Let’s Get a Handle on Some Basic SEO For Your Small Business
Are you looking for SEO for your small business, AKA small business search engine optimization? It’s not a contradiction in terms. Here are some basics to help your business and they don’t cost a penny.
Once you have been in business and/or online for a while, you inevitably hear the term, ‘Search Engine Optimization’. SEO can feel daunting and it certainly can be expensive if you farm it out. However – here’s a secret – you might not have to. At least not to start.
Now, there is no substitute for true SEO expertise. But buying SEO for your small business can come with quite a hefty price tag. As a result, it is in your own best interests to improve what you can before you call a professional.
SEO For Your Small Business: What is SEO?
Have you ever searched for something on Google, Bing, Internet Explorer, or any other search engine, and gotten thousands if not millions of results? And have you ever wondered why some results are at the top of the listings? I don’t mean the paid advertisements. These are sites which are not paying Google, etc. anything for a listing. How do they do it? They do it with SEO.
SEO is the art and science of helping online searchers find your company’s website. Google and other search engines reward pages which deliver what they promise. If you say your webpage is about zebras, it could be the best webpage ever about dolphins. But Google will still let it sink like a boulder in search results.
Hence there is one overarching principle when it comes to SEO for your small business. And this is true regardless of what Google is doing on any particular day. What’s that?
Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
SEO For Your Small Business: Basics and Theory
You have several legitimate opportunities to tout your website. Best practices in SEO are to use all of them. But let’s talk theory first.
Google’s search algorithms are a closely-guarded trade secret. But developers know the following or conjecture as much.
Keywords and Keyword Phrases
Keywords and keyword phrases are how people search. To find out about zebras, I will probably start by searching for zebra or zebras. But if I want zebra print barrettes to give as a gift, then I probably Google zebra print barrettes to cut to the chase.
The web offers many opportunities for you to put your keyword or keyword phrase in a webpage. These include: image captions, names, and alternative text; the webpage title; the webpage URL; headers and subheaders within the webpage; snippets shown by Google; and of course text. Not using all of these spots is a way to inadvertently handicap your site.
However, too many instances of a keyword or keyword phrase come across as keyword stuffing and Google will believe your site is spammy. Don’t do this.
Using a keyword or keyword phrase for more than one webpage means your webpages will compete with each other. It’s better to spread the love and select a second keyword or keyword phrase for the second webpage. You can always link the two webpages together, and it’s usually better when you do.
Webpages need at least one image as that will propagate across social media channels. Numerous studies show people are far more likely to click on a post if it has an image. So never, ever neglect this!
You must write for both people and computers. Google bots (‘spiders’) constantly rummage through the web and decide automatically where your site will fall in search results. However, humans also use Google. So a webpage must be readable and not look spammy. In fact, it has to be readable.
The more quality sites which link back to a webpage, the higher in authority Google will believe it to be. More authoritative websites will rank higher.
SEO For Your Small Business: Keyword Research
To choose the best keyword or keyword phrase, conduct some searches. Too many results mean your keyword is too popular and it is harder to compete. Too few, and that means no one is searching for your phrase. Determine this with sample searches.
Let’s try zebra first. There are millions of results (way too many), plus the first hit is for a company. But the second is Wikipedia, which ranks well because a lot of people link to it. Remember what I just said about link backs? Wikipedia and Amazon are masters of this. They probably both have hundreds of millions if not billions of individual web pages linking back to them. Bigger news sites also have tons of link backs, and eBay undoubtedly does as well.
The other issue with going general is that you’ll capture people you don’t want. The term zebra will pull in people interested in zebra mussels as well as striped wild horses. Rather than attract a bunch of people thoroughly uninterested in your product or service, you’ll need to get more specific.
Maybe we’ll do better to search on something more specific like feeding a pet zebra. Uh oh, now our top two hits are for feeding a pet zebra finch. Still, the search brings back some relevant results. But there are hundreds of thousands of them. It’s still a competitive keyword phrase, but it’s better than just zebra. Our real problem is that we want to get rid of the finch results. Most users don’t realize they can eliminate words from a Google search with the minus sign. That is, they should instead search under feeding a pet zebra -finch. However, we can’t suddenly make millions of people search better on Google. We will have to change to accommodate them.
