If you’re wondering how to rank better in Google (and other search engines) and get more traffic, this SEO guide for small businesses is for you!
As a business owner, you need to be aware of the importance of search engine optimization (SEO).
Websites are built to be found by search engines, and SEO is what allows that to happen. You need to understand what SEO is and how it may benefit your business.
The SEO guide will help you learn SEO basics and incorporate strategies to make your website more visible in search engine results.
Search engine optimization is a complex process, but we’ll give you five key steps to get started.
- 1. SEO Fundamentals
- 2. Research
- 3. Content is King
- 4. Social Networking & Building Partnerships
- 5. Monitor success
- Final Thoughts
1. SEO Fundamentals
In Moz’s view, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of increasing the quantity and quality of visitors to your site through organic search results.
Let’s review the basics of SEO, glossary terms, and resources to get started on the right foot.
How search engines work
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! collect information about every page, image, and line of text on the web. They do this using robots, also known as spiders or crawlers, then sort the data to display relevant search results.
Each search engine employs its algorithm that analyzes the quality and relevance and then displays results differently.
The notable difference between these search engines is their algorithms, and we must also keep up with them.
Luckily, these algorithms have four consistent steps and processes of delivering the results. They are crawling, indexing, ranking and delivering.
As mentioned earlier, search engines read the web using virtual spiders called bots.
These bots follow links from one page to another, storing the information as they go. And they gather everything from query terms to image and video content.
After crawling your website and collecting data, the search engine indexes the information in a database (think of it as a great big folder), sometimes called the Index.
It would be impossible to respond to a search without the Index since you would need to dig through billions of sites to find what you need.
All search engines return the most relevant and popular results, but what makes them different is their proprietary algorithms for sorting the information they’ve gathered.
Search engines crawl and index the web, but each has its algorithm (complex algorithmic equations) to order information.
Usually, search engines deliver results in milliseconds based on several factors, such as images, keywords, content, metadata, links, etc.
Common SEO terms
Here are some of the terms you need to know when working on SEO for your business website.
- Search query: You enter a search term or question into a search engine.
- Metadata: Search engines use metadata to understand what your website is about (Title Tag, Meta Description Tag, etc.) based on the page’s code.
- Backlinks: A backlink is a link pointing to your website from another website.
- Keywords: In search engines, keywords are words or groups of words used on a website that matches what users enter into the search box.
- Sitemap: An XML or HTML formatted file on your website tells spiders where to find your pages.
- SERP: It stands for Search Engine Results Page. A search engine results page, or SERP, is a web page that contains a list of search results for keywords. The idea behind these pages is to give users relevant information about the things they are searching for online.
Let’s move on to optimizing your small business website now that you know what SEO is and how it works.
It’s no coincidence you’re reading this guide. Of course, you want your business to appear on Google when people search for certain terms, but what?
The next step is to decide which keywords are right for you and whether anyone else is currently using them.
Ultimately, your website’s SEO efforts will dive if your website doesn’t provide sufficient information to search engines.
Understanding your target audience, competition, and keyword options will significantly impact your website’s ranking.
Now let’s see how we can accomplish this.
1. Know your audience
If you want to attract the right audience, choose the right words. Imagine yourself as the person searching for your type of product or service online.
You must understand how your audiences think and search and figure out what words they use to find what they’re looking for online.
You need to create a keyword list by asking yourself a series of questions to decide what will best attract your ideal audience:
- If your customers describe your products or services in words, what would words would they use?
- In what ways are these terms relevant to them?
- Would your product or service solve any pain points for customers?
- If you could describe your business in a few words, what would distinguish you from your competition?
- What are the buzzwords or lingo your customers are using to describe your products or services?
Create a list of keyword and topic ideas that will help you reach your ideal audience and generate good business leads.
2. Understand the competition
As you work to optimize your SEO, you must remain on top of the competition and detect any emerging competitors as they rise the ranks.
Keep an eye on the search results. Over time, as you consistently track search results, you’ll notice a few new sites start to rise.
In reality, all of the sites or content on the first two search results pages are competitors. Therefore, do not assume the top three results on the first page are your competitors.
Naturally, the keywords that work well for your competitors might not work as well for you, but you can narrow down some potential contenders with this option.
If you want to catch up on your competitors’ tactics, analyze the source code of their website. Not all sites have metadata, but there’s no harm in checking.
You’ll be surprised how easy this process is! Follow these steps:
- Go to the website of a competitor.
