By Tim Russell
As small business founders, we’ve all been there. You’ve built your website, either by yourself or using a professional designer. You’ve populated it with lots of lovely content and articles about your business and your industry sector. You’ve done the basic SEO (search engine optimization) stuff such as adding title and header tags and meta descriptions, allowing search engines to crawl your site, and connecting to Google Analytics (at least, I hope you have). And you’ve told everyone about your website and shared it on every relevant social media channel (and maybe even a few irrelevant ones). Now to sit back and watch the traffic flood in. Except…it isn’t flooding in. It’s barely even trickling. You know your business is new, but surely you should be getting more visitors than this?
If you find yourself in this situation – and you’re not the first and you won’t be the last – here are a few things you can do to give your site’s SEO a bit of a boost and make sure you’re doing everything you can to climb those search rankings…
Speed it Up
Whilst we normally think of small business SEO in terms of keywords, page content and search relevance, Google is increasingly factoring user experience (UX) into its algorithm, and page loading time is one of the most important factors. Google doesn’t want to be directing its users to pages that take a long time to load, and you don’t want to go to all the effort of driving visitors to your site only to have them abandon the process because it’s too slow. Research suggests that website conversion rates drop by almost 5% for every additional second a page takes to load (1), so it’s in your best interests to make sure your site is as fast as it can possibly be.
Image courtesy of TruConversion
The first thing to do is to get a proper report on how long your page is taking to load, and why. Google ‘website speed test’ and you’ll find hundreds of free solutions; my particular favourite is Hubspot’s Website Grader, as it is very user-friendly and explains exactly why your site isn’t loading as fast as it might. Common problems include:
Make sure you compress images before uploading them to your site (I like TinyPNG), or, if you’re using WordPress, use an image compression plugin such as Smush (you can use this to compress images in bulk even after you’ve added them to the site). These can reduce large images down to small memory size, without any noticeable loss in image quality, to make sure your pages load much faster. Try using a lazy load plugin, which ensures that your browser will only try to load images once they’re ready to display, rather than loading images that are below the fold. And use a CDN (content delivery network), which can massively decrease image loading times.
And also make sure you’re using a browser caching plugin, which will store frequently loaded content locally so that it isn’t having to reload it every time the user visits the site.
Content is King
UX is increasingly important to SEO, but content is likely to remain king for some time to come. Content marketing, and putting together a content strategy, is a whole other article in itself and we won’t go into it here, but suffice to say that regularly updating your site with fresh, relevant, unique and SEO-optimised content is probably the best way to drive traffic to your site.
Keywords still play a huge role in small business SEO, and when creating a piece of content, you should focus it around 1-2 key search phrases at most. Let’s say you’re a company called Lensbag that sells camera bags – your first task is to use a keyword tool (try Keyword Surfer or Google Trends for example) to see what people who want camera bags are searching for. Let’s say you spot a trend for ‘eco-friendly camera bags’ – there’s your next article keyword! Put it in the article title, mention it as frequently as you can without it appearing unnatural, and try to put it in your H2 tags too. And think long-tail – a search phrase such as ‘green canvas camera bags’ is more likely to get you a higher search ranking, and indicates much more likely buyer intent, than just plain old ‘camera bags’.
Our attention spans are getting shorter, so it stands to reason that shorter content is most effective, right? WRONG! Research suggests that longer articles – 2000 words and over – get more shares and engagement than shorter pieces (2). That isn’t to say you should give up on shorter posts – you’re probably selling to several different buyer personas and some of them will prefer it short & snappy – but longer content is more fulfilling, more engaging, and more likely to convince your audience that you’re an expert on your subject.
Image courtesy of BuzzSumo
Repurpose & Optimise
OK, I said 30 minutes didn’t I, and now I’m asking you to do keyword research and write epic articles. But if you don’t have time right now to create new content, sometimes optimising or repurposing existing content gives you a bigger SEO boost than creating new material (3). Got a blog post that is getting lots of traffic and engagement? Think about repurposing it as a video, a webinar, a podcast, or an infographic – not everyone likes reading blog posts and different people want to consume content in different ways. Learned some new SEO tricks? Go back to old posts and apply them to make sure your posts have got as much SEO juice as possible. New trends or factors having an impact on your industry? Go back to those old posts and update them in the light of new trends and events – for example, an old post such as ‘Opening a New Restaurant’ can be given a whole new lease of life simply by retitling it ‘Opening a New Restaurant During COVID-19’.
