Search Engine Optimisation, where do we begin? In an ever-changing digital landscape keeping up with the latest trends in SEO can be a challenge for even the most experienced marketers.
For small business owners, the task is even more daunting. Conducting correct SEO practice is crucial to ensuring your business is visible online but how do you get noticed when it’s an ever more saturated place to be?
Of course, you could employ someone. But SEO is a murky world and it’s difficult to separate true SEO aficionados from the self-professed cowboy experts who plague the internet.
The only way to know what’s best for your business is to educate yourself. In this article, we’ve asked six top SEO experts to share their top tips for small business SEO.
We’ve displayed the best answers and it should help to clarify what SEO is, entails and what your business needs to do to succeed in the digital world.
By equipping yourself with knowledge of SEO best practice you can decide whether it’s something you can do yourself or you need to employ external help.
If you’re leaning toward the latter knowing what you need from an SEO team will be the difference between paying a small fortune for a redundant service or soaring with a bona fide expert.
“Search engine optimization is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) — including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.”
Optimise for Google’s Answer Box
Quick answer boxes are surfacing more and more in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), and are a great way for you to stand out from competition whilst directly answering user queries.
They are the new position #0 in the SERPs, and are a sure-fire way for you to dominate your niche’s SERP landscape if you own some of the top keywords.
Having your content cited in Google’s answer box means you’ll be featured on page 1 not once, but twice. For many businesses, showing up in the answer box might be more valuable than being 1st position.
OK, but how do you get featured in Google's answer box? We all know Google loves organised, easily accessible, structured data. We also know that users love finding answers to their queries. Put this together and you have your recipe for optimising your content for Google's answer box. Here are some tips:
- Research and choose a topic that is of interest to your users
- Create “quality” content that is relevant to the topic and in line with your buyer personas and purchase cycle
- Structure your page with clear headings, bullet points, and a useful mix of content types. Think about user experience
- Follow a how/what structure with headings and content. E.g. ‘How to boil an egg?’
- Where relevant clearly present answers in a “how-to” list
- Implement solid on-page optimisation, internal linking etc to achieve a higher ranking
Lucy Kirkness, Director of Little Digitalist is a freelance SEO & digital marketing consultant based in Brighton. She operates as a one woman band, helping to increase the visibility of brands online.
Sort Your Citations
Citations are entries on websites like Yell, FreeIndex and Thomson Local that include your business’ name, address, phone number and website. They’re a bit like digital signposts.
In Moz’s 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors survey the quality, quantity and consistency of a business’ online citations were voted amongst the most influential ranking factors for localised organic and local stack results.
Yep, your business listing — or lack thereof — on sites like Yell, Thomson Local and FreeIndex have a huge influence on your SEO.
While you could manually check your citations with a spreadsheet and highlighter, I recommend you sign up for a free trial with an online citation tracker and run an audit on your existing coverage.
Use your report to fix inconsistencies in your business details and add your business to directories where you aren’t represented.
Clean Up Your URLs
Brian Dean recently released his debut piece of original research, an analysis of 1 million search results. One of Brian’s most interesting findings was that pages with shorter URLs tend to rank better than pages with longer URLs.
For example, consider the following URLs:
The first uses three words after the main domain to simply and straightforwardly describe what the blog is about.
The second, however, is almost four times longer and includes numbers, conjunctions and prepositions. According to Brian, the first URL is far more likely to rank than the second.
There’s two explanations for this.
One, according to Google’s former head of web spam, Matt Cutts, after the first 5 words “ algorithms…will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.”
So, if you’re using a long URL with important terms at the end, Google isn’t listening.
Two, longer URLs tend to point to pages further away from a site’s homepage and, therefore, have less authority.
If you want your content to stand out in the SERPs, cut out the unnecessary junk from your URLs and watch as your pages zip up the rankings.
Ross Dempsey is the Head of Digital at Digital Impact.
Stand out from the crowd and put in the work
To outperform your competitors in search, you need better content and a better backlink profile. This is easier said that done, so to help you on your way I’ll share an effective strategy I’ve successfully used for multiple clients and personal projects.
Every day around 2 million articles are published online. Are you just publishing one of these articles, or are you responsible for the article that gets: noticed, shared and linked to?
To be successful online, you need to stand out from the crowd. Know your strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to put in the work.
Take a step back from your commercial interests and with every Post, Video or Tool you publish you need to provide real value to your visitors.
When you succeed at creating content which makes a lasting impression, visitors are willing to engage and reward your content with links and social shares.
Final tip: Use your social network, newsletter and partners to get some initial traction to give your content a head start.
Jasja Ter Horst is the Founder of SEO Review Tools. On a monthly basis, more than 100K visitors use these SEO tools to improve their website. Multiple tools have caught the attention of industry leaders like Neil Patel and Cyrus Shepard (former MOZ). You can find out more about Jasja on linkedIn…
As Fiddy said; Get Links or Die Tryin! No matter what anyone says, and yes, let’s assume you have a website that is reasonably well built, you need to concentrate your SEO efforts on getting other websites to link to yours.
