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?
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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?
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- writing a new blog post and promoting it within my community
- 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.