Are you a small business owner looking to create an online presence and following? If you are, then you must have heard about search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization or SEO is a buzzword in digital marketing today. Like most digital marketing jargon these days, it can seem intimidating. However, when you understand the basic concept, everything else follows.
In a nutshell, SEO allows you to be visible to more people. Small business SEO can help more online users find your business website. As a result, you can bet that more of them can become your customers. As they navigate your site, many will likely add your products to their shopping carts.
SEO leverages the power of search engines in directing users to your site. A site gains a 45% chance of being visited after appearing on the search results.
The benefits of small business SEO cannot be overstated. While the advantages are clear, it is easy to get caught up in the details as you learn about SEO yourself. If you are looking for a place to start, try our how-to guide for small business SEO!
What Do Small Business SEO Services Do?
Let’s talk about what SEO is all about before we go into some tangible steps towards making your site visible. We have to talk about what SEO is before moving on.
To illustrate what SEO does, let’s look at this example. Imagine yourself owning a company that sells coffee online. Since you are selling a product online, you will want one thing — for people to locate your site.
Now, getting people to your website can be done in one of two ways:
Sure, you can tell every regular Joe and Jane about your website. However, let’s face it. As early as now, you can probably tell how tedious and inefficient this approach is.
A more hassle-free way to go about getting the word out about your coffee company is via a search engine. If your site appears on Google, you can stand to benefit from the billions of searches that occur monthly.
In short, you’re likely to sell more coffee if your coffee company is on a search engine.
This is what SEO is all about in a nutshell. It makes your site more visible to users. The more users see your site after they’ve searched for something (like coffee), the more products you can sell.
SEO isn’t just for selling products. If you run an information-based site, your readership can grow if enough readers stumble across your site from the search results.
Why You Need Small Business SEO — On “Ranking”
This may not be news to you, but it’s worth considering. Currently, there are at least two billion websites on the planet. Worse yet, the United States alone is already home to about 200 million of them! All of these sites appear on the search results of search engines like Google.
Here is what these stats should mean to you — more competition. Hence, you will need a way to stand out.
We now conveniently move on to the idea of ranking. “Ranking” in SEO means appearing on the first few pages of the search results pages.
Why is this important, and why is this even a goal? Once again, let’s use your hypothetical coffee company as an example.
Using the same example, we can imagine that there will be other online coffee companies on Google. Some of these companies will be on the first page of the search results. Yours might be on the second, third, fourth, or even fifth.
People are busy and crunched for time these days. There’s the coffee company on the first page. Then, there’s your coffee company and many others which are not on the first page.
Who do you think people would rather click and buy coffee from? Probably, it is your business competitor on the first page. The numbers crunched by industry leaders will support this. Just being on the first page of the search engine results can guarantee your site a third of all site visits.
Hence, to maximize your chances of making sales, you need to “rank” on the first page of Google as much as possible. Doing this takes effort. You or your agency that offers SEO packages will have to dial in stuff like your:
- Local SEO
- National SEO
- Regional SEO
- Technical SEO
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
Ranking takes time. In fact, most pages that occupy the top ten places of the first page have been around for years. However, if your SEO is good enough, you can cut that time by a significant margin.
Does Google Know That Your Site Exists?
This might be obvious. For your website to be present on the first page of the results, any search engine needs to “index” it. What do we mean by index?
You can think of indexing as a way for search engines to recognize websites. When a site becomes indexed, it is recognized as a website. As a result, it becomes a part of the search results of a search engine.
Google will not just index any website. Websites need to follow criteria called ranking signals or factors. Not meeting or violating any of these will lead to one of two things:
- A site being on the last pages of the search results pages
- Worse, not being recognized as a website
Once again, we’ll illustrate the concept of indexing using an example. Imagine three different coffee sites like yours. These three sites alongside yours were clearly designed in different ways.
One site is:
- Easy to navigate
- Has a regularly updated blog section
- Is linked back to by other sites (a lot)
- Loads great on a phone and on desktop
- Has an XML site map
- Has relevant content
- Has no faulty pages or sections
For this reason, it meets many of Google’s criteria for sites. It then is recognized as a real website that is valuable to clients.
For meeting criteria set by Google, the site is included in the search results. Being present amongst other eligible sites, this coffee site can now stand to rank in the search results after some time.
Do you see how it works? In a nutshell, here’s how it goes:
To rank, your website needs to be in the search results. To be in the search results, Google needs to recognize your site as a real website. For your website to be deemed such, it needs to meet certain criteria.