- Choose a page and right-click on it (use the homepage as a starting point).
- Open the page source by clicking View Source. A window will appear displaying the code.
- Search the source code for the meta tag name=” keywords” near the top (it should be just below and close to the title tag).
- Once found, you will be able to see the keywords that the competitor is using.
Ultimately, you’re not looking to copy your competitors – you are looking to stand out as a unique brand. But considering what your competitors are using will help you strategize how to establish dominance in your industry.
3. Set clear business goals
In researching your website’s audience, competitors, and common keywords, you will need to make informed decisions regarding what SEO strategies make the most sense for your business.
It may be necessary to divide your keywords among your business goals and create lists for each one. Does your keyword list contain all of your goals? Are any missing?
While analyzing your keywords, ask yourself these sorts of questions to ensure you aren’t overlooking any keywords.
Identify unique, realistic, and practical keywords that match your expertise or your brand so that you can reach your website’s target audience.
4. Do keyword research
After developing a solid list of search terms and keywords that your target audience uses to find your website, it’s time to determine the value associated with those keywords.
It’s also important not to use keywords nobody searches for, for obvious reasons. In other words, how can you identify keywords that are searched and aren’t too competitive?
Choosing long-tail keywords or specific keywords is an integral part of SEO.
Rather than using “running shoes,” “children blue running shoes for a girl” is a long-tail keyword. Despite their less attractive traffic than short-tail keywords, long-tail keywords account for over 75 percent of all online searches.
Long-tail keyword searches are more likely to produce a purchase than short-tail searches.
However, where can you find those long-tail terms?
It is possible to generate some keyword combinations using Google Ads Keyword Planner and then see each option’s average search traffic and competitiveness.
In addition, KW Finder helps find low-competition long-tail keywords. You can also discover popular long-tail search terms in the related searches section at the end of your Google results page.
Checklist for doing your research
Below are some suggestions for refining your keyword list: Add, remove, and modify keyword options:
- Know your audience.
- Explore the top-ranking companies in your industry.
- List the keyword phrases your competition uses to drive traffic.
- Make a list of all the keywords relevant to your business goals and put them under each goal. Are there any missing?
- Identify two to three long-tail keywords for every short-tail keyword.
- You can check keyword visibility and competition by looking up the search volume for your keywords.
- Complete your keyword list and place it in various places on your site.
That’s excellent! Let’s move on to the real fun now.
3. Content is King
As the world grows more intelligent and fast-paced, search engines must constantly update their technologies.
The influence of human-generated content has grown, making relevant, valuable, and unique content the important influencer in SEO.
So you ask, what is content? Visual content, text content, audio content, etc. – anything that makes sense to your visitors and what search engines would find valuable.
It is vital that the content you offer is of high quality, answers questions, and solves problems for your visitors.
After performing keyword research, you’ll need to incorporate these words into your content so it provides answers to people’s questions.
Writing like a live person, not a computer, is critical – you should write as if you are talking to a friend. Today, search engines are becoming increasingly aware of how humans talk and seek out natural-language content.
To make sure your website content is relevant and natural, ask yourself a few questions when you are writing it:
- Are you sure it is original and does not contain any copied content?
- Does it merit sharing?
- Is there a demand for it?
- Does it stand out?
- Is it helpful to people?
- How will it affect how people live their days?
- Is there a reason why someone might write or link to that?
- Is it worth bookmarking or sharing with a friend?
1. Optimize content with target keywords
Our SEO guides would not be complete without informing you how to use your identified keyword in your website copy.
Using keywords in the content of your website will increase its visibility to search engines, particularly in the title, headings, subheadings, and body.
However, keep in mind that keyword usage isn’t directly linked to search engine results. Therefore, it’s unnecessary to include any specific number of words, but most SEO experts still suggest including at least 300 words per page.
Depending on who your audience is, you may need to adjust your word count and keywords!
Keep the following questions in mind as you generate your keyword-targeted content:
- Are your keyword-rich content pages comprehensive enough to answer their queries?
- Does it provide adequate and detailed information on every subject?
- Are your articles valuable and informative?
To use keywords effectively, they need to appear naturally throughout your website or blog content. So you might be using the wrong keywords if the keywords you use seem awkward.
2. Optimize all web pages for target keywords
You must design your web page to display effectively in search engine results to get found by the right users.
You can use tags and page elements to tell search engines and your website’s visitors what the contents of a page are about and what they can expect to find on that page.
Although often underestimated, people use this method to determine which search result websites they want to visit.
