Did you know that 87% of adults in the UK are online each day (according to the ONS)?
But only about 67% use social media each day (according to Statista)?
Many of those who aren’t on social media are big online users. I know quite a few busy professionals who shop online (for both services and products) a lot. They don’t have the time (or inclination) to have a mooch around shops. Groceries, Christmas presents, birthday presents, clothes, anything for the house, restaurants, dog walkers – all found online. They tend to have more money to spend and they’re less price sensitive…
These people are like gold for many businesses.
Can you afford to ignore them?
They search for the goods and services on Google (or other search engines – but mainly Google).
It is worth putting time and effort into getting your business found on search engines. This process of improving your position on search engines is called Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO)
SEO (“Search Engine Optimisation” aka getting found through search engines like Google) is a long term game.
It’s not going to get you website visitors and clients in the short term (although repurposing some of the content, like blogs, on social media will help – you can find out more in our post How to repurpose your blog content). Google, and other search engines, take a while to find and index your pages (and longer to rank them). But, it is one of the longest lasting investments you can make in your business.
Many people think you just need to have a website professionally built and you’ll rank at the top of page 1 of Google for all the terms you want to rank for. Sadly it is not that easy (or everyone would rank at the top of page 1…) There are billions of websites. And they all want to rank at that number 1 position.
SEO is often presented as a dark art. The hacks and tricks you can do to rank at the top. But Google is clever. It is removing these with each algorithm update (there are several every month). In fact those kind of tricks are more likely to get you penalised.
So what does work?
The most important thing to remember when it comes to SEO is that Google is a business. Just like yours (well maybe a bit bigger!). It is successful because it gives its customers exactly what they want. You know you can go to it, type in a search term and the results will give you an answer. If you type in “website designer Sevenoaks” you’ll get website designers in Sevenoaks (like us!) – not, say, personal trainers in Manchester.
Every time Google changes its algorithm (and everyone moans), it is just to get the best set of search results for its customers. Usually reducing the impact of those sneaky tricks that have been used to artificially promote your business.
The Google algorithm determines where you rank. An algorithm is just a fancy term for a formula that takes all the web pages that Google has crawled (ie seen) and when someone types a search into Google decides which pages should be shown and in what order.
The Google algorithm is a secret. No-one outside of Google knows what it is and it changes regularly. There are allegedly over 200 factors that Google takes into account.
Whilst we don’t know the algorithm, we do know some of the factors that Google take into account. They’re actually pretty obvious when you think that Google is a business that just wants to return the best set of search results for its own customers (so those customers come back – and they can sell advertising).
These are the ones we consider to be the most important and that every small business can improve. These aren’t just good things to do for SEO purposes. They’re good things to do for your business too…
1. Write about what you want to be found for
The best SEO tip I can give you is to write about what you want to be found for.
When Google is looking at how to rank websites for a particular search term the first thing it does is look for “relevant” web pages (note it ranks pages not websites).
Just because you want to be found for a particular search term doesn’t mean to say you will be. You absolutely have to write about it or Google won’t even consider any of the pages on your website.
It is difficult to rank pages for more than one search term (unless they’re closely related phrases). So just aim to rank for one and work to make it rank!
It is one reason I love blogging so much (see Why blogging is good for your business). It works really well for writing about a single topic and getting it ranking.
Google isn’t able to read minds (yet – I suspect they’re working on it). It reads words. You need to make sure you’re writing about any phrase (and closely related phrases) that you want to be found for.
Ideally (and this is where you can go back to existing website pages/blog posts and tweak) your page url will include the word/phrase you want to rank for, as will your page title. You should also look to see if you can add it to subtitles. And of course you should make sure it is in the body of the text (several times, but make sure it reads naturally – “keyword stuffing” will have a negative impact on your ranking).
You can (and should) also make sure some of the images on the page have the keyword in their file name and are alt tagged with the keyword/phrase you’re looking to rank for.
You can download our free SEO checklist here.
3. Write good copy that people will want to read
Google (and other search engines) look at how long people spend on website pages. It considers the longer someone spends on a page to be indicative of how good they’re finding that content. And it wants to rank “good” content.
Clickbait headlines are viewed negatively by Google. Because they frustrate users (and Google does not want to frustrate people searching – it wants to give people what they want so they come back and use Google again).