Meeting the criteria gets your small business website “indexed” or recognized as a site. This is where SEO comes in. SEO aims to improve your site’s visibility by ensuring that it meets the standards of search engines.
It is not difficult to check if your site is indexed. The simplest way to do this would be to type your site on the search tab. If it doesn’t appear, it means Google does not recognize it as a site. Thus, Google has not indexed it.
Another way to do it would be to use something called Google Search Console. Once you use it, you can access a part labeled “coverage”. Here, you will see how many pages of your site are indexed. The number needs to be the same as the number of pages on your site.
If the number of pages labeled “valid” is smaller than the number of pages of your site, something is wrong. Some parts are not recognized by Google.
Did you discover that your site is not indexed? Fear not, for that is what small business SEO services are for.
Before you consider such services, here are our five tips to optimize your site for the first page of Google!
Let’s kick things off with the first — how your site looks and feels to users.
Tip #1: Improve How Your Website Looks and Feels
In the middle of 2021, Google added page experience to its list of “must-follows.” In a nutshell, page experience refers to your site’s ability to provide your site’s visitors easy access to your content. Also included in page experience are features that can keep visitors clicking away at your site’s pages.
Ask any web designer or user experience specialist — you’ll get different responses about improving your site’s page experience. For us, a good place to start is to make things easy for your user. Ease of use begins with a logical site structure.
When we say logical, we mean that everything needs to be within your user’s reach. In particular, everything meaningful in your website — from your blog section to your product page — should be a click away.
You might be thinking: “Of course! Who wouldn’t design their sites this way?”
Indeed, creating a logical flow for your user is straightforward — at least when your site is young. However, let’s face it. As your business scales or grows, so will your site. As you add more products and content, your website will have more pages.
This is where things begin to get illogical as regards flow. Hence, it pays to improve your site’s structure as time passes.
So, how do you make your site easier to use? For starters, you may want to take a look at the clickable elements of your website. Once again, Google favors one-click-away websites. This means that you need to ensure that your website’s pages are either easily viewed:
- Upon reaching it
- After clicking on a link or button
In most cases, less is more. Indeed, you should make everything accessible. However, populating your website’s home page (the page that greets your user) with buttons and irrelevant hypertext links can be a dealbreaker. It can ruin the experience for both your user and Google.
In short, improving your site’s interface is all about the user. Make things easier for the user, and you will be pleasing two parties — the user and Google.
Finding people to optimize your site’s navigation is not rocket science. The internet abounds with freelancers willing to do this for you for a small fee. If you’re serious about your small business SEO, hire an agency that offers SEO packages. These SEO packages for startups like yours will include:
- Website optimization
- Content creation
- Technical SEO
- Improvements for local SEO, as well as regional or national SEO
Tip #2: Eliminate or Fix All Broken Links
It might be helpful to define what is meant by a “broken” link. Broken links are clickable elements on your website that simply do not work. Clicking on a broken link will redirect a user to a 404 page. The 404 page is that page that tells you that a page or site no longer exists.
Broken links can do a lot to hurt your user’s experience of your website. For this reason, you cannot expect to score points for page experience if your site has these links.
For SEO, it is crucial to fix or eliminate any broken link from your website. You might be thinking that you need an SEO specialist to do this. However, if you built your website, checking for broken links is easier than you think.
Google Search Console is a must-have not only for SEO specialists but for site owners like yourself. Signing for an account is free, and you’ll have access to various tools that monitor your site.
Using Google Search Console, click on your site. Then, click “fetch as Google.” This activates an action that “crawls” your website, examining issues like broken links.
After the “crawl” you will see results of which links lead to 404 pages. You will now have a better idea of which links to fix or remove.
While a few 404 pages here and there are expected of any site, too many will drag your site down the ranks. The worst-case scenario is that Google might not index your site at all.
Once again, this has a lot to do with Google’s recent prioritization of page experience. Think about it. How do you feel whenever you’re redirected to a 404 page? We are willing to bet that you would be nothing less than irritated.
Google wants to ensure a positive internet experience for its users. The search engine giant relegates any site that offers something otherwise.
In short, everything in the realm of SEO is all about pleasing the user — and by extension, Google.