When building a website for search engine optimization and user experience, you should not ignore these elements:
1. Title Tags
In a search engine’s results pages and the browser title bar, the Title Tag is the clicking text that identifies a page.
It provides a glimpse of what to expect when the user clicks the page, but it is brief. This element is one of the most crucial to your on-page SEO and catching visitors’ attention!
2. Meta Description Tags
The Meta Description Tag appears under a page’s Title Tag, giving a more detailed explanation of the page’s content.
Google limits this section to 155-160 characters, but the text should encourage visitors to visit your site.
3. Header Tags
Using header tags on your web page gives it structure and helps search engines figure out its content.
Listed from most important to least important, they are ranked as follows:
Heading 1 <H1>: Page title (Only one must appear on each page)
Heading 2 <H2>: Subtitles with the page
Heading 3 – 6 <H3 – H6>: Subsections with the subtitles
3. Optimize all images used on the website
The images accompanying your website copy play an influential role in on-page SEO since many people search online to find images.
Customized image tags assist in describing an image’s subject, just as title tags do.
It is ideal to use naturally (and logically) linked title tags, URLs, header tags, and image ALT tags on each page that refer to your content or keywords.
Take the following steps will optimize an image:
- You should align the target keyword for the page with the image’s file name. For instance, use the file name red-ankle-bracelet.jpg as the primary image file name if the page targets the keywords “red ankle bracelet.” Each word should be hyphenated and lowercased.
- Make sure the Image ALT Text attribute is optimized with the keyword for the page. This example should be in uppercase, with no hyphens, and “Red Ankle Bracelet.” in ALT Text.
- Ensure that the page’s text corresponds with the image file name and the image’s ALT text. For search engines to understand what the image is about, they study the text content around it. By seeing the keyword “red ankle bracelet” in the page content, search engines can make a safe assumption that the image contains a picture of a beaded turquoise necklace.
Expert Advice: You can improve your search ranking by reducing the file size of your images to avoid them loading slowly.
4. Start a business blog to improve SEO
Blogs have never been more valuable and necessary than they are today in the world of SEO-driven online marketing.
The easiest way to boost your website’s ranking in the search engines is to blog. In addition, a blog can help you position your business as a subject matter expert and build a following of endlessly loyal customers.
The following are just some of the possible benefits of adding a blog to a site that would otherwise remain static:
- Your products and services might benefit from capturing feedback through blogging.
- Social media users will find it easy to share the content.
- By leveraging your keywords, you can gain a competitive advantage.
- Your site can be positioned as an authoritative resource.
- Inbound links and social shares can be generated using this technique.
- You’ll have the chance to network and make connections with influential people.
It’s without a doubt that a business blog is an excellent way to improve SEO. As a result, more visitors will come through the search engines, and they’ll be more likely to stay on your site for more extended periods.
So if you’re not yet blogging for your business, start blogging today!
5. Mobile SEO is critical to success
In today’s world, 88% of people research a local business on their phones each week. And with mobile phones being the primary devices used to search the web, you can’t afford to ignore mobile optimization.
Did you know that search engines rank websites differently on mobile than they do on desktop devices?
Search engines consider things like the load time of your site (if it doesn’t load quickly on mobile, don’t bother! ), the responsiveness of the design, and the web page’s scannability.
And if one cannot read your website’s text without zooming in, you will lose search engine rankings. Likewise, your ranking will suffer if your mobile website does not deliver the best user experience.
Here are some tips on optimizing your mobile site:
1. Make your site fat finger-friendly.
Clicking on something and being taken to another page frustrates people. So layout design elements so they are easy to click.
2. Ensure that the design is responsive.
To find out if your design is mobile-friendly, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
3. Make sure the page loads quickly.
Within a few seconds, your website should load. Consider hiring a professional if your site doesn’t work correctly in mobile environments, reduce coding errors, utilize browser caching, and optimize images.
6. Website structure – Sitemap & Metadata
Sitemaps and metadata are crucial in making sure that search engines understand your website’s content quickly.
Your website’s sitemap describes how your website content is arranged and gives search engines hints so that they can crawl your website with greater efficiency.
Likewise, the metadata on your website describes and summarizes your content, which makes it easier for Google and other search engines to index your pages and content.
Create valuable content using this checklist
You can create SEO-friendly (and valuable) content on your website by following these tips:
- Make sure every web page has a title, meta description, and header tag.
- It would be best if you focused on writing content that is unique and valuable for your page.
