SME SEO SOS

It’s a situation many small businesses find themselves in: Potential customers are looking online but your website isn’t ranking well enough to show up on the first page of Google. A 2012 survey showed 61% of internet users research products online (connected World: Shopping and Personal Finance, 2012) and even businesses who draw their customer base from the local area are missing out as 50% of all mobile searches are people looking for local results (Search Engine Watch).

Being on page one of Google, and other search engines, is essential to attract more customers. If you’re business is suffering online, or you’re just starting up and need to build your search engine presence, what are the best tips to follow to get things moving in the right direction?

Set up Google Search Console

If you don’t know what is going wrong, Google’s own Search Console will give you a great overview of how the search engine views your website. If you haven’t already registered your website it will take a little while to get information back from Search Console, but eventually you’ll get a treasure-trove of details like:

  • Suggestions for HTML improvements
  • Overview of search queries
  • The keywords Google rank your website for
  • Crawl errors
  • Links to your site

Any major problems, such as poor quality links dragging down your search engine rankings, will be flagged up automatically and the other data provided will give you plenty of details on why Google (and most probably other search engines) are not ranking your website as well as you would like.

Check your keywords

One of the useful bits of data available in Google Search Console is the list of keywords the search engine thinks are relevant for your business site. If these keywords don’t match the ones you think are important then it’s time to take action. For example as a digital marketing company we want keywords like:

  • marketing
  • seo
  • cpc
  • email

to be listed at the top of our Search Console, if instead we had keywords such as:

  • France
  • salad
  • beer

Then we’d know something was going wrong. Solutions include auditing website content to make sure the right words are appearing on the right pages and checking how often keywords repeat across the whole website. Search engines are very good at picking up unnatural use of keywords on websites (commonly called keyword stuffing) so make sure keyword usage is natural and the words written still make sense to readers.

Check your ‘behind the scenes’ SEO

It isn’t just the words that people can read on your website that decides your search engine rankings. Every page on your site includes plenty of ‘behind the scenes’ information hidden in the web template or structure which also add to your ranking potential.

A full list of factors would be too long to include here, however the main considerations are:

  • Every page needs a title and meta description
  • Liberal use of alt and title tags for images and links
  • The speed your website loads for users
  • How your website performs on mobile devices

Software is available to check your website automatically for the first two items, and the latter two can be checked using Google’s own Pagespeed testing tool.

Problems caused by your website template generally need correcting by a web designer or someone who can amend the site structure (as we do with our Website refresh service).

Boost your online business presence

As stated in the introduction, 50% of mobile searches are from people looking for local information. The search engines know this and tailor results appropriately. To move up the local search engine rankings your business needs to make sure Google understands where you are physically based and your reputation in the local area.

The first stage is to register with Google My Business, or if you are already registered make sure the details are correct. The information held here is the basis for how and when Google display your business details as part of a local search. Your website should also list a physical address as these details are picked up by search engines to place your business geographically and act as a ranking factor to prove you’re a ‘real’ business.

Other ways to prove your business operates within a specific area is to get listed on local business directories (Yell, Thomson Local, etc.) and have a story about your businesses featured in a local online newspaper (or similar publication) which includes a link back to your own website. This last suggestion isn’t always the easiest thing to achieve and usually involves finding a good local PR angle to generate the news story.

Finally, don’t forget about social platforms. Where relevant to your business category listings on key social sites like FourSquare, Yelp, and Facebook also count towards establishing, or boosting, your online presence and give search engines another source of data about your company.

What about links?

One suggestion that plenty of SEO ‘experts’ mention to boost page rankings is generating inbound links. I’ve deliberately avoided this idea as a) it’s really the subject of an article in itself and b) changes to search engine rankings mean links by themselves don’t improve rankings anymore. It’s all about ‘quality’ inbound links from trusted sources.

Wrapping up

The suggestions listed cover the main ways of achieving a quick SEO win and provide an instant boost to your business website. Taking things upwards from there involves much more work and a deeper understanding of all the factors search engines use to decide exactly where to list your website. If you’re unsure what to do next then professional help is the best way forward.

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