the complete SEO guide for small and medium business

The Complete SEO Guide for Small & Medium Business

I get asked a lot about SEO. And while there’s a ton of great content online, there’s not a single resource I’ve found that pulls all the information you need into a single definitive guide. So, I decided to create the complete SEO guide for small & medium business.  The content is based on more than 15 years experience working in digital marketing and numerous tests, failures and successes. The good news is you don’t need any specific technical expertise to implement any of the recommedations covered. So let’s get started.

The Complete SEO Guide for Small & Medium Business

Before we jump into how to do SEO, we need to set some foundations.

Set Some Goals

First up you need to set some goals. Clear goals will guide what tactics you prioritise and also establish a basis for measurement. If you sell online, then sales conversions are most likely the obvious choice. For those that sell offline or run a services business the purpose of your site is going to be all about generating leads, so tracking lead conversion and / call volumes (if you publish a phone number on your site) will be important.

If your goals are more around raising brand awareness, that’s OK too but think about how you are going to measure shifts in brand awareness. SMART goals work best so make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time based.

Define Your Target Audience

Make sure you are absolutely clear about who you are trying to reach. Creating persona’s is particularly useful here as it requires you get inside the mind of your one key fan.

Key elements of your persona should include: name, gender, age, location, income, occupation, marital status, interests / hobbies,  books read, blogs followed, what is their underlying gain or glory, what jobs to they need to do, what problems are they trying to solve.

The mistake I often see is target audiences that are just too broad. Creating a persona forces you to narrow down your focus to one very specific audience. It also helps keep you single minded.

Describe Your Unique Value Proposition

What’s your elevator pitch how do you describe the value you provide to your customers. If you’re already running a successful business then you’ll probably have a clear picture of your value proposition. If you haven’t already captured this and written it down do this now. When considering your value proposition think about:

  • What value do you provide to your customers / what problem do you solve?
  • How is it different from competitors?
  • Why should someone by from you?
  • Stay single minded

Dominos nail it with their proposition. “We GUARANTEE – Fresh hot pizza, delivered in 30 minutes or its less or it’s FREE”.

Keyword Planning

Great, so we’ve set some goals, have a clear picture around who we are trying to reach and have defined a single-minded and benefit focused value proposition.

Let’s now shift our attention to our website. If you’re starting out with a new site it’s a great opportunity to build in SEO from the start. However, in most cases it’s likely you’ll be working with an existing site which may or may not have been designed and built with SEO in mind.

Traffic Generation

In offline and online media, there’s typically 3 sources of traffic, owned media, paid media and earned media.

In digital, paid media is the traffic you buy, owned media is the traffic you acquire as a result of your brand awareness and earned media is the traffic you earn in media outside your owned properties.

SEO is primarily concerned with owned media and generating organic traffic through search engines to those owned media. Earned media is relevant too, particularly when it comes to links that you earn on sites that you don’t owned. But more about that later.

What’s with All This Jargon

For the uninitiated, there’s a lot of jargon that gets thrown around in SEO circles, take a moment to familiarise yourself with the following concepts.

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation: SEO is a set of tactics geared toward optimising how a site is represented in search engine results.

CTR – Click Through Rate: Is the proportion of users who click on a link to the number of total users who view a page, email, or advertisement.

SERPs – Search engine results pages: are the results pages that are returned for each search conducted in a search engine.

Organic search results: These are unpaid search results that appear in SERPs. The purpose of SEO is to increase the ranking of a page or site in SERPs.

CMS – Content Management System: Is a software application that is used to create and manage digital content, typically websites. A common CMS for SMEs is WordPress.

Link Juice: A personal favourite of mine – link juice refers to the equity passed to a page via links from external or internal sources. In essence a link is a vote, and link juice represents the power of the vote that is conveyed toward the page being linked to.

Organic Search & SEO

The image below clearly illustrates the organic search results in a Google search engine results page. Paid Ads (SEM) are identified by the “Ad” words preceding the result. Results without the “Ad” reference are organic results, these are the subject of SEO. The aim of SEO is to get a specific page on your site ranking as high as possible for a desired keyword or keyword phrase.

SEO explained

Why Ranking Counts

This image from Advanced Web Ranking highlights why it’s so important to rank as high as possible for your chosen keyword. Position 1 enjoys a CTR (click through rate) of 35.5%, this drops to 17.1% for position 2 and 10.7% for position 3. If you want to generate organic search traffic it’s imperative to appear on page 1 and ideally in the top 3-4 results.

