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.

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