Going in a Different Direction
What if we change direction and instead try selling something? Let’s try a zebra print barrette. Now we still have hundreds of thousands results. Plus, did you notice the search automatically pulls up shopping? This one’s got promise.
How would you further whittle down these results? Consider your friendly neighborhood thesaurus, either online or in print form. And consider adjectives which could modify zebra print barrette. It might be words like pretty, feminine, or exotic. You can also modify by specifying your target customers a bit better, such as zebra print barrette for girls. Here’s where it’s more of an art than a science. So it might involve a little trial and error before you’ve got it right. Don’t worry—that happens!
People looking for definitions might not be ready to buy yet. But you can still provide informational content which can enhance your authority. If readers like what you write, they’ll be more inclined to check out more of your site. And, it’s hoped, eventually make a purchase.
So your questioning searcher might ask Google, What’s the difference between a zebra and a horse?
But a searcher with more knowledge, who’s looking to buy, might ask something far more specific, like Where can I buy food for a zebra? And if you sell dietary supplements for zebras, then that’s a fantastic question for you to be answering—and it and its variants are great keyword phrases for you to look to dominate.
SEO For Your Small Business: Creating Content
Google needs to know that your keyword phrase is important. Therefore, it makes sense to put it in the page title, etc., and to mention it early in your content. You can even put it into your webpage’s permalink. Add it and separate the words using hyphens. Never use underscores or spaces!
Meta Descriptions Are Your Friend
You should also put it in the Meta description, which consists of the two or three sentences you see with the webpage listing when you search. For a webpage about feeding a zebra, it might have a title of How to Feed a Zebra and then a Meta description of something like ‘Do you feed your zebra our patented zebra chow? They love it! Feed a zebra our chow and get brighter stripes and faster galloping today.’ Meta descriptions should be between 120 and 156 characters (including punctuation and spaces). Too much, and they’re cut off. But too little, and you’re not taking advantage of all that prime real estate.
More Content Tips
One way to get ideas for content is to start searching. And it doesn’t have to be on Google. You can also search on YouTube, or maybe even eBay. What comes up when you search for a product just like yours? And what comes up as questions which people ask about it? You could even, potentially, look at reviews and complaints. After all, if there are reviews which say a barrette pulled a child’s hair, you might do really well with a keyword phrase like ouchless zebra print barrette, or easy unlocking zebra print barrette.
SEO For Your Small Business: Adding an Image
Now let’s add a picture. The title of the image, the URL, the caption, the alt text, and the description all matter. Why? Because if your image comes up in an image search, you want people to get a hint that they should come to your site. These various places need not have the same wording, and they probably shouldn’t. Your caption might be Perfect Zebra Print Barrettes for Your Favorite Child. Your image’s alt text might have wording like Barrettes with Zebra Printing are a Smart Choice. It’s okay to mix it up, and it might help you, anyway.
Pro tip: fuzzy, blurry pictures are worse than not having an image at all. And for gosh sakes, please don’t steal images! Artists and photographers deserve to be paid for their labor, just like you. So please don’t infringe on copyright.
SEO For Your Small Business: Readability Tips
Make your point early. Don’t bury the lede.
Too much passive voice makes it seem as if you don’t really believe what you are writing. Consider these two sentences. (a) I love zebras. (b) Zebras are an animal that is loved by me. While both are technically grammatically correct, the second sentence is overly wordy and doesn’t seem to have the courage of its convictions. The verb ‘to be’ often (although not always) signals passive voice.
Too many sentences in a row starting with the same word will look too repetitive. Don’t repeat an initial word in more than one consecutive sentence.
Transition words help webpages to flow. These are words and phrases like: in addition, therefore, hence, first of all, finally, so, and as a result.
SEO For Your Small Business: Takeaways
Have fun with it! Once you start doing this, it will become second nature. And you’ll get more readers, too. Readers are warm prospects—so they might just convert into customers. And it’s all done with SEO for your small business.