A beginner's guide to SEO for small businesses: part two
Welcome back to our small business guide to SEO! Businesses are now more reliant on their online presence than ever before. So making sure your website performs as well as it can should be a priority for you. ‘Search engine optimisation’ (SEO) refers to how high you list for different search terms on Google. The aim of the game is to get to that top spot, so that more people can discover your business.
As a reminder, in part one we covered:
- The basic tools you need to improve SEO
- Why your website is the foundation of great SEO
- What are the main technical SEO fixes?
Now you’ve got that in the bag, it’s time to expand on your knowledge. One of the biggest things that will impact how effective your website SEO is how good your competitors’ SEO is. It’s time to really know your competition if you want to list ahead of another similar business. To help you get there, this article will 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?
Researching your keywords
A core way of boosting your SEO is to use relevant keywords that relate to your business and industry. As we’ve said in part one, SEO is about how close to the top you appear in the results of someone’s Google search. So take a step back and think about what your potential customers are searching for and why.
Once you’ve got to grips with the intent or objective of their search, it’s easier to think about similar searches you could list for. Let’s say you sell children’s clothing. Make a list of the kinds of things people might search for to find you. You might start with something straightforward like “kids clothes”, but you could also think of more specific searches. For example, “stain-resistant children’s clothes” or “rompers”. Google will also display a list of linked searches, so test out more obvious searches and take note of what else comes up.
You want to attract people who will go on to purchase your goods or service, so spend time putting together the main words and phrases that define your industry. This will give you a basic set of keywords to start with and make them more relevant to your target audience. You can build on this by using a Keywords Explorer, offered by the likes of Ahrefs or Google Ads.
The potential your keywords have to attract more visitors has a significant impact on which words you should target. You can find out how often each keyword is searched for in specific areas or regions per month using software offered by the businesses listed above. This will tell you how popular a keyword is. If a word related to your business gets a lot of searches then in an ideal world you want to be appearing high on a Google search for it.
Bear in mind that sometimes it’s better to go for a word with lower search volume, as you have a better shot at ranking higher. If there are millions of people searching for a keyword, there will be more businesses trying to get into those searches. Ranking for words with a lower search volume could help your business be a big fish in a small pond.
Knowing your competition
It’s all very well finding out which words you’re targeting, but don’t forget to look at your competition. Draw up a list of your main competitors and go through their websites. Also take a look at the websites that do come up for your list of target keywords, in case they’re not a competitor you had thought about.
Platforms like Semrush will help you understand the online footprint and SEO of your competitors even further. You’ll be able to see what they’re ranking for and how close to the top they list for a particular search.
Start to build a picture of the content these competitors cover on their websites. You want to try to learn from their success. It’s not always the biggest businesses that get on page one, so ask yourself what they’re doing right, and how they’re using keywords.
How to improve your on-page SEO
The first thing a search engine “sees” are your URL, title tags, meta description and heading tags. So pay attention to your descriptive URL slugs. These are the bits at the end of a URL for each page. They should be short and clear for your audience as well as the search engine.
Your title tags (the blue links that show up in search results) should be carefully chosen. Ideally these are around 55-60 characters long, use target words, answer why, how, what or where, and generally entice people to click on them. It’s also important that you don’t duplicate these anywhere on your site, or Google will mark you down (and you’ll be listed lower).
Meta descriptions require attention too. These are lines of text that display on Google below the title tag. Try to keep them between 140-160 characters long, include a keyword or several, and add a clear call to action (CTA) if it’s relevant to the page. They should be unique, descriptive and ideally target an emotion to get people to click on your result!
Heading tags are the visible page headings on a web page itself. Write these for your audience more than for search engines. After all, you’re trying to communicate with your customers here, not just Google. If your content is too focused on SEO it could start to sound less natural. Be mindful of that balance.
Optimise the images you use on your site as well. You can always get traffic from Google image search as well as web searches. Name the image files with keywords, use descriptive alt text (the words that describe the image) on the website. You can also compress the images so they speed up your loading speed.
Ultimately, making content that people want to read is a great way to boost your SEO. That could be informative web pages, useful FAQs or even a blog. Have a think about what would make someone click on your site. Lots of websites are now SEO perfect. The difference comes down to the content, and that means more than just targeting the best keywords. So spend time making sure your content is up to scratch. Think about how you could use images, videos, and other media to engage your visitors, too.
What is link building and how does it help SEO?
You can improve your SEO by thinking beyond your own website too. Are there other websites out there that link to yours? If your business is a service then there might be an online register or directory you could be listed on. Do some research into places people might go to find businesses like yours. These listings will take people to your website, and are known as backlinks.
Backlinks can be really helpful because Google favours websites that are linked on other sites. It helps improve Google’s picture of you and how credible your business is. Your suppliers and other business associations can also help build your backlinks.
If, for example, you sell a product from a particular brand or manufacturer then see if they have a “Where to find us” list. Or, if you’re a landscaper, then warehouses or specific retailers might have a place where they link to local tradespeople. You could also write guest blog posts or place thought leadership pieces in external media sites. Ultimately, the more places Google finds your webpages, the better.
Staying on top of your SEO will reap rewards
You think about what your customer wants when you think about the products or services you offer. The same should go to how they find you online. Your priority is understanding the kinds of things people actually search for, and designing a site that leads them frictionlessly to what they’re looking for.
We’re here to help if you’re inspired to update and invigorate your website presence. A flex loan can give you the extra cash you need, when you need it. It’s a flexible facility up to £100,000 that you can access on your terms. Software costs that help you research your competitors and build a stronger website become easier to manage when you have a flex loan in place.