The Beginners’ Guide to SEO for Small Businesses
Are you keen to get your business up and running on the web? Whether you’ve been trying to get your brand out there to new audiences or are starting from scratch, there are plenty of great ways in which you can really start getting your content, and services, seen by the people who matter most to you.
Succeeding in business online isn’t always an exact science, but what you can use is SEO – which gives you plenty of great tools to start appearing higher in the right search results, and which will also help to harness growth for your firm in the years to come.
But what is SEO actually all about? Keep reading and we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know to get started.
Introduction to SEO
First things first. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, and it’s the lifeblood of online marketing.
To be able to reach out to the right people online, you are going to need to make sure that your business ticks all the right boxes. By this, we mean that you’re going to need to actively appear in online search results, and you’re also going to need to ensure you can keep visitors’ interest when they do come across you.
SEO covers plenty of bases. It’s also pretty easy to assume that it just appeals to Google. Yes – Google does pretty much set the rules when they change algorithms, purely because they are the market leaders. However, there are different types of SEO.
Some SEO techniques will push you higher up the rankings on certain keywords and phrases. Others will help you to engage with visitors more effectively. What’s more, the more SEO-friendly your website is, the more likely it is that Bing and Google’s crawlers are going to get the information they need.
You can also boost your SEO conversions by creating pages through Google My Business. Google Analytics, through the main Dashboard, will also show you how effective your SEO campaigns actually are.
However, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The bottom line is that SEO is not just all about keywords. It’s a set of rules which is always changing! That’s why it makes sense to keep on top of what works, and what doesn’t, for small businesses.
Beware of Black Hat SEO Techniques
Black hat SEO is a term used to refer to techniques which go against Google’s terms – well, against fair search in general. White hat SEO is the reverse – it sticks to the rules and allows you to compete fairly with other websites.
Black hat SEO is dangerous for your business. Some techniques to avoid might include stuffing keywords, manipulating links, duplicating content, and even automating your content altogether. Truth be told, if there’s a lazy way of doing SEO, then chances are it’s black hat.
Black hat SEO is so dangerous because Google and Bing are so hot on it. They will actively penalise you and your business if they can prove that you are knowingly, and willingly, engaging in these techniques. This might even mean you won't appear in search listings ever again.
As you might imagine, that’s going to be a massive blow for your firm. It’s always best to stick to the white hat techniques, some of which we’ll explore shortly.
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is all about tuning your site up. It’s what you do behind the scenes to make sure that your website is easy for search engines to crawl, and so that you can prove to Bing and Google, for example, that you are legitimate and that you offer genuine value to searchers. That, crucially, is what search engines are looking for – legitimate value.
Technical SEO can, as you might imagine, get a bit involved. Therefore, we’ll cut to the chase. Technical SEO of the website is essential and will need further reading. Think of a Google crawler, for example, as a ‘test’ searcher. They want to be able to access your site so that they know what you do, where they can go if they need specific information, and that each element of your site is easy to understand, and is clearly labelled.
There are plenty of easy ways to ‘clean house’ – content management systems such as WordPress, for example, automate a lot of it for you. You will also need to make sure your technical SEO is in order when it comes to load speeds, mobile friendly design and make sure your website is easy to crawl with no broken page links amongst other important factors.
What is Onsite SEO?
Onsite SEO is often referred to as on-page SEO, and it pretty much does what it says on the tin. This is all about making sure that the various elements and features on your website work together to create an end result that drives the biggest possible conversions.
For example, onsite SEO could be about making sure your keyword rich content is easy to read, that it answers questions, making sure you have plenty of relevant multimedia, contact details, and more. It’s also about making sure your code is up to scratch, again, which helps crawlers and automated visitors understand what you do and how to index you.
Onsite SEO pretty much covers the UX, or user experience and especially text content quality and keywords found. It’s all about ensuring that your content is relevant, and that it gently guides visitors towards a sale, or towards contacting you for more information. Some of it is technical, such as what we’ve discussed above, while others are certainly psychological.
Therefore, you need to consider both search crawlers and human visitors whenever you tweak or alter onsite SEO. It sounds like a lot of work, but much of modern website building takes these basics into account by default. Again, services and software such as WordPress will largely do a lot of this for you – or, at least, they will give you the launching pad to work from.
What is Offsite SEO?
Offsite SEO, as you might imagine, is a different kettle of fish. This side of the coin focuses on anything you do outside of your website to boost your search rankings. This matters just as much as onsite SEO as you are still effectively helping to build a suitable roadmap towards your website.
Offsite SEO staples include link building, where you arrange for other websites to create backlinks to you and generate a network of organic clicks through to you and increasing your SEO value, as well as guest blogging and marketing via social media.
You can also take advantage of filling out services and forms such as those provided by Google My Business, which will allow searchers to see what you do, and learn how to contact you, before even heading to your website. Social media, of course, is a plus – and you’ll need everything from Facebook to LinkedIn to really make an impact.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is another staple which is well worth putting into practice early on. When you’ve searched for a service near you, you will likely find lots of nearby businesses that Google suggests. The little bits you do to add to your local SEO strategy only help to push this side of things forward. This side of SEO is great for those firms who need to retain local visibility, and who rely on local trade.
Once again, Google My Business is a major asset in this regard as it means you can list an address and a phone number to cement your location. Local SEO can take into account factors and features such as specific targeted keywords (based on towns, cities and villages, for example), as well as making sure that you list clear contact information on your website which Google’s Maps service can crawl and index.
Again, local SEO can get very in-depth. That’s why it is worth reading into techniques, watching videos, and approaching experts for more information. When you have local SEO down to a fine art, there is nothing you won’t be able to achieve.
This has only been a very quick introduction to SEO. SEO is the heart and soul of online marketing for businesses of all sizes, and across all industries. However, it’s really easy to assume that it is something that you can turn on and off or get up and working within a few minutes. The fact is, SEO is a long-term endeavour, and it’s going to take some tweaking and changing around to really make it work for your own business and services.
Therefore, start as you mean to go on! Google is known for changing algorithms and the way that SEO really works. Therefore, now really is the time to clue yourself in. Take a look at instructional guides, videos and more besides – and start getting your brand and business out there ahead of the pack.
Guy Tomlinson is the Owner of SEO CoPilot, a full digital agency offering Website Design, Graphic Design, Digital marketing services and SEO. If you'd like to learn more, why not connect with Guy on LinkedIn? Or check out SEO CoPilot on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.