SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. I know, that doesn't make it sound much clearer, does it?
And yes, it is most definitely important for small business. Essential, in fact.
It simply boils down to being found. And, of course, that’s why we’re online in the first place.
WHAT IS SEO?
It simply means your content is created in such a way that it’s easy for a search engine like Google to find, read and catalogue it appropriately.
Google sends a programme (a bot or spider) to search through (crawl) your pages. It takes this information and puts it into a giant database (index).
When we go to Google and type in our questions, it searches through this database to find relevant answers.
Google then presents us with page upon page of answers to our question. It aims to put the more appropriate, better-quality answers at the top. We scroll through and click on anything that looks interesting.
The position of an article on these endless pages is its rank. You want to rank as high up the list as possible, as most of us don’t scroll beyond the first few pages.
A word of warning, ranking on the first few pages does not happen overnight. Sorry, there’s no secret sauce here.
Those websites you find at the top of page one have probably been writing for years on the topic, with high-quality blog posts that people read and share, have good SEO on each page, and have relevant external sites linking to them.
KEYWORDS - THE FOUNDATION OF SEO
The foundations of SEO are keywords:
- These are the words and phrases you include on your page that Google then finds and stores in its database.
- They are also the words and phrases a customer will type into Google when they are looking for your product or service.
We want these to match.
You’ll hear online marketers harp on and on about knowing your audience. This is why. It is essential to your website’s success.
If you don’t know who your customer is, you don’t know what words they use to search for your product or service. If you don’t know the words they use, you can’t use these words as keywords on your own website. And, if you don’t use these keywords on your site, Google can’t rank you for them. Which means, you can’t be found for them.
So, what keywords are you supposed to use?
You need to carry out keyword research. There are various ways to do this:
- Listen to the questions your customers ask and the language they use.
- Type in what you think they will search for in the Google search box and watch the suggestions that appear.
- Use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to find keywords. It compares keyword search volumes (how many people are searching for a particular word or phrase), and how competitive these keywords are (how many other businesses are trying to grab the attention of customers searching for the same thing). Don't worry, you don't need to buy ads to use it. Just set up a free account.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR KEYWORD RESEARCH?
Google obviously can’t read and interpret things the way we do. So, it looks for keywords located in specific places.
These specific places in your content are marked with coding that Google can read. For example:
- The last part of the URL (the file path e.g. www.business.com/keywords).
- The main heading (this should be the only time you use Heading 1 formatting in a document).
- First line or paragraph of text.
- Sub-headings (use Heading 2 formatting).
- Images (keywords added as alt text or captions).
Don’t worry, you don’t need to add the code part. Your webpage editing software (content management system), for example WordPress or Squarespace, will do this for you as it formats your text.
WHERE DOES GOOD SEO COME FROM?
Good SEO can come from two places: on-page and off-page.
- On-page refers to the keywords and descriptions you put into a blog post or web page. For example, the words used in the heading, image captions or the first paragraph of your article.
- Off-page refers to activity about you that comes from outside your own website. For example, links to your website from reputable websites, links from directories you are listed on, or social media activity.
TYPES OF SEO
You may also come across the terms white-hat and black-hat SEO:
- White-hat SEO refers to good practice. For example, making sure your images have descriptions (alt tags or captions) attached to them or that you keywords appear in your url.
- Black-hat SEO refers to not-so-ethical practice. For example, buying links in the hope this makes you appear to be authoritative and popular. Google are wise to this practice and it can cause you huge problems further down the line. Don’t go there!
Although advanced SEO tactics can get complex, as a small business, you can achieve a great deal with consistent, on-page tactics.
I don’t pay anyone to help with my SEO and have focussed primarily on white-hat, on-page SEO for the last 9 months. I’m already ranked on page one for one of my blog posts. Take heart, it can be done!
The whole point of putting your small business online is to be found. When developing your online strategy, SEO is a must have.