SEO ranking by position

And its only getting more important. Google are introducing more and more paid search results on page 1. These appear at the top, bottom and to the right of search results and are competing with organic results for clicks.

Black Hat & White Hat SEO

SEO has come a long way in a short period of time. In the 2000s SEOs saw the opportunity to ‘game’ the search engines algorithms to improve ranking for sites.

These so-called black hat tactics inlcuded: unrelated keywords; keyword stacking and keyword stuffing; tiny text, hidden text, and hidden links; cloaking; doorway pages or gateway pages; bait-and-switch or page swapping; duplicate content or mirror site; spam blogs or splogs; blog spam or comment spam and link farms.

Over time Google and other search engines have responded to these tactics through a series of algorithm updates. The goal of these algorithm updates is to counteract the effectiveness of black hat techniques and ensure that SERPs are populated with relevant results rather than results that do not provide a good user experience for users.

Some of the major algorithm updates include:

Panda – The Panda update stopped sites with poor quality content from rising up Google’s search results. Poor quality content includes: shallow content; poorly written content; content copied from other sites or content that is simply not useful. Google started using human operators to manually rate thousands of sites for quality content. It then used machine learning to change its algorithm to predict what a human would judge as a low-quality site.

Penguin – Google penguin is a Google algorithm update that was first announced in 2012. Penguin seeks to identify sites deemed to be ‘spamming’ Google’s search results particularly shady link building tactics. These tactics can include: paid links, negotiating link exchanges, automating link creation, buying links or obtaining them through link networks. Other reasons why site may be affected by Penguin include: anchor text over optimization, low quality backlinks, link relevance, outbound link quality, keyword stuffing, websites with viruses and hidden links and text.

Pidgeon – Launched in 2014 the Pigeon update was a new algorithm that aimed to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results.

Hummingbird – Hummingbird is actually the name of Googles search platform that was introduced in 2013. It’s focus was on gaining deeper understanding of the underlying meant behind the words entered by the user. Hummingbird looks for the full meaning of the query rather than simply looking at the individual words.

Pirate – Google’s Pirate update was a filter introduced in 2012 that was designed to stop sites that were infringing others’ copyright and any content protected by digital rights management (DRM).

As a result, SEO today focuses on White Hat techniques to optimise websites for organic search traffic. What Hat SEO uses tactics that are consistent with Google’s guidelines. This means sites can have greater confidence that their site won’t be penalised in the future resulting in potentially significant loss of traffic. This guide focuses on White Hat techniques.

SEO Fundamentals

When I first learned about SEO there were 3 key elements, Content, Code & Links. More than 10 years later little has changed so let’s jump in to learn how to mater each of these.

Content & Keywords

Keyword Research

Keyword are at the heart of SEO, and your first step when thinking about SEO is to define the keywords you want to target. Start this with research, by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are the core products & services you offer?
  • Which competitors rank well for a keyword that is important for your business?
  • Which keywords perform well for your major competitors?
  • What keywords perform well for highly trafficked sites in your category?
  • What keywords are highly contested for search engine marketing?

Answering these questions will help you discover what your customers are interested in. remember it’s not just about generating traffic, but generating the right kind of traffic. Looking at paid keywords helps you understand where people are searching often, keywords that attract lots of ads suggests a high value keyword.

Short Tail & Long Tail Keywords

Not all keywords are created equal. Short tail keywords are 1 or 2 keyword phrases like ‘florist’ or ‘wedding florist’. Long tail keywords (or more correctly keyword phrases) are essentially keyword phrases containing 3 or more words. Examples include “florist mornington peninsula” or “wedding florist mornington peninsula”.

Now ranking in the top 1-3 results for florist or wedding florist is likely to be a real challenge for most florists, and it will be the same situation across most popular business categories. This is where long tail keywords are so important.

short and long tail keywords SEO

Wouldn’t it be great to rank high for “florist” or “fresh flowers”? However, popular searches make up only 30% of searches performed, the rest are for long tail searches. And it’s a very long tail that comprises hundreds of millions of combinations of keywords.

This is good news for small and medium businesses who focus on a specific market segment or geography. So rather than focusing on highly contested short tail keywords, focus on short tail keywords that describe the specific products or services you offer, in the specific localities you serve.

