25 Oct

Small Business SEO

Small Business SEO Tips, Strategy & the Best Tools for the Job?

Are you a small business owner? Getting started with SEO or any form of digital marketing can be a rather daunting task. Our resident SEO Expert, Joe has wrote this guide for internet marketing beginners covering all you need to know.

In our latest post we share everything you need to know about small business SEO in 2017 and beyond.

In this Ultimate Guide to SEO for Small Business we will cover and answer all of your search engine optimisation questions.

Digital Ethos Guide to Small Business SEO

You can skip to a section by using clicking on the area you are most interested in reading more about:

Being a Small Business in 2017 and beyond

What is SEO?

Is SEO right for your Small Business?

How to choose a Small Business SEO Provider?

Is D.I.Y SEO best for a Small Business?

What services to to expert from a Small Business SEO Company?

5 Must Have SEO Tools for Small Business

17 Easy & Actionable Small Business SEO Tips

Digital Ethos Small Business SEO Checklist

We are a Small Business Too

We know it just like you do. Being a small business in 2017 is pretty tough. Many businesses fail within the first year and those that do make it past year one are in for a road full of many unexpected turns, not only in the digital realm but in life too.

So it is unsurprising really that marketing and SEO are put on the back burner for many small businesses to begin with. We even see well established companies failing to adapt to the ever changing local SEO marketing landscape.

Marketing is not easy. And digital marketing is perhaps the hardest nut to crack of them all! Specifically SEO can be the toughest challenge when is comes to marketing your small business online. However when done well, small business SEO is a great way of bringing organic traffic from search engines to your website.

Organic SEO success allows you to build trust with local customers, the best business relationships are of course built on trust.

In this blog post I want to look at search engine optimisation as a digital marketing tactic for small business. Over the years Digital Ethos have worked on hundreds of  local business SEO projects.

After reading this you as a small business owner will be armed with all the information you need to make the best decision when it comes to implementing a small business SEO strategy. You may decide to take on the responsibility yourself or use a member of staff. Or if that is not possible you may look to outsource your SEO requirements to an SEO Agency.

It is a given that search engines and SEO will play an important role in the future of your business. And the goal of this article is to use my 20 years of SEO experience to help you make the best possible decisions when putting SEO to work for your small business.

What is SEO?

First of SEO is short for search engine optimisation. It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.

All major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have primary search results, where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. Payment isn’t involved, as it is with paid search ads or pay per click advertising.

SEO has evolved and now encompasses so many aspects. During each small business SEO project we work on here at Digital Ethos we will do everything form competitor analysis, keyword research, optimising a website, copy writing, building links and brand authority, improve user experience, conversion rate optimisation and mobile SEO.

Small Business SEO is a complex and layered discipline that requires you to wear many hats.

An experienced SEO company will help identify the most important aspects of search engine optimisation for your business and what online marketing strategies will get you the best ROI on your spend.

Search Engine = Referral Engine

A helpful way to look at this is to consider that a search engine is just a referral engine — a tool that provides the best answers to users’ questions. For your small business to truly succeed in this search landscape, you must do everything in your power to be the best result. Whatever your prospective customers need to make a decision, be driven to provide it. This has the benefit of helping you convert more clicks to customers as well, so this is a sensible all-around approach.

The Main Areas of SEO for a Small Business

Your Website.

A well-structured, fast, mobile-friendly website is essential for small business SEO success.

Content is King.

Your content should help demonstrate why a customer should choose you.

Content marketing.

Informational blog content can put you in front of a wider audience.

On-page Optimisation.

Basic SEO optimisation is important so think page titles and meta descriptions.

Local Internet Marketing.

Local businesses need to consider local SEO best practices.

Creating Authority.

Links are still highly correlated with strong search engine results.

Credibility & Trust

Case studies, portfolios, reviews and testimonials help you clinch the deal.

Small Business SEO can be complicated. So understanding your current situation and marketplace is key to making the right decisions. And fortunately, for smaller businesses we can often strip away much of the complexity, and the conversation ends up being about content, links and good website design – you must be mobile friendly in 2017!

Are SEO Services worth it for Small Business?

One of the most popular ways we look for products or local services is by heading over to a search engine like Google and typing what we are looking for in the search bar. With this in mind SEO, in most cases is a great way to put ypur business in front of potential new customers.

