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4 Essential SEO Tips for Small Business Websites

According to a study by research firm Clutch, 29% of small businesses don’t have a website at all. Of those that do have a website, just 17% are investing time and energy in search engine optimization. The need for a web presence in business today is massive. Whether you’re a solopreneur or you have a few employees relying on you, you’re not going to get the web traffic you deserve without a solid site and some optimization work. Today’s consumer experience routinely begins online, and most people click on one of the first three listings. How you become one of those first three listings isn’t as mystifying as you might imagine. Instead, it’s simply hard work and a serious investment into SEO. Wondering how you can ready your business? These tips can help.

1. It All Begins With Research

The single best thing you can do for your brand at the outset is to do some research. You’ll want to look primarily at two fronts. First, you need to consider your customers. Do you know who they are? Do you know what they’re looking for? Nailing that down will help as you work to optimize your site. Think about how, when, and where involved when customers decide they need you. Think about the device they’re most likely to use to connect with your website. Think, too, about the outcome they want from your site. Will they buy on-site? Are they looking to visit a physical location? Answering questions like these help to define the second front: keywords.

Keywords are what customers enter into a search engine when they look for your business. Choose these carefully, and do as much keyword research as you can. As a small business, you’re looking for gaps in the market. Targeting the same keywords bigger businesses in your vertical are using isn’t going to get you to the top of the listings. Keywords aren’t the only piece involved in SEO. Instead, you might just be throwing money away to end up at the top of page seven. If instead, you can spot gaps in the keywords other businesses are using, you’re going to be able to capitalize on that and get the coverage you want.

Not sure where to begin when it comes to keywords? There are many tools out there to help brainstorm keywords for your business. Google’s keyword planner is part of Adwords, and it can be immensely useful. Moz, a site dedicated to all things SEO, also has an explorer. You will need to create an account on either of these sites, but Adwords is a free account, and Moz offers free account options. With a free account, you can get up to ten keyword searches per month with Moz. Both sites will guide you through the process of choosing good keywords, but determining the value of a keyword means following these steps, no matter what site you use to help you select a keyword.

  • Is it relevant? if searchers won’t find what they’re looking for on your site with that keyword or they won’t be happy with the results, don’t use it.

  • Look at the websites that are already ranked for that keyword. It will tell you what your competitors are doing AND how hard it will be to rank for that term.

  • Buy a sample campaign on Google Adwords. Select “Exact Match,” then track your impressions and conversion rate over about 400 clicks.

  • Do the math with that data in hand. If, for example, you generated 5,000 impressions in a day and 100 visitors came to your site, but just three converted with a profit of $300, it cost you $3 per visitor. Decide whether numbers like those are worth it.

Don’t believe for a moment that your search terms have to be limited to a single word, either. Something like plumber might put you on the map, but something like “emergency plumbing service Manchester” is going to get you to page one. You’re more likely to rank for specific search terms than you are the simple ones.

2. It Moves to Your Site Design

A website is important, but it just isn’t enough if you’re working to gain some traction in the world of optimization. There are more SEO friendly site designs. How do you make it happen?

Think first about your URL. Use keywords in the URL, and make certain you have a landing page for each of the keywords for which you want to rank. Go back to the section on the value of keywords if you aren’t sure which ones to choose. If possible separate those with hyphens. Every URL should give people (and search engine crawlers) some ideas about your business.

Don’t stop there, though. You’ll want to optimize any images you use on your site, too. To do that, make sure you keep the size down to help increase load times. Good image size is 2000 pixels. Check the load time of your pages with a site like Pingdom, as it will give you a breakdown of what might be slowing you down. Image size, though, isn’t the only factor in good SEO design. When you create alt image text, use keywords that are relevant to the page and the image. This goes for any graphics on your website, as well as your header image, your logo, and even your buttons on the page.

