“I know my business, but I don’t understand small business SEO.”
Does this sound like you?
For many small businesses it is a big job just to keep sales up, keep customers satisfied, and grow year-by-year without having to consider the regular optimization of a website. Particularly for businesses that do not make sales online, the small business SEO strategy that it pursues is often limited to getting online, creating a Facebook page, and crossing the fingers on both hands that it somehow works.
The bad news is that it won’t work.
But the good news is that it need not take a long time or a lot of effort to keep your small business website optimized, attract customers to your site, and engage with them – and eventually sell to them.
Small Business SEO on a Budget
Small businesses usually lack the something that big businesses don’t: a big budget. When money is tight and any spending on SEO means cutting back on another essential area of the business, it can be tough to make the spending call. Indeed, a recent survey found that most small business have a ceiling of $500 on their SEO spending, and that even at this level they are expecting a lot of bang for their buck. Considering that SEO has become almost synonymous with content marketing for many agencies, even that spending may not allow a small business website to move up the search rankings with the speed that business is seeking.
Luckily, though, there are small business so tactics that any business can employ that won’t cost a cent. Most take little time or maybe just small, ten second additions to existing processes. Others take a little more of an investment in time and effort, but need not involve the spending of hundreds of dollars on improving a search ranking.
Ten Tactics for Small Business SEO
Here are ten things that anyone can put into practice to improve their small business SEO without spending a cent:
Anything you put on your website should be your own. Search engines hate duplicate content and will penalize sites that reuse content from other places online. By all means allow yourself to be inspired by a competitor, or attempt to emulate the success of a bigger business, but ensure that everything you place on your website is created for that site. A reminder: this goes for the text that you use on your site, too. Avoid reusing the text on your ‘About Us’ page on your ‘Contact Us’ page: duplicate content hurts your ranking no matter whether it is on your site or elsewhere online.
Add a blog to your business site
Search engines will crawl and rank all the pages you give them – so why stop at a simple one-page website? By creating a blog on your website and regularly adding fresh, original content related to your business to that blog, search engines will be able to offer your customers dozens, even hundreds of additional ways to find your site. Keep your blog focused on your business niche, and follow the additional steps below when you post to your blog, and you’ll be opening doors to potential customers for dozens of keywords related to your business.
Use descriptive titles and headlines
Whether on your website or on a blog post, getting the title or headline right is essential. For pages on your website you should consider what your customer is likely to be looking for and what they would expect to find elsewhere. Hence, ‘Contact’ is a better page title candidate than ‘Drop Us A Line’ or ‘Want To Talk?’. When it comes to blog post headlines there are some wonderful tools available online (including CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer) that can help you optimize your headline for ultimate ‘clickability”.
Compose effective meta-descriptions
Every page of your website should have an associated meta-description. These short, 160 character summaries of the page are presented to people who search for keywords beneath the link that they will click. How do you convince them to click your link? Ensure that you have used the targeted keyword in your meta-description and that it clearly summarizes the content on the page or post. If your headline or page title is relevant, and your meta-description is effective, there is a far greater chance that a visitor will click though to your site.
Use your keywords in the right place
Search engines crawl all of your content but weight certain areas of your pages more heavily than others when determining its relevance to a certain keyword. As a result you should concentrate your efforts on using the targeted keyword in the URL of your page, the title of the page, the met-description (as described above), in the headings and sub-headings on a page, and in the alt-tags on images. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the keyword term elsewhere, just that you should always use it in those places.
Avoid keyword stuffing
Ever listen to a radio advertisement? To cut through the noise and make sure that listener recalls the advertisement later a radio advertisement will repeat the business name or associated terms many times. Here’s an example from Dinovite:
In the space of sixty seconds the ad mentioned the name of the product, spelled out the name of the product, spelled it again and added ‘dotcom’ so people could find the URL, mentions the name two more times, then spells out the name of the product again with the ‘dotcom’. You need to avoid this sort of keyword stuffing on your website; use the keyword you are targeting, of course, but don’t let it become the only thing on your page, lest you suffer the inevitable search engine penalty.
Add your address
Most small businesses do their business locally, and most customers are looking for their local businesses in search engines using a search that is simply [keyword] [city] or [keyword] [zipcode]. It’s obvious, then, that making sure you identify your location is part of your small burins SEO strategy. Make sure that your address and contact information (including zipped and phone number) are prominent on key pages on your site (home, about, contact) but also consider including them in the footer of all of your pages and posts.
Add social sharing buttons
Improving your on-site SEO can be a lot of work for one person. But what if you could harness the power of others to spread the word about your site and the great content that it contains? By encouraging visitors to share your content and making it easy for them to do so you’ll have a great chance of being found by those who might not otherwise click on your search result entry. With research suggesting that many consumers value the advice and recommendations of friends and family even over the first rank entry on a Google results page, adding social sharing buttons to your site and encouraging people to click is a great way of improving your online visibility without spending a cent.
Create and upload videos
Creating videos will cost you time – most of it spent editing rather than filming, that is for sure – but the payoff is worth it. The advantage of video as content is two-fold: first, they keep people on your site longer as they’ll watch a video though to the end if it is compelling and on-point; second, by uploading that video to sites such as YouTube or Vimeo, you can drive potential customers to your site by reaching out to them in the spaces they are. You shouldn’t be thinking Hollywood-style productions here and the videos should be related to your business. Film how you complete a task from start-to-finish, film yourself offering a tip that will save a customer time and money, or film yourself reviewing one of your new products. Videos and a little of film production that are relevant to your business, relevant to a customers needs, and interesting are sure to help your improve your online positioning.
Backup your site
Finally, a tip that will only take a few minutes to implement but that will save you days or weeks of headaches. You should always ensure that you have backed up your website: every page, every post, every picture – the whole thing. Search engines regularly crawl your site and, if for some reason it goes down and you don’t notice, it will quickly be deleted from the search engine results that are served. All that work, all that time, and all that effort you put in to improving your SEO will be lost – unless you back up regularly. It’s easy to do and services cost only a coupe of dollars a month and will do it automatically every night – they’ll even email you if your site goes down so you can be on-the-ball and proactive in solving any downtime issues. As the maxim goes, better to be safe than sorry: backup regularly so all your SEO hard work is not wasted.