Tweak Those Tags
I’m assuming that whoever built your site did the SEO basics, ie giving each page a title tag and a meta description. If they didn’t, your first job should be to give them a pretty hard slap on the wrist, and the second should be to add them yourself immediately. If they did, then maybe it’s time to review them and check they’re doing what they should.
The title tag is basically the page title as it is displayed in search engine results, and as such it should, in no more than 60-70 characters, succinctly state what your page is about. Using our previous example, you might title your page as follows:
Lensbag | Camera Bags | Eco-friendly Camera Bags
There, in under 50 characters, you’ve provided the company name, what you do, and what the page is selling.
AKA meta descriptions, page descriptions go into a little more detail about what the content of the page is, both for the benefit of web users and search engine bots. These can in theory be as long as you like, but Google’s search page usually truncates them at around 160 characters, so that’s usually a good limit to set yourself. Again, the description should contain the relevant keywords and describe what the page is all about, so going back to our previous example:
Lensbag is a leading online supplier of quality camera bags for photographers. Browse our eco friendly camera bags made from recycled materials. Order online with free next-day delivery
A clear description of who you are, what you do, what this page is about, and a call-to-action, all in under 160 characters.
For both tags and descriptions there are free online tools you can use to make sure you stay within the limits, or you can just use an Excel sheet and set character limits on the relevant cells.
Image Alt Text
Don’t forget to add tags to your images too – whilst image tags are less important than titles and descriptions, they can still give you a bit of SEO vavoom especially if you’re in a particular niche. So make sure the photo of your eco-friendly green canvas camera bag has descriptive alt-text under 125 characters, such as ‘eco-friendly green canvas camera bag by lensbag’.
As with content marketing, social media marketing is another huge topic that I don’t have time to go into in much detail here. But with social media accounts and pages now frequently appearing high in Google search rankings, it’s essential that you maintain healthy, regularly updated accounts on social sites that are relevant to your business and, most importantly, that link back to your own website where possible.
Google is now prioritising YouTube search results, so make sure you have a YouTube channel and that your playlists and videos – if they’re your own – feature the relevant search terms. Video is fast becoming the number 1 content marketing format and YouTube is, believe it or not, now the second biggest search engine on the internet, so it’s pretty much essential.
Image courtesy of REMNorm
Wikipedia results also feature highly on Google so make sure your small business has its own Wiki – it’s a great and much underrated SEO tactic. If you’re well known in your industry or locale you could even set up a Wikipedia page for yourself as a further source of traffic.
And depending on the nature of your business, other social sites – Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc – are all good traffic sources. Again follow the rule of fresh and relevant content and, for that SEO juice, try and make sure that everything you post links back to your website.
Finally – and this is something that businesses often forget until they first look at their website on a smartphone – make sure your site is optimised for mobile. Research suggests that as many as 60% of all internet searches are now done on mobile devices (4) – over 70% in some industries – and those figures are increasing every year. Mobile readiness is now an important part of Google’s algorithm and sites that are not mobile-friendly are already being penalised in SERPs.
Obviously this is something that you should address right at the start of the website development process, and if you’re using a site builder such as WordPress, Wix or Squarespace, it’s usually taken care of for you.
But just make sure that your text is still legible on mobile; that your navigation & menus are mobile-friendly; that hyperlinks & buttons are visible and not placed too close together; that content doesn’t shift too much as slower items load on the page; and generally that your site is just as easy to read and navigate as it is on desktop. Turning a mobile-unfriendly website into a mobile-friendly one is probably the one single thing you can do to get an almost instant SEO boost!
All these tactics are quick to implement, totally free to do (unless you have to outsource them obviously), and straightforward for anyone with a basic level of tech and marketing savviness – and most importantly, they’ll give your small business a much-needed SEO boost and help your website get noticed and begin to rise up those SERPs. If you need help with your SEO, content marketing or social media marketing, please get in touch with us and find out how we can get involved!