SEO for small businesses

By January 5, 2016Business, SEO

You have a website, but no idea how to promote it. Follow this simple guide to SEO for small businesses.

So you’re in business, you’ve had a website built, and you think that’s it. You’re done. You can sit back, wait to hit page one of Google’s results and you can count the cash as it pours in.

Sorry. If it was that easy everyone would be on page one, and as there are a maximum of 10 free positions on that page that would take some doing. So how can you help your website design perform better? Let me give you some free advice.

One quick search in Google for anything to do with SEO and you will be bombarded with tons of information. Some of it is correct, some of it is mis-informed and outdated. It’s hard to know what to do, if you can do it yourself, and ensuring you do it properly and will not make a mistake that could get your website binned from the off. I’m going to make it easy and give you a short list of essential things you MUST do to your website if you are to stand even a fighting chance of succeeding with it.

1) Google Analytics

resultsInstall Google Analytics on each and every page of your website. This is free, tells you where you are receiving traffic from, where they are in the world, and what position in the results for certain keywords you are placed at. Without it you will be second guessing everything.

It’s quick, it’s painless and you can install Google Analytics here.

2) Google Webmaster Tools

Not only do Google have a Webmaster Tools, but Bing do to. Sign up for this as well, but seeing as Google has over 90% of the market share I will focus on Googles version. Used in tandem with Google Analytics you will be provided with a whole host of information about your website, a massive advantage when it comes to SEO for small businesses. Once you have signed up, you will have to verify your website with them – this takes about 5 minutes – and then you will receive reports such as how many pages Google has crawled, errors Google spots in your website, and any potential problems they see with it.

They will also provide you with more information about search terms people are using, and other websites that link to you. Clever stuff indeed and you need to know it.

3) Sitemap

More importantly something called an XML sitemap. This can be compiled and downloaded from the XML Sitemap generator. Go there now, enter your domain and select uncompressed XML Sitemap. They will crawl your site, list every available page, and enable you to download it for you to upload to the root folder of your website. An XML sitemap is a file that search engines use, not human visitors. If you regularly update your content and create new pages, get in the habit of updating your XML Sitemap too. You can then tell Google Webmaster Tools where this file is and they will index all your pages. Never rely on Google, Bing or Yahoo to find your new content. If you do it could be weeks before they find it naturally and that is wasted time.

4) Google Places

I tossed and turned as to whether this should actually be the very first thing you do with your website.

Register your business with Google Places for Business and you stand a far greater chance of showing up in local search results. If you are based in Altrincham, just South of Manchester and you register your business address there, potentially hundreds of thousands of people in South Manchester, Cheshire and Greater Manchester could see your business. As most small businesses work locally you can see why this is paramount.

Do it now, do it well and this could be one of the most valuable things you ever do. You may have to wait a fortnight for Google to send you a postcard with a PIN number on it, but once done you can relax knowing you have just provided the best SEO for small businesses out there.

5) Website Content

I bet you think you have this covered. Most small businesses we speak to think so. Until we show them what that actually means.

If your budget allows employ a copywriter to help you, preferably one with SEO experience. You can write the initial draft, get everything out that you want to say, detailing every facet, nut and bolt of your companies services or products. And then pass it over to a copywriter. You probably have some ‘keywords’ in mind that you want to rank for and pass them to the writer too. What you are aiming to do is balance the information you wish to get across, not just for your potential customers, but also for the search engines.

The average human visitor has an incredibly short attention span, and with this in mind you need to condense the homepage text into simple, easy to read, grammatically correct copy so they can quickly scan your homepage and deduce if you can help them.website-content

Contrary to popular belief Copywriters actually reduce your word count as opposed to increase it. But they make it short, sharp, interesting and informative. Think of an advert and it’s limited space. A headline, a strapline and some explanatory text to follow. Think of each section of your website as an advert and you are on the right tracks. A search engine actually ranks each page individually, not the whole website. Get one page right and you will see the results.

NEVER copy something word-for-word from another website. You will suffer what Google call a ‘Duplicate Content’ penalty. This can result in your website disappearing from all results and takes a good deal of time and work to get back. Write original content, write it well, and write it for visitors first, and search engines second. A good copywriter will do this as second nature.

