Hopefully if you’ve landed on this article, you already know why SEO is so important for your small business. But you might be wondering exactly how you can use search engine optimisation to boost your rankings and get page one of Google.
Good news: the answer is not as complicated as you might think. After 7 years in the SEO game, I know a thing or two about how Google works, and I’m here to break it down for you.
SEO has come a long way in recent years, and it’s about much more than just adding a few keywords to your web copy. Optimising your website for Google means optimising for users, so it’s just as important that your website loads quickly and visitors can easily find the content they’re looking for.
So, how do you optimise your website to keep your website visitors and search engines happy? Here I’ve put together 5 simple steps to take you from S-E-Oh so confused to Google guru in no time.
1. Get to know your audience
You know that feeling when you’re about to give a speech and think, “I hope they like me?” We all dread it! If the audience doesn’t feel engaged by what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, then your opportunity to get your message across is totally lost.
That’s why keyword research is so important. Not only do keywords help potential customers find you, but by knowing exactly which keywords people are searching for, you’re better able to solve their pain points and lead them to take action – like booking your services.
In reality, search engines are a treasure trove of information about your customers. After all, they spend their days jumping on Google to find answers to their questions. So if you’re after some clues about what’s trending in the community that you serve, or how your customers talk about your services, start by looking at the keywords they type into Google.
2. Write content that serves your audience
Once you know what keywords your customers are using, you need to make sure your website content provides the info they’re looking for.
Each time someone types a keyword into Google, the search engine chooses the most relevant and useful content to answer the searcher’s query. And the key to being relevant and useful is creating content that perfectly aligns with what someone is looking for. This is where search intent comes in.
Search intent is the why behind a search query. Why is the person making this search? What are they looking for?
Sometimes intent is obvious from the keyword, for example “when is my tax return due” or “best accountant for small business”. But often broad keywords like “tax advice” are more difficult to decipher.
If you’re not sure about the intent behind one of your target keywords, just fire up Google and type it into the search bar! Google will show you which content best answers the query, and give you an idea of what content to include on your own site. Just make sure you do this using incognito or private browsing so that your location and previous searches don’t skew the data.
Once you understand the search intent behind your target keywords, you can go ahead and create the right type of content (think service page, FAQ, or blog article), with the right angle (pricing, benefits, comparison), and in the right format (step-by-step guide, comparison table, Q & A).
3. Help Google understand your content
So you know what your customers are searching for, and you’ve created content that answers their query. The next step is to help Google understand what your content is about, and show that it’s useful and relevant.
The easiest way to do this is to make sure your target keywords from step 1 are included on each of your pages. Try to keep each of your web pages about one topic, and select a target keyword or keywords related to this topic to use throughout your copy.
Page titles and descriptions
On average, people spend less than 1.17 seconds viewing each search engine listing and deciding what to click, so they need to be impressed quickly! Your title should include the keyword you’re targeting and accurately describe what’s inside – think like an advertiser who is trying to sell their product in one sentence or headline.
An SEO description (sometimes called meta-description) below your page title should tempt people into clicking, so it needs to grab attention with well-written content.
Tip: Google will cut-off the end of your page titles and SEO descriptions if they’re too long, so check that your page titles are under 60 characters and descriptions are under 160.
Just like a headline tells readers what an article is about, page headers help structure your content and make the purpose and theme of a page clear to your website visitors. But they’re also important for search engines.
Header tags help organise your web page into sections, making it easier for search engines to understand the main points of your content.
Tip: Make sure your headers are formatted correctly! You should have only one H1 at the top of the page, and any following sub-headings should be marked up as H2, H3 or H4.
Your URL is one of the first things your visitors see when they click on to a page, so it needs to be clear and readable. Google will also look at your URL for content relevance while searching – so make sure you include keywords!
Tip: Keep your URLs short and concise, separate words with a hyphen (not underscore), and avoid stop words like and or the.
Image alt text
Image alt text (sometimes called an image alt tag) is a short description of an image on your website. This text not only helps visually impaired users understand your visual content better – it also helps Google.
Tip: Your image alt text should be kept under 10 words, include keywords, and accurately describe what can be seen in the image.
4. Create a great user experience
As part of their mission to make the world’s information accessible, a number of Google’s ranking signals relate to user experience.
Think about it. If everyone provides a fast and secure website with mobile-friendly content, Google users will be able to access more relevant knowledge from all over the web faster than ever before!
Secure your site
If your website isn’t secure, it will be flagged it as unsafe in Chrome, which doesn’t give your business a good impression for any potential leads coming to your site. Google will also penalise an unsafe website, so you’ll find it near impossible to rank on the first page of search results.
You can check if your website is secure by simply looking at the URL. If your domain begins with “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP” this means your website is secured with an SSL certificate. Good job! The S” in HTTPS stands for “Secure”, and having this extra letter at the front of your website URL tells Google that your site is safe and secure for users.
Speed things up
The bottom line? A slow site is bad for SEO. Google doesn’t like slow sites, and neither do users.
40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load . Imagine you had a physical shop front and almost half your visitors turned back around after just three seconds inside. It wouldn’t be very good for business!
Check your page load speed using Google’s Page Speed Testing Tool and implement the recommendations to speed things up. You might need to get some help from a developer, but there are a few easy fixes right at your fingertips – like reducing your image file sizes.
Keep it mobile-friendly
With 80% of near me searches being done from a mobile device, it’s important that your website has a responsive design and fonts that are easily read on a smaller screen.
But it’s not just about content. Mobile-friendliness is one of Google’s 200 ranking signals so if you don’t get this right, your visibility will suffer. Lucky for us, Google has created a free Mobile-Friendly Testing tool which is definitely worth checking out!
5. Update your local business info
Having a Google My Business listing is one of the top ranking factors for appearing in search results against local and ‘near me’ keywords. And with almost half of all Google searches looking for local businesses, it’s important that your listing is kept up to date so customers can find and contact you.
If you only do one thing to improve your local SEO visibility, make sure you’ve optimised your Google My Business listing! Your listing should include your business description, trading hours, services and photos. The more information you provide, the better!
And finally, patience, patience, patience!
Remember, it can take up to 4-6 months to see significant results from SEO, but it will be worth the wait as you see your website traffic exponentially!
As you optimise your website, you’ll want to keep an eye on what’s working and what isn’t. Make the most of free tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics to gain insights into how your rankings are improving over time or which pages are getting the most traffic from Google.
So there you have it! My 5 step process for improving your SEO rankings, getting more traffic to your site and ultimately booking more clients.