Please note that SEO is not always the best marketing strategy for every small business.

The Importance of SEO for Small Business

When it comes to deciding the importance of SEO for small business there 3 main details that should be considered;

Budget

it is super important to consider if you have the required marketing budget to invest in SEO for your small business.

Speed

If you are time dependent it may be worth considering another marketing channel think PPC or facebook Ads. SEO can take a long time to gain traction.

Competition

Some search results can be dominated by big brands, consider where you pick your marketing battles.

Ranking your website in organic search results is a desirable outcome and one that many small business owner would love to acheive. However an SEO campaign should not be the only marketing channel you use to grow your company. Other advertising strategies such as Google Adwords, Facebook advertising or if you are in the b2b space Twitter or LinkedIn ads can yield much faster results than SEO.

If your business is preforming some kind of SEO even in a small capacity this is a positive thing. And one of the reasons we offer small business SEO packages from only £150pm.

Take time to consider your budget, the speed of which you need results and competition and use these to determine how important SEO is for your small business.

So, you may not rank quickly with search engine optimisation, but the sooner you start investing in your SEO strategy, the sooner you can benefit from this highly popular marketing channel.

So, is SEO Right for your Small Business?

No matter which way you slice it, SEO should never be ignored by anyone with a business that occupies digital real estate on the web. But whether SEO services are appropriate in your circumstances depends greatly on the nature and scope of your business.

How to Choose a Small Business SEO Company?

Here are 10 questions to as any potential SEO Agency before agreeing to let them manage your Small Business SEO Campaign. Each of these questions are a good starting place for a discussion with any potential SEO company.

It is important to be an educated buyer when it comes to small business SEO.

Deciding which SEO agency to work with can be difficult, you might want to work with a local digital marketing agency or perhaps a firm that has experience in your niche.

1. How will you improve our SEO?

This is purposely an open question. You are trying to get a feel for the strategy that the SEO company will follow. We would like to see mention of technical audits and fixes, on-page optimization, local SEO, page speed optimization, mobile optimization, content optimization, keyword research and most likely some form of link and authority building.

2. What type of SEO work do you specialise in?

SEO has many moving parts. Technical. Local. National. Organic. Content. Links and authority. Many smaller agencies focus only on small parts, so ask the question to be sure this agency is a good fit for your requirements.

3. What specific jobs will you work on each month?

We would expect the agency to detail an initial three-month process that involves technical audits and fixes, on-page optimisation, content creation, content optimization and link building.

4. What strategies do you use to build links and authority for a site?

This is an important question. We are looking for an understanding of how the web and page rank works. We want natural links. Typically, we would want to see some form of content created (or promoted) to build links to a content piece. Some form of guest posts for exposure. Possibly some digital PR.

We don’t want to see mention of link farms, private blog network (PBN) sites, dropped domains and the like. We really want to ask the company if all links will comply with what Google considers acceptable (i.e., no link schemes).

5. Do you adhere to all of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?

Leading on from link schemes, we can ask about Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Again, this shows you are an informed buyer, and many a low-quality company will run a mile when you ask this question (which is exactly what you want).

6. Can you provide case studies or examples of similar companies you have helped?

It is always good to get some examples of similar companies that the business has helped. You want an example of how the provider took someone (ideally in a similar industry) from the position you are in now to a position of strength.

7. What metrics do you measure to track progress?

You want to know which metrics the company will use to track success. Keyword rankings are the baseline here, but ideally, we want to see a more robust set of SEO KPIs. For small business SEO, you likely can’t expect too much, but I am fond of total organic search traffic — the total number of pages receiving organic search traffic.

8. Do you have contracts or a minimum term?

You certainly don’t want long contracts for unproven providers. If there are contracts, then you want a get-out clause after three months, when you will have a better measure of the company.

9. How & what will you report to us each month?

The quality of reporting will depend on the budget to some extent, but you will be wanting reports on the visibility of tracked keywords, improvements in results for tracked keywords, work completed (including all links) and work planned for next month.

10. How often do you review progress?

Here we want to know what will be reviewed, and when. After six months with a good provider, you will likely be in a far improved position. Hence, you want to know how the strategy will change. I would be looking for either three-monthly or six-monthly reviews here.

