Although Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a skill that takes time and effort to master, there is no reason why a small business can’t give themselves an edge over their competitors by putting in place some of the framework that a professional SEO consultant would expect to cover.
In this article I’m going to look at why you, a small business owner needs to consider SEO for their website and some steps that you, or your web developer can put into place that will help ensure your site is performing as well as possible in the search engines.
Why do small business need SEO?
If you have a website then you should at some point have considered how people are finding you online. Relying on ‘push’ marketing factors such as brochures, business cards and flyers is all very well, but you already have had some contact with these targets – it’s not really using your website to its full potential to draw in a previously untapped market.
Over 70% of online sales start with a user conducting a search. If you sell or gather leads online, that’s a huge slice of your potential market that you’re missing out on. Good search engine rankings for relevant and often used search terms will drive qualified leads to your site at a fraction of the price of other marketing methods.
When To Keep Things In-House
Given the skills and the time it’s perfectly possible to conduct a reasonable SEO campaign in-house. If you or your web developer are happy to edit your website, and you and your staff have some time to devote to the campaign, then there’s no reason why you can’t make a success out of things without getting some experts in.
When To Outsource
If your website is (or has the potential to be) one of your major revenue streams, and a budget is available, then you should consider getting some experts in to run the campaign for you. Take care when hiring, make sure you ask the correct questions and ask for references. Our free SEO Buyers Guide should help you out here.
Essentially when hiring an SEO consultant, you’re not just paying for their time and knowledge, but also their experience and industry contacts – it is this that will give you a real edge over your competitors.
Some SEO Tips For Small Business’
Know Your Market
Firstly, before you go any further, you need to ensure you’re targeting the correct people. Is your market geographically based in one country? If so try to ensure that you’re using the correct top level domain for that country, for example a .co.uk domain in the UK, or a .fr in France. Failing that, if you have a more generic .com or .net domain then make sure that your website is hosted in the correct country. This will help to ensure that the traffic that search engines send will be from the market that you’re targeting.
Understand Your Keywords
One of the most important stages for any SEO is understanding which keywords are being used by people to find your products. Start off by brainstorming a list of keywords that you think people may use to find your products and services. Then use a keyword research tool to expand and develop your list beyond those that you have already thought of.
Ensure that each page on your site has a unique page title and meta description. If you’re comfortable editing web pages yourself then it’s not terribly complicated. Otherwise you may want to ask your web developer to do it. The titles and description tags should always be unique and reflect the content of each individual page. Here it’s best use your keyword list in order to understand which terms are most frequently searched for.
Other areas of the page to use your keywords are places like headings, image ‘alt’ text, bold text and the page content. First and formost ensure the pages read well to visitors, avoid stuffing as many keywords onto the page as you can – that doesnâ€™t work anymore!
You’ll be able to make far better decisions regarding the marketing of your site if you have a solid understanding of how people are finding your site, which keywords and sites are driving visitors, and which visitors convert into sales. Signup for a free service like Google Analytics which will give you all of this information and more.
Consider Your Content
Great content can make it far easier to get a website ranking well. Look at the kind of information that your competitors are offering and improve on it. Try to ensure your site is a resource for everything that someone in your industry will need. Resource sites tend to rank a lot better as people are compelled to link to the information contained on them. Consider adding a blog your website that you can publish and archive regular posts on.
Up until now everything that you have done has helped a search engine to understand what your pages are about. The page optimisation and content creation all help a search engine to decide which subjects your pages cover.
However it’s the links that point to your pages that let search engines know how important your pages are, and therefore how highly they should rank on the results pages.
Look for opportunities to get other webmasters to link to you. You may have suppliers or clients that you can ask. You may have industry bodies that link to members. You can consider writing articles on other industry websites or adding your site to relevant directories. The list of linking opportunities is endless.
Add your business to the local search services that the main search engines now offer. This will help return your business when people perform geographic queries such as “London accountant” Go to Google, Yahoo or Live to add your business.
Above all SEO takes time and patience. It’s not something that happens overnight. Over time you will find your efforts are rewarded with high quality relevant website visitors that convert into sales.