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.


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.


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.”


  • 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?


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.

Search intent

In SEO, you need to figure out the search intent. Best place to do this is to study the SERPs, auto-suggest, and related searches.

Notes to keep in mind:

  • Don’t target content without first understanding the searcher.
  • Look at Google SERPs, search suggest, related searches to determine search intent.
  • Look for gaps.

What will an SEO audit be like in 10 years?

A couple of months ago, I went thru an SEO audit. I wanted to write a blog post to reflect on what I learned. This is my feeble attempt to collect my thoughts and jot down some notes. Where available, I’ve tried to list my source links.

bagger statt strasse

What is an SEO audit? In an audit, your website is analyzed and checked (often by an external SEO specialist) to be sure that it complies with SEO best practises.

football crazy

12 items to consider:

  1. GWT is your best friend.
    I spent a lot of time working my way thru Google Webmaster Tools, cleaning duplicate title and meta description tags. Duplicate title tags are a negative quality feature for Google. Sources of duplicate title tags are

    • non-translated title tags,
    • content management software settings, e.g. showing the same mono-lingual Drupal view in several website languages.

    GWT is the place to find these. Same for missing title tags. Or meta descriptions that are too short. Or the index status, which shows you how many pages are indexed.

  2. Follow a holistic approach. If you think you’re all set ‘cos you have had your new web design and navigation tested for usability by a user experience expert… Think again. You need to involve SEO early on in your design project. Ask for SEO guidance once you’ve gone thru the card sorting/information architecture steps. Check your designs from an SEO perspective. Write content in close collaboration with your SEO analyst.
  3. Question the SEO impact of new website features.
    Ask your web developers about the SEO side-effects of adding new features and changes. I learnt that website changes to make a website responsive and mobile-friendly may add unintended SEO problems, e.g. ‘cos the changes added a second hidden navigation which Google cannot identify yet.
  4. Ignore SEO noise.
    A lot of the SEO advice that you read on the web is blabla. Avoid link-bait. Hearsay. Look for reputable sources and SEO specialists that really know their field.
  5. Use the hreflang tag on multilingual websites.
    Add rel="alternate" hreflang=x on all web pages.
  6. Check the correct usage of heading tags.
    Use only one h1 per page. Keep the order h2, h3, or h4. Don’t jump to an h3 after using an h1.
    Check thru the design elements (e.g. navigation, footer, search button, contact form heading, teaser text blocks, or similar for hidden h1s or h2s).
  7. Improve h1 content.
    A heading 1 should provide a good summary of what to expect on the web page. Include keywords.
  8. Internal linking.
    Add relevant internal links. Add an on-page sitemap. Use footer links for important landing pages, not to repeat the navigation. Never use any hidden sub-page menus. Make sure you use dropdown menus that can be parsed by Google.
  9. Clean up any 302 redirects that may have been added by the content management system.
  10. Repair or replace all internal broken links. Tool tip: I used Integrity for Mac.
  11. Page speed matters.
    Check Google Page Speed Insight to improve the loading time of your site.
  12. Check the XML sitemap.
    The XML sitemap should only include pages with status code 200. Use the real, final URL in the XML sitemap, not the CMS page ID.

10 years plugin

What will an SEO audit look like in 10 years? That is an intriguing question. I have no idea which way SEO will go. My guess is as good as yours. I do know that SEO is getting quite complex. And may even be replaced by *something* entirely new. If you are a website manager, my advice is to dig in and ask lots of questions.

Look at all aspects. Take a holistic approach. Try to form a cross-functional team (designer, ux researcher, web developer, SEO expert, content writer).

ready mix for mandasi

If you do search on Google, remember the search engine result on page 1 is not necessarily the best content, but the best optimized content. Use Google search operators to get you off the beaten track. And there are alternatives like DuckDuckGo and Wolfram Alpha, which we should support more to avoid monopoly and manipulation.

Related links

GWT resources:

On-page factors:

Duplicate content:

How to carry out a content audit:

Technical Site Audit Checklist: 2015 Edition:

All mistakes are my own. Please let me know if I got something really wrong. I’m here to learn. These notes help me to reflect and learn.

