Small business owners have a lot to handle. So much so that attracting and generating customers tends to fall down the priority list. Search engine optimization (SEO) is an effective solution to this challenge.
Roughly 60 percent of the global population is online, and Google — the largest search engine in the world — processes over 3.5 billion searches per day. Out of billions of those queries, you can make sure that there are searches related to your business.
No matter the industry you’re in, someone is looking for you online. This only means one thing: you need to be topping the results whenever that happens.
With the overwhelming growth of online users, organic search is coming out to be one of the most valuable marketing mediums. This makes SEO a go-to strategy that businesses adopt to boost their position on the internet.
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What Does SEO Do?
What SEO does is fix and tune your website so that it’s primed to be crawled, understood and evaluated by search engines like Google. Search engines apply ranking factors when evaluating pages, and they rank results based on how websites followed these guidelines.
The goal is to rank high on the search engine results pages (SERPS) because the higher the rank, the more attention your website receives — and that translates to higher traffic. Ultimately, leading to sales.
In this article, you’ll learn how to advance with SEO and the key areas that’ll help your small business rank.
Before we get started, let’s lay out the things you already have in place:
- You have an active website
- You get occasional site traffic
- You’re a small business owner with a physical location or an e-commerce site
- You already know who your target customers are
- You want more qualified leads to your website
- You want to convert those leads into clients Let’s now have a look at how Google works:
- Google bots (or web spiders) crawl the internet through visiting websites
- They will try to understand the content of the page and analyze it, then store it in the Google index or its own database. This process is called
- When a user enters a search, Google then picks the best results based on its algorithm and ranking
Now what are the key SEO ranking factors you need to focus on to secure favorable (and long-lasting) effects on your small business?
Responsive & Mobile-Friendly Web Design
Any device can access the internet once equipped with the proper connectivity (e.g., wi-fi, 4G, 5G). The growth of iOS devices, the expansion of Android and the cheaper costs of hardware, have made it easier to develop connected devices. This also makes it easier for people to access the internet anytime and anywhere they want.
In A merica alone, 77 percent of the population use mobile devices daily to go online.
What does this mean for your website? It means that the design should accommodate the change in the device, too.
Traditionally, the size of the website is structured to look good on a PC. However, when people view it on their mobile devices, it’s designed in a way that’s only customized for a laptop screen.
However, a mobile-friendly website has an adaptive capability to display websites beautifully on mobile devices, regardless of the size of their displays and other characteristics.
This is important in ranking because Google promotes ease-of-use and values user experience. So much so it’s enabled mobile-first indexing. Google now uses the mobile version of the website, along with all its content, for indexing and ranking.
Google will further prioritize your website more if it offers an enjoyable experience to smartphone users.
You can use accessible online tools to test whether your website is mobile-friendly. Try Google’s own mobile friendly test where you can simply input your site’s URL and get instant results.
Website Security — HTTPS (Google Likes It & Users Will Thank You for It)
One of the most important ranking factors has to do with the user’s security, which is also linked to your website’s URL. This is the part of your domain that can be reached and crawled easily by Google spiders.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is an important factor in gauging the security of your website. It tells users and Google that all their personal information is safe. This protocol means that your site is protected, and no party can breach the connection between the user and your website.
Make sure that you obtain a security certificate when implementing HTTPS, and that you get it from a reliable certificate authority.
Following website security is accessibility. In other words, your website has to be easily accessible to web crawlers. Google has to be able to look at your page content and easily understand what that page is about. To make it easier for crawlers, choose a website builder that’s SEO friendly, like WordPress.
Another way is to have a sitemap that contains all of your pages.
Fast Loading Pages
Speed is a major ranking factor because it also has a huge impact on whether a user will stay on your website or exit immediately.
In SEO, page speed indicates how fast the content on your website loads. You can test your page speed using Google’s Page Speed Insights. The tool gathers data from CrUX (Chrome User Experience) and will provide data on the most important speed metrics. This will let you know if a page is performing well or underperforming.
Technical SEO tackles the server optimization that helps search engine bots crawl and index your website the way you intend it to — ultimately improving organic rankings.
This is the aspect of the strategy that is geared toward tuning the content that specifically exists to target search engines. Later, we’ll discuss on-page SEO which is a part of the SEO strategy that caters to your human readers.
Here, we’ll tackle optimizing content or codes so that Google will know your website is of high value.
Technical SEO can be daunting as if SEO wasn’t technical enough, but we’ll show you how you can optimize some aspects for technical SEO even without being much of a tech-guru.
- Include targeted keywords on page titles since this will let Google know what the page is all about.
