Are you looking for a high level overview of what SEO is and why it matters? If so, you’ve come to the right place.
Small businesses leaders wear so many hats. CEO, HR, Sales, Finance, Janitor…. The list can go on and on.
We support small businesses all over the US and in South East Asia, and if one thing is clear, you already have enough to do. We’re creating this resource to help people like you get a quick understanding of SEO and why it matters for your business.
In this article, we’ll cover…
- Intro to SEO
- The benefits of SEO for a Small Business
- What is on-page SEO
- What is off-page SEO
- Immediate things you can do to improve your SEO
What is SEO?
What is SEO? Moz is a great resource on this subject, and they’ve defined as follows..
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization which is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
Everyone wants to show up on the first page of Google when their customers start searching relevant topics, but it doesn’t just happen. It takes working on your SEO.
Google (along with other search engines) has an ever changing and improving algorithm that has one goal: Give search users exactly what they are looking for.
But it’s not just giving users exactly what they’re looking for… it’s understanding the intent of the user’s search and curating a list of results that is as helpful as possible.
Think of Google as a digital library, and websites are books. Google is looking through every page of those books and creating a curated list of pages that could (and likely will) answer your question, solve your problem, etc.
So how do you show up on the first page of Google when your customers search for something that your business is able to help with?
Well, there’s no short answer but it is relatively simple. Work on your SEO, both on-page and off-page.
The Benefits of SEO for a Small Business
More customers for less effort and cost. Put simply, that is the primary benefit a business can look forward to when beginning down the path of optimizing a website for search.
But why does that happen? When you invest in SEO (i.e. both on-page and off-page SEO) a few things are really happening.
- You will better understand what your customers want (their search intent)
- Create helpful resources that improve their buying process
- Make it easy for your customers to get what they want
It makes sense to say that when you are understanding, serving, and making things easy for your customers, that you’d get more of them. Right?
This does take intentional work on your part, whether you do it yourself or hire someone to help. Google is always improving their algorithm which usually impacts the search rankings. This is a good thing for everyone really, but it does mean it’s going to take ongoing work.
The good news is that your small business can grow it’s revenue and market share with SEO… whether you’re wanting to simply capture more of your immediate community’s market share (with local SEO strategies) or expand into new geographies.
What is On-page SEO?
On-page SEO usually involves what most people likely think of when they think about SEO.
This is the SEO work that takes place on your actual website. On-page SEO includes everything from focusing on specific keywords to ensuring that your website is optimized for mobile.
The full checklist of what is required for on-page SEO is extensive, but most aspects are relatively straightforward to take care of in-house if you have a user friendly CMS like WordPress.
So what does on-page SEO include?
On-page SEO includes things like:
- Keywords optimized for search intent
- SSL certificate
- User optimized structure for your website (i.e. help them find what they’re looking for quickly)
- Mobile optimized design
- Helpful content that is both full in detail, but also simply written (think 8th grade level writing)
- Schema markup where necessary
- URLs that are short and descriptive
- Optimized titles, meta-descriptions, H1 tags, alt-tags, etc
- Incredibly fast load times for pages
This is a good place to mention… If you’re approaching a web design company to rebuild your business’ website, you should do your homework on the more technical on-page SEO components, and be sure that they’re building your website with those things at the start of the process. This will save you the headache of either needing to start from scratch or spend a fortune with an SEO agency that has to retroactively do the work.
What is Off-page SEO?
Off-page SEO is everything you do to improve your SEO that doesn’t take place on your actual website.
The component of off-page SEO that moves the needle the most is still thought to be link-building. I say thought to be, because while Google does let us in on the components that improve rankings, it doesn’t give a full list that includes if you do x, then y and z will happen.
A lot of companies that only live in the SEO sphere are always trying to understand which off-page SEO practices help the most, and this takes time and isn’t 100% understood.
Why does Off-page SEO matter?
We need to work on our off-page SEO because it can be challenging to get your awesome content to rank well in Google searches with just working on the various on-page SEO factors.
Google takes into account many different off-page factors when putting together search engine results pages for users.
Link building is still important
Some have said that link building is no longer the most important off-page SEO factor, but there is still very clear correlations to improving backlink profiles and organic web traffic.
A website’s backlink profile is simply a way to look at the quantity and quality of websites that are linking back to your website’s pages.
The graph above from ahrefs shows the correlation between a keyword’s ability to rank in the top 100 and the number of referring domains (i.e. backlinks).
Quite simply… backlinks still matter.
But what other off-page practices help SEO?
This is what makes off-page SEO difficult. It’s not as straightforward as taking care of your website’s various on-page factors.
There are so many different influencing factors that take place off your website that can impact your SEO.
To list a few:
- Google My Business
- Reviews of your business on relevant other platforms (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google business listings, etc.)
- Social media engagement for your business profiles
- Quality and quantity of backlinks
4 immediate ways to help improve your SEO
1. Start a blog for your business
Start creating content every week for your business that is transparent, helpful, detailed, and customer focused.
I know blogging seems overwhelming. You have other things to do that seem more important or urgent…and sometimes they are.
If you can’t find time to blog, get someone else to.
The most important tip I can give for a small business blog is to focus on what your customer cares about, not what you care about.
That seems intuitive, but it’s rare in reality. An easy place to start for blogging topics is to sit down with anyone who works with your customers. Brainstorm every question you’ve ever been asked about your products, service, experience, etc. Prioritize that list, starting with the most commonly asked. Write detailed, focused, brutally honest, pieces of content that are minimally 750 words in length to answer each and every question.
Make the title of the blog the question in some way or another, then answer it in the blog.
This has a secondary benefit of saving your time answering the same questions over and over, as well as helping your customers become more educated consumers.
2. Ensure your website is secure, loads quickly, and is easy to use for customers
For most small businesses, this may seem hard to accomplish, but if you’re working with a web design company that manages your website, just have them help do this.
Your site needs to have an SSL certificate (this causes the little lock to appear next to your URL) showing both Google and users that your website is secure and legit. Unfortunately scam sites and those with malicious intent abound, so give your customers peace of mind.
Let’s Encrypt provides free SSL certificates and is endorsed by Google.
3. Get your website to load very fast
Loading quickly involves:
- Compress files (reduced image sizes)
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Reduce redirects
- Improve server response time
- Enable browser caching
For a more complete overview of page-speed, check out this Moz resource.
4. Give your customers what they want with as few clicks as possible
Making your website easy to navigate for users seems tricky. In reality, it can be as simple as getting honest feedback from existing customers.
Another common practice is looking at industry leaders websites and learning from their navigational structure. You don’t always need to recreate the wheel.
Analyzing tools like Google Analytics, specifically the user flow drop off data for your website, provides a clear understanding of where people are trying to get to, and the pages that may not be helpful to them.
There’s a lot to do for your website’s SEO and you may or may not have the time. Small business leaders often need to stay focused on driving revenue, creating operational efficiencies, and HR challenges. For those who want an outside partner to help, give us a call, but for those who want to roll up their sleeves and get SEOing, hopefully this article has given you a place to start and other resources to dive deeper.