Slides: SEO for small business websites

Here are my slides from my recent Women in Digital talk in Basel. I made them “resource-full” with lots of background links.

The session was interactive from the start. Lots of questions throughout. Wow. I think the topic hit a nerve.

Notes:

SEO for small business websites

How do you get found in an increasingly busy and complex online search market?
Are you a small business owner looking to get started with SEO? Already got a site up but the traffic is low? In my presentation I discussed key requirements for a web presence and how to stay focussed.

Intro

Be nimble, fast, smart – use your smallness as an advantage

“Small businesses can compete with large companies if they keep in mind that search engine optimization is a marathon, not a sprint.”

1) Learn the basics of SEO

  • Read “Intro to SEO” guidelines (MOZ, Backlinko, Google)
  • Take an online course

2) Do your marketing homework!

  • What segment are you trying to reach?
  • Who is your potential client?
  • What is your core message?
  • How would you present your services/products in a telephone call/face-to-face meeting?
  • What kind of words does your potential client use when referring to your services/products?

Carry out:

  • Customer Interviews
  • Keyword Research

See also my previous blog post on SEO for B2B services and products

3) Does your site match the intended purpose? Does it answer your client’s question?

Google looks at your site as a whole, as well as on a per-page-basis. Keep in mind that SEO is evolving. There are lots of additional items you need to grapple with.

  • Usability
  • Engagement
  • RankBrain
  • Search Intent
  • Structured Data
  • Voice Search

4) On-page factors

  • Page title/ meta descriptions
  • Internal links
  • Unique page, url, page title, meta description and content (don’t copy content from other sites or make duplicates of your own)
  • Alt image tag
  • Heading 1 and 2
  • Related terms

5) Local

  • Claim or create a Google My Business listing.

I expect Google to offer more local search results, based on location and tailored to smartphone sensor data.

6) Technical SEO

In 2018 technical aspects will re-gain importance. Test your page speed. Clean up crawl errors and duplicates.

  • Fast web hosting
  • Page speed – Get rid of bloat in your CMS
  • Make sure pages get indexed – Google Search Console is your friend
  • Minimize of crawl errors

7) Plan your content

  • Editorial calendar with deadlines
  • Quality content
  • If you have a blog, blog at regular intervals. Freshness is (still) a ranking factor. Blogging helps you to find out what works or what doesn’t

Text fonts and page layout matter:

“On an average web page, users read 20% of the words.”

Include:

  • Heading 2s
  • Bullet lists
  • Images

8) Promote your site

  • Regular email updates/newsletter, e.g using Mailchimp
  • Content amplification – share on social media (Social Media link isn’t a ranking factor but it helps with getting attention; getting indexed by the Google bot; building a community of followers)
  • Network online and offline – present at barcamps, meetups

9) Measure. Add improvements. Repeat.

A page isn’t getting enough traffic? Why? Thin content? Go back and try and figure out why. Test how you can improve? Add Heading 2s. Add an additional paragraph.

“What kind of web content would you find useful?”

Ask your clients for website feedback.

Or if it isn’t working, maybe you’ll need to re-think your marketing approach?

Links:

SEO basics for entrepreneurs: Easy tips for optimizing your website

Small business SEO: Your questions answered

How to Rank in 2018: The SEO Checklist – Whiteboard Friday

How Google Gives Us Insight into Searcher Intent Through the Results – Whiteboard Friday

Free add-on: Answers to the questions on Slides 9 and 10

Before my talk, I asked some entrepreneurs in my community what SEO questions they have, what challenges they face. Here are some answers of the top of my head:

Question 1: I don’t want to invent the wheel, so what basics do I need to know about SEO or do myself?

My answer: I recommend reading Moz’s beginners guide to SEO. If you are publishing your own website content, please read thru the section on on-page ranking factors. On-page changes are the easiest to influence and take care of.

The other thing to watch out for is that your small business website follows best practises.

If you are using a content management system, make sure the site is fast. Try to reduce CMS bloat as much as possible.

Check that each piece of content is accessible via only one URL.

Duplicate content issues may arise when Google can access the same piece of content via multiple URLs. Without one clear version, pages will compete with one another unnecessarily.

In developer’s eyes, a page is unique if it has a unique ID in the website’s database, while for search engines the URL is a unique identifier. A developer should be reminded that each piece of content should be accessed via only one URL.

(Source: Strategic SEO Decisions to Make Before Website Design and Build)

Plan your site structure. Decide on languages and regions.

