A beginner's guide to SEO for small businesses: part one
What is SEO? It stands for ‘search engine optimisation’ and refers to how easy it is for a search engine (like Google, for example) to find your website. Great SEO means that a person searching for products or services like yours on Google is shown your website on the first page. When people talk about “ranking” highly, this is exactly what that means.
When you crack SEO, you boost your business’s chances of being found by your target audience and attract more traffic to your website. Sounds simple enough, but it’s an ongoing process that requires attention and dedication. Not everyone has the time, budget or resources to spend on finessing their SEO.
Luckily, you don’t need a big budget or tons of technical expertise to get to grips with the basics of SEO. This two-part guide will tell you what you need to know to help your business stand out from the crowd. If you approach SEO in the right way, it will pay off in the long run.
Before we start, we’re going to assume that you have a website already. In part one, we’ll cover:
- The basic tools you need to improve SEO
- Why your website is the foundation of great SEO
- What are the main technical SEO fixes?
- How to improve your on-page SEO
The basic tools you need to improve SEO
Most web traffic comes from people searching directly on Google. This could be for a specific product or service, or simply a question they need answering. Coming up on the first page or two in a search engine for a specific search term will give you consistent visitors to your website (known as traffic). Social media and email marketing might get you strong spikes in traffic, but they’re likely to fade quickly. If you get to grips with improving your SEO, you can enjoy longer lasting visits and more eyeballs on your website.
Google stays slightly mysterious about how it decides which order to list search results in, but you can check out their up-to-date guide on how search works. The best way to see how you’re performing in real time is to use Google Analytics and Search Console. If you haven’t set these up, you’ll want to do that as soon as you can. Here’s what they do:
- Google Analytics is an incredibly useful platform that helps you understand how your website is performing. You can track and report on the number of visits you get and how many of these turn into a sale (known as a conversion). It also allows you to see growth over various time periods, and helps you understand how your audience is using your site. Set up your page here.
- Google Search Console is the key to seeing what your site listing looks like on Google Search results. You can fix any errors you spot and make sure Google knows you exist by submitting your site to their index (although most websites tend to be indexed already). Get started here.
Why your website is the foundation of great SEO
If your website is well designed and shows Google that it’s a great place for its users to find valuable content, you’ll start appearing higher up in people’s searches. There are a few basic principles to a great website (and to convincing Google).
1. Get a good domain
A domain is the name of a website. When someone asks you how to find your business online, you’ll technically be sending them to your domain. It’s the bit that comes after “www.” in your web address and after “@” in your business email address.
Try to make this as simple and specific as possible so it’s easier for Google and your customers to recognise you. Include the name of your business, avoid hyphens, keep it short and make it memorable!
2. Create a positive user experience
The easier and safer it is to navigate your website, the more Google will favour you. And that means you’re closer to page one. Here’s what to think about:
- Use HTTPS (a secure internet communication protocol) rather than HTTP. This helps ensure your users’ data is safer against potential hacker threats. Your site should be encrypted to strengthen your security even further.
- Make your design look modern and easy to use. Think about font size and the kind of branding and colour scheme users want to navigate through.
- In today’s market, more Google searches happen on mobiles than desktop. So having a mobile-friendly site is really important. Otherwise, many potential users accessing your website on their phones won’t hang around for long. It will be a clunky user experience that could lose you custom.
- The speed it takes for your pages to load influences how you rank. Don’t get too bogged down by this as there’s not much in it for most websites, but make sure it’s not really slow.
- Create a logical site structure that’s easy to navigate. Try brainstorming and mapping it out on paper to see the best way you can send people around your site. The internal links you use are also really important here, not just for user experience but also for SEO. They help search engines find all your pages and force them to “read” more. Building a more logical and clear site helps a search engine understand what your business is all about, and will help you show up higher in search results.
What are the main technical SEO fixes?
Just like your car needs an annual MOT, your website needs regular checking too. Companies like Moz can review every part of your website, like a digital audit. They’ll tell you about the more technical issues with your site that affect SEO. Importantly, they’ll also tell you to fix them. Typically, they’ll find:
- Pages with links that get redirected somewhere unexpected
- Pages that Google won’t recognise
- Broken links that show error messages
- Slow loading speed on your site
- Identical or duplicate content across different pages
SEO can give your business the boost it needs
Prioritising and fine tuning your SEO can bring about big wins. Although it takes time and consistency, it’s a necessary part of business and key to attracting valuable traffic.
If your website could use a little love then some of the software and platforms listed above could help you know where to start. It may even be time for someone to step in more permanently to manage your SEO efforts. Whatever strategy you decide on, we’re here to help you launch it. Our flex loan gives you working capital on demand, up to £100,000, to cover these kinds of operational expenses.
Tune in for part two of our guide, where we’ll take your SEO to the next level and help you beat your competitors. We’ll cover:
- Researching your SEO keywords
- Knowing your competition
- How to improve your on-page SEO
- What is link building and how does it help SEO?