Good content also gets shared, gets spread around, becomes valuable and a resource of great information. If someone is asking a question, and your webpage answers it then that is valuable content. This also completely negates the need to buy backlinks. NEVER buy backlinks, whoever calls you and says they can promise that they are genuine and will help your website rank better. You can almost guarantee that your site will fall foul of Google and it’s ‘Bye Bye’. To rank better you need better content with better answers than all your competitors.

6) Title tags and Meta Description Tags

‘You what?’ I always hear after mentioning this. Let me show you simply. the title tag is what you see in natural search results here. It should ideally contain your keyword but not be ‘stuffed’ – meaning do not repeat your keywords over and over again. If you are selling e-marketing in Manchester it’s no use creating a title tag that says ‘emarketing Manchester emarketing Manchester emarketing Manchester‘ – You are limited to 70 characters as that is all that will show so make it work.

The Meta description tag is the 2 lines that shows under your title tag and you can see them here.

seo-for-small-business

This backs up your title tag and gives you the opportunity to convince a potential visitor that this is the link they should click. You are limited again, but this time to 156 characters.

Each and every page must have a unique title and meta tag. Googles Webmaster Tools will help you here and flag up any accidental duplicates. Analyse your competition, improve on it, and you are doing well.

7) SEO for small businesses – Part 2

Remember, a website is only one tool in your armoury as a business.

Initial SEO for small businesses, and the tips shown above, are standard practice but you would be surprised at the amount of your competitors that have not done these. Implement those and you give yourself a great base upon which to build. However, do not rely on your website solely to gain you all your business.

Employ other promotional techniques as well. Use social media, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ amongst others to interact with people. Embrace printed marketing techniques such as flyers,  leaflets and brochures, e-marketing can be a hugely successful medium in engaging with potential and existing customers. Get your website designer or developer to build you a blog for your website. You can use all of these to drive people to your website, and there you can go into more detail about your product, or services.

Contrary to popular belief not everything has to cost ridiculous amounts of money. As an example, adding a blog to your website costs relatively little, a fair price for a tool that enables you to publish fresh, valuable content and news about your company whenever you wish.

Do you want FREE traffic?

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Nice article. It’s good to remind folks that Bing has webmaster tools too, and I have found it useful to include both Google and Bing.

    • Jim Adams Jim Adams says:

      Thanks Jacquie, you’re right, it is always worth using BING as well as that is the pre-installed browser on most Android devices. Although not dominant, it there are still clients and customers using it!

  • Susan Cooper says:

    Love the article. I use Google Analytics and tools but need to learn more about Bing and others. i know they offer different views and could give me a different and valuable perspective. From BHB/Susan Cooper 🙂

  • This Google thing is quite annoying. I do not like how they constantly change their analytics. This year I changed the name of my website after about 20 years. That REALLY hurt – took my page rank down from a 4 to a 2.

    I appreciate the details you’ve shared here. It’s the kind of stuff my webmaster talks with me about.

    From LinkedIn Group BHB

    • Jim Adams Jim Adams says:

      How long ago did you change the domain Patricia? Ridiculously, Google can take 4-6 months to fully understand a domain change. It will more than likely come back, but PR is over-rated anyhow. Not as important as people believe. A set of 301 redirects for main navigation links would sort all the backlinks out for you too and implement a 404 page so anyones that you miss get caught.

  • Leora says:

    You certainly do cover a lot in one post! I set up Google Analytics whenever I set up a new website. And I’ve been trying to impress the importance of Google Places on local businesses.

    Sounds like the business owner could have chosen a more helpful website builder. It’s hard for a small business owner to learn everything, isn’t it?

  • A.K.Andrew says:

    Really great list of basics, and reminds me that I really need to pay more attention and actually look at Google analytics. I confess like Susan, I’ve tended to ignore Bing, but why not include it as well.
    Great to find your site.

  • April Greer says:

    Jim,

    Excellent post! I’ve bookmarked it to send to my clients. Most of them think there is a secret magical formula for always being #1 on Google. It’ll be great to point to another professional opinion who says scammers that promise first-page results forever are just that.

    Thanks!

    April

    • Jim Adams Jim Adams says:

      Thanks April! What makes me giggle is when these ‘scammers’ ring me personally to promise they can get me on page 1. I am on page one and the deafening sound of silence as they check kills me every time haha.

  • Jill says:

    Great blog brilliant advice we have struggled with seo as its such a grey area… what is the right and wrong thing to do…

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