Question 2: What are the top 3 mistakes that I have to avoid?

My answer: There’s lots of things that can go wrong.

  1. Avoid vague, sprawling websites with lots of sub-menus and thin content, especially if you are a small company. Put your client at the center, instead of your product/department/company achievements. Always ask yourself what search query does my site want to answer, what is the purpose, what keyphrases do my clients use.
  2. Not filling in the page title and meta description tags with a useful summary of your web page. The page title is the first part of your web page that web visitors see in the search engine result pages and it influences your SEO. Yet, very often you see “homepage”. The meta description helps web visitors decide to click on a link or not. On-page SEO is easier to influence and change.
  3. Get the basics up and running. Unstable, flaky web hosting or a broken user experience will hurt your web reputation. And make SEO harder.

Question 3: Is SEO and web design totally connected, or can I outsource this to separate providers?

My answer: Web design and SEO are connected by the words usability and user experience. Google looks at engagement metrics. If web visitors land on your web page and leave after a split second, despite having good SEO content, then it might be due to your web design. You don’t need to assign design and development to the same provider. The times when designers wanted to use Adobe Flash for their designs are thankfully over. If your website design follows common web design patterns, you’ll be fine. Make sure the fonts are easy to read on different devices

Question 4: How do I select an SEO provider?

My answer: Ask lots of questions. Be wary if they promise too much. Discuss your business goals.

Via Moz here are some questions to ask:

  • What process are you going to use to accomplish my business goals, and why do you use those particular processes?
  • What is your communication and reporting process? How often? What metrics do you report on? How do those match up to the business goals?
  • What do you do when things aren’t working?

Question 5: How regular should I, or my provider, work actively on the SEO to keep the good results? Or: what is my decay-time?

My answer: It depends on the purpose of your website. If you are building a webshop or an e-commerce app, you will need to invest a lot more energy, time, resources, and money than if you are a consultant for a service that is highly in demand.

As a newcomer, you’ll need to build a web reputation.

If I’m building a consultancy business, I’d start off with blocking off 2 SEO time-slots per week.
A typical, regular SEO content activity is for instance

  1. writing a new blog post and promoting it within my community
  2. re-visiting a core service page to add a new paragraph

Question 6: Should I do SEO in every language of my website?

My answer: Yes. Without adequate SEO keyphrase analysis, the translation doesn’t perform well. After translation, you should check and adjust headings and tags to match your primary and related keyphrases.

Question 7: Is SEO scalable? Meaning: if I have set up my SEO properly, that with every added search word, I have proportionally more results? Or do I have diminishing returns, every time I add a search word, or content improvement? Where do I reach the optimum in money and effect?

My answer: If you’ve built a good web reputation and found the topics that your clients are interested in, it will get easier. Please note: SEO is a mid-term or long-term investment. There’s a risk that Google will change its algorithm and something that worked 6 months ago may no longer work now. Google is investing heavily into artificial intelligence and in some ways this will level the playing field. I would focus on finding the topics and questions that your clients are looking for. Build a website that helps clients get their jobs done.

Question 8: How do I measure success with SEO? Proof that it works!

My answer: This is the huge benefit of digital marketing. It is measurable. Before starting any SEO project, decide on your measure of success and discuss in detail with your SEO provider.

Again, consider your business goals: What’s the purpose of your website? Do you want to get more contact form submissions? More downloads? More shopping cart submissions? Measure a conversion rate that is important for your business success.

I would avoid vanity goals like “more traffic”.

Question 9: What are the content activities I should do that help with better SEO results? Like: weekly blog publication, news items, reposting other people’s content… etc?

My answer: Blogging is a good way to get started and to find what resonates and what doesn’t. If you have relevant news or if you are attending an event, I would also share these. I’ve moved away from “content curation” (= reposting other people’s content) for B2B purposes. Curating content is time consuming. If you see a piece of content that fits, I would quote it but try to write my own version. Consider other content types such as interviews, videos, audio podcasts. And build good pillar pages on your core topics.

And once you have created good content, give it as much promotion as your budget and resources allow.

Don’t forget to optimize your PDFs for SEO

Here’s a useful reminder to make sure your PDFs contain useful SEO-relevant infos and links:

10 tips to make your PDFs SEO friendly

In my experience this is where many B2B companies can improve. Often the PDFs don’t contain any useful titles or descriptions. Sometimes they show the draft infos. In many companies, PDFs aren’t reviewed by the SEO team. Very often managers don’t want to go back to the DTP team. Yet another change request.

