Small businesses often ask me for help with their SEO. And it’s understandable — SEO is very technical and can seem like “black magic.” If you haven’t kept up with the ever-changing optimization, Google algorithm updates and tactics, it can seem daunting to tackle. And, because SEO experts are highly sought after and hard to find, they are often paid well and not accessible to the average small business budget. As a small business owner, this might leave you feeling like SEO is something you’ll never be able to understand or tackle.
But, let me illustrate how important SEO is. Imagine the number of people who are searching for your business. In fact, don’t imagine. Pull up AHREFs.com or another keyword research tool and do a keyword search on a term people might be searching for online that pertains to your business. I’ll use my business as an example… if I type “marketing agency” into AHREFs, there are 7,700 people a month who could potentially be looking for my business services. I need to figure out how to get my business on the first page of Google because 95% of these searchers won’t go to the second page.
The practice of optimizing your website and content so your business can appear on the first page of Google is called SEO. SEO can be difficult for the unfamiliar, and especially for those that are pressed for time. As a small business owner, you most likely handle almost all aspects of your business. Adding SEO to your plate may not seem feasible, but it is VERY important. If you don’t keep up with SEO in some capacity, you will lose out on the potential growth of your business and new customers searching for your services or product.
The First Page team is here to help save you some time and get you started. Below is a guide we assembled to help kick-start your own SEO work that won’t cost you a fortune to do — just a little bit of time, consistently, and you’ll create a funnel of new, incoming business. Here’s what to do:
1. Begin by creating a list of your business’s top keywords. Like the example I used above for First Page, think about some Google searches that someone might be searching to find your business. Ask yourself if the searchers will find what they are looking for on your website when they search using these keywords. Will they be happy with what they find? The answer should be yes for both questions.
2. Then, conduct a search in an ‘incognito tab’. In Chrome, open an ‘incognito tab’ and see what company/who comes up first on the page when searching relevant keywords. The companies that appear first are your SEO competitors. Review and analyze their website, what specific page is ranking and what content is working for them. Understanding your competitors SEO will help you improve yours.
3. Next, review your website structure. For example, is your blog in a subfolder or a subdomain? A subdomain is a division of your domain that can be used to organize your current website into a separate website. Blog.website.com is an example subdomain of www.website.com. A subfolder is a specific part of your URL that houses a subset of content, like your blog; www.website.com/blog. Although it’s a debated topic, subfolders are generally a preferred method because you would not be competing with yourself as you would with a subdomain and all content you write will pass SEO credit to your website. I strongly believe that a blog is the #1 way to increase organic traffic, keywords and new visitors to your website. So, start one now.
You should also have a set of landing pages in your top nav that help describe your business. And think about the landing pages you can continuously add. Websites should be living, breathing business resources. They shouldn’t be something you setup once and never update. For example, if you own a sustainable leather bag company, you should think about the top categories of information around your business. A couple landing pages you should write for your website would be:
4. Also, be sure your landing pages are optimized. Use top keywords in the slug and title of the page. A slug is a part of the URL that distinguishes a post, i.e.: www.website.com/digital-marketing-101.
There are a few important characteristics to remember when creating the right and most effective slug for your blog or landing page URLs.
No stop words. Eliminate words like “the”, “and” or “a”
Add a focus. Filter out as many words as you can, while making sure the slug still make sense.
Keep it short. A short slug, right after your domain will allow Google to show keywords in its mobile search results page, too.
5. Analyze your SEO further. This can be done by using tools like AHREFs (a favorite here at First Page). AHREFs has free tools for you to use. Or you can choose to sign up for a 7-day trial for $7 and do all of your research within seven days to help determine if it’s a tool you’d want to use. Below are a few things you’ll execute and learn during the trial.
Utilize your AHREFs dashboard. By uploading your URL to AHREFs, you’ll get an updated snapshot of your entire site’s SEO. This dashboard takes all of your site's data and condenses it into something consumable. From this dashboard, you’ll be able to identify any new crawl errors, new backlinks, new referring domains, your URL rating and Domain rating. You can also set up email alerts for new changes in your sites SEO from your dashboard.
Do in-depth keyword research with Keyword Explorer. Keyword Explorer is AHREFs keyword tool that allows you to pull and analyze all of the keywords your site ranks for. It can also be used to do competitive keyword research and find your competitions top performing keywords. With Keyword Explorer, you’ll get all the data you need to make the best keyword decisions for your business.
Supercharge your content with the Content Gap tool. The content gap tool allows you to analyze your competitors, and find content that they’re currently ranking for. The best part about this feature is that it gives you insight into the content your competition is producing that you don’t rank for on your site. This will help fuel your content strategy to make sure you’re not only keeping up with the Joneses but outranking them too.
Learn who links to your site with AHREFs’ Backlink Checker. Backlinks help fuel Google’s ranking algorithm, they act as upvotes for your site. Utilizing the backlink checker you’ll be able to get visibility into your backlink growth, do-follow, and no-follow links, inbound and outbound links, backlink anchor text and broken backlinks. You’ll have a full overview of your entire backlink profile. You can also execute this same process for your competitors to see where they’re getting their backlinks from!
Find the most shared content with Content Explorer. Want to know what content performs the best in your industry? This is the perfect tool for that. Remember the keyword research you did earlier? You’re going to want to take those keywords and look for the most shared topics using content explorer. Not only will you get the most shared topics, you’ll get the exact articles and link data associated with them. You can even click all the way through to see who wrote the articles and create connections for potential guest posting opportunities.
Do a full site audit using the Site Audit tool. This is a little more technical but important nonetheless! Doing a site audit will uncover any large-scale issues that may be negatively impacting your site. Not only will the site audit uncover issues, you’ll be able to identify the most important internal pages of your site, all your HTML tags, your sites duplicate content and pages with low word count. Once all of these issues are known, you can prioritize their completion to help increase your brand in SERP results.
SEO for a small business is a necessity for growth. Kickstart your SEO strategy with the advice above to optimize your reach, give your users the best experience, create a trustworthy brand and gain optimal insight into your customers.