What makes long tail keywords even more attractive is the theory that the more specific the search of a user, the more likely it is that the user is later in the buying cycle. So, when planning what keyword you plan to target, consider both the demand for the keyword as well as your chance of success and the work required to achieve a high rank.

Keyword Research Tools

Here’s a couple of useful tools to assist your keyword research efforts.

Google Trends is a great place to start. Google trends contains trend data of data on keyword searches conducted over multi-years. You can type in multiple keywords to see which keyword was more popular at a given point in time. While Google Trends doesn’t provide the absolute number of searches you can compare multiple keywords to see which keywords were more popular.

Start by typing in keywords that reflect your business. Then try some variations and see which keywords are more popular. You can look back to 2004 and filter your results by country.

keyword research

 

Google Adwords Keyword Planner is another great keyword research tool. This tool provides rich data around suggested keywords for your category. Simply type in keywords related to your product or service and the most popular paid search keywords will be returned. If these keywords are popular for paid search its more than likely they will generate high volumes of organic search traffic for high ranking results.

 

google adwords keyword planner SEO

 

Once you’ve checked out Google Trends and Google Adwords Keyword Planner, type your top keywords into Google search and see which competitors are returned. Doing this will show you who are the top-ranking brands in your category. Now go across to SEMRush and type in the domain name of one of you top competitors to see what keywords are contributing most to their SEO traffic.

 

competitor keyword research SEO

 

Now you’ve done you research, it’s time to construct you keyword plan. Use the template below, to list out in priority order your identified keywords in the ‘Target Keyword’ column. Don’t worry about the other columns, we’ll come back to those later.

 

keyword planning template

 

SEO & Content Marketing

These days SEO and content marketing go hand in hand.

SEO is anything that is done to increase your organic search traffic and Content Marketing is creating and spreading content to attract traffic. So hand in hand you can use SEO tactics to increase the distribution and discoverability of our content marketing efforts.

These days with search engines a lot smarter about shady tactics used to game search engines its simply easier to focus on building quality content as a platform for your SEO efforts. That way as long as you are building quality content naturally you should be able to protect against future algorithm changes implemented by search engines to penalise spamming SEO activities.

Quality Content

So, creating quality content is central to all modern SEO programs, but what exactly is quality content? First and foremost, quality content is content that will resonate with your target audience, it will be content they want to read, so start by deeply understanding your audience.

From there is pays to be clear and single minded with your message. Create unique content that can’t be found elsewhere. Create content with substance, that is, long form content that deeply explores a topic in a meaningful way. Create content with mobile devices in mind – so it’s easy for people on mobiles to consume.

Finally, think about content that supports vertical searches that are relevant in your category. By vertical searches I mean the other tabs that appear in google search results, that could be video, images, news, local or shopping results.

For those of you starting your content journey text based content is often the best way to start. While the format has been around for some time, it still performs well for most web searches. Blog posts are the most common format but these can also take the form of tutorials or how to guides.

Don’t discount other formats, particularly if they lend themselves to your industry. These might include infographics, videos, podcasts and images. Start with what you feel most comfortable with and what will best showcase your expertise to your audience.

Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is content that remains relevant over an extended period of time. News would be the best example of content that is not evergreen. A piece of new content will possibly achieve high visibility in the short term, it’s longevity is severely limited. By contrast Evergreen content remains relevant over a longer term meaning you can use it to generate sustainable traffic over an extended period.

Eventually even evergreen content will become out of date, however, in a lot of cases the content can be updated by say 10-20% and remain relevant to your audience. So, updating a blog post say once or twice a year with minor changes requires a lot less effort than researching and writing a new content item from scratch.

Duplicate Content

Take a look at the image below for a moment and try and determine what’s different between the two images.

SEO - how to avoid duplicate content

If you guessed only the url then you’d be right. With the introduction of the Panda update Google started to make judgements about the page or the site where it detected the same or very similar content.

One problem with some popular Content Management Systems (and in particular WordPress) is that they can create duplicate pages without the user being aware. For instance in WordPress, if you list a post in multiple categories, multiple versions of that page are created. The risk you run is that search engines will see this duplicate content and your domain could be penalised as a result.