Solution? Raise awareness from the start.
Is this a PDF that will be hosted online?
Do you want web visitors to find it?

SEO for B2B services and products: How to get started?

the start of my very own stock photo collection for presentations

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to provide some free consulting on how I would start SEO for a new B2B services or products company.

Here are my notes:

wooden tetris

#Sandra’s advice on how to start

There are different kinds of web visitors. Try to find groups and segments, and the info that they are looking for.

These include:

  • Existing clients
  • Potential clients
  • Job seekers
  • Investors / stakeholders
  • Journalists

Learn as much as you can about your web visitors, clients and potential clients.

  • What are their interests?
  • What do they read?
  • What are their work goals? What do they need to achieve?
  • What are trends and changes affecting the industry?
  • What are the challenges?
  • How do clients select a product/service?
  • What are the painpoints?
  • What happens when a project fails?
  • How long is the evaluation time before a product/service is purchased?

Build a persona description for each important web visitor group. This will help you create web pages and blog posts tailored to this type of web visitor.

Interview clients (if you are allowed to) and client-facing staff (if you are not).

Analyse the websites of competitors.

Remember, products and services that achieve a similar solution to yours are also competitors. I encountered technology companies that argued there’s no competition for their new service. Many times they ignored substitutes.

dieser weg

#Factors influencing SEO (cross-clicks, anchor texts?)

Follow best practices for on-page SEO.

Remember that page titles and meta descriptions are the very first texts that a web visitor will see in the SERPs. Prepare these two with care.

For any web page, these elements remain important:

  • Page title
  • Heading 1
  • Heading 2
  • Internal links within the main body of the text
  • Backlinks from relevant, high quality websites with good anchor text

Follow the tips in this article on RankBrain:

  • 301 redirects for missing pages
  • rel=canonical tags for duplicate content
  • optimize structured data and alternative tags
  • resolve any broken links

Publishing long paragraphs without headings, bullet lists, images is a recipe for failure. Many people scan thru a web page before they dig in.

“(…) readers spend less than 10 seconds on a webpage before moving away. So you need to ensure your readers do not have to make an effort to read your content.”

Remember that Google is looking at many additional factors. It measures engagement.

tree detail

#Keyword research

Think in topics.

Consider search intent. Are search words informational or transactional? Always check the SERPs to see what kind of results display.

Voice search is changing how keyword research has been done in the past couple of years. Expect more 3-word phrases, more questions, more variants as people search by speaking to Cortana, Alexa, and Google Voice Search.

Vespa speedometer

#Content/Inbound marketing

Content should be “useful” for your clients, help them achieve their work goals faster, educate them.

Who cares if you are the world leader? Can you solve my business problem? Are you a reliable provider? This is more relevant to me.

Here’s a good test:

  • Is it useful?
  • Is it aligned (with both reader needs and business goals)?
  • Is it unique?

Regular blog posts:

  • Blog as often as you can without comprising on quality.
  • Produce short, useful videos (20 to 30 seconds long).
  • Share your slide decks.

You need both: Quality and quantity.

If you can: Try two new blog posts per week. Higher frequency helps you find what will stick faster.

“Create Diverse, Easily Consumed Content”

hintergärten

#Platforms (B2B) – target, content, frequency

Find out what your competitors are doing (special industry platforms?, Twitter? Linkedin? Whatsup groups? Chatbots?)

Linkedin is probably the best B2B social media platform of the moment.

Build communities of people interested in your service.

Promote your content on social media.

fischer netz am rhein

#Measurement and evaluation

Tools I use regularly include:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Ryte.org
  • SEMRush
  • Linkdex
  • Brightedge

Measure the number of leads to try and find what kind of pages or marketing activity will convert better.

Find out how many sessions you need to convert a web visitor into a lead.

Get a tool like OpenInbound.com or Leadberry.com to see the customer journey on your site.

WordPress plugin for OpenInbound:

OpenInbound

Drupal module for OpenInbound:
https://www.drupal.org/project/openinbound
Measure usability with Hotjar or Crazy Egg.

pattern to be used as a background for slides or a website?

#References on internet marketing for further studying

I read a huge amount of SEO news. Regular reads include:

Moz.com
Backlinko.com
Searchengineland.com

Be careful, even wary, of case studies, success stories, sweeping generalizations, easy fixes.

reminds me of Karl Valentin's explanation: "Wann ist ein Fremder unter Fremden"

#Consider the interdisciplinary nature of SEO

Technical aspects, content, interaction design, usability, marketing strategy need to play together.