What to expect from working with a SEO Company?

An SEO Agency will typically work either directly with the small business owner or any in house marketing manager and preform a variety of functions — usually off-site — on a recurring basis. Such SEO tasks will normally include:

Ongoing review of your website’s content and structure
Keyword research and authority (link) building
Technical advice on further site development
Localised, geographic market research and analytic
If all goes as planned with the SEO agency you’ve selected, the results should include:

Increased online presence
A boost in your site’s search engine ranking
Improved attraction of targeted customers
Better control of your company’s online reputation
And ultimately… higher sales and a revenue

D.I.Y SEO – Can I Do this Myself?

Can you do the SEO for your small business yourself? Well yes you can! If you have had a website for a couple of years chances are you will have, perhaps accidentally already performed on site SEO.

There are a number of really good SEO guides available that if followed correctly you are sure to see an improvement in your websites online visibility.

Your time may be better spent doing what you do and paying a Leicester SEO company to do their thing however.

17 Small Business SEO Tips YOU can DO

Right now it is time for the main event. Improving the SEO and visibility of your small business website in search engines is an important digital marketing strategy in 2017 and will be for the foreseeable future.

These 17Small Business SEO Tips will help sky rocket your online presence.

We will now outline a huge 17 SEO Tips that you can implement either all in one sitting or tick of a couple a day when you have some time. A good idea would be to bookmark this post so you can come back and read these search engine optimisation tips for your small business at any time.

Small Business SEO Tips You can Implement Today

Let’s get to it and show you how you can improve your website in search engines with our actionable SEO tips! 

Before you use our Small Business SEO Tips

There are a number of solid resources available that will ensure your background knowledge of SEO is at a really good level. Knowledge is power!!

If you are already well read in SEO and internet marketing please skip ahead to the list of small business SEO tips.

It is a good idea to start by reading what the big dawg himself has to say. Check out the Google Webmaster Guidelines, pretty mush an essential read.

We have broke down our Small business SEO tips into 5 areas, the set up, keyword research, on site optimisation, local SEO tips and how to get the most from your website performance.

The Setup

Keyword Research

First up in our 17 Small Business SEO tips covers where any local or small business SEO campaign should start and thats with an in depth look at the keywords you are going to target.

1. Understand Your Customers

Before you create a list of keywords to target, you must know who your customers are and what they’re looking for when searching online for your products or services. If you haven’t created buyer personas for your customers, now is the time to create at least two buyer personas for your main target audience.

After you’ve identified the personal traits of your ideal customers, think about the different ways that they are searching for what you offer. Map out their research process and buying decision and make sure that you have something to offer them at every stage of their buying process.

Pay attention to keywords that are have commercial or buyer intent. Think of words in your niche that are “act-now” keywords. An example would be “features of sony camera w710.” If a person is searching for features of a specific camera model, you know that they’re close to buying. These are the types of research keywords you should be targeting.

Think about YOUR products or services and brainstorm the keywords that buyers are using to find what you offer.

3. Competitor Keyword Analysis

The whole point of SEO is to outrank your competitors on search engine results. But before you can create a plan to outrank your competition, you need to find out who your competitors are and how they rank for the keywords you’re targeting.

With SEMrush’s Position Tracker, you can enter your competitors’ URLs and SEMrush will analyse your rankings for particular keywords vs. your competition.

3. Analyse the Keywords you Target Individually

Once you have a clear idea of exactly who your customers are, it’s time to do keyword research and find keyword phrases that will be of interest to searchers. There are many SEO tools that can help with your keyword research.

Google even shows you the most frequently searched terms when you start typing in search keywords in the query box:

No matter which tool you use, chances are the tool has a way for you to not only find keyword ideas and variations to target but also allow you to analyse the competitiveness of the keywords you’re trying to rank for.

Your goal is to identify keywords that have a relatively high search volume but are less competitive.

Google Planner makes it easy to see whether a keyword you’re evaluating has a lot of competition (High) or if it’s going to be a little easier for you to rank for because the competition is less (Medium and Low).

On Site SEO Tips

So your website is well equipped and primed for search engine success the next are we will look at is the best onsite SEO small business tips that you can action yourself.