The best method to avoid duplicate content is to not create it in the first place. Take the time to check your site and see whether you have any duplicate pages, and if possible remove them. And duplicate content is not only concerned with content duplicated on your domain, it’s also concerned with content duplicated across multiple domains.

A Work Around for Duplicate Content – Canonical URLs

Now removing a page is not always practical or possible. In some cases there is a legitimate reason why the same content exists on multiple pages. If this is the case then a canonical url could be the answer.

A canonical url lets you tell search engines where the primary or original content resides, for example <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://fivefold.com.au/blog”/>.

By applying a canonical url can reduce the risk of being penalised by search engines for publishing duplicate content, because you have clearly indicated where the original source is located.

Other Considerations

  • Create a clear structure with headings and sub-headings using H1, H2 & H3 tags. While this may not improve your ranking, it will assist readers navigating and consuming your content.
  • Length matters – 1000 words + is the minimum these days and while guidance varies by industry around 2,500 words appears to be around the sweet spot.
  • Update frequently – event if your creating evergreen content, come back to it periodically and update, search engines see these updates and it contributes to your ranking.
  • Make substantive updates – when making updates make them significant rather than superficial.
  • Ensure your keyword appears in first 100 words
  • Include inbound and outbound links – think of links as a vote for the content the link points to. By including links to other content on your domain you are increasing the votes to that content. Additionally, there is some evidence that links to external domains also assist rankings to some extent.
  • Check for broken links and repair – broken links are a signal to search engines of poor quality content.
  • Check your reading level – there’s plenty of tools around to help with the readability of your content, gramarly.com and hemmingwayapp are two of these.

Code & On Page Optimisation

To work out how we need to update our site to improve our ranking in search engines. Let’s take a look at a search result.

SEO on-page optimisation

Title Tag

title tag seo

Your title tag is arguably the most important on-page element for SEO. A title tag is a concise description of a page’s content. It should be both descriptive & readable. It needs to grab attention AND give the right signals to search engines. Some other factors to factor into your:

  • 50-60 characters in length
  • Target keywords close to the front
  • Include branding – but only at the front of your title tag on your homepage
  • Avoid ALL-CAPS titles
  • Don’t just list keywords or repeat variations of the same keyword
  • Give every page a unique title

In the example above the title tag is not optimised, it’s too long with duplicated copy:

“Home – Hello Blossoms | Wedding Florist Mornington Peninsula, VictoriaHello Blossoms | Wedding Florist Mornington Peninsula, Victoria”

A good guideline for the optimal tittle tag is shown below

  • Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brandname
  • Wedding Florist – Mornington Peninsula | HelloBlossoms

An alternate format for ecommerce websites is

  • Brand Name | Major Product Category – Minor Product Category – Name of Product

Meta Description Tag

meta description seo

Search engines do not use meta description tag for ranking, however, the meta description is critical advertising copy for your website influencing the click though rate. Try and keep yours under 160 characters, any longer and it will likely be cut off.

URLs

url seo ranking factor

The URL is the address for your page on the internet. URLs can influence visibility and click through rate. Pages with names that include the queried search terms receive some benefit. Keep your urls human readable. If you can determine from the url what content is likely to be contained on the page, chances are a search engine will too.

Trailing slash – If you have that trailing slash on your URL, that page will render, render along with the page without the trailing slash. The problem with this is you’re creating duplicate content.

Some other factors to take into account with URLs

  • Should be descriptive & short
  • Use your keywords but don’t overuse
  • Use static urls, that a human can understand
  • Avoid lots of parameters, numbers and symbols
  • Use hyphens “-” to separate words
  • All characters should be lowercase
  • Avoid trailing slashes at the end of your url string

Images

Labelling your images correctly will help you rank in google image search results. Make sure you apply your keywords to both the image name and the alt tag. And do this with the 1st image within a post.

For example, for the hero image on the page below the image name and alt tag would perform well as follows.

<img src=”wedding-florist-mornington-peninsula.png” alt=”wedding florist mornington peninsula” />

seo image optimisation

Your Keyword Phrase

In addition to other on-page elements listed above ensure that your keyword or keyword phrase is included:

  • Once in the URL
  • Once in the title tag, as close to the beginning as possible
  • Once prominently near the top of the page
  • At least two or three times, including variations, in the body copy on the page
  • At least once in the alt attribute of an image on the page
  • At least once in the meta description tag
  • However, don’t use keywords in link anchor text pointing to other pages on your site; this is known as Keyword Cannibalization.