So anything you write for SEO must be written for people first. Write in a way that people will want to read (not to shoehorn key words in). Anything else is just a waste of time…
4. Focus on “Core Vitals”
The last big Google update emphasised “core vitals”.
These are the kind of things that impact the “User Experience” on your website.
- Make sure you have a current SSL certificate. Google is less likely to show pages which it considers not secure so an SSL certificate is a requirement. Pages without SSL certificates are often blocked by browsers anyway so you’ll lose visitors without one.
- Make sure your website works properly on a mobile. With the increasing use of mobiles in search Google wants to make sure that it is giving results which can be viewed on mobiles.
- Remove/reduce pop ups. These are frustrating for users (cookies pop ups are the exception) so Google penalises pages which use them too.
- Look at the speed of your website pages. Our blog post 3 ways to Speed up your Website has lots of tips on how you can do this, including reducing the size of image files and using good website hosting
5. Add Internal Links
Internal links are links from one page on your website to another. As well as being used by website visitors, search engines like Google use links (both internal links and links from other websites) to find their way round your website. Basically, Google won’t see a page unless there are links to it.
In addition, Google uses links to work out which pages are the most valuable/interesting and which are related to each other. The more links a page has to it, the more important Google will deem that page. Having internal links between relevant pages is therefore important in SEO and something you can easily do yourself.
6. Seek Backlinks
In addition to internal links, Google and other search engines also look at links from other websites to your website (these are “backlinks”).
When deciding how to rank pages, one of the items Google considers is the “trust” or “authority” of a website. And in deciding how your website might compare to another, it will take into account backlinks. It doesn’t just take into account the number of backlinks, but the “quality” of the website linking to yours and the “kind” of backlink.
Backlinks is quite a complex area, but one of the quickest and easiest things you can do to improve your “authority” in the eyes of Google and therefore your ranking on any topic you write about, is to get “good” backlinks.
You should never, ever buy backlinks. “Spammy” backlinks will hurt your rankings. It isn’t just the number of backlinks that’s relevant (it used to be but one of Google’s algorithm update stamped out this bad practice), but the number and quality of backlinks.
If you belong to a professional organisation, add a website link to your directory listing.
Interviews, podcasts, guest blogging and responding to press enquiries (eg through following #journorequest on twitter) are other ways of getting backlinks from reputable sources.
You can see where competitors (which includes websites that are ranking higher than yours for the terms you want to rank for) or others in complementary industries are getting their backlinks from at Ahrefs.com. And of course you can use this info to seek backlinks from the same sources (if appropriate)…
7. Ensure your page descriptions are “click worthy” (not click baity!)
Technically this does not help your SEO, but bear with me as I explain…
When you search for something it isn’t just the page that comes up but a few lines of text which explain what that is. This is called a “meta description”. You can control what is in the meta description. If you have a wordpress website and your theme doesn’t give you this option you can install a plugin (Yoast SEO is probably the most popular) which allows you to do this.
Whilst Google ignores it for SEO purposes, it does make a difference in terms of which search result people click on. You want people to click on yours rather than any others on the page. Search engines don’t ignore what people click on. If people are clicking on your result rather than any others Google will notice this and push your result higher.
Having used SEO to direct more traffic to your website you now need to make sure those visitors become clients. After all, there’s no point getting traffic just for the sake of it!
There are hundreds of things you can do to improve your SEO. You could spend your entire working week (every week) working on SEO. But it’s a balance – you have many things to do in your business.
You can of course outsource this. But it can be very expensive and, to be honest, not the best use of cash for a small business that is budget constrained (one of our websites is a much better use of your budget!!)
Make some effort – take the low hanging fruit. It’s not just your position in search that will benefit. All these actions are good for your customers too…
1. Write about what is relevant
2. Use tags to show Google what your page is about
3. Write good copy that people will want to read
4. Ensure you have an SSL certificate, your website is set up for mobile, remove/reduce pop ups and maximise the speed of your website loading
5. Add internal links between your website pages
6. Get backlinks from other good websites
7. Add “meta descriptions” to the pages you want to rank
And of course make sure that your website is set up to convert all those new visitors you’ll be getting!
If this all seems like too much, then check out our blog post 9 ways to get traffic to your website without SEO.