The small business beginners guide to SEO
Updated: Apr 20
10 tried and tested ways to raise your search rankings
When you hear about search rankings, Search engine optimisation, known most commonly as ‘SEO’ is the term you need to know about. It doesn’t matter what you do, or the size of your business, SEO is a must for any business.
As John Battelle confirms:
“Search, a marketing method that didn’t exist a decade ago, provides the most efficient and inexpensive way for businesses to find leads.” — John Battelle
And these stats speak for themselves.
A Forrester study revealed 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine, Google being the king
Google currently has a 88% market share and is the number 1 traffic referrer in the world (Facebook is second)
Research from HubSpot shows 75% of users never crawl past the first page of search results
51% of all search traffic comes from organic search, compared with 10% from paid search and just 5% from social media
So surely this presents a robust business case why every business needs to invest heavily in SEO. But it rarely is this straight forward particularly for smaller businesses that can't afford the luxury of employing an SEO consultant. The good news is there are many things you can do that are easy to implement and you won't need to invest any budget.
So here are our ten top tips that will make a massive difference to where you appear on search engines. We’ve implemented most of these for clients and seen a huge impact in just six months.
1. Know your keywords
Before you start any SEO, you'll need to identify your keywords. By this, we mean the common words and phrases your customers are searching for.
There are some great free tools out there to help like Buzz Sumo and of course you should speak to your customers to ask what they search/would look for.
2. Optimise your title and meta tags
Once you know your keywords, you need to create compelling title tags and meta tags. If you are using a website platform like Word Press, Wix or Square Space this should be relatively easy as they all have SEO Plug Ins and will guide you through the process so you use the correct format.
Remember your images need to be the optimum size too and labelled rather than using the default labelling (like 001JPG) that will be applied by your computer. These are also known as alt tags.
2. Check load speeds
Load speeds are now a critical component of SEO. A one-second delay in page load time can result in a 7% loss in conversions according to data from Strange Loop. Our advice would be to remove anything that slows down your site including widgets and pop ups.
3. Nail the mobile experience
Ensure you have a user-friendly mobile version of your site and pay particular attention to the load speed on mobile.
Be warned, it can take some time to get the mobile version of the site right and you may need to adapt your desk top version to get the optimum user experience across different devices and screens. Test your site out on your mobile checking all the links and pages as if you were a customer.
4. Create weekly blogs
Our best advice to anyone is to blog. It helps in so many ways. However, you can’t just churn out content. A bit like the backlinks it needs to be high quality and relevant.
Long blog posts are a great investment that could pay off. For SEO, the ideal blog post length is 2,100-2,400 words, according to HubSpot data. This can be time consuming but we would recommend that you spend just 10% of your time investing in these high quality blog posts as you can see with our content graph below.
A blog is a big commitment. You shouldn't just dive into it without thinking through your content plan for the year and considering the type of content that your customers would find useful. Thankfully there are lots of free tools to help. We like answerthepublic.com and buzzsumo.com
5. Repurpose blog posts as videos
Google loves video and it is has increased dramatically in popularity. Videos will help you to get 157% more organic traffic from search engines.
If you already have a large back catalogue of written blogs, then turn these into short videos. If you do this, then adding subtitles is a must.
To get the full SEO potential of your videos, it is recommended to host the videos on your own website, rather than You Tube etc.
6. Add internal links to new pages
You should be adding new pages to your site on a regular basis, particularly if you have a company blog.
Internal links help with SEO. Add internal live links from top-ranking pages on your site to pages that need a boost.
7. Ensure there are no broken links
It may sound obvious, but is is surprising how many broken links we come across at Sharp Thinking when working with clients and undertaking website reviews.
To avoid this, once a quarter check there are no broken backlinks on your website.
8. Register with Google My Business
If there is one thing you commit to, you MUST register your business online with Google My Business. Although this is a two stage process as you'll be physically sent a verification code, it takes just five minutes. A Google My Business registration is a free local listings service which helps you be found online.
Google My Business is all about local search. Nearly half of all Google searches are local and this increases massively in certain sectors. So it is a really important one to do.
A Google My Business listing adds credibility to your business, particularly if you have customer reviews. Ask friendly customers to complete a review on Google for you (and hound them until they do!). And make sure you complete your profile by adding a telephone number, images and opening hours. Sound simple - so go and do it now if you haven't already!
Google My Business has a posts function which allows you to upload blog posts. Try and do this once a week along with adding photos too of your business.
9. Leverage directory listings
You don’t need to pay for this. There are plenty of free sites you can get your business listed with. Submitting your business to directories is ideal for local citations. These are multiple consistent mentions of your business information on local business directories. Search engines use these mentions as a trust signal. Plus, consistent NAP (name, address and phone number) mentions of your business will help you to rank in local Google search results.
Free listings include Bing, Yell, Yelp, Thomson Local, Scoot, Free Index, Hot Frog, La Cartes, 192, 118118, Cyclex, Locanto, Approved Business, UK Small Business Directory, Opening Times, Yalwa, Brown Book, Local Data Search, Business Magnet, Opendi and The Trade Finder. Set aside half a day to do it. Once it is done, you'll have that listing for a very long time.
10. Seek out back-link opportunities
Links are an important way to improve your online visibility. This can be a time-consuming exercise, but over time the dividends will pay off. Backlinks are an online link from an external website which links to your site. Sadly the days have gone where you can simply have a link from anyone and everyone. Google now gives weighting to authoritative and relevant sites.
A way to do this is is to seek out PR opportunities and or guest blog with similar businesses in your field or share the same target audience.
Time and patience will win in the end
SEO is a regular commitment. Sadly, it isn’t a tick box exercise, although some of these exercises only need to be done once like registering with Google My Business.
The Google algorithm regularly changes and so do your competitors, which means you need to monitor where you appear week to week and put strategies in place to improve rankings month to month.
Patience is also required. It takes a long time to build your SEO presence organically and sometimes, it can be trial and error. Our one tip if you can't afford an outside agency or designated individual to manage this for you, try and spend an hour a week (excluding the blog creation) on one of the areas identified above. Gradually, you will see progress.