands for “Help A Reporter Out” and many websites, news outlets, magazines, etc. post queries daily looking for insight on a variety of different topics. They send 3 emails a day with a ton of pitches from major sites and publications that want to feature you in their article. It’s a good way to get your name out there if you provide a quality answer and they choose you to be featured in their piece.
When it comes to SEO there is no arguing that link building is key to getting your site or pages to rank higher on Google. However, it needs to be done the right way, and HARO is a tool that can help produce those natural backlinks. Now link building seems like a pretty straight forward process, right? The more links pointing back to your page will grade how “trustworthy” your information is, and the more trustworthy your information is the higher you will rank on Google, simple! Unfortunately, link building isn’t easy anymore. Link building has become more and more complex as Google and other search engines continuously change their algorithms to weed out spammy and irrelevant links. The last thing you want to do as a small business is to get a penalty from Google because you were obtaining low-quality links.
Again, HARO is a great place for small businesses to potentially get some really high-quality links from some very well known, larger sites. I suggest to you, as a small business, to sign up for HARO and set aside 10 minutes for 3 times a day (morning, midday, and late afternoon) to dig through the different pitches and creatively think if you can give that reporter a quality answer. There are reporters from publications as big as Forbes posting on HARO looking to feature you. It’s totally worth it!
Go Gain More Traffic for Your Small Business
I can go into a lot more detail on SEO for small businesses, but I will leave it at this. As long as you master everything I talked about in this article, you should be on your way to hockey stick type growth. For a small business, implementing SEO into your website can set you apart from your competition and give you the ability to stand in a 12 round fight with the heavyweight favorites.