This can’t be any old website, you ideally want to get popular websites to link to you. Think BBC, Guardian, Mashable, and dare I say it, The Daily Mail.
These links are as rare as rocking horse poo! You need to create content on your site that they would naturally want to link to. Maybe a widget, a calculator, some amazing piece of informative content or simply a copy of a press release that you may have issued that the big ticket media may want to link back to.
Getting links is hard BUT, it is a must do. Search Engines look at the links you have coming into your site from third party websites to try and understand just how much of an expert you are in your field and include this as a ranking factor when deciding where you should show up in the search engine ranking positions.
Remember though, never buy links kids! That is a big no no!
Make Sure Your Website Is Speedy
Is your site speedy? One of the big changes over the last few years relates to search engines looking at how fast your website loads for users. For example, Google has a page load speed test page where you can look at your existing page and also get tips on what needs to be improved.
Search engines such as Google are placing more faith in sites that load quickly and, as with links, it is an important ranking factor when the search engine is deciding where your site should appear in the search engine ranking positions. Make sure you don’t have large file size images slower your page load time down, compress images as much as you can- Compressor.io is a very handy tool for this.
Is Your Website Responsive?
If your website is not built in a way that makes it display “real purdy” on mobile phones then we are going to have a problem!
In late 2015 Google went public about more searches taking place on mobile devices than desktop’s and alike for over 10 countries including the UK, USA and even farther afield, such as Japan. In 2015 Google even came out and set a deadline by which websites should be built in a way that makes them display and work correctly on mobile devices, or risk a form of penalty or being appearing lower in mobile-based searches, ouch!
Ask your web developer this one question: Is my website responsive? If the colour drains from their face, you know it is not and you need to get on it like Sonic!
Andy Barr is the co-founder and MD of 10 Yetis Digital. He speaks at conferences around the globe on how Search, Social, Public Relations and Video campaigns can all get it on to make wonderful content marketing babies. 10 Yetis is 11 years old and works with various brands, big and small, including the likes of Superdry, Confused.com, Made.com, Holiday Cottages and many more.
Use Reputable SEO Experts
Many small businesses don’t realize the intricacies involved in running a successful SEO campaign. They either try to do it on their own with little to no knowhow, or they outsource their SEO to the lowest bidder. Both are big mistakes.
For any business that’s serious about their digital presence, they need to plan ahead and put aside a reasonable SEO budget to meet their goals. Otherwise, they are more often than not flushing their money down the toilet.
While planning an SEO budget, instead of looking for the cheapest option, spend some time to find reputable contractors or agencies with proven track records.
Timothy Backes is the owner of timothybackes.com a digital marketing blog focused on SEO. Tim is also the Digital PR Coordinator at Stream Companies. SEO has transitioned from a consultant link building for keywords on SEO directories (built purely to dupe the search engines) for rankings to a more conscious effort to connect with a business’s true audience, their customers. From my experience of working with many SME’s over the last couple of years, SEO no longer works if broader digital marketing, UX and CRO considerations aren’t met. SEO is, therefore, redundant if the broader digital marketing isn’t considered, or if the website doesn’t balance UX with SEO to convert visitors. 1. Think mobile! Mobile search has overtaken desktop search already, so is your website responsive and is the content (copy) contextual to the terms you wish to rank for? Does the page balance clear, concise copy with effective imagery and are there clear “calls to action” for your customers to engage with your business? 2. Don’t obsess over keywords. The true value of keywords can never be measured to assess ROI from a campaign due a number of reasons, not least not provided. Keywords are still important within Meta tags for Google to index content accordingly amongst your competitors, however always write content which is of value to your users. If you do, you will find the copy will naturally be inclusive of terms you wish to rank for without even thinking about the keyword in the first instance. 3. SEO is redundant if your website fails to perform. Do you know: -What are your customers doing when they get to your site? -How users are behaving beyond the statistics? Use behavioural analytics tools such as Decibel Insight or Hotjar to understand how your users engage with your content or potential pitfalls in conversions. How about social media. Is your company taking an intelligent approach to digital PR and people starting to discuss your brand? If so, it is far more likely that you will engage others to link back to you if you are using other aspects of broader digital marketing to improve the visibility (thus the SEO performance) of your business.
Owain Powell is a Digital Marketing Manager at Decibel Digital. Decibel’s process involves enhancing clients UX, then working on their CRO and broader digital marketing campaigns, inclusive of SEO. They have delivered these digital campaigns and consultancy services for a number of SME’s and larger enterprise brands such as L’Oreal, Fowler Welch, CitySprint and Doosan. With thanks to all our SEO experts for their answers. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions or tips of your own to add to this article. Enjoy this? Get digital marketing and entrepreneurship advice straight to your inbox!