Key tips to improve small business SEO

What is key for small business SEO?

I don’t normally talk about the nitty gritty within my blog. However, search engine optimisation (SEO) is a topic I’ve had a number of client conversations about recently. So it seemed like about time I added it to the curriculum.

SEO is one of those areas of marketing that is seen as a black art. It is portrayed (often by SEO consultancies themselves) as something complicated and mysterious. They want it to be a marketing tool best left to the experts. I have a different outlook on the subject.

The search engines are in the business of putting the right content in front of people when they search. If they don’t the users will simply migrate to a different search engine. Every think the day will come when Google isn’t dominant and NanoBrowser takes over the world?

So what the best ways to ensure your website is meeting the needs of both the search engines and the searchers? What are the SEO tools you need to use to get found?
To me there are two key things to look at:
1. Content
2. Keywords and their positioning

Content

Let’s quickly go back to the bad old days when the colour of your hat defined whether you were a good guy or a bad one. White hat SEO was following considered best practice whilst black hat was trying to work the system and use underhand techniques such as background coloured content to fool the search engines. Stuffing keywords into the content to the point of making it unreadable was very common and I saw a website selling kitchens only a year or two ago where the word kitchen appeared over 30 times on the homepage alone! Thankfully the search engine algorithms are much smarter now and are looking for relevant content. Google’s Panda update and the move to semantic search with Hummingbird has thankfully stopped keyword stuffing and made the whole exercise of finding good information both easier and more pleasant.

Whilst the guidelines are getting more and more blurry (and woe betide you if you break a rule you didn’t know about), there is still a general rule that says if your content is relevant to the search term and reads well, it will rank higher than other sites where the content isn’t as good.

Keywords

Positioning of keywords is still important in getting you found. Whilst social signals, editorial links, user reviews and a lot of other stuff now impacts the rankings, the keywords still need to be there and be in the right places.

Let’s look at the key places:

  • Page title: Include your most important keyword in the title and keep it under 55 characters.
  • Header tags: H1 and H2 tags tell search engines that the header is important. Putting your keywords into these them will ensure your keywords get picked up and help your ranking.
  • Meta description: You know that bit of text that appears under the search result; that’s the meta description and it’s job is to lure the searcher into clicking. If this content reads poorly or is stuffed with keywords, it’s won’t do its job. Keep it under 155 characters.
  • Alt tags: Google doesn’t see your pictures but its algorithms see the text attached to them. The image name and the alt tags all help to get you further up the search results because Google gives precedence to image results, even if it’s a general search rather than an image search. Although a picture may say a 1000 words, don’t put that many in the alt tags.
  • Content: Obviously! Your content needs to revolve around your keyword—just one keyword, not as many as possible – for each page. Synonyms, phrases, and figures of speech that stand in for your keyword are okay, as long as they mimic natural speech patterns.
  • Content headline: If your keyword isn’t here, you will struggle to get a decent position on the SERP. The keyword here tells search engines that you have some very relevant content and it also improves click-throughs by informing the user of the same.
  • URL: Use your keyword in the URL in a way that it describes the page contents and helps the user in navigation as well.

I’m not guaranteeing that following these guidelines will get you onto page one as it will depend on both the level of competition and a bunch of other issues, but before you start to invest in SEO, make sure you’ve got the basics right. The results you can see in the image below took me about a month to generate, simply by following these simple steps

Additional Steps

If you have WordPress as your content management system, seriously consider Yoast as your SEO plugin. Yoast is very good at guiding you to produce both good SEO results and readable content. Get someone to ensure your website isn’t broken, even a little bit, as it will help your SEO performance. Tools such as SEMrush provide a good report on broken links, unbalanced HTML/content and a number of other issues. If you ask me nicely, I’ll run a report for you!

I hope this helps.

You’ve sold something, what next?

Congratulations, your marketing has grabbed the attention of your target audience. It’s got them interested by showing them you understand them and you can help. You’ve engaged them through evidence and used stories during the sales process to demonstrate you can deliver on your promises. Throughout the process you’ve worked to manage the levels of perceived risk in their minds and your ideal client has signed on the dotted line. Now what do you do?

