A quick rundown – SEO stands for “search engine optimisation”, which means building and maintaining your website in a way that gives you the best chance of not only being found in search engines, but ranking highly when potential customers are searching.
The first thing to know is that SEO is by no means an exact art or science. The big search engines are continuously updating their algorithms to determine where a site is ranked compared to similar businesses.
So what does this mean for small business owners? Basically, SEO is never finished!
Unlike advertising, which typically runs for a limited time and causes a short-term spike in new business, SEO is a long-term investment. With the right techniques and some dedication, you will reap the rewards of increasing your search engine traffic, and continue to do so for arguably much longer than a traditional advertising campaign.
There are a few simple steps you can take for a DIY approach to SEO when you’re just starting out.
Using YOAST – Google-friendly page titles and descriptions
Google allows a specific character count when it comes to the titles and page descriptions you see in search results, and a good title and description can really help your ranking potential. We recommend the Yoast SEO extension – read here for more info on using Yoast.
Think about key phrases more than keywords
In the old days keywords peppered through your content were an integral part of telling Google exactly what your business was about. These days there is much more of a focus on key phrases, or “long-tail keywords”.
As a small business, content with long-tail keywords means that you have a better chance of a higher ranking in your niche. For example, trying to rank for the search term “Sydney accountant” is extremely competitive and you will be going up against businesses with larger marketing budgets. Focusing on long-tail keywords, such as “Northern Beaches small business tax accountant”, means you have the potential to rank higher for your target market.
Submit a sitemap to Google
Create Google Search Console (GCS) account, which is a no-charge web service by Google for allowing you to check the indexing status and optimise visibility of your website:
Within GSC, you will be able to submit a sitemap. Google’s “spiders” crawl the web searching for sites to index. A sitemap is a page listing of your site’s pages and how they relate to each other in your content hierarchy, making it easier for these critters to find all your pages.
Another thing to consider is how “search-friendly” your page URLs are. Including relevant keywords in your links will make it easier for search engines to categorise your pages. Instead of a generic URL like “http://nbaccountants.com.au/p=9836”, something like “http://nbaccountants.com.au/small-business-tax-accounting” is much more effective at telling Google what your page is about.
Monitor your traffic with Google Analytics
All your SEO efforts are wasted if you can’t monitor your website traffic and see if your tactics are working to bring in more leads. Implementing Google Analytics can tell you who is accessing your website, what device they are using, where they are browsing from and what they are doing on your site once they get there. We did a series on the basics of Google Analytics – check it out here!
Starting to glaze over? We offer SEO as a service.
We’re here to help your website rank in Google – don’t hesitate to ask us any questions at any time!
Tap into the benefits of blogging
Running a blog on your site can be a fantastic way to boost SEO, as the addition of new content regularly helps to keep both the Google bots and visitors coming back! New blog posts can be used to build the internal link count to important website pages, and adding new content to your site shows search engines that your site is fresh and current.
One of the real secrets to blogging for SEO is to interact with other bloggers in the niche. This can be as simple as linking to a blog post elsewhere that might be interesting to your audience. Bloggers tend to notice who is linking to them and will return the favour where you have something of interest to their audience. More links to your site equals more ways the search engines bots crawling the web can find your site, and more authoritative and high-quality your content appears, all of which only helps to improve SEO.
However, if you are trying to rank for competitive search queries it might take a bunch of good backlinks and many months to see progress, while less competitive search queries might not require many backlinks to aid ranking. Like all SEO, think of link-building as an ongoing process rather than a once-off.
If you keep these tips in mind, you’re well on your way toward a more Google-optimised website. This is just the tip of the iceberg and search engine standards are constantly evolving – SEO is an ongoing process, but the ROI for your efforts is well worth it.
Good backlinks can also help your site’s visibility in Google as they act like a ‘vote’ for your website. We recommend trying to build up some backlinks as on on-going activity where opportunity arises.
In competitive industries, Google places a large emphasis on the apparent ‘Authority’ a web page has. That authority is measured by the numbers and types of other websites that link to the subject page and website.