Keyword Planning

Now you understand how to optimise the title tag, meta description and URL, go back to you Keyword Planning Worksheet and update column B, C & D. Remember to use the guidelines in sections above.

keyword planning template

 

H1, H2 & H3 tags

Using header tags helps readers and search engines break up your content into digestible sections. These tags are unlikely to help you rank, but, they can be helpful for users to digest your content and they scan your post from top to bottom. Include them in your on-page optimisation efforts, but don’t put too much time into them.

  • <H1></H1> tags should surround the post title. Ensure you use only one set of H1 tags per page.
  • <H2></H2> and <H3></H3> tags should surround subheadings on the page, you can freely use multiple instances of both.

Internal Links

Link building is covered below in detail, however, it’s worth considering internal links when we think about on page optimisation. Just like external links, internal links can help search engines learn more about your website, where you link to other pages on your website within your content.

Anchor Text

Anchor Text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. Best practice is to keep your anchor text:

  • Succinct
  • Relevant to the page you are linking to
  • Low keyword density
  • Not generic (e.g. Click Here)

The anchor text highlighted below is OK. Its short and relevant to the page being linked to.

seo anchor text

Bolded Text

Bold text can have some small impact on your ranking. But as with all other optimisation tactics use it naturally. The occasional bolding of text is OK to grab reader’s attention and highlight key element within a section of text, but don’t go overboard.

I’m a normal text

I’m a bold text

Other Tech Factors

Site Speed

The speed of your site – or the time it takes to render a page – is a key contributor to your organic search ranking. Google doesn’t want to link to sites that are slow to load and offer a poor experience. So, make sure your site loads fast, online and on mobile.

You can check the speed of your site with Google page speed test. Key things to look out for are:

  • Image size – large images take longer to load. If your page contains multiple large images you could be compromising your site’s performance.
  • Server response time – this is likely down to your hosting provider and your plan. Check your options to increase your bandwidth or shop around for more bandwidth and greater speed.
  • Code e.g. render blocking javascript – this javascript is code on your web page that prevents above the fold content loading. This is typically the result of poorly coded websites and is often an issue with cheaper WordPress templates that have not been properly optimised for fast loading.

Link Building

No complete SEO guide for small & medium business would be complete without talking about links. Arguably, links impact rankings more than any other factor. Google has admitted as much by declaring links to be amongst the top 3 ranking factors that make up its search algorithm. The others are content and ‘rankbrain’.

Google bet early on links in the search engine wars of the early 2000s and beat the likes of Yahoo & Altavista. They did this by not simply ranking results based on the content of a webpage but by looking at links to that page and incorporating this information into their algorithm.

Since those days Google have spent more time refining their algorithm and focusing on link quality rather than simply link quantity. Google Penguin update was a big step forward around link quality. As a result of the Penguin update domains that had a lot of spammy links were penalised, with Google favouring quality over quantity.

The reality is without quality content your link building efforts won’t get very far. Firstly, the quality of your content will look thin to search engines, and secondly, it’s difficult to build natural links to thin content.

3 Types of Links

There are essentially 3 types of links:

  1. Organic – these are links you get but don’t ask for
  2. Whitehat – links you ask for but (typically) don’t pay for
  3. Blackhat – links you pay for

Ok that’s probably oversimplifying things but I find it’s a good rule of thumb.

What Makes a Good Link?

good links vs bad links

Links are an indicator of popularity. It helps to think of them as votes. A link to a page is a vote and a link from a stronger domain carries more weight. Other factors that contribute to the value of a link are trust, spam and authority

Page Authority

Does the page linking to you have high authority i.e. page rank? Pagerank is not disclosed by Google, however, there are other tools you can use as a proxy for pagerank. Try sites like pagerating.com or ahrefs.com. Trusted domains tend to link to other trusted sources. Whereas spammy domains are unlikely to receive many links from a trusted domain.

Authority of the site

Big sites tend to have more authority. You can check the authority of a domain by looking at ‘domainrating’ on ahrefs or ‘domainauthority’ on moz.com. But what’s more important is to focus on sites that have authority for a topic that is related to your own site. Locality or topic specific popularity – links from sources that are popular for the content they are linking to carry more weight.

Position of the link on the page

Links that appear in the main body of text on a page work a lot harder that links in a sidebar or footer. Editorially placed links or those placed by the owner of the site or author of a blog also perform better than a random link in a comment.