Sell some more

How can you use your latest sale to generate more? What are your options?

Gain a bigger share of their spend

When they signed on the dotted line, I doubt they signed for every service you can provide them. Although it is unlikely they will sign for another service straight away, you can work on demonstrating firstly that they made the right decision to use your services. After that you have the opportunity to discuss how the rest of your portfolio can also help them.
Follow the process again:

Generate awareness – do they even know what else they can get from you?

  • Educate them on two things:
  • How they will benefit from using more of what you provide.
  • How they will suffer if they don’t.

Prove to them that you have helped others, particularly their peers, with similar issues to theirs

Once they start talking to you, tell them the stories they need to hear

Give them the right deal

Remember that the level of risk in their minds will be far lower this time because they’ve already bought from you.

Ask them to spread the word

Once they have experienced how good your services are, ask them to tell their network. You’ve shown you can deliver and that their reputation is safe in your hands. They will know other people who have similar issues to their’s.
They may be proactive in providing referrals, but the chances are you will need to ask them. I know it’s always a worry (because they might say now) but if you time the question right (just after you deliver a great result), the chances are high they will do what you ask.

Use the Evidence

The 3rd stage above uses evidence to help your target audience make the right decision. You need to generate a regular flow of evidence that will help future prospects to buy from you. The sale you’ve just made can become the latest evidence.

Keep Talking to them

Just because someone has bought from you doesn’t mean they will continue to buy from you. Whether that is a repeat purchase or something else, there are others who they can buy from.
A recent project of mine identified that my client was only generating a 5% repeat purchase rate. They were good at generating that first sale, but then didn’t talk to them anymore. We implemented a programme of email communication to both educate buyers on how to get the best from their purchase and to inform them of what else they can buy. Simply by setting up a programme of continual communication, the repeat purchase rate increased to over 10% in less than 6 months – for a product range you are unlikely to replace for at least 5 years.

Sales in a B2B environment are not something that happen every day so making the best use of the sales you do make is key if you are to really grow the business.

I hope this helps.

Create More Demand

Without exception, every owner and director of a small business (or large one for that matter) wants demand for their services to increase. Whilst you may get some who claim they have all the business they ever want, they always want more.

So how do you generate more? How do you create more demand?

Value + Evidence = Demand

So what are the raw ingredients of demand?

Value:

The worth of something compared to the price paid or asked for it”

The perception of value does, of course, vary from individual to individual. What one person thinks as good value will not be the case for another; let’s look at a couple of examples:

First Class tickets: does the £4,995 cost of a return to Dubai at the front of the plane represent good value? Can a business person really get £5K’s worth of work done in there that they couldn’t get done further back, or is it just a status symbol?

London Eye Tickets: at £21 each, is that a good price for the views over London from the top?

Easter Eggs: as the most recent time of the year where we traditionally fleeced, can anyone say that Easter eggs are good value?

All of the above are really consumer purchases and the level of perceived value can be seen relatively easily. For many business services, it’s not quite so easy because of the complexity of the service. Value needs to be:

  • Clear: how well is the value shown?
  • Believable: will the prospect think you are telling the truth?
  • The right price: the phrase too good to be true is rarely incorrect.

Talking about the product, about how it can help and about how the price is just right is a key marketing function.  It is this content that gets your target audience interested and gets them coming to your website and reading more. The next thing they want from you is to prove your words aren’t empty.  They ask you to prove it.  They want…

Evidence:

Marketing talks the talk. The question your target audience has is whether your product can walk the walk. This blog has talked about evidence a number of times in the past. Research shows that evidence is a key part of the buying process. B2B purchasers require evidence at all stages of the buying process, from the initial visit to your website, through initial conversations and during the actual purchase.

To me there are three key groups of evidence:

  • Testimonials and case studies on the website
  • Stories during the conversations
  • Reference contact as a final stage

This blog isn’t the place to talk about each of these, and you can see my thoughts on blog content here, so let’s wrap things up here.

Simply put, if your evidence supports your marketing’s description of the value your product provides, you will create more demand. The groups of evidence listed above help your prospects through from awareness to interest and desire, then finally to the action of buying from you.

I hope this helps.