An Introduction to SEO for Small Businesses
Written by: Lacey Hill
What is SEO and How Does it Work?
Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing your online presence to improve your ranking on the search engine results page in order to garner more organic site traffic. In other words, how to make sure your business comes up when people search for the products and services you offer on Google, Apple Maps, etc. Search engines scan websites to better understand what the site is about, helping them deliver more relevant results to those who are searching for certain keywords and phrases. By creating relevant and effective SEO-focused content and optimizing your website, you can expand your visibility and increase your chances of bringing in organic traffic.
Why SEO is Important - As if you didn’t know ;)
Whether searching for a new dentist, a local gym, or deciding on what restaurant to try tonight, most people Google it. If you’re a business you want to be one of the first listings to show up in those search results.
Recent data suggests the first page of Google captures 71% of clicks, and if your business is listed on the second page of the results, you have a less than 6% chance of your site being visited. So say your catering business shows up on the first page when people search "Wedding Caterer", Great Job! But if it isn't in the top 5 results, the chance of your listing being selected by the searcher is less than 32%. This is affected even more when a user searches for local results, as Google uses the searcher’s location to make the search relevant and displays only the top 3 businesses near their location (the Google 3 Pack), rather than displaying the previous expanded list of 7 results. The truth is the SEO world can be brutally competitive, but learning what affects your listing can allow you to have some control over where you stand.
Factors that affect seo
There are sooo many factors that affect SEO, that for the purpose of this post we’ll discuss the top factors that you have some say over and can make changes on right now. (For more in-depth data, Moz has great insights and stats on exactly how much each factor plays a role.)
Content is effective in both signaling to search engines and helping your organization make connections with site visitors. The more quality, relevant content pieces that you have on your site, the more likely search engines will be to rank your pages higher on the results page. Similarly, the more engaging and effective content you have on your site, the more likely your human visitors will be to spend time on your site. In other words, give the robots and the people what they want!
Content Types to Help Improve Your SEO:
Social Media Content
Another important thing to consider when creating content for your site is SEO keywords and phrases. These are relevant words and phrases that a user might type in when looking for specific products and services. When you create content using these keywords and phrases, (i.e. include them in your blogs, headings, sub-headings, etc.) you improve your chances of ranking higher for these keywords on the search engine results page. We’ll get into this a little more below.
How Can You Improve Your SEO?
On-Page SEO includes factors you can customize and best practices you can put in place on your website. Here are a few SEO factors that you can control on the backside of your website that can help you improve your search ranking:
Image Name and ALT Tags - If you are using images on your website or within your blog content, you will also want to include your keyword or phrase in the name of the image and alt tag. This will help search engines index your images, so that they may appear when users search for certain keywords or phrases
Title Tag - The title tag on each page tells the search engines what your page is about. This should be 70 characters or less, including both the keyword your content focuses on and your business name. The Title Tag and description can be changed via HTML coding on your website, or if you’re using a hosting site that’s a little more turnkey, like Wix or Squarespace, these can be changed in the settings section of the webpage.
Meta Description -The meta description on your website also tells search engines and human visitors what each page is about and if it’s relevant.
Sub-headings - Not only do sub-headings make your content easier for visitors to read, they can also improve your SEO. Use H1, H2, and H3 tags to help search engines better understand what your content is about.
Internal Links - Building internal links to other content on your site can help search engines learn more about your site. I.e, if you are writing a post about the benefits of your product or service, link back to it on your site.
Once dialed in, all these little details can make a big difference in your SEO performance!
In addition to the on-page SEO elements that you have control over, there are also off-page SEO factors that can affect your ranking. Even though you don’t have direct control over these off-page factors, there are ways to improve your chances of having them work out in your favor.
Backlinks - This is when one website mentions another website and links to it. Backlinks to your website are a signal to search engines that other external websites are endorsing your content. You have to be careful with this, as spamming sites with your links can get your site banned from search engines. It’s better to build relationships with influencers and brands who create quality content and will link back to your site in their own content.
Accurate Listing Information (Citations) - This one can be tricky to control, but is very important as it affects how search engines determine your validity. Having correct and consistent business information such as your address, phone number, hours, etc. listed on authoritative sites like Yelp, FourSquare, Facebook, and Factual, signals to the search engine that you’re legitimate.
Social – Another important off-page SEO factor is social signals, such as likes and shares. Quality shares from influencers can help boost SEO. The more quality content you publish, the more likely you will be to get people to share your content with others.
With so many moving pieces and exterior factors, improving SEO can take time, even months to make a noticeable difference, but following SEO best practices and taking a two-fold approach focused on helping human website visitors, as well as making your site more appealing to web crawlers is the best way to build a sustainable online presence long term.
If you need help with your SEO, start with our Free SEO Report here, and contact us for more information on how we can improve your SEO rankings.