- Be sure that your keywords appear naturally in your content.
- Improve your images by optimizing them.
- Establish a blog and post consistently on it.
- Make your website mobile-friendly (important).
4. Social Networking & Building Partnerships
While we’re here, let’s consider some tips on social media. Social media plays an essential part in getting your website noticed online besides on-page SEO.
Social media platforms receive billions of searches every year, so it’s equally important to keep an eye on how you’re doing on social media.
Although it is unclear how social media will affect search rankings (Google does not share details of its algorithm), social media does have some benefits, like:
- Help you drive traffic to your website.
- Make your brand more credible.
- Create lasting relationships with your customers.
- Make your presence known.
Occasionally, there are times when social media pages or profiles and review site listings appear near the top of search results, although this is more common for local searches.
To succeed in online marketing these days, you must invest time and resources into link building, social media strategies, and local search engine optimization.
1. Build backlinks naturally
Search engine results are indicative of how popular a site is, and backlinks are, in a sense, equivalent to popularity votes.
You will gain more traction from search engines if you have external links pointing at your site.
Nonetheless, manipulated or fake content (even backlinks) can harm your website’s SEO. As a result, the most effective way to build a backlink profile rich in SEO-friendly keywords is to create newsworthy content and gain natural links.
Buying links to your website won’t work long term and could severely hurt your search engine rankings.
Expert Advice: Using Moz’s Open Site Explorer, you can view the number of backlinks your site has compared to your competitor’s.
2. You can improve your SEO by joining social networks
When you create content on your website, it’s beneficial to share it on social media. Doing so gives the content more opportunities at gaining traction, going viral, and gaining natural backlinks.
Make social media your new best friend when you create exceptional content. Online businesses like yourself continue to benefit from social media sites like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.
Getting your business’s social media presence right is crucial, especially now that social signals influence the reachability of your content.
So when you create content, please take advantage of omnichannel opportunities and publish it on all your social media platforms.
To further promote your website’s content online, you may want to add the following social sharing options:
- On your home page, showcase your social feeds.
- By adding follow buttons to your website, you can provide visitors with an easy way to follow you on your favorite social platforms.
- You could also include “Like” and “Share” buttons from Facebook.
- Click to Tweet buttons to enable web users to share quotes and other “tweetables” from the website.
- Your site should have the Pin It plugin, allowing people to easily add your pictures to their Pinterest boards.
PS: As part of our web design services, we can integrate social links that allow your website visitors to follow, like, and share your business on social networks.
3. Don’t ignore local SEO
Thanks to local review sites, your SEO potential has increased to a new level. Whenever you do a local search (for example, “best plumber in Silver Spring”), the top results are usually Google My Business and Yelp listings.
It is becoming more and more critical for businesses to make sure their online listings are accurate. Hence, ensure the details – such as website address, menus, hours of operation, and more – are correct and make your business distinct from the rest.
Rest assured, you will see a significant increase in traffic to your website with your carefully curated content and beautiful images. Visitors to your profile are likely to visit your website or store if they like what they see.
Quick checklist for social networking and building partnerships
Check out the steps you can take to attract traffic to your small business website (and attract more customers) via social media:
- Set up your business profile account on social media platforms (if you don’t have one).
- Establish relationships with key industry players and influencers to attract inbound links (e.g., via guest blogging).
- Make sure your site offers the option to share on social media.
- Make sure you are listed on local review websites.
- Stay connected and engaged on social media.
5. Monitor success
The process of search engine optimization cannot be done once and then forgotten. Experimenting, testing, updating, and tweaking are constant SEO processes.
The most important investment for your business website is SEO, and you should continually monitor its performance to maintain solid results.
When you track your SEO efforts, you should keep an eye out for organic results and organic conversions. Each business is unique and has different methods of measuring success. This data provides you with a clearer picture of what works and what doesn’t.
There’s no better way of measuring SEO than Google Analytics. It’s free and offers a wide range of advanced tracking features.
You can use Google Analytics (or your preferred analytics program) to:
- Monitor and analyze organic search activities.
- Track conversions to evaluate your organic SEO performance.
- Determine which aspects of your strategy are not working (underperforming keywords, pages that take a long time to load, etc.).
- Success in search engine optimization is evaluated by the number of organic referrals you receive from search engines.
Furthermore, you can measure your SEO success by counting organic search conversions and turning those into dollar figures if your business sells products or offers services.
