So you’re looking to improve your organic search results? That’s not an easy thing to do in some sectors but small, local businesses can totally dominate the search results and connect with more customers if they put in the effort. By being small and local you have some massive advantages over larger companies in the search results – particularly in Google. For those of you who are new to this game then SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the way to push your website to the top of Google.
You won’t get to the top of Google by snapping your fingers. You’ve either got to hire someone to implement an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategy or put in the hours yourself and follow the advice of an expert. To help those small businesses who are deciding to implement SEO themselves I have created this list of top ten SEO (non-technical) tips to help you get started. They are in no particular order. So, without further ado…
1. Get on Google Places
Yes, your small business needs to be on Google Places for Businesses. You really, really need to be on Google Places and you need to do it today. It will take five minutes and Google will either call you to confirm your details or send a postcard to your registered business address. Visit Google Places for Business – you will need to create a Google account if you don’t have one. Getting on Google Places for Business will make your business appear higher in local search results. It’s quick, simple and very effective.
2. Set up a Google+ Business Page
Yes, you need to set up a Google+ Page for your business. It will take perhaps half an hour to do this. Just put your contact details, overview of services, logo and link to your website to begin with. Verify an email at your domain in your account so your website gets a tick.
3. Invite Genuine Reviews for your Business on Google
Keep it genuine. But you really, really need those nice little stars appearing next to your business. Get your best customers to review you through their Google accounts. You don’t need lots of reviews but a few is good and more is always welcome. Try to keep them coming.
4. Make a Keyword List
You need to make a keyword list. A what? A keyword list is all the words your customers might type into Google at any point: now, in the future and at any point of the buying cycle. You really need to think outside the box here and get as many people involved as possible because everyone uses language in different ways.
Here is a real example from a client I worked with last week:
It was a local business who sells wedding and birthday cakes. I asked the owner to write a keyword list and it was this:
- Wedding cakes
- Birthday cakes
Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s a good start. Probably some people do just type those words into Google. But it’s not going to get you far because a hell of a lot more people are not just using those phrases. And on top of that there are lots of businesses who are targeting the same lazy words. Here was what I added to the list in five minutes. The rest I left to her. She got the idea about SEO and Keywords.
- Local wedding cakes
- Wedding cake delivery
- Wedding cake(s) + (every town, village, city name within 30 miles)
- wedding cake designer
- How much does a wedding cake cost?
- Wedding cake designs
- Best wedding cake designs
- Wedding cake designs + 2014/2015/2016 etc
- Best wedding cakes
- Beautiful wedding cakes
- Examples of wedding cakes
- Popular wedding cakes
- Celebrity wedding cakes
- What sort of wedding cake should I have?
- How big should a wedding cake be?
- Wedding cake suppliers
- Wedding cake makers list
- Wedding cake designers list
- Wedding venues
- Wedding dress shops
- Local wedding band/DJ
I could go on and on for about an hour like this but you get the point. This is your keyword list. You need to spend time making one for your business. If you can’t be bothered you can pay someone (like me) to do it. Don’t worry if you don’t get all the keywords the first time – it’s a work in progress. You will add to it when you get new ideas. I keep my keyword lists on my office wall right there in front of my face so that I’m always reminded of them. You will use these keywords to optimise your website for search.
5. Make Sure your Main Website Pages Contain your Main Keywords in the Text Body and Titles
So many people don’t put their keywords on their pages and in their titles and then wonder why Google doesn’t rank them highly. Duh…it’s simple. Google are a clever bunch but they can’t read minds! Without having your keywords on your pages Google has no way to know that your page is relevant to those words and so will not deliver your page to people searching for them. Nobody should be surprised to hear that.
So you need to include them. Not all of them and not in every sentence – but you need Google to get the idea. It’s a balancing act. Don’t cram them in. Just try to write naturally and include variations of your keywords and phrases. To do this you may need to write a lot more content but that’s fine. Do it or pay someone to do it. Adding to your FAQ’s is often a great place to start. So many FAQ pages don’t really answer people’s questions. Adding your keywords to your pages will have a substantial effect on the position of your search results. And if you’re struggling to find places and reasons to include your keywords then…
6. Blog from your Keyword List
The blog is a very powerful marketing tool but a lot of people just don’t get it. They try to make it like a personal blog. No. That is not the way to play this game. By all means put a face and style on the text but keep it focussed and business like.
Blogging for a business website is all about providing unique, relevant content that is useful to your prospective customers. You do that by targeting your keywords and keyphrases. Following on from the keyword list above I can immediately spot 6 blog article titles (and could probably find quite a few more if I needed):
- How Much Should A Wedding Cake Cost?
- Top Wedding Cake Designs for 2015
- Complete Guide to Wedding Cake Suppliers in #LocalPlaceName (it doesn’t matter if they are your competitors! It’s useful and relevant. But always nofollow links to competitors)
- A Top 20 Wedding Venues in #LocalPlaceName
- A Guide to Finding a Wedding Dress in #LocalPlaceName
- Most Popular Wedding Cake Designs of 2014
I wouldn’t necessarily write them all as articles but it’s a good start to list them all out. I recommended that this particular business wrote out all the keywords and then wrote as many blog articles as they could think of from that list. Then I recommended to pick the twenty which would probably get them the most business (using Google keyword Tool for this is a good idea as you can see search volume by keyword).
Once you have your list of blog articles try to write one every week or every two weeks. Keep the content fresh and unique. Over time the idea is to become a hub of useful, relevant information for your customers.
You need to keep the articles unbiased and on target. You are not advertising yourself in a conventional way here. You are providing useful and relevant information which satisfies a need. The idea is that when that person moves from the research stage to the buying stage they immediately have a good relationship with you and your brand. They know that you are an authority and you understand them.
Try to write 400 words minimum and don’t be afraid to title articles aggressively: “Top Tips for…” or “Top 10 Ways to…” or “The Ultimate Guide to…” Leave comments enabled for user generated content and encourage social sharing.
7. Get Social
Facebook, Twitter & Google+ are the only ones worth bothering with for most businesses. Don’t spend hours and hours on social if you’re a small business. Just make sure you have a page on each. Encourage likes, follows etc. When you write an article or have a promotion then share it with people. This will help your website obtain higher Google search positions as Social indicators are used in the search algorithms and a common SEO tactic is to work on improving Social metrics.
8. Get High Quality Links
Your website will appear higher in search results if other websites link to it. Don’t ever buy links or pay someone to generate thousands of them. But always look for opportunities for obtaining a link – especially from related websites and authority sites (trusted, popular sites). Sometimes membership of certain bodies can get high quality links as can newspaper articles and features. Think outside the box and network. A few high quality backlinks will do wonders for your SEO campaign.
9. Make Sure Your Images Have ALT Text
Your images should be marked with ALT text – this is alternative text which is used when the image cannot be displayed. It is also used by blind people – clever software explains the image to them using the ALT text. You need to mark all images with ALT text. Just a simple description of the image is enough. Google gives preference to pages which are marked up correctly and including ALT text is a common SEO tactic.
10. Interlink your Pages
People and search engines need to be able to find your pages when they visit your website. Interlink them in the copy including keywords in the link text. For example: Are you looking for an SEO expert in London?