How do you improve your rankings on search engines like Google? It’s a question commonly asked by small business owners as a means of generating more leads.
The process used by marketers to boost website rankings is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
There are many factors that influence SEO. For example, you’ll want to make sure that your site is mobile friendly, it’s not too slow, you’re using the right keywords, you’re using unique and fresh content, you’re making good use of your H1 headings, you’re optimising your images, you have a link building strategy in place, and your site contains a sitemap. It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t change your site’s URL unless it’s absolutely necessary.
With so many factors at play, and no marketing/SEO resources, where do you even start?
Well, at Lemonade Beach we’re all about empowering our clients, so we thought we’d pull together an SEO to-do list for you. On this list you’ll find 7 practical things you can start to do for your own small business to gain some traction.
One of the most critical factors in SEO is page speed. So, let’s start there!
7 SEO Tips for Small Businesses
- Check your site speed
To put it bluntly, search engines don’t like websites that take too long to load. There are a number of tools available to check your site’s speed. We have a WordPress site, so we like to use ManageWP. Alternatively, there’s Google PageSpeed Insights and many, many more. You guessed it – you can find them on (drum roll)… Google! These tools will give you an indication on how your site is performing and will offer suggestions on how to improve your site’s Load Speed. This may involve resizing images or removing redundant plugins for example.
- Do some research around keywords
At the centre of your SEO strategy are your keywords. And crucial to identifying your keywords is understanding your audience and what they are searching for. If you’ve been in business for a while, this shouldn’t be too difficult. But if you need a bit of inspiration you can also look to your direct competitors – take note of the keywords they use and what terms they are ranking for.
If your core service is yoga, then you should be using keywords like “yoga”, “yoga classes” and “yoga instructor”. Add some long-tail keywords to the mix too, to align with some more specific searches. An example might be – “flexible yoga memberships”, “best yoga teacher on Gold Coast”, or “how do I do yoga”.
If you’re not familiar with it already, check out Google’s Keyword Planner tool, which will help you identify some potential keywords based on the content already on your site.
- Update your content
Search engines prioritise websites that have fresh content. That’s why they love blogs as they are consistently being updated.
You should view your website as a living thing, that needs regular care and attention. You can’t just create it, walk away and expect it to perform at its best. It’s recommended that you adopt a continuous approach to improvement, both in terms of content and user experience. Through the use of a Content Plan you can start to map out themes across the year that will drive your content.
Note: You may also like to create a Website Roadmap to plan and action any development required to improve the user experience.
When creating new content, it’s important to focus it around your core product or service offerings. Be specific, as search engines endeavour to direct traffic through to the most authoritative sites based on the search term entered. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, hone in on what you do best (i.e. what you want to be found for). To be viewed as an authoritative site for pilates, covering topics such as renovations is not going to help in your quest.
The more focused you are with your topics, the easier it becomes to identify the best keywords for your site too.
There are a number of ways you’ll use your keywords – in your content, headings, meta descriptions, alt attributes, and in your site’s URL too.
Note: Steer away from URLs like this http://www.gardening.com/blog/article123
And instead use something like this http://www.gardening.com/blog/how-to-grow-sunflowers
It’s also probably a good time to let you know that search engines generally don’t like duplicate content. I know this can be time consuming, but it’s worth taking the time to ensure each page on your site has its own unique content and meta description. If you use WordPress, you can install the Yoast plugin for suggestions on how to optimise your content.
- Use headings wisely
When it comes to SEO, using a heading such as “Welcome to our website” just isn’t going to cut it. Why? Because it’s not descriptive, and ultimately, it isn’t a search term your audience will be typing into Google. Optimizing your content around words and phrases that people search for (i.e. keywords), helps your site to rank higher for those search terms. So, the aim of the game is to use your H1 headings wisely, ensuring that you incorporate your most powerful and appropriate keywords to describe the content of each page.
- Optimize your images
This is one area many small businesses go wrong, and it’s relatively easy to fix. Too often small businesses are so busy trying to wear multiple hats that they end up with an extensive media library in their Content Management System (CMS), all sized incorrectly. So, the first step to optimize your images is to shrink them down, as they are likely impacting your site’s speed.
Then go into each image and add alt attributes. If you use WordPress, this can be easily done in your CMS. When entering your alt attributes, ensure they appropriately describe your images.
Remember, Google can’t read images, but it can read your alt attributes. So, use powerful and descriptive keywords for your image (around 125 characters).
- Generate a sitemap
If your site’s pages are properly linked, Google’s web crawlers can usually discover most of your site. However, there are some other special circumstances when creating a sitemap can be particularly valuable.
Your sitemap file is essentially a blue-print of your website. It feeds search engines with all the information they need to find, crawl and index the content on your website. They also help search engines to identify which pages on your site are most important.
If you have a large website that is cram-packed with information, or a brand new site with few external backlinks, it’s recommended that you create a sitemap.
Another special circumstance where your site must contain a sitemap is if you would like your site’s content to appear in Google News.
There are sitemap generators available from both Google and Bing that may come in handy.
- Create a link building strategy
Search engines love websites that appear authoritative. The more “trustworthy” sites that link out to your website, the more you gain search engine authority. These links are called external links or backlinks. While you don’t have too much control over which sites link out to yours, by creating a site that is both functionally and aesthetically pleasing with relevant and timely content, the more likely other sites will reference yours.
You can also encourage external links through your existing relationships with clients, suppliers, or even indirect competitors by starting to create external links to their sites. Central to every decision you make should be your customer’s experience, so if another business has some information your audience could really benefit from, and if it’s a credible site, you could consider linking to it in the hope of creating a give and take scenario (i.e. you link to them in the hope they may one day return the favour).
Unlike external links, internal links are completely in your control. They are not only a great way to encourage visitors to stay on your site longer, pushing them deeper into your content, but they are also great for SEO. The idea here is that you want to link relatable content. For example, if a page on your site refers to content found on another page – LINK IT! Now, when I say link it, I don’t mean link the whole sentence, or the whole paragraph. The best way to do this is by linking the actual keywords that describe the content.
“We encourage you to read our Tax Planning Checklist” (Right)
“To view our Tax Planning Checklist, click here” (Wrong)
In this scenario, we would link the keywords “Tax Planning Checklist” rather than “Click here” shown in the second example. By linking the descriptive keywords we’ll generate more SEO juice.
It’s also important to keep a close eye on your internal links as your site grows to ensure you’re not penalised by search engines for having broken links.
Pulling it all together
SEO is a constantly changing space and there are a lot of moving parts that all need to work together to boost your rankings. It can take a bit of time and patience to work through each of those parts and to build up your site’s authority with search engines. But by putting in the ground work and then tracking your progress, you can start to celebrate some of your small wins (I like to do a little happy dance).
Tracking your progress will not only identify your wins, but it will highlight where you need improvement too.
There is no shortage of SEO tracking tools, but if you don’t have a big SEO budget, we suggest setting up Google Analytics and Google Search Console to get you started. As we already use ManageWP, we like to use this to enter some of the keywords we’d like to track too. There are much more sophisticated tools available, but it’s a great place to start for any small businesses that would like to start seeing some results, without the price-tag of the more sophisticated tools.
Lemonade Beach is a Business Advisory and Accounting firm based on the Gold Coast. If you’d like to hear more about our services and how we could work together, we invite you to book an obligation-free discovery call.