Build a small, agile team.

#uxcampch 2017 – Some notes

I attended last Saturday’s #uxcampch in Zürich.

First talk was on designing screens for HbbTV. 10 Foot UI. Samuel Raymann talked about his project at SRG and designing for TV sets. I liked this project report about design challenges.

Next, I joined a discussion on digital education. Difficult to summarize in a couple of words. Apparently, even in 2017, there are tonnes of teachers that don’t use digital resources and apps in their teaching plans. At the same time, many students are distracted by very elaborate, leading edge, commercial apps. Educational software publishers could benefit from UX methodology and agile processes. And one attendee suggested UX designers should consider enter the teaching profession.

Then, there was a session on virtual reality. One hololens and 120 attendees. And very shaky videos as we watched people try out the headset. Conclusion: User interaction is not quite there yet. The hand gestures are quite difficult to learn, it seems.

I felt this session shows what is happening. Enthusiasts, gamers, early adopters are embracing virtual reality, augmented reality faster than ever before. While at the same time the digital divide is increasing (c.f. educational system). Many of us, normal folks, will be consumers of elaborate marketing and manipulation machines that we don’t know how to program.

One thing to note is: voice control will become more widespread.

In many ways the VR session reminded me of shaky holiday videos from long ago. But it’s coming into our daily lives in a big way.

Other sessions of note:

Making privacy useable

Conversational Design

On design sprints

Big thank you to the organizers.

2 tweets to keep on integrating design in agile

I liked 2 Jeff Gotthelf tweets on design:

The fast track to DIY images

For all my creative photography friends, here’s an article by Moz on how images boost conversion. And a list of tools.

The sample images displayed in the Moz article aren’t very inspiring but the tools look useful.

My toolset? I use Canva and Photoshop at the day job and Pixelmator on my MacBook at home.

Barcamp Bodensee 2016

Last Saturday I attended Barcamp Bodensee in Konstanz.

barcamp bodensee

Here are some brief notes and thoughts on sessions that I attended:

Ask a digital teen
Barcamp attendees asked a 15 year old what apps and web services he uses. Youtube, Gaming, TeamSpeak, Discord app, some Whatsapp, Google Calendar. No TV. No Facebook. His school doesn’t allow the use of smartphones on the school grounds.

Digital strategy for non-profit organizations
Digital strategy means finding a way to connect CMS and CRM and accounting and payment apps and processes. CiviCRM was recommended; if offers connectors for WordPress and Drupal. There’s an association called “Software für Engagierte” (in German only). QuickBook, Collmex were mentioned for accounting purposes.

Getting Things Done
A certified GTD trainer offered an intro to David Allen’s method. Mind like water. Some very useful tips. For example, to do lists aren’t enough. Lists need to be sorted and categorized. Actionable items and next steps instead of just listing the project. Tasks that take less than 2 minutes should be taken care of immediately. Cos it takes more time to get back to these mini-tasks. Related links:

http://www.taskinator.de/

http://www.next-action.de/

Intro to Snapchat
Useful intro to a social network that is growing fast. The speaker encouraged us to sign up to learn how influencers are using Snapchat for storytelling.

 

Messaging
Messaging apps are probably going to change in 2016, c.f. Facebook’s recent announcement. E.g. possibility to order services and buy products via chat like in Asian chat apps, Line and WeChat. We went off on a tangent and collected a comprehensive list of messaging apps….

all the messaging apps that we could think of

I’ve learnt a lot at barcamps in the past and recommend attending one or two if you can. The same content will cost you $$$ at a commercial conference and lots more nerves. Barcamps are fun and way more relaxing.

Snapshots

Some photos from my Flickr stream:

grenzen überwinden

I’ve got this theory that fresh green colour soothes the eyes and helps to relax.

stream   fencing

I saw 2 cats. Both look somewhat unamused. And ready to pounce on any intruders.

katze

katze

Saturday was sunny and warm. I like this snapshot, taken with my Moto 3 G:

elisabethenkirche in the evening sun

Aside

Museum Unterlinden in Colmar

On my daily bicycle commute, I kept noticing art posters, labelled Le nouvel Unterlinden. Today, I saw a Designboom article, shared by someone in my community, discussing the newly renovated museum in Colmar.

Connection made.

Advertising works. Both print and online.