4. Include your Keyword in the Title Tag

This should be a no-brainer, but I’ll say it anyway: Your page title should contain your keyword, but that doesn’t mean it has to be exact (though it can be).

5. Use keywords in heading tags (h1&h2)

You can organise most webpages by having a large title at the top, followed by several sub-headers throughout the page (like the sub-headers in this post).

This optimisation is helpful not only for people in skimming blog-post articles, it’s helpful in showing Google exactly what your blog post is about. Therefore, be sure to use your exact keyword phrase at least once in your heading tags either h1 or h2.

6. Optimise Your Alt text

Next, if your blog post contains images, you can use those images to cement the idea to Google about your post’s topic. There are two ways to do this:

The image name
The image alt tag
To change the image name, simply change the name of the image on your computer before uploading. Instead of a file called “2831274.jpg,” you can re-name it something like “small business SEO 1.jpg.”

The “alt tag” is something you designate after you upload the photo to your website. Without getting too technical, the alt tag is simply the text that the web browser will show if the photo can’t load for some reason.

7. Use the keyword in the URL and in the post

Another way Google is able to determine what your blog post is about is the URL. In other words, we’re talking about what comes after the “.com” in your url (or .net, .org, or whatever you use). For example, which of the following URLs do you think Google will like better when deciding whether or not to show a certain page?

www.digitalethos.net/9124824834-1
www.digitalethos.net/small-business-seo-tips
You’re right if you guessed the second one. While the former might not completely kill your SEO efforts, the latter definitely helps show Google exactly what the post is about.

8. Add internal links to key Pages in your Website

If you aren’t talking about your best content, why should anyone else care? For this reason, it’s important that your best SEO content be linked to internally by other pages on your website. You can link to blog posts or service pages or even your homepage. It is a good idea to use keyword anchor text on your internal links.

Local SEO Tips

So you have your keyword research sorted and your website is now in tip top shape. The next are of focus is Local marketing tips for small business SEO success. Take a look at these local SEO tips that will help your small business get more leads from local search in Google.

9. Locally focused Blog Content

When we talk about local SEO, often much of the focus is on citations, local directories and maps. All of these components are important, of course; but to really give yourself an edge, you need to create quality localized content.

What do we mean by localised content? Here, we referring to content that is based on or around your local area and educates readers on the specific issues/problems/wants they have. Local businesses can benefit a ton by sharing the purpose and passion behind what they do.

Here’s what Digital ethos recommend: Start a blog (if you don’t already have one), and create content specific to your niche and city. Share why your community is special and how your products or services align with the community’s values.

You started your business for a reason; tell your audience and let them connect.

10. Maps, directories & citations

For local businesses, it’s important to ensure that your business is present (and optimised) on Google Maps. After all, if people can’t get directions to you, then you’re out of luck!

It still amazes me that so many businesses have yet to claim their map listings through Google My Business. This is a simple and easy step that gives you more exposure and allows you to manage how your business appears on Google Maps.

The goal is to claim and update your business listing in as many relevant, legitimate business directories and maps services as you can, and optimise those listings with correct business information. (It’s especially important to ensure that your name, address and phone number are consistent across the web.)

11. Have a Physical Address in your Target Location

It is fundamental to ensure that you have a consistent physical address for the area you wish to optimise locally. Additionally, the specific address that your premises is located in should be within, or as close as possible to the area that you are targeting.

12. Get Social

Engage Regularly Via Social Media. Social media pages play a notable role in local business’ visibility in search results. The more proactive your social media strategy, the higher likelihood your pages will attract followers — and in turn, appear within search.

13. Ask your Customers for Reviews

Customer reviews help to build your business’ visibility in local search results, and so does your engagement in responding to them — whether they are positive or negative. However, small businesses need to ensure the reviews themselves always come from the outside.

Do not preform any spam or made up reviews, this can harm the long term reputation of your business in local SEO. 

 

Website Performance SEO Tips

14. Improve Page Load speed

If your web page takes longer than 3 seconds to load then you can say goodbye to that new customer!

Quickly loading pages are crucial not only for efficient SEO but also for a good UX. Users don’t like to wait for content to show on a website they are trying to browse, and neither do search engine web crawlers. To achieve fast pageloads, you can make sure that the server generates responses faster, add pagination or infinite scroll or add responsive images.