Link Anchor Text

Anchor text is the actual text of a link. “Click here” is poor anchor text for a link as it doesn’t describe the content it is pointing to. Make sure your anchor text is succinct, unique and relevant to the content it is pointing to. But bear in mind Google can frown upon exact match anchor so tread carefully.

Context or link co-citations

These are the words that surround your link. Search engines look at these words to try and determine what the link is about. If the surrounding words and anchor text indicate a similar meaning this will help your cause.

Links from guest posts

Google has specifically said that links in guest posts are spammy. This is particularly the case if: someone has paid to publish the post; the post contains ‘exact match’ anchor text; the site exists purely to publish guest posts; and the content of the site is unrelated to yours. However, some SEOs have reported that links in legitimate guest posts on related sites do provide some value.

nofollow

Rel=“nofollow: is an attribute attached to a link that tells search engines to not count the link as an endorsement or a vote. So if links to your site carries this attribute you will get no SEO value from it.

Link Building: Manual Outreach

Manual outreach is the predominant method of link building, and it takes effort. Manual outreach involves just that, finding sites that would likely link to you, discovering their email address and then sending a personalised script to ask for a link.

To find sites that will likely link to you, look for sites that link to other sites with similar content to yours. A site like hunter.io will then help you find an email address for the owner. When asking for a link explain why creating a link is in their interest.

One approach is to search for your target keywords and identify the top 25 sites for that keyword that do not compete with you and approach them.

Link Building: Online Directories

Online directories and a legitimate source of links but tread carefully. Not only will directories provide SEO value they can also contribute clicks. Make sure you keep all your listings up to date with consistent name, address and telephone number details. You’ll be penalised if search engines find different contact details for your business on different directories.

General business directories are OK, but be sure to check they are legitimate business directories before you submit your details. Listed below are 9 general business directories for Australia businesses.

https://www.truelocal.com.au

https://www.yelp.com.au/

http://www.2findlocal.com/

https://www.dlook.com.au/

https://www.hotfrog.com.au/

https://www.street-directory.com.au/

https://www.wordofmouth.com.au/

http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/

https://www.startlocal.com.au/

It pays to also look for business directories that are aligned with your niche, including industry associations. Avoid low-quality directories that have nothing to do with your industry and those that link to questionable websites in the adult or online gaming industries.

Link Building: Social Links

Social media sites are a great source of links. You can include links in your social profiles, in social posts and also through blog comments, forum posting and answering questions on sites like quora.

While links in social profiles don’t always count towards your search rankings, they can attract clicks which will generate more traffic to your website.

  • Twitter has 2 places to include a link the web & BIO fields
  • Facebook has lots of spot to include a hyperlink – (avoid link shorteners here) in your basic information
  • LinkedIn – 3 links in your profile, each with customised anchor text)
  • Google + – lots of options for links but don’t go OTT
  • YouTube – in your channel profile (these are no-follow)

Link Building: Resource Pages

Resource pages are pages that link to content on a specific topic. These are pages that exist purely to publish links so are a great target. Start by searching for resource pages relevant to your site content, see whether those pages generate traffic and are worth pursuing (do this by checking the site’s page and domain authority) and then contact them for a link. Given these pages exist purely to list sites, the owner is likely to pre-disposed to provide a link if your site is relevant and contains quality content.

Link Building: Reclamation

Reclamation involves finding mentions of your site or brand on other sites where a link does not already exist and asking to the mention to be updated with a link. To do this search google for mentions of your brand or url.

If you publish a lot of images, reclamation could be a good source of links, if your images have been scraped and posted on another site. To find out where your images are published online perform a reverse image search in google and you will get a list of results where your image has been published. On a site where your image has been used but there is no link, follow the steps above to discover the email address of the owner and contact them to include a link.

Link Building: Broken Links

Another way to generate links is to find broken links on sites that are likely to link to you. Broken links hurt a site’s ranking in search engines, if you have content that is just as or more relevant as the content that used to be end of the link, approach the owner of the site and suggest replacement content from your own site.

To check for broken links on a site that’s not your own, install checkmylinks.com or linkminer.com. Then search for pages with lots of links on relevant sites and find the broken links on those pages. Email them about the broken link and suggest substitute content from your own site.