A site that has those incoming links (aka backlinks) from several other industry relevant websites is seen as more rank-worthy. Think of those links as a vote from within your own industry telling Google you are legit.
Google also places some weight on backlinks from sites that are not so relevant but which are seen as trusted or authority sites for other reasons. A link from a big important website, say a national newspaper website, can indicate a degree of trust placed in your site (i.e. on the grounds that good trusted websites tend not to link to poor quality or unworthy websites).
We can think of those two link factors as a) topical relevance and b) trustworthiness – and both types can help rank a website in search engines.
Sometimes Links Ain’t Real Links!
In recent years many webmasters tried to improve backlink profiles by arranging for mass backlinking from blog comment areas and general article directories and other low value sources. This eventually led search engines to introduce the noFollow link, which has since become standard in many blogs and other websites.
A noFollow link is one which looks like and functions like a normal link to the user but which flags to search engines that it is not to be counted as a genuine ‘editorial’ quality link. The ‘flag’ is invisible to the casual user without the tools to highlight them. The idea behind this form of link is to discourage webmasters and marketers from using blog comments and other low value backlink sources as those links no longer carry SEO value.
When we speak of gaining backlinks from other websites for SEO purposes we are naturally speaking about the traditional ‘followed’ type links, though they can be hard to tell apart without the right tools!
Potential Backlink Sources
In a rough order of importance we would put your industry relevant links first and foremost before moving to other ideas for backlink sources. This list is not exhaustive but some common strategies are as follows;
- Your SEO consultant should be able to analyze where your competitors are gaining their backlinks from to see if there are sources or strategies that might also be available to you.
- You or your consultant can also investigate whether there are specialist directories
for your particular industry that might be worth an entry for your site.
- Check whether your suppliers or other upstream relationships might be a potential
source of backlinks. For example, suppliers will often mention and link to their
customers websites from their ‘Where to Buy our Products’ or their ‘Approved
Dealers’ type pages.
- If you have other industry relevant relationships including industry associations then
these too might be a potential source of backlinks. Industry associations often have
member directories where you can list your website.
- Many companies will also try creating something of value to the industry and
promoting it with the intention of attracting relevant links. This can take several
forms but commonly includes something of good educational value to students of
the industry (which might attract links from colleges or other training bodies).
- Content ideas like industry glossaries and printable guides (PDFs) are sometimes
used for this strategy. Sometimes this may be combined with speaking as a guest at
college or other educational bodies and getting the college to link to your notes or
relevant page on your website or just to your home page as acknowledgement.
- Some colleges will also link to career opportunities for its students so keeping a
careers page and letting colleges know of its existence can be useful.
- Sometimes companies attract attention from bloggers and media writers by
producing whitepapers, research papers or product reviews of new products and/or
commentary on new developments in an industry or the impact of new regulations
on an industry.
- It should be noted however that just producing and publishing great content on your
website is not quite enough, it has to be seen and heard about by others before it
can gain backlinks – this is where good social media management and PR, including
online press releases can be invaluable.
- Consider opportunities for speaking appearances at industry events and exhibitions,
most of which will link to their sponsors and speakers company websites. That one is
- Outside of the industry itself, you may have contacts within media or
government/local government circles that may be a potential source. These are not
necessarily industry relevant but of good trust value.
- Services like HelpaReporter.com or Sourcebottle.com can be monitored for suitable
‘industry source’ opportunities, where reporters writing on a topic call for industry
knowledge, they will usually cite and link to their sources in their articles.
- Similarly with other business groups, chambers of commerce and even clients – can
they be tapped as opportunities to gain a mention and a link to your site?
- Many unrelated but otherwise good trusted websites such as charities and sporting associations will happily link to their sponsors.
Note, in all cases we are talking about attracting links from other websites to your site and not the other way around! It is the incoming link (backlink) that carries the ranking advantage though there is some room for you to link out to other relevant websites as part of an overall SEO strategy.
Even more info:
Some of our clients ask us for recommendations on where they can learn more about SEO and Google Analytics and we recommend Google’s own guides:
Let us help if you get stuck. Ask about our SEO service.
We’re here to help your business succeed so please don’t hesitate to ask us any questions at any time!