Understanding and Simplifying SEO: Top Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners
Who hears SEO and immediately panics? Let's face it, as a small business owner or creative entrepreneur, it's very likely that you were never trained in digital marketing or SEO skills. And yet, to really benefit your business, you know that you need to implement some sort of SEO strategy into your biz. Well, the panic is over, because I'm here to explain what SEO is all about and simplify the concept in a way that everyone can understand. No technical jargon over here, thanks.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
"Search engine optimization is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines. SEO targets unpaid traffic rather than direct traffic or paid traffic." Source: Wikipedia
Overall, SEO helps your website and content be visible to your potential audience, which in turn helps you to reach more customers and increase your sales. As a business owner, understanding the basics of SEO is important in effectively implementing your overall marketing strategy. It's a big piece of the puzzle.
There is absolutely no use in investing time and money, and having a beautiful website if your no one will find it. So, you need to know how can you make your site stand out in the ocean of content on the internet.
SEO works through a process that is handled by search engines like Google and Bing. If someone is typing a certain keyword into the search engine that is related to your industry, and your website is strategized to its ultimate SEO potential, then your website appears at the beginning of the search. This then leads to them clicking on your website link and potentially becoming paying customers of your product or service. Most people will only look at the results on page one of the search engine, and either click on one of those links or search for something else.
"The click-through rate on Google SERPs decreases exponentially with positioning. Links that appear in the first position have a 30% click rate. The number drops to 10% for links in the third position and falls closer to 2% towards the bottom of the first page." Smart Insights
How does Google choose what results show on the first page? Google filters through billions of pages to find the best match to a search query, all within a second. It's all done by an algorithm that considers a few factors when collating the winning results:
Meaning of your query
Relevance of webpages
Quality of content
Usability of webpages
Context and settings
SEO's role is to optimize the web pages to link together search queries with the content that best matches what Google wants to see.
Seems like a no-brainer right? And yet SEO is often an overlooked and misunderstood tool that every entrepreneur has access to. It's not a quick fix and it takes time to see real results, sometimes up to 12 months. But a strong SEO strategy has lasting benefits that can completely overhaul a small business’s online presence.
Now you know what SEO is and why it's important, you need to know how to implement it successfully in your business. You might think that you need a large budget or to hire a professional expert to strategize your SEO, but really all you need is to understand a few basic best practices and how to put them into action.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to improve the SEO of your small business.
Find the right SEO keywords
Keywords are a critical part of SEO, as they help search engines find your website. To optimize your site effectively, you need to understand the basics of keyword research and usage. This starts with finding relevant keywords that relate to what your business is offering.
To do this, think about the words your audience are likely to use when searching for your products or service online. So for example, if you sell candles your customer might be searching for things such as "lavender scented candles" "eco wick candles" or "brown glass jar candles". Do your research in relation to your offering, and make a list of 20-50 keywords. Once you have your list you can use a keyword tool to validate whether the keywords you have chosen are frequently used in online searches, and for recommendations of more keywords to add to your list.
Now that you have your comprehensive list of keywords, you want to add them into your website pages as much as you can. Use them in your URLS, in your titles, meta descriptions, throughout your content, website copy, alt text... wherever it is relevant to include them. But, you don't want to use them in a spammy way, it has to be relatable for a human to understand. As Google’s webmaster guidelines state: “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.” Use them strategically rather than randomly.
Share quality content
Search engine algorithms prioritize high-quality content when they determine ranking position. The main mission of the search engine is to help people find answers to their queries. So, your best strategy to get traffic to your site is to create compelling content, including articles, videos and photos, that answers the keyword questions your audience will be searching for. Make sure that all of your content is relevant, informative and up to date.
Optimize your website to be user-friendly
The design, layout and speed of your website is another very important factor when it comes to SEO. The way it looks and functions has a big effect on how search engines will index it and which keywords they prioritize.
The first way to optimize your site's performance is to use a simple navigation structure, making sure it's easy for people to move around your website and find what they want. Having a fast site speed also makes a difference, so ensure that your photos and videos are minimized to optimum web-size to keep your site speed up. The last thing you want to do is deter visitors with a slow and clunky site. You also want to make sure that your site design is optimized for mobile view, as the majority of website visits are on phones or tablets.
One way that search engines understand your website is credible is by including links, to both your own internal site and to external sources as well.
Using internal links, that are redirected back to another page on your own website, is an effective way of passing links between pages on your site and helping search engines understand what’s important on your site. Make sure each post links back somewhere relevant in order to keep visitors engaged and navigate around different parts of your website easily.
Include external links to relevant sources wherever you can as well. For example, if you have collaborated with a brand or had a press feature with a company, be sure to include links to all of this. Focus on the quality and relevance of the links.
Track your analytics
Tracking your ranking and performance for important keywords is crucial for properly attributing your SEO efforts. It's an essential way of you being able to monitor what is working and what isn't.
Set up Google Analytics and Search Console to be able to monitor your SEO efforts and track the analytics of your website. These reporting tools are essential for any SEO activity and provide insights on everything from search engine traffic to the queries that people are using to find you. They are completely free for anyone to set up.
All of these tasks can be set up in a single day and for free. And, if you do everything included on this list, you will more than likely start to see results. Like most worthwhile things, SEO can be a bit of a waiting game as it takes a while for your ranking to be recognized. So be patient, but don't give up!
SEO is a process. You need to keep on top of the content and strategies you're implementing on your website. Keep sharing valuable content for your users, keep optimizing your titles and meta descriptions, and keep tracking your traffic. With continued effort, you can easily achieve long term success with small business SEO!
Creative Virtual Assistant at Kelp Collective