In this article we discuss a few ways that you can optimise your website by using the best SEO techniques for small businesses. The aim is to better your chances of having content listed in search results.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation is the practice of making it easier for search engines to feature content from a web site. This article is largely concerned with technical and on page SEO practices. Our article Holistic SEO Strategy gives a wider view of SEO and Content Marketing Strategies.
Take any Search Engine; Google, Bing. Yahoo. Consider their business model.
- Who are their customers?
- Where does their income come from?
For all Search Engines the answer to the first question is Searchers. The people entering search terms expect to get a list of sites that may provide an answer to their question. The better and more appropriate that list is, the happier the searcher will be and the more likely they are to revisit the search engine.
The answer to the second question is of course Advertisments. Google need to keep their searchers happy in order for their business model to work.
So optimising a site for search means making that site relevant to a part of Google’s audience.
Optimising a web site for search comes in three flavours. Three sets of activities that you absolutely need to do if you are to be competitive. These by the way are not just SEO techniques for small businesses, they work for everyone.
- Technical SEO
- On Page SEO
- Off Page SEO
Typically these run concurrently. You’ll need to get your technical SEO right to make any headway at the beginning of the cycle, but it is an ongoing process as people add content because links out to external sites can change, post titles can change and even marketing staff coming in without knowledge of a strategy can wreak utter havoc on a web site!
Incidentally, these techniques are also relevant to YouTube. It’s the second most popular search engine on the web measured by search volume. Check out our article in the Knowledge Base – SEO Tips for YouTube.
Technical SEO is the practice of removing technical obstacles to search engines indexing a site. It can become very twiddly, but a decent web developer will hand over a site with technical SEO already optimised.
Examples of good practice in technical SEO include
- Enforcing SSL
- Removing Broken Links
- A straightforward navigation structure that reflects the structure of the site
- A sitemap for Search engines
- Optimised server settings (Caching)
- Rapid rendering of pages in the browser
- Unduplicated content
- Well structured Data
Check out our article “What is Technical SEO” to find out more.
On Page SEO
On page SEO is the art of optimising individual pages to rank highly. This involves the use of keywords and phrases, titles that may be searched for. Other best practices include
- Using short paragraphs
- Including images
- Writing clearly
- Using tables of content
- Appropriate Meta descriptions
- Appropriate Headings
- Use of Schemas
Off Page SEO
Off page SEO is concerned with things that happen outside of the website.
- Social Media Channels
- Link Building
- Guest posts on other blogs
- Local SEO
SEO Techniques for Small Businesses
Let’s take a look at some techniques you can use to compete with bigger, more established competitors.
In terms of best practice, keywords are a minefield! Firstly we need to explain what keywords are and what they are not.
What is a keyword?
The most common misapprehension about keywords is that they are an instruction to search engines. Nothing could be further from the truth!
A keyword is simply a word or a phrase that the author or SEO chooses to optimise content for.
Your task if you choose to accept it is to identify keywords that hit the right balance between search volume and achievability.
There are plenty of paid tools to research keywords with, but you can also use free tools such as Google Search itself. Have you ever noticed, below the Search results there is a section entitled “Related Searches..”? These are actual search terms that people have used. What are you waiting for?
You need enough volume to make the keyword worthwhile, but you don’t want to compete necessarily with bigger and more established sites because there is only one front page of Google. In technology for example, competing for generic keywords like RPA, SOA etc means competing with the likes of Microsoft, IBM and so on. There are SEO techniques that help to compete with giants.
So make up a keyword or pick one from the related searches and feed it into Google. See what comes up – can you compete?
Keywords may crop up in the title, meta description, headline and text of an article. These locations give Google the clues it needs to guess what you want to optimise for. The best practice for small businesses is to choose keywords that will be searched for but may not be used by your competitors or worse, much larger organisations.
Which Keyword do I Choose?
So a keyword such as “Best coffee shop in Shrewsbury” is unlikely to be used by Costa Coffee or Starbucks but is likely to be searched for. Useful if your locality is Shrewsbury.