Notes and photos from #UXcampch

Some notes and photos from Saturday’s UX camp in Zürich:

Adrian Sameli took us thru the process of building infographics. His tip on tools to use: Excel and Adobe Illustrator. He tried one or two infographic tools but didn’t like them much. In the discussion we looked at data-driven documents

Next, I attended a session on atomic design. Design systems not pages.
Developers need to agree early on with designers on the semantics of the smallest, small and medium building blocks. These then are used in templates to build pages.

Brad. Frost. Who?

Background reading: Atomic design by Brad Frost.

The discussion after the presentation got straight to the daily challenges. Questions like

  • How do you get developers to use the existing pattern? Nobody reads documentation. In an ideal world, developer and designer sit in the same room and discuss the initial elements and define the markup. In real life the UX team may be much smaller than the developer team and might be geographically distributed, etc.
  • Is anybody using Pattern Lab in real-life projects? Very few projects get paid to build a pattern library. Pattern Lab is really more for larger projects due to the effort involved. How can this be improved?

Next, I listened to Simone Reichlin talk about the RITE method vs traditional user tests.

Main idea: Often you see some obvious problems in your UX design after your first or second test person. Instead of going thru the whole test with the remaining test participants, change the prototype with your improvement between tests. And then continue testing your changed prototype.
Main requirement: Designer needs to watch the user test. This shortens discussion time afterwards.
Tools used: Sketch and inVision.

Don’t change too much. Follow Medlock’s classification.

Want to try RITE? Start with the traditional method first. Only use RITE after you have gained some experience in carrying out user tests.

A very good session by Vincent van der Lubbe on creating space in conversations. And we even got a reference sheet to take home. The hard part is putting this into practise.

listening to Vincent at @uxcampch

Fidel Thomet presented his B.A. project, It’s a Chrome extension to capture digital findings in form of text fragments gathered while browsing the web.

Information Flaneur = Flanieren in grossen Datenmengen

We briefly looked at Marian Dörk’s PivotPaths. This podcast by was recommended.

Unknown, useless fact about me:
Once upon a time, I had to write a uni term paper on Walter Benjamin and Paris in the 19th Century.

My snapshots are on Flickr.

All mistakes are my own. Please let me know if I got something really wrong. I’m here to learn. These notes help me to reflect and learn.

Secure Email

I’ve signed up for

And I noticed another company called Tutanota:

I think this is a great development. Instead of trying to get people to use PGP… maybe this will catch on.

Try and get an account!

Update, 5 May 2015:
There’s another company in this space called Lavaboom.

Content first

Last Saturday I attended UX camp Switzerland. A very good event to learn about user experience, human-centered design, usability testing, MVP and prototyping tools.

Talks I listened to:

Stefanie Klekamp presented lots of background info on the Think Aloud usability testing method. Which I found useful. She explained the theories behind the method and also pointed to the research and shortcomings of the test. Shortcomings such as confirmation bias and evaluator effect. She briefly touched on Hawthorne effect, Rosenthal effect, primacy recency effect, hindsight bias. Practical tips for your next Think Aloud user test:

  1. Carry out a SWOT analysis of the website or app that you are testing beforehand.
  2. Take simple notes immediately.

Overall conclusion: Think Aloud user tests are a good practical method to test websites and apps early and often.

Next, I attended a talk by Tobias Günter called “Texter sind die besseren Designer” (in English: “Copywriters are the better designers”). His message was: We spend lots of time and resources on design and programming our web apps, but the content itself is often an afterthought. It’s reflected in the words we use: “Texte abfüllen”. Often there’s no content plan to begin with. Concept work is often based on “Lorem ipsum” dummy texts. If you consider the slogan “mobile first”, it should really be “content first”. Content is the reason people visit a website, or install an app in the first place. Often, content is not developed for mobile devices. Some copywriting guidelines to consider:

  • Keep it simple – only 1 thought per sentence
  • Add sub-headings
  • Add structure
  • Add some redundancy and repetitions
  • Add a focal point for images

Some further tools mentioned to improve content development:

  1. Develop your content page as if there is no start page and no website hierarchy
  2. Develop your content as if there is no navigation, header, footer, sidebar
  3. Think of URLs as verbs
  4. Test your texts
  5. Develop your texts iteratively; continuously improve your content

A good discussion followed. Every content page should be considered as being a landing page on its own. New developments include dynamic navigation entries depending on the content page I arrive at as a reader

Some web agencies now carry out a content audit of existing and new content. I found a related presentation on Slideshare after the talk:


Next, Samuel Frischknecht talked about minimum viable product (MVP) and presented some real-life client examples. He referred to a book called Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf. The lean process is

  1. Declare an assumption
  2. Create a MVP
  3. Run an experiment
  4. Collect feedback and carry out research

The book looks interesting and maybe it will answer some of my open questions on Scrum and design.


