In a marketplace filled with businesses that sell very similar products and services, the success of businesses hinges on the ability to be found by the right people.
Nowadays, being found means being online. If your business isn’t listed on the first page of Google for terms specific to what you provide and the challenges that your target audience are facing – you’re missing out on opportunities to generate new customers.
Reaching the first page of Google can be tough, especially given the amount of competition, but with a carefully considered content strategy, it isn’t as “hard” as many make it out to be.
For a small business or start-ups with a lack of resources, this blog will act as a guide to not just optimising your content, but as a guide to quickly drive your organic traffic.
In this blog, I’m going to share with you some simple, actionable small business search engine optimisation tips which you can apply right now.
Create content for people, not search engines
This sounds odd given that this blog is about “SEO for small businesses”. However, Google and other influential search engines have shifted their focus from strictly keywords to topic-based content. What this means is that more emphasis is placed on web pages/blogs that answer questions in depth and to an incredibly high quality.
This isn’t to say keyword-based content is dead, far from it – but what it does means is that you need to be a bit more strategic about how you structure and present your content. You need to be writing for people – not search engines.
Taking a different approach is, therefore, key. Topic clusters provide an answer for you, and if you take one tip away from this blog - I would like this to be it!
You need to think about how you can answer the questions your website visitors and prospects have in detail. You need to be able to provide them with everything they need to make an informed decision, and by structuring them using the topic cluster method, you'll have a great chance of ranking highly.
Think like a publisher. Think about what your target audience would like to see.
Focus on creating content with long-tail keyword terms
As the ‘broader’ keyword terms have already been snapped up and monopolised by market leaders, you need to focus on creating content for more specific searches. Using long-tail keyword terms (three or four words long) will enable you to drive more targeted traffic to your website. The search volumes might be lower, but you’ll know that the people who arrive on your website are interested in that topic. After all, it's better to drive 50 really targeted visitors to your site than 500 visitors who have found themselves in the wrong place.
For example, there’s a massive difference between targeting “recruitment software” and “recruitment software for start-ups”.
The first search is broad and unspecific. The searcher could be looking for anything related to recruitment software: what it is, who sells it, the benefits of it or maybe comparison websites or reviews.
What's more, any website in these spaces is likely to be ranking for this keyword, so by just putting a recruitment software page on your website, it is unlikely that you'll be appearing on page 1 any time soon.
The second search, "recruitment software for start-ups" is much better as it gives you an idea of what the searcher is looking for: recruitment software specifically designed for a small business. Here is a keyword a high growth startup could target in the knowledge that enterprise-level software competitors would be unlikely to also be targeting it. Although the volume would less than broader keywords, the people searching for this keyword would be more likely to be potential customers, and so this becomes an important target.
These are just two very basic examples, but you can see how keyword choice (and specificity) plays an important role in search engine optimisation and content creation.
Start by working out what your target audience is asking and then use keyword research to validate those findings and see where the volumes are. This way you can build a data-driven content strategy and create content that your audience actually wants to see.
It’s all about identifying gaps in the market where you can provide value.
Pick your keywords before you write your content!
This is perhaps my number one SEO tip for businesses, small or large.
Firstly, it enables the content writer to insert the keywords into the content in a more natural way and readable way.
Secondly, keyword research is a valuable resource for understanding the pain points of your potential customers. You may uncover new ideas for content to create through looking at the specific searches people make on a topic.
Thirdly, picking your keywords before you write your content allows you to....
Evaluate the competition
What are your competitors doing that you aren’t? Are their pages optimised for keyword terms that you should be targeting? Maybe they’re overlooking terms that you could capitalise upon? The idea is to work out what you could do better – and also identify where you can differentiate your business to provide a better service.
You may find that your great content idea may have already been written about by hundreds of other people. Knowing which keywords you're going to target and evaluating the competition first, means that you can discover this early have the opportunity to adjust the angle of your content before you start writing.
Write fresh content and optimise it regularly
A tactic that is far too often overlooked is writing fresh content and optimising it regularly. Google wants to know that the information on your website is up to date – and your prospects do, too.
Which article do you think will come out on top: An article on website design from five years ago or one from last week that includes far more up-to-date information? I’ll leave that with you.
Stay ahead of the competition (and improve your authority in the eyes of Google) by creating content regularly and optimising it for search terms that your target audience are using. Whilst it's important to follow the latest trends to find new subjects to write about, another really useful exercise is reviewing your old content to see if any articles that are already ranking can be improved with a refresh.
Use a simple and clear URL structure
People should be able to work out what your web pages are about at a glance. Search engines, too. This means keeping your URLs short and sweet where possible. No need to add loads of folders and sub folders when one works just fine.
Set up a Google My Business page
A Google My Business (GMB) page is free and dictates how your business appears on Google's results pages and Google Maps. This includes your business name, location and opening hours key points of contact and other bits of information. Having a GMB page also allows you to have and respond to customer reviews (which is incredibly important in today’s referral-based marketing landscape) and add photos.
A GMB page can increase your business’ visibility significantly – and is particularly useful for businesses that run brick-and-mortar stores. In the B2B world, it’s more about giving your prospects the ability to find you if they need to pop in to arrange a meeting.
Track your keywords
Optimising your content and website for specific keyword terms is great – but you need to know how your efforts pay off. Tracking your keywords using tools like BrightEdge or Moz, for example, can give you the information you need on keyword rank improvements and performance, to show the ROI of your activities.
Optimise for mobile
Today’s world is increasingly mobile-first – and more searches are executed on mobile devices than desktops or laptop. Making sure your website is responsive (to every device) is crucial to ensuring website visitors stay on the page!
If your website is hard to use or not optimised for mobile, you’ll be missing out on a large chunk of traffic.
Don’t expect results overnight
I can’t even begin to tell you how many people think SEO is a quick fix. It’s not. It’s a long-term strategy designed to give a website foundation and the ability to improve over time. If you want quick wins, try paid advertising – but after that activity stops, what drives traffic to your website? SEO.
On the other hand, when you've stopped actively marketing a piece of content (through channels such as paid, social, email etc.), organic traffic is the most effective way of continuing to bring visits to your older content.
Done properly and maintained regularly, SEO will ensure a steady stream of organic, high-quality traffic to your website, improving your rankings on search engines and the number of business enquiries you generate.
Those are my SEO tips for small businesses and start-ups. Hopefully they prove useful. If you need expert SEO support, our team can definitely help. Just book some time in below for a no-obligation consultation.