As a small business owner, it’s important to know not only what search engine optimization (SEO) is, but also what it can do for your company. Google is often the first place potential prospects turn to find a product or service they need. In fact, a recent study published on eMarketer found that 87% of respondents said a search engine was their top choice to look for information on a local business.
Because so many customers are turning to Google and other search engines to find businesses, it’s important to let search engines know who you are, where you are located and what you have to offer. This is critical to not only show up at the top of search engine results pages, but also to get in front of a relevant audience interested in buying your product or service.
If you’re unfamiliar with SEO, we’re here to help. In this post, we’ll outline the basics and share tactics to improve the visibility of your website in search engine results.
Understanding the Basics of Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is defined as “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” Basically, it is taking the necessary measures and optimizations to get your business to appear at the top of search results when users search for relevant keywords.
According to Statistica, the most popular search engine in the US is Google, holding 63.5% of the desktop market share and over 93% of the market share. Bing and Yahoo! are two other large search engines.
How search engines work
You can think of search engines as the libraries of the Web. Their robots collect all data on the Internet across all websites and then organize and display it in a way that is relevant to terms that users search. They do this through complex algorithms that carry out four critical steps.
They first “crawl” the web, finding all available information by following links and then storing the information that they find. They then index and organize all the data that they find into databases. From there, they rank the information based on relevance and popularity. The final step is delivering these results to users.
How to Improve Your Small Business SEO Ranking
There are various steps you can take to improve your website’s ranking and ultimately drive more organic traffic to your site.
While high organic SEO rankings do not happen overnight, there are many tactics you can prioritize to get your business’ website moving in the right direction.
Determine what problem you solve for your customers
A first critical step to improve your overall SEO is to ask some questions that determine your customers’ needs. This will help you understand what they are searching for and what keywords you need to prioritize. These questions should include:
- Why are customers determining that they need your product or service?
- When do customers need your product or service?
- How do customers realize that they need your product or service? Is it driven by a personal desire? Or a disruptive event?
Your answers to these questions will help you understand what language your customers are using to search for your business. It will also provide you with direction for keyword research and ultimately content creation.
Fix technical SEO issues
Even if your website has great graphics and design, appearing complete on the surface, there may be some technical issues underneath that can impact your SEO rankings. It’s important to determine if any of these issues exist and make sure your site is built on a solid foundation. Some of the most common SEO technical problems include:
1. Slow Load Time
Your website’s speed is important to your overall SEO ranking. To determine whether your site’s speed is up to Google’s standards, you should run your site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. This will give you a report of what items you may need to fix to speed up your site.
2. Not Optimized for Mobile
Since many users today search on mobile devices first, search engines prioritize sites that are mobile-friendly. Google also provides a Mobile-Friendly Test to show you where your site stands.
3. No XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is basically a page on your site that provides a roadmap of your website and its page structure, allowing search engines to find your important pages. If your site doesn’t have a sitemap, you can easily create one using an XML Sitemap Generation tool. One of the most popular tools is part of the Yoast SEO Plugin, which is available on all WordPress sites.
4. Broken Links
Google penalizes sites and pages with broken links. To determine if your site has broken links, you can run a site crawl, which will provide you with a report of all broken links. Screaming Frog SEO Spider is one great crawl tool that will get the job done.
To learn more about running a technical SEO audit, you should check out A Basic SEO Audit for Small Businesses.
Optimize your website content
Your website content is also extremely important to your overall SEO ranking. You should develop quality content that is properly structured and organically integrates keywords. Here are a few of the most important SEO factors from a content perspective:
Meta-Title: This is the clickable text that shows up on a search results page, and appears in a browser’s title bar when viewing your page. A well-chosen meta-title is critical to catching the user’s attention and telling them what your website is about. It should be within 55–60 characters in length and use core keywords in a natural way.
Meta-Description: This is the description text displayed directly beneath the title. It should provide a more detailed explanation of what the content is about, in under 300 characters.
Body Content: Your website’s body content is equally important. Your content should focus on what matters to your audience. You can integrate your target keywords throughout your content, but only in a reader-friendly way when the keywords make sense within the context.
Optimize Google My Business
The Google My Business tool should be a focus point for all small businesses. If you devote just 15 minutes of your time to this free tool, it will make a huge impact on your small business. To learn how to use the tool, check out our post, Tips to Improve Your Small Business Google Listing.
Get links from websites in your local area
Your website’s popularity is important to how you rank on search engine results. If more people are clicking your site, your ranking will be higher.
One tactic is to get inbound links on other sites that lead to your website. One way to do this is by creating newsworthy posts and website content that other sites are encouraged to share. To get some more ideas on how your website can get local links, check out the article What Is a Local Backlink & How to Find Them.
We hope that this post provided you with a better understanding of how SEO works. If you follow some of the steps above, you’ll be on the right track toward improving your visibility and driving more traffic to your website.