- Value content hierarchy by using header These are the h1 (for your title) followed by subheads with h2, h3 and so on.
- Follow the character count when creating meta titles and meta Meta titles go for 55-60 characters and meta descriptions can go up to 160 characters.
- Make sure that you include keywords in your URL slug, title tag and meta
- Always provide image alt tags to make sure Google understands what your images are all
- Incorporate schema markup so that Google knows what kind of content you
On-page SEO can be defined as any practice that involves optimizing web pages in your own website to improve organic ranking and increase traffic.
It leans more on publishing optimized, relevant and high-quality content. This includes copy, titles and headers. On-page SEO makes sure your website has a high standard when it comes to expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
On-page matches the sophistication of search engines that are now more savvy at understanding user intent (information, commercial, navigational). It means making your website user-friendly and search engine friendly.
However, Google also now tries to understand the relevance of where the content came from. In other words, who is “saying” it. Determining the kind of website behind it helps Google determine the quality of the content.
To measure this, Google has highlighted the E-A-T factors: expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
- This proves that the author produces content of high quality, has certification and knowledgeable in their field.
- This qualifies the website as a viable source of information compared to others. You can elevate the authority of your page with testimonials and other social proof.
- This verifies that the author is honest with their content. Google makes sure that it presents non-spammy or non-clickbait content.
With this system, users can be protected from false information that can otherwise have a negative impact on their lives.
Optimizing Content for Search Intent
Content is one of the most important ranking factors that Google always considers when evaluating your website.
An optimized content means that the keywords, your topics, and the information that you create all align in order to achieve a set goal. This is also why keyword research is important.
Search engine algorithms use keywords like codes in a way that these are the words that users search for to get the information they want. So Google matches those codes to your content, and along with other ranking factors, evaluates whether the content in your website matches what the user is looking for.
There’s more to SEO than the technical aspect. The primary purpose of search engines like Google is to provide the most relevant information for any user. This is why it’s important to optimize the user’s search intent.
What is Search Intent?
Search intent is the reason behind a user’s search query. This can be divided into three categories.
- Informational – These are searches entered with the intent of looking for answers or Users are not looking to buy or looking to go somewhere. The intention is to learn about a topic or get answers for educational purposes.
- Navigational – These are searches with the intention of finding a webpage or a local establishment. For example, “facebook” and “twitter” are both navigational queries since the person used a search engine with the intention of going to these
- Transactional – These contain searches with the intent to complete a purchase or These can include words like “Macbook Air M1,” or simply “buy iced coffee,” or “order jeans”; You can clearly see that the user already has the intention to buy.
When you optimize for search intent, you need the skill to know what your desired reader is looking for and be able to provide it for them. That way you get more targeted visitors that will convert.
Note that getting uninterested visitors into your site can hurt your ranking because they will immediately exit if they find that the page isn’t to their liking, leading to an increase in your bounce rate
High Quality Links
Search engines view links as an important ranking factor. Naturally, since the internet is made up of networks and networks of links, making links one of the major ranking signals.
The quality of links matter a lot. You want to be connected to reputable websites in the same industry or industries that are related to yours.
There are three kinds of links:
- Internal Links
- Inbound Links
- Outbound Links
Internal links are the pages in your website linking to each other. It adds value to your own pages, especially if you already own a high ranking page and have that page link to another page inside your site. It helps users discover other pages, and that increases the site authority of these pages as well.
Inbound links are links that are coming from another website to yours. The quality of the website mentioning your site and linking back to you is important since Google will take that largely into account. If it’s a reputable site, your website will be seen in the same category as well. However, if it’s a suspicious site, then it won’t do you any good and will even hurt your ranking score. This is why it’s important to run a backlink analysis of your website; you can always do link detox whenever necessary.
Outbound links involved your website linking to other websites. This shows that you have well researched and quality content, so make sure you’re linking to authoritative sites as well. Only put sites that are in the same industry as you or have high domain authority.
What SEO Means for Your Marketing Efforts
SEO is that it levels the playing field. As effective as it is, it doesn’t merely evaluate a site based on the company’s net worth. You’ll be amazed at how you can find your website ranking higher than a famous brand.
When done correctly, SEO can have your business posted side-by-side with a global enterprise, which is not an unusual case.
If you feel overwhelmed with SEO and all the content creation involved, talk to an experienced consultant. You can also get SEO services to make sure that your website is getting the right kind of optimization — one that boosts your traffic and bottom line.
Paul Staten is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO/Managing Director of SEO Werkz. The first business he created is a computer repair company that still serves clients today, 15 years after its creation. SEO Werkz was featured in the Inc 500 list of 2016, and Inc 5000 in 2017 and 2018.