One of the more important questions to ask yourself today as a business owner is: do I need help with SEO? Search Engine Optimization is the art of making sure your website is being found in search engines by the thousands of people searching every day for the service your business provides.
If you’re not sure if you need help, let’s begin with opening a Google search in your internet browser and typing in your top keywords. Do you come up first on the web page? If not, the answer is clear, and you need help with your SEO.
But, do you even know what your “top keywords” are?
Do you have organic traffic coming to your website?
Can you track the amount of organic traffic your website receives versus direct traffic or advertising traffic?
If your answers to these questions are also a “no,” then again, you need help with your SEO.
So where do you begin if looking to get starting in optimizing your website for search engines?
First, you need a full understanding of where your website currently stands with SEO. The best way to do this is to pay for a technical SEO audit. As a small business, budgets can be tight and hiring someone full-time to focus on specific marketing efforts such as SEO may not be the financially responsible route for your business. Luckily, you can find a freelancer or contractor on networks like CloudPeeps or UpWork that can start anywhere from $500 on up. Many contractors and freelancers specialize in these types of one-time audits.
“What will an SEO audit do for you,” you ask? It will give you direction and advice on your overall site architecture. Your site architecture is about how users and search engines find their way around your site. As your website continues to expand, you want to make sure you have a plan in place for adding new pages and posts. On top of that, make sure you’re getting the best, most relevant content in front of your website users and reducing the number of times they have to click to find it.
These same navigational rules go for search engines too — not just people; the easier it is for a search engine to crawl your content, the more your website will be properly indexed and credited for ranked keywords. The technical SEO audit will also help point out your website’s broken links that you need to fix, browser compatibility, alt tags to enter, etc. Just starting with a technical audit and making sure all of the red flags are fixed will give you quite a boost in ranked keywords, which will then boost organic (free) traffic to your website.
You should also consider conducting a competitive analysis using internet research tools such as AHREFs or SEMRush, to see where your competitors are for their total keywords, organic traffic, keyword rank and backlinks. These research tools will give you an SEO roadmap of where you need to go to catch up to your competitors.
In addition to the above audit and competitive research, there are six basic guidelines (find even more, here) of small business SEO that you should consider when building your business SEO strategy. Be sure to follow these guiding principles:
1. Build your website/navigation with SEO keywords in mind. As mentioned above, this will help provide direction on your site structure, which in turn makes a great user experience. If you’re not planning to do a complete rebuild of your site, there are still enhancements you can put into place to improve your keywords.
2. Push fresh content out on a regular basis. Search engines will love you for it (and so will your users!). By putting out relevant, quality content such as articles, downloads, blogs, etc., you can increase the frequency of your indexing because search engines are looking at your website more frequently.
3. Use heading tags (<h1>/<h2>) in the HTML of your website copy. These will help Google understand the main topics for your content. H1 is the most important tag and is typically the title of a post. H2 is used as the subhead for H1. You can use H2 to help divide content into scannable blocks, making it easier for Google and your visitor.
4. Ensure you have a landing page for your main keywords. You want to be able to have those pages ranked for keywords in the core characteristics of those landing pages, such as the title, H1/H2, and your meta description. This way, Google knows what your pages are about, and your customers can find you easier.
5. Consider hiring a social media manager. As a small business, time is valuable and should be spent on what you do best to manage operations. A social media manager can focus on managing the SEO strategy after the audit and competitive research. They can build online links and content links through content partnerships and outreach on social media platforms such as Twitter. They can also concentrate on building relationships with customers and outreach to potential partners for content opportunities, such as guest blogging.
6. Place alt tags on all images. Alt tags help improve the accessibility of your website and tells search engines what the image is to help rank on Google. Also, if the image doesn’t load, it helps give the user an understanding of what should be there.
SEO is no small feat, especially for a small business who may not have all the resources necessary to make the changes needed immediately. It can also be very expensive since SEO is sometimes seen as a “black magic” that not many people understand. But, don’t be afraid to start small by building an SEO plan that you can chip away at each month. Focus on enhancing a small area of your website and continue to build on that regularly. Google and your users will thank you. And, you’ll quickly see the return on your initial investment as your website starts to grow ranked keywords and free traffic from prospective buyers.
Jeanna Barrett is the Founder & Chief Strategist of First Page, an award-winning online marketer and an expat entrepreneur. Through content, social media and SEO, Jeanna uses the power of words and data to drive growth in brand awareness, organic traffic, leads, revenue and customer loyalty. She has a combined 12 years of inbound marketing experience at venture-backed startups, digital agencies and Fortune 500 companies, with an expertise focus on small business and technology. She’s been named ‘Top 40 Under 40’ of brand marketers and ‘Best in the West’ for financial technology marketing. In 2016, Jeanna left the U.S. to lay roots and build her business in Belize.
This post originally appeared as a guest contribution on Hatchbuck.com — a great resource for small business owners looking for a marketing automation tool!