Tip #3: Make Your Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions Capable of Turning Heads
Let’s kick this tip off with definitions. Let’s start with what meta titles are. When you look at a website’s link on the search results page you will see three things:
- Your site’s URL or address
- A large clickable text that stands out
- A series of text located just below the large clickable text
The large clickable text that directs you to the site is the meta title. The meta title, as you may have already noticed, gives you a bird’s eye view of the site. In the most efficient way possible, the meta title tells you what the site is about.
Now, of course, a title can only do so much in giving you more details about the site’s content. This is where meta descriptions come in. The meta description sits just under your meta title, providing more detail for the user.
According to most SEO sources, creating your meta titles and meta descriptions is an important part of on-page SEO. You need to do two things to create attractive and rankable meta titles and meta descriptions.
Naturally Use Keywords in Your Meta Title and Description
First, let’s begin with the words you will place. In SEO, keywords are vital. To create meta titles and descriptions that search engines can index, keywords need to be in them.
For example, let’s imagine your small online coffee company once again. What words would your average user need to type to find a company like yours online? The chances are high that your keyword research will yield the following:
- “Coffee near me”
- “Coffee online company”
- “Getting coffee online”
- “Cheap coffee beans”
- “Coffee beans online”
These are just examples. Knowing these, you will need to use the above-mentioned keywords in your meta title and description. In other words, your meta title and description need to contain these keywords.
Your meta title might look like this:
“Reader Coffee — An Easy Way to Getting Coffee Online”
Your meta description might be:
“Do you need to get coffee beans online? Check out our Reader Coffee collection for cheap coffee beans!”
In both examples, you will see the words “getting coffee online” and “cheap coffee beans”. The presence of these keywords will allow your site to be present alongside other coffee companies.
Make Sure Your Meta Title and Meta Description Aren’t Too Lengthy
Google has a few guidelines for meta titles and meta descriptions. Other than natural keyword usage, one guideline involves the length. Conciseness is the guiding principle here. Hence, your meta title and meta description cannot be too long.
What’s considered too long by Google’s standards? Meta titles are best kept below 60 characters. As for meta descriptions, anywhere from 150 to 180 characters is generally safe and visible on search engines.
Tip #4: Have a “NAP” and Get Cited
No, we don’t mean take a nap!
NAP is a local SEO acronym that stands for “name, address, and phone”. These details of your business allow Google to include your business on its map database. Being on the map, in Google terms, gives users the exact location of your brick-and-mortar shop.
Having these details is one of the first steps to gaining citations. Citations in Google are similar to citations in papers. In research papers, citations point readers in the direction of other sources.
Citations in Google and other search engines work in the same way. Citations are mentions of your business or website. These mentions occur in other sites or search engines and contain your business details (your NAP).
Gaining citations is crucial to local SEO. For this reason, you need to include your business in the right listings online. The most important citation source you will ever have access to is Google My Business.
To include your business in Google My Business, you need to register your business with the following details:
- Your service category
- Your business location down to the street
- Your business hours
- Contact details
- Any other services or products you offer outside your initial service category
These details will allow Google to include you in its “map pack.” The map pack is a group of results that come with locations on Google Maps.
Tip #5: Invest in a Blog
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in. Having a blog section for your site can be a good way to maximize your ROI.
Granted, not everybody is willing to read a 2,000-word article on coffee presses or any other service. However, a blog section serves multiple roles beyond an informational one.
Bear in mind that content relevance and text density are attractive to Google. According to industry statistics, Google is more likely to index sites with a regularly updated blog section.
A blog section will likely contain most if not all of your target keywords. This almost ensures that you will end up being found by users after they have typed their search terms.
Also, a blog section allows other sites to use you as a resource. If your content is well-written and well-researched, other sites may link to your articles or copy.
Backlinks are links from other sites that direct users to yours. Backlinks are one of the most valuable assets your site can have. Having them in spades tells users that you are:
- An authority on a subject or industry
Google picks up on this. The more backlinks your blog content has, the better you will do on Google overall.
There you have it!
You have just read our beginner’s guide to small business SEO. As a business owner, you will do well to exploit the power of the search results of any search engine. By creating a site that is easy to use with the right titles and descriptions, your users will stay on your site.
As a result, Google will determine your site as one worthy of a place on its results pages. By adding business details and a blog section, you can maximize your chances of ranking.
Does this sound too daunting, still? We at Agency Jet are here to help! We have dedicated our lives to improving the online presence of startups like yours.
Do not hesitate to reach out to us for startup SEO services that take the guesswork out of SEO!