How to effectively measure and monitor success
There’s nothing more potent than monitoring success using website analytics. Website analytics is a tool that lets you see how your website is performing online and where it could use improvement.
It’s never been easier to examine the success of your website with tools like Google Analytics, which offers in-depth insights on website visitors, traffic, sales, and conversions.
Google Analytics (and similar products) have plugins and add-ons that allow you to expand your analytics functionalities significantly. For example, while you can easily add tracking codes to your web pages to measure your web stats, their website add-ons and plugins provide you with advanced analytics features.
Furthermore, these tools can provide you with offsite analysis – a way to see how your website fares against your competitors – letting you know how your site stands out.
What are the requirements for measuring success?
The goal of SEO is to make a website that produces results for you, but without web analytics, you have no idea how it’s doing. Otherwise, you will not be able to measure the effectiveness of your website, and you will run it blindly.
You can’t measure the results of your SEO effort with one metric, but there are a few measurements that can provide insight into whether your work is successful, unsuccessful, or needs improvement.
What metrics do you need to measure?
A good rule of thumb is to monitor the following metrics:
1. Website visitors
By measuring your website’s analytics, you can gain a deeper understanding of your audience, including their preferences, locations, demographics, behaviors, and languages.
Notably, it is possible to track the cities where your website visitors reside (down to a specific street) to direct your advertising efforts. By knowing these factors, you can improve the SEO of your website content.
2. Referral sources
Identifying how your online visitors arrive at your site is essential for optimizing your SEO for better results (and other marketing campaigns).
Doing this allows you to focus your attention and focus your energy on the referral traffic that brings your website quality traffic.
3. Visited pages and navigation paths
You can make your website even better by understanding its user experience!
Gain insight into how people are using your website by tracking the way they navigate and interact. Furthermore, you should examine each webpage for its effectiveness.
4. Business goals and objectives.
You can track all these stats, but they are meaningless without having realistic business goals and objectives.
As you reach milestones, create new objectives, so your journey through optimizing your site will be worthwhile, fulfilling, and successful.
Overall, it’s up to you to take action and modify your methods after evaluating the information you’ve gathered about your website, visitors, and referring sites.
To achieve your online business goals, it is imperative to continuously improve existing methods, experiment, adjust, and adopt new methods.
Expert Advice: Don’t just measure your Google results if you want to be successful with SEO. Many visitors utilize search engines like Yahoo! and Bing, so keep these in mind when setting up your website.
Common Analytics terms
Here are some of the terms you need to know when using your analytics tools to monitor your website SEO:
- Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors who visit your website leaves it after viewing one page instead of finding more relevant content.
- Conversions: The number of website visitors who reach a specific conversion goal (e.g., completing a form).
- Direct Traffic: Users visiting your website by directly typing in your URL.
- Entry Page: The page on which a visitor arrives after coming via a different website or referral.
- Exit Page: The final page a visitor views prior to exiting a website.
- Funnels: A collection of steps that lead visitors to their desired outcome.
- Impressions: The number of page views your website generates.
- New Visitors: Website visitors who haven’t been to your site previously.
- Referrals: The sources from which people arrive on your site (including search engines, social media platforms, and other websites).
Quick checklist for monitoring success
Here are some tips on how to monitor your SEO success:
- Sign up for Google Analytics (or whatever analytic software you prefer).
- Connect your website to your analytics service.
- Make a list of your business’ online goals (along with how you can measure them using your analytics tool).
- Identify the measurements you will take in your list.
- Track and measure your tracking and results through a weekly or monthly analytics calendar.
The best way to achieve a successful SEO outcome for your business is to start by implementing the SEO fundamentals covered in this guide.
And this means you’ll need research, generate content that resonates with your target audience, and execute social networking tactics for building partnerships.
Then, monitor success carefully so you can make adjustments as needed. And don’t forget about monitoring your analytics on some level!
Getting a true sense of what’s working and what’s not is usually a matter of tracking, comparing, and measuring several months of data. Besides, you’ll need some numbers.
It won’t be easy to analyze your website’s data if you do not get enough traffic. But stay motivated, knowing fully well that you will succeed if you stick to it.
Now, after reading this SEO guide for small businesses, you may wonder how soon you will see results. This is because the amount of time (and money) you spend optimizing your website impacts your search engine ranking.
Once you master these basics, you should explore paid search, especially if you want to drive more visitors to your site and don’t want to wait long for your SEO efforts to start yielding results.
If any of this sounds like it might be too much work, or if you want help getting started from the experts at DailyRazor, let’s talk!