A guide to SEO for small businesses

from Misha Cunningham of Google Digital Garage

Search engine optimisation, or SEO as it’s commonly known, can go a long way towards making sure a small business is seen and heard above the competition.

What’s more, the foundations of an effective SEO strategy can be put in place on your own, from your laptop. Misha Cunningham, Regional Team Leader at Google Digital Garage, explains how to get started.

Tip 1: Get to know SEO

Search engines exist to be as useful as possible to searchers. They match search queries with relevant results. By optimising the content on your website, you are inviting the search engine to find and distribute it to searchers as being the most relevant to them.

You want your content – whether it’s a blog post, your about page or your opening hours – to be amongst the first that searchers see when they make a query using a search engine.

Tip 2: Create helpful content

Yes, complex algorithms ultimately govern SEO – but it’s easy to fall into the trap of forgetting that we should ultimately be publishing content for people, not search engines.

When someone makes a query using a search engine, they want a response from a genuine source of expertise that guides, entertains, informs, inspires and/or teaches them. Your content should fit around your products and services while simultaneously doing one or more of the above.

Tip 3: Write in natural language

Always use natural language in your content. Search engines can detect when content has been written in an attempt to ‘game the system’, and will penalise it by reducing its search ranking.

One goal of content is to create an informed buyer, and that starts by engaging with them on a human level. Read your content aloud. Does it sound like natural conversation? If so, you’re on the right track.

Tip 4: Meta tags

When you make a search using a search engine, the webpages you’re presented with will have titles and descriptions. These are called meta tags. If you don’t edit the meta tags for your content, search engines generally default to using the title and the first paragraph of text from the webpage.

Make sure your meta tags fit the specified size and properly describe the contents of the relevant pages. Good meta data can be the difference between someone just seeing your page and someone actually clicking through to it.

Tip 5: Keywords

Keywords are particular words or phrases that appear in the content of your individual webpages. They help search engines match search queries with relevant webpages. Google Trends is a good place to start to get some top-level insight into the keywords surrounding your products and services. These are the terms people are using when searching for products and services like yours.

Be wary of overusing keywords in your content, though. This is known as ‘keyword stuffing’, and search engines may penalise you for it.

Tip 6: Link building

When a piece of your content is cited elsewhere on the internet, search engines will recognise it as being a quality resource worthy of citation. This is known as link building. Links should be built naturally, not paid for.

If you are publishing high quality, engaging content – perhaps as part of a resource centre for product aftercare, for example – other people in the industry will be inclined to link to it.

Tip 7: Be mobile optimised

People are increasingly searching the web on their mobile devices, and so your content should be optimised accordingly. The best way to do this is by accelerated mobile pages (AMP), they are distinguishable in search results by a small lightning bolt and you may be able to activate these using a plugin on your website.

AMP's are optimised for mobile devices and load in less than one second. Website loading speed is actually one of the ranking factors on search engines, so you can boost the ranking of your content as well as optimising it for readers using mobile devices.

Tip 8: Get rich

Google’s Search Console allows you to structure your data. Structuring your data makes it eligible for inclusion in rich results, taking it beyond the standard search result presentation. Product ratings, booking systems, recipes, prices, job vacancies, business addresses – these can all appear in search and can result in better click-through-rates (CTR) for your content.

Tip 9: Run basic tests

There’s a wealth of resources available to small business owners seeking to test the SEO of their web content. From checking page speed and planning keywords to mapping your pages and running page analytics, it’s never been easier to run basic SEO tests. The results of these tests will dictate whether or not you need to make changes to your content.

Tip 10: DIY SEO

Needless to say, it’s perfectly possible for small business owners to lay the foundations of their SEO. Just as it’s important for a business owner to understand their accounts, so too should they understand the impact of their content as part of their broader marketing strategies.

As for seeking external assistance, there’s absolutely a place for this, particularly when it comes to the more technical elements of SEO. But if you lay the foundations yourself, you’ll be in a position to compile a list of specifics and outsource these, instead of approaching a specialist to address everything from scratch.

If you are looking to elevate your business's digital presence, our leading DigitalBoost programme can help. Check out the wide range of free resources including guides & tutorials, and learn how you could benefit from up to 21 hours of expert 1:1 support here.

Good luck, and let us know how you get on! We love hearing from our users on social - so if you haveany feedback, or want to tell us how this article helped you, please tweet us at @bgateway or find us on Facebook or LinkedIn.