I attended more talks in the afternoon, but my ability to take notes decreased rapidly. I was tired.

UXcamp was good. Many thanks to the organisers and sponsors. A good way to catch up on new developments and learn about a topic in one day.

All mistakes are my own. Please let me know if I got something really wrong. I’m here to learn. These notes help me to reflect and learn.

Quote of the day #SEO

Social media isn’t reaching people like it used to.

via The New Emphasis On Link Building: What's Behind It And How To React.

Back to link building? Probably.

Read this advice:

The best way to have your website rank higher is to make it better for your users. Being better requires that your website is one or some of these types of things in comparison to your competitors…

  • more useful
  • more simple
  • more comprehensive
  • more funny
  • solve problems quicker or more effectively
  • more visually stunning

Responsive web design and low and expensive bandwidth

Some time ago, the Malawi daily newspaper, The Nation, released a new web design. More recently Nyasa Times updated their web design. In both cases, it’s an improvement. And from my current home base here in Switzerland, both sites load promptly.

From family in Malawi I hear that the loading times for both sites have increased. It would be interesting to hear from others if they noticed the same.

Many people in Malawi access the internet via mobile devices. Only few have access to flat rates and most Malawi internet users probably use prepaid data bundles, i.e. every MB of data costs $$$.

In addition, some parts of Malawi and even parts of Blantyre don’t have a good connectivity.

I think it’s important to find out how your target audience will access your site. And then optimize your site for low bandwidth. I’ve written about this topic before. (Click here and here).

I’m not a web developer. But I do think we need to step in and ask questions about page speed. Page speed is an important part of the overall user experience.

Responsive web designs are great. One content base serves web pages on different end devices from smartphone to large monitor screens.

But what about optimising responsive sites for lower bandwidth?

What kind of things should you adapt and change? Best practises for responsive sites?

I switched off a WordPress mobile plugin called Mobilepress ‘cos it was creating a lot of broken links which showed up in Google Webmaster Tools.

Should I reinstall a mobile plugin like Mobilepress on my WordPress site?

This got me thinking about responsive web design and bandwidth. I’ve started doing some preliminary reading and googling on this. Here are some links I’ve found:

Design your site for mobile devices first. The buzzword is mobile-first.

(…) more than 12 percent of the world’s Web traffic comes from mobile devices. This fraction is significantly higher in nations with higher smartphone penetration and is expected to increase notably in the next few years as adoption picks up in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

One important task is to optimise images. I found this Smashing Magazine article provided some helpful guidance on responsive image solutions. But minimizing the bandwidth impact of images isn’t easy.

Test your site to see what is affecting page speed. There’s Google’s Site Speed within Google Analytics, Web Page Test and Yslow to help you identify issues.

In my opinion, this list of web design guidelines for low bandwidth still holds true.

Good background article:
How and Why Responsive Design Can Go Wrong

Conclusion: Building websites isn’t getting easier. Ask your developers to search for ways to improve your site’s performance.

Tips? Ideas and suggestions? I appreciate your comments and suggestions to improve.

Google Hummingbird links

The latest addition to the SEO zoo is a hummingbird.

The algorithm change was announced in September 2013 but went live a month earlier.

Searchengineland has some useful background information:

FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm

Hummingbird’s Impact On B2B Sites

Apparently this release will improve Google’s ability to predict a user’s search intent.
Conversational search has been improved.

Looks like Google+ might be another factor to add to the 200 items Google looks at? Search Engine Journal says:

If you are joining Google Plus Communities and building an audience on Plus, answering questions, creating video content via Hangouts and Youtube, and using hashtags, you will be jumping on the Social Search bandwagon that Google is actively promoting.

SEJ infographic

Apparently the advice remains the same: develop original, high-quality content.

See Searchengineland’s SEO success factors.