Grow my business

SEO for small business: Everything you need to know

If you don’t have a website in 2019, does your small business even exist?

Probably not.

Eighty-eight percent of consumers now do online research before they buy a product or service. Which means having an online presence is crucial if you want to succeed.

But how do you make sure your business gets in front of the right people online?

Well, you need to optimise your website for SEO.

Ready to get started?

Here’s our small business SEO optimisation guide for beginners.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. Its goal is to make it easier for potential customers to find you online.

When someone searches the internet, search engines (usually Google) return the most relevant results. The results are ranked in order of priority. So, the first result is the most relevant, and so forth.

The problem is that there are usually thousands of search engine results pages, or SERPs. But 90 percent of people won’t look past page 1. 

So where does that leave you?

Well, that’s where SEO comes in.

SEO aims to help your small business rank as highly as possible. This way, customers are more likely to find you and, so, do business with you.

How does SEO work?

The more a search engine knows about your business, the greater your chances of ranking at the top of the search results. So, the main idea behind SEO is to make it as easy as possible for search engines to:

  • Find your business
  • Understand what it’s all about

Let’s say a customer is looking for a gluten-free bakery in Edinburgh. They log on to their favourite search engine and look up “gluten free bakeries in Edinburgh”.

The search engine will use a program called a web crawler to scour the internet for related content. It’ll then make a list of the most relevant web pages. So, if you run a bakery in Edinburgh and have gluten-free options, you’ll want to make sure search engines know this.

Of course, while this is the basic idea, there’s a lot more to SEO. Google uses more than 200 factors to decide how websites rank in search results. And while some factors are common knowledge amongst SEO specialists, others are controversial or even pure speculation.

That said, if you stick to the following basic principles, you can’t go too far wrong:

  • Make it as easy as possible for web crawlers to read your website. Use simple, clear language to describe what each page is about
  • Make sure your website is as user-friendly as possible. In particular, it should:
    • Be simple to navigate
    • Have simple, error-free code
    • Work well on both desktop and mobile
    • Load in three seconds or less
  • Create quality content. As a rule, this means content that’s:
    • Relevant and useful to the people you want to become your customers
    • Easy to understand
    • Actionable
    • Accurate
  • Build your authority. If search engines think your website is an authoritative source of information, it’ll have an advantage over others. Regularly publishing quality content is half the battle. But you’ll also want to get your content shared and win backlinks to other quality websites

What are the benefits of SEO for small business?

The biggest benefit of SEO is that it helps you get found more quickly on the web.

Think of it this way: a letter can reach its intended recipient only if it’s addressed correctly. Well, if your online presence were a letter, good SEO is the right address and a first-class stamp.

But SEO also has other small business benefits. In particular:

  • It has a high return on investment (ROI)
  • Many SEO techniques are relatively simple to implement and cost little or no money. But the results can be staggering.

    Consider this. 62.2 percent of users will click on an organic search result (one web page search engines think is relevant to your query). By contrast, only 2.8 percent of users will click on a paid advert

  • It’ll help you make more sales
  • SEO-friendly websites are fast, easy to navigate, useful and easy to read on any device. This encourages users to stay, browse and make a purchase.

    By contrast:

    • 53 percent of users will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load
    • 57 percent of users will leave a website that doesn’t work well on their phone
    • In a Northumbria University psychological study, 94 percent of those who distrusted a website did so because the design looked outdated
  • It gives you an edge over your competition
  • It doesn’t matter if your competitors are bigger or have more resources than you. If your website is SEO-optimised, it’ll rank better and get more exposure than a website that isn’t

  • It’ll help your business grow
  • Good SEO makes you more visible online. Which means you’ll get in front of more potential customers

Getting started with SEO: Choosing an SEO specialist for your small business

SEO specialists can make or break your website. Reputable professionals will help you boost your online presence. But if you pick someone that uses dodgy practices (called black hat SEO), you could quickly find yourself plumbing the depths of page 20.

So what should you look for when choosing an SEO specialist?

Here are four tips:

  1. Have a goal in mind
  2. SEO is a vast area, so you need to get specific. Do you want to rank better for certain keywords? Make your website more user-friendly? Or, perhaps, increase your backlinks? Knowing what you want to achieve will make it easier to choose the right specialist

  1. Discuss the process
  2. How does the SEO specialist plan to reach your goals? What keywords will they target? Which techniques will they use? And, most importantly, will they track performance and measure results?

  1. Ask them: “Can you get me to rank at the top of Google? And how long will it take?”
  2. These are trick questions. There are no straightforward answers. So if an SEO specialist is overpromising, there’s a good chance they’re inexperienced or plan to use black hat tactics. Either way, they’ll do more harm than good in the long run.

  1. Is it easy to communicate?
  2. Does speaking to the SEO specialist make you feel confident? Or do they leave you with more questions than answers? SEO is a long-term project, so you need to choose someone you’re comfortable communicating with.

5 simple SEO tips for small business you can implement today

While an SEO specialist can help you improve more quickly, there’s a lot you can do yourself for little or no money. Here are five simple SEO tips you can start using straight away:

  • Sign up for Google Search Console. This is a free tool that’ll show you any issues you should fix to improve your website’s SEO. Bing webmaster tools can also give you invaluable insights
  • Claim your Google My Business listing and fill it out as best as you can. This will boost chances of appearing in local search results. Other free directories worth signing up for include:
  • Find out what your customers are searching for. Brainstorm potential keywords. And, once you’ve written a few down, use a free tool such as KeywordTool.io or Moz to build out your keyword list
  • Start a blog and update it regularly. Businesses that blog consistently are 434 percent more likely to feature in search results than businesses that don’t blog. Yes: 434 percent
  • Get active on social media. Social media is a great source of traffic to your website. Research suggests that the more people visit your website, the better it’ll rank in search results

All set?

Time to conquer Google’s page one.

Get started with Microsoft 365

It’s the Office you know, plus the tools to help you work better together, so you can get more done—anytime, anywhere.

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Business Insights and Ideas does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.