As a business owner, you recognise the power of the internet. You have a great website, but how do you get more people to see it without paying top dollar to Google for Ads?
What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the art of getting search terms which are relevant to your business to rank more highly on Google.
Why does that matter? Because people are typically 10 times more likely to click on the number 1 result than on number 10, and 20 times as likely to click on a result on the first page over one on page 2.
Find out more about the basics of SEO in our What is SEO blog.
Is SEO a good tactic for your business?
That depends on what you want to achieve and how quickly.
SEO takes both preparation to set up well, and time to earn good E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trust) scores in Google, so patience is required. The results are worth the effort, but they won’t come overnight.
There are 8 Digital Marketing strategies to choose from, with many, many associated tactics, so it’s important to check out the alternatives :
When your objective is to drive more visitors to your site, the most common comparison is Paid Search, where you create adverts and pay when people click on them through to your site. Read about the pros and cons of each in our SEO vs PPC blog.
We always recommend taking the time to build a Digital Strategy to confirm your objectives and the marketing tactics that will support them most effectively.
The 4 elements of SEO
SEO breaks down into 4 areas – On-Page, Content, Local and Off-Page.
1. On-Page SEO
On page is a bit of a misnoma, as it applies to your site metadata, which isn’t actually visible on your site to your readers. Metadata tells Search Engines what your site is for, what it’s pages are about and what images are illustrating. Your metadata is, however, what appears in Google when someone searches for a product or service like yours.
Keywords – Keywords are the target words and phrases that Google recognises your website for. Google crawls websites and matches keywords to online searches. It is therefore important that your site is correctly optimised for the keywords you want to be found for. Here are our top tips for keyword research.
Titles and Descriptions – These are what Google reads to assess what a web page is going to be about (it does read the rest to confirm the match). In terms of hierarchy, Titles come first, and Descriptions second. Google ignores duplications or pages with missing titles and descriptions, so care is required when creating and updating them. You only have a limited number of characters, so titles and descriptions need to be relevant and concise. This blog explains all about writing great web titles.
Images – Google can’t read images (yet), so relies on Alt-Text to understand an image. An image without Alt-Text will be seen by your website visitors, but is completely ignored by Google.
Accessibility – Google also checks that your site is accessible to the visually impaired, or those unable to use a keyboard. The guidelines to best practise are called WCAG – you can check your compliance at Equal Web.
Site Map – When Google crawls your website, it cross references your site map to the pages on your site. It’s therefore important to check that your site map is up to date. SEO Crawl explain here how to locate your site map.
2. Content for SEO
Content marketing is a huge topic in it’s on right, so we here we will focus on how it impacts SEO.
In terms of SEO, Content is King. As Google is crawling websites, it is looking for original and helpful content, written by people, for people. This means staying on topic, not keyword stuffing, never plagiarising, and providing useful and engaging content for your readers. The considerations for SEO are :
Fresh Content – Google checks how recently you have updated your website, so it’s important to keep your content current. Even your evergreen content can benefit from an image refresh from time to time.
Blogs – Writing a blog is a great way to add fresh content to your site. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate expertise, share knowledge, entertain and engage … and create more copy for Google to crawl for search. Here’s how to write a great blog.
Video – Ever since Google bought YouTube, the importance of video for SEO has grown and grown. Here’s a guide from videographers NoStairway on video content , including our tips on how to optimise it for SEO.
Social signals – Google tracks Social Media interaction too. Create engaging and helpful content in your Social Media, with carefully crafted calls to action bringing people to your site. The more site visits generated by Social Media, the better!
Reviews – Given how much people trust independent reviews, it’s no surprise that Google crawls these too. Publicly posted 3rd party content (ie cannot be amended by the recipient), is an important ranking factor for trust. Read our blog about building your Digital Reputation to find out more.
3. Local SEO
Many small businesses are local businesses who want to be found for “near me” searches like this :
Google Business Profile – (Previously Google My Business) Is the most important factor in Local SEO. Claim and continuously curate your profile with posts, review capture and images to keep your site in the map rankings. Read our blog for tips on GBP best practise
Citations – Google matches details on local listings sites such as Next Door or Bark to your site. Find out more in the Off page SEO section below.
Website content – if you service a specific area, make sure that you say so clearly across your website. If locale is important to you, weave it into your copy headers.
4. Off-Page SEO
This is the techy sounding stuff, so there are elements to it that you’ll need support from your website developer to review and address.
Backlinks – Think of backlinks as an endorsement for your website. Imagine the kudos you would get if you got a positive mention on the BBC – backlinks work the same, when a website with a higher authority than yours links to yours, Google increases your E-A-T score. You can read more about Backlinks and how to get them in our How to get high quality backlinks blog.
Citations – Google likes to see your business mentioned on listings websites. When it sees your (matching) details on sites such as Yell, Cyclex etc, it feels more confident that you are a genuine business. Check your citations at Moz Local.
Site Speed – Recently Google have increased their focus on User Experience, a key element of which is Site Speed. Check out your site speed score at Google Page Speed Insights.
Mobile – With over 60% of online searches being made on a mobile device, mobile site speed and responsiveness are also checked by Google as ranking factors
Site Security – Check that your site comes up as “HTTPS” in your search bar. This tells you that Google sees that page as secure. If a page comes up as “HTTP”, you are on an old version of site security protocols. Here’s a detailed explanation from Bright Edge.
Measuring your SEO performance
There are 2 aspects of SEO to monitor and manage, firstly your budget, and secondly the impact of the work you are doing.
Set yourself a budget, but don’t be afraid to reforecast as you learn. The internet is a dynamic space, with companies updating their sites, customers trying new searches and Google changing its algorithm regularly. Here are our latest tips for Budgeting for your Digital Marketing.
Create a small set of key performance indicators, that tell you whether you are moving towards your goals or not. Review them regularly and take action where the data tells you are going off-track. In this blog, we share some of the most used KPIs.
As you can see, there are many factors involved in getting your site to rank highly on Google search. They are summarised here in our blog How you can get your website on the first page of Google.
Using this SEO guide for small businesses will get you going in the right direction. It will also provide you with insights, so that if you decide to explore outsourcing to an agency you have enough knowledge to ask the right questions.
If you’d like to talk about outsourcing your SEO, just contact us for a no obligation chat.
As a wrap-up aide-memoir, here’s our infographic guide on the top 10 factors to work on to boost your SEO performance :