Link Building: Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is submitting guest blog posts to popular blogs in your industry. Typically, in return you will get a link to your website at the top or bottom of your post. While Google have explicitly frowned upon this practice, however, there is some evidence that this can be beneficial if done naturally.

Link Building: Customers and Suppliers

Finally, a simply source of links can be from your suppliers and customers.

Complete SEO Guide for Small & Medium Business: Other Factors

Site Speed

Site speed is a critical ranking factor for organic search and also super important for the experience of your visitors. You can easily test the speed of your page with google page speed test.

The top 3 determinants of page speed are:

  • Image size – lots of large images will slow the time it takes to download your page. Minimise these and compress where possible.
  • Server response time – this is the time it takes your web host to serve up a page to a visitor. If this is consistently bad, speak to your web hosting provider about increasing your bandwidth.
  • Code – a poorly coded site can also slow page load times. Render blocking javascript is a key culprit that stop slows the loading of content on a page after it loads. The only real option here is to remove the javascript which most likely will require the assistance of a developer.

Mobile Optimisation

According to Google research, 53% of mobile users leave sites that take more than 3 seconds to load. When it comes to designing your site, make sure you have mobile users in mind. Mobile users are often in research mode, and its likely those who perform local searches on mobiles have a higher intent to purchase.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is a measure of single page views of your website site. If you have a bounce rate of 60% it means 60% of visitors to a page leave after only viewing that page. Bounce rate is a proxy for the value or relevance of content in relation to the link a user clicked on. A high bounce rate will be taken into consideration by search engines as an indication of what other users think of the page or site. Therefore a lower bounce rate will improve the quality of your site in the eyes of search engines.

Keep in mind search engines look at how long a user took to bounce back in addition to the bounce rate itself.

Google My Business

If you want to maximise your exposure in Google search results you need to create and maintain an up to date profile in Google My Business. Make sure your profile is 100% complete. Ask your customers for reviews and ensure you name, address and telephone number details are correct, up to date and consistent with other listings of your business on the internet. E.g. in local online business directories.

With you Google My Business profile complete you will maximise your chances of your business details appearing in google search results (see image below).

google my business

Google +

Google + is Google’s own social network. When a user is logged into google, their Google + profile will influence what search results will appear. Pages from people you are linked to in Google + (called circles) are more likely to appear in search results. To maximise the chances of your pages appearing for people in your circles:

  • Create both a personal and business page in Google +
  • Use your Google personal account to recommend your business page
  • Add as many people as you can to your google + circles, to increase the chances of your pages appearing in their search results.

google + SEO

Sitemaps

A sitemap is an index that helps search engines understand and navigate your site.  Often found at yoursite.com/sitemap.xml, the creation of your sitemap can be automated. Popular CMSs like WordPress have a number of plug-ins that allow you to automate the process of creating sitemaps, leaving you to focus on the task of creating content.

Google Search Console

Registering your site in Google search console is one of the more crucial tasks you perform when setting up a site. Google search console is an invaluable utility that helps ensure your site is working optimally to be indexed by Google. Google search console provide information such as:

  • Whether your site is being indexed, and how often.
  • Whether Google has encountered any errors when indexing your site. Examples of errors include dead links or bad redirects.
  • Whether any malware is detected on your site.
  • HTML suggestions that will improve your site being indexed by Google.
  • A list of all inbound links.
  • A list of all internal links.
  • What content on your site is most popular and
  • What search terms are contributing most to traffic.

Conclusion

As you may appreciate there is a lot to consider when optimising your site for search engines. But do keep in mind everything covered here can be implemented by a non-technical user using a modern CMS like WordPress. To recap on the key steps:

  1. Define your goals, audience and value proposition.
  2. Do your competitor and keyword research, using the supplied template.
  3. Create unique urls, page titles and descriptions, again capturing this is the supplied template.
  4. Create engaging content in multiple forms that provides real value to your audience.
  5. Mark up your content with appropriate tags and descriptions, title tag, image alt tag, H1 tag etc.
  6. Build links through social and manual outreach
  7. Measure the performance of your SEO efforts
  8. Update your content periodically with relevant content

Above all keep things natural, if you feel your efforts are trying to game the system, search engines will probably see it that way too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the complete SEO guide for small & medium business. Now you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what you think is where you need to focus most to improve your SEO efforts? Leave a comment or question for me below.

 

 

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