The best practice with keywords is to use them to signal to the search engine and the reader, what the content is about. Avoid littering the content with your focus keywords because it will read badly and the ranking is no longer connected with the number of times a keyword is used. In fact, overuse will lead to penalties.
How do I Optimise my Content for a Keyword?
We use a plugin called Rank Math to optimise our on page content. You might also try Yoast. Both plugins do a good job of prompting you to write optimised content. The thing to remember is that they don’t see a post in the context of your other content so be aware that duplicating content or worse, keywords will cause you problems.
Avoiding Keyword Cannibalisation
Simply, if you optimise two posts or pages for the same keyword, you’re giving Google another choice to make. Effectively you’re competing with yourself. A good strategy for small businesses is to focus on long tail keywords – specific phrases that may be used as search terms. This helps you to write multiple articles covering different aspects of the same topic.
Competing with the big boys
A best practice with SEO is to practice Semantic Linking, arrange your content in clusters.
To take the example of the Specialist Coffee Shop, but this works for any business, create a Pillar Post. This is a definitive piece of content that is better written than the competition and contains more useful information on the topic of your choice.
You need to make it hard for Google to ignore it, so check out the competition (the companies who rank above you in Google for your chosen keyword) see how long their content is, how many pictures, what heading they use etc. and then do it better. Google will still ignore it, but then you create more content that uses carefully chosen long tail keywords that will be less competitive. This process is one that we are scientific about. It’s being driven by data.
These satellite posts point back to your pillar content. Because they rank in their own right, the link is significant to Google and will encourage visitors to read the main post.
Let’s make this real. If you have a coffee house in Shrewsbury pay attention, because this advice is free! Your pillar post could be about anything related to your business, but let’s say you wanted to convince people that your coffee shop is the best coffee shop. So you come up with a post idea called “What makes a perfect coffee shop” – you write it up, all of the stuff you’ve done to make your shop special. Choice of decor, sourcing table decorations, music, coffee beans, cake and so on. How you create your special ambience.
My mouth is watering at this stage, I can visualise the shop and I’m definitely going to visit! The post is probably between two and three thousand words, there’s an lot of pictures and you’ve covered a lot of ground. You optimise it for the keyword “perfect coffee shop”.
The next task is to break out the content ideas into separate, shorter posts. “Best Music for Coffee Shops”, “How Honduras Genaro Machado is made”, “Why Carrot Cake supplements Coffee Perfectly” etc etc. Each of these posts links back to and is linked to from your pillar post.
What you have done is to provide your readers with an interesting journey towards your core content. You’ve now got lots of stuff for social media and even more importantly, you’ve shown Google that your web site has a structure and a focus. Hey Presto! you’ve even shown your readers that your business has a structure and focus! You can have lots of Pillar Posts, but they do need to be aligned with your business.
Google puts a lot of emphasis on authority. One of the measures is how many links are there from other websites to yours. The greater the authority of the other web site, the better it is for you.
This arrangement does make it difficult for new businesses. If you write great content, backlinks will come, but its a slow business. Directories don’t carry a lot of weight, but people do use them. Don’t make the mistake of becoming Google obsessed, do stuff that’s useful for its own sake too. So get yourself listed in as many places as you can. Local Business organisations, local press. National organisations like Yell can be useful. Never, ever pay them for enhanced listings. It’s a complete waste of money.
If you are a local business then Google My Business is massively important. Maintaining a good profile really enhances your standing in Google and we think is absolutely mandatory for any business that depends on local clients. We’ll publish a more detailed post about GMB soon.
Briefly we’ve covered the main things that you as a small business need to pay attention to if you want your website to rank organically in Search. You may not care for the long game that SEO involves, but if you’re using PPC as an alternative way of generating traffic then you might find our post on PPC vs SEO interesting. SEO is permanent, PPC temporary.
If you go with SEO, then remember:
- Choose Keywords to compete
- Write better Content than your Competitors
- Create a GMB Profile and tend it like a garden!
- Get Listed
- Reach out for Backlinks – publish articles is one great way to generate these.
We’ve covered a fair amount of ground. I hope that you’ve found it useful! If you have, why not Subscribe to our newsletter and get all the latest posts and news once a month?
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