15. Make Your Images as Small as Possible

Images are what the web is all about now. Well, almost. Instagram is an example of a company that created a whole platform where images are the only true content. The downside of using images is that they take a lot of space and bandwidth if you don’t compress them properly.

To improve your small business websites SEO performance make sure your images are as small as possible.

16. The Most Important Page Speed Tool

Within Google Webmaster Tools you now have access to “PageSpeed Insights.” This tool analyzes a given URL’s page load speed, and gives you tips on how to make improvements.

It is particularly valuable because Google uses a similar speed analysis as a factor in your rankings. Using this tool will allow you to see what Google sees. And if you’re smart, you might want to run it for competitors, and see how you stack up!

And now onto the most important small business SEO tip of them all….

Drum roll please…

17. The most-important SEO tip: Get external links.

Okay, finally we’re finally at the big one: external links. The number of and the quality of links form other websites that point to yours.

External links are links from websites other than your own. Google relies heavily on external links to determine how good a post is. And this makes sense, doesn’t it? You can talk about yourself and your own skills all day long, but no one will believe you. But as soon as other people begin bragging about you, others take notice, in this case Google.

 

5 Best SEO Tools for Small Business

As well as providing you with the best small business SEO tips we are also going to share the best SEO tools for your small business. Each of these SEO tools will give you the armoury to improve the SEO of your small business website.

1. Google Analytics

Google is the leader of search. In fact, Google offers several different SEO tools in itself for small businesses to use in order to help them on their road to success. One in particular is Google Analytics.

Google analytics is a free website analytics tool, which is very powerful when it comes to search engine optimization. Once the tool has been set up properly on your website, it will allow you to collect analytic data from your site. You’ll be able to write reports with the provided analytic data, including the percentage of users and visitors on your site, as well as the bounce rate. Google Analytics will enable you to makes reports on which marketing tactics drive the most leads and sales conversions, which drive the most traffic, what keywords users are using within their search, how visitors use your site, and so much more.

2. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is another great SEO tool which isn’t free. It is the newest entry into the link research tool space and SEO analysis. The tool has a lot to offer, including its site explorer, content explorer, keywords explorer, dashboard and alerts.

Ahrefs not only gives you new ideas for link-building and content analysis, but also allows you to track new, lost or broken backlinks to your site, as well as keep a good eye out for the actions of your competitors.

The site explorer, which Ahrefs offers, allows you to search for recent top content, and identify which content receives the most engagement, particularly on social platforms. Keyword research can also be performed through Ahrefs, providing the keywords which a website currently ranks for, and what keywords it could potentially rank for.

3. SEMrush(Our Favourite)

The SEMRush tool is specific to finding keywords which will be profitable within your industry. SEMRush is a great tool which will show you a report of the keywords which your domain is ranking for, as well as other vital information such as: Traffic estimate, keyword position, keyword trends and several more.

Not only does it allow you to do that, but it can also be used as a way of finding analytic competitive data.

4. Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool

Sometimes, the aspects of SEO which can help a business the most are fixing what’s broken. Screaming Frog is a website crawler tool which can quickly and easily perform audits for each of your web pages to see if they are SEO friendly. It is a free tool which limits you to a crawl limit of 500 URLs.

The tool aims to highlight what is working against your website’s SEO. This includes any broken backlinks, duplicate content or server errors. Similarly, it can also identify whether any meta descriptions or page titles are too long or short in length. All things which can help you to determine what needs to be fixed to help with your website’s SEO.

5. Moz’s Open Site Explorer

Moz’s Open Site Explorer is a Mozscape index-powered workhorse. It is another tool used for the purpose of backlinks. It enables you to research and find link-building opportunities, as well as discover the authority of each domain.

No tool is 100% accurate, therefore it is always recommended to try out multiple different tools to get the most reliable results.

Be sure to consider these simple, yet useful SEO tools for your small business, because not only will they make SEO a lot easier for you to conduct for your website, but they will also help you to see a huge difference in website traffic and overall success. Small business SEO can be done well if you have the best tools at your dispense.

Over to You

We hope you enjoyed out small business SEO tips and guide to the best tools to use. If you implement all of the hints and SEO tips we have covered in this post you will be well on your way to dominating search engines and your competition.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you would like to book your free small business SEO consultation with Digital Ethos.

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