Design a responsive site, too. Search engines are paying an increasing amount of attention to how pages load on multiple devices, so make certain you create a site that loads quickly and looks great on everything from a desktop computer to a phone. Navigation, no matter which version of the site you’re looking at, should be quick and intuitive. Every page should load as quickly as possible, and you should clearly identify your company’s name on every page and use the top quarter of the page to communicate your key points for that area. If you’re not sure about your load times across platforms, try Pingdom (mentioned above) or Longview, which can even stress test your website so you know exactly what happens for customers trying to reach you at your busiest point.

3.Content, Content Everywhere

It may start with keywords and move to design, but the key here is a solid content strategy. Sure, you’re doing all of this so the search engines might notice you, but at the end of the day, search engines aren’t the ones who are going to buy your products and services. At the end of the day, people are, and your content has to be written for them. If you’re bending your content to meet the needs of search engines instead of people, you’ve already lost. You want to copy that sells well, but think about how to get that copy and still include your keywords.

The single best way to do that is to write the copy then have real people read it. Have your best friend look it over. Have your pastor read it. Have anyone you know well read over your copy and ensure that it makes sense, and it’s approachable. You may even want to employ a professional editor to read it over just to check for errors or readability problems. Online tools like Storytoolz can give you seven different readability scores so you know more about who can get through your content and whom you’re excluding.

Keep in mind that your content isn’t limited to what’s on your landing pages. Instead, it should go much deeper than that. One way to build much deeper content is to consider a business blog. It’s no longer the one who has the most toys that win. In the world of websites, the one who has the most content wins because the more high-quality content you have floating around online, the higher the chances are that a customer is going to reach out to you. Integrating a blog on your website takes almost no time, and you’re going to increase your traffic significantly because people have more chances to reach out to you. You’re increasing your authority too. People trust others with information, and if you can answer a question they have or solve a problem in their lives with a blog post, they’re more likely to turn to you again. With every blog, try to incorporate some keywords that may not have made it to your site, and ensure you have a solid call to action. Note, though, the last thing you want to do is go keyword crazy in these blog posts. These should be genuinely helpful pieces of content designed for consumers first, then search engines.

4.Think About Links

There are two kinds of links. There are the links you make within your site to other pages on your site. Then there are the links that come from outside your site and point people toward it. Both of these are important in the world of SEO. Search engines take a close look at the links on your site to decide how you deal with traffic looking for more information. Imagine, for example, you sold bicycle parts. If keywords on your site were linked to pages where potential customers could find more information, that would be incredibly valuable in the eyes of a search engine and likely in the eyes of a real consumer too.  To make this happen for your site, be sure to include some natural internal links across your site. You certainly don’t want to link every word, but if you think something might prove helpful for a customer, add that link. To get a closer look at what your site’s link structure looks like to search engines now, you may want to run Moz’s Link Explorer tool.

The links outside your site that point people toward it are just as important. When an outside site links to your site, it happens for a reason. Maybe they agree with what you’re saying. Maybe they disagree with what you’re saying, and they want to point it out. Either way, however, that link is incredibly valuable. Because your content created a reaction somewhere else on the web, the search engines now consider your page more valuable to potential customers, and that means an increase in page rank. With additional links, the search engines begin to consider you a credible authority to which they can direct traffic. Keep in mind that the quality of the links matters more than the quantity. A link from something pretty natural like a well-established blog is a great choice. Links that can be faked like blog comments or online forums, though, aren’t as valuable.

Obtaining valuable inbound links is easily one of the toughest strategies for a small business owner to put into place because it can take so much time. If you need a professional anywhere in the process, it will certainly be at this point.

The Takeaway

If you’re new to SEO, the single best thing you can do is to start fairly simple. SEO is an ongoing effort, not a race to the top. If you can’t imagine that you have time in your day for another single marketing effort, you may want to enlist the help of a dedicated SEO firm to get started. Optimization really is just that important, and ignoring it isn’t going to help increase the traffic to your site.

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