• nat sharp

5 free SEO tips for small businesses

Updated: Jan 30



How can I raise my search rankings?


When you hear about search rankings, Search engine optimisation, known most commonly as ‘SEO’ is the term you need to know about. So often businesses say to me it isn't relevant for my business. But it doesn’t matter what you do, or the size of your business, SEO is a must for any business.


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 my five top tips that will make a massive difference to where you appear on search engines. I’ve implemented most of these myself and have seen a huge impact on my own online presence in less than 12 months.


1. Website optimisation


There is no point wasting valuable resources on SEO if your website isn’t optimised. Dependent on how your website is built, this should be relatively easy if your site is built using one of the most common website platforms like Wordpress, Wix or Squarespace.


Before you start, you'll need to identify your keywords. By this, I mean the common words and phrases your customers are searching for. There are some great 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.


Once you know your keywords, you need to carefully seed them into the copy on your website, especially your headers. Also, ensure that your images are the optimum size and labelled rather than the default labelling (like 001JPG) that will be applied by your computer. These are also known as meta tags and alt tags.


You'll also need to ensure you have a user-friendly mobile version of your site and pay particular attention to the load speed on both a desktop and 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.


2. 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!


3. 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.


4. 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, guest blog, have listings in directories as we’ve discussed, and replicate your competitors' backlinks. You can do this by using free tools like Uber Suggest.


5. Regular blogging


My 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.


Google loves fresh content, plus a blog on your website will also help to drive traffic to your website. Videos will help you to get 157% more organic traffic from search engines so it is worth building these into your content strategy.


If you haven't already, create a content plan for the year. This way you can think about things more holistically and leverage key opportunities, whether they be local events, trade shows or industry events.


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. I like answerthepublic.com and buzzsumo.com


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. My one tip is if you can't afford an outside agency or designated individual to manage this for you, try and spend an hour a week on one of the areas I've identified above. Gradually, you will see progress.


To find out more about SEO and search engine marketing read my latest blog article from Opera Media. Or visit my blog for general tips on content planning.


If you would like a chat about how SEO or how any element of marketing could fit into your wider marketing plans, then feel free to drop me a line. Or sign up to my newsletter for more tips on all things marketing.

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natsharp@sharpthinkingmarketing.co.uk

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