Whether you are launching a brand new website or redesigning an existing website, as a small business, you have a certain expectation of results from your investment. In some cases, the small business website was created because you were told by friends, colleagues, and bloggers all businesses need a website. You may not be quite sure why, other than no one uses the phone book anymore.
You are at risk of falling into the trap of paying way too much for a basic website or believing a Facebook page will achieve the exact same results as a full blown website. You might accept a proprietary CMS built on someone else’s server locking you into this service and all its limitations.
You may understand the marketing benefits of a website but have fallen into the ‘if you build it, they will come’ trap, not realizing all the extra promotional work that will go into getting the website consistent organic traffic. The entire marketing budget is spent on building the website and nothing is reserved for the work of promoting it.
Investing in SEO for Your Small Business Website
A small business needs to realize their web designer may not have optimized any of the website elements for search. Often website project meetings spend all the time on branding elements, image choices, color variations, and spend no time discussing site speed, schema implementation, URL structure, search funnels, and conversion funnels.
Even if a site was launched fully optimized for search, SEO is not a one time activity. Like changing the oil in your car is not something you do just once. SEO needs to be seen as part of maintaining a healthy productive website. Check the end of this article for the 6 SEO tasks you should be doing regularly on your website.
Budgeting for SEO services can be a challenge because there are so many variables and agencies like to sell SEO in packages. You may be paying for services that aren’t addressing the problem your site is having.
What immediately follows is a simple SEO strategy any small business can use today to get the most marketing value out of their website.
What Simple SEO Strategy Can I Use on My Website?
There is a very simple strategy any small business can use to improve the search optimization of their website.
The first step in improving the SEO of a small business website is doing what the large, national companies can’t do – be in your exact location.
If your business has a physical presence in the city, then you need to set up Google My Business and get your business listed on various local directory platforms (Yelp, Yellowpages, Acxiom, etc.).
Google uses these local citations to verify the name, address, phone number, and URL of the company which improves how the site performs in search for people located near the business. If all this was already set-up, then you needs to focus on getting reviews and responding to reviews for your business.
To get reviews, make sure you are responding to reviews. Responding to the reviews demonstrates you are listening and people are more likely to leave a positive review if they know it is going to be heard by the person they are trying to praise. There are platforms you can invest in to help gather reviews and to help respond to reviews. Not every business has the budget to invest in these platforms and not every business gets enough online reviews to make the platforms cost effective.
Unless your business is getting dozens of reviews every day, you can get away with asking your customers for reviews after you’ve done business with them and responding to reviews manually. Remember, responding to positive reviews is as important as responding to negative reviews. This advice sounds very self-centered but your time and attention is a reward and you need to give it to the upset customers as well as the satisfied customers.
Obviously the negative reviews need proper attention to transform discontented customers into satisfied customers.
ProTip – After helping the customer and resolving the issue, ask them to alter the review to reflect the new situation, even if it is to update it to include the fact you assisted them.
The positive reviews need attention as well because those customers will become your word-of-mouth brand ambassadors. Having personal attention will make them more likely to share and recommend your business to others. These reviewers will feel like their positive words matter (they do) and will feel empowered when acknowledged.
The Next Step in Using This Simple SEO Strategy
The next step is to begin analyzing your website. Using whatever analytics package has been installed on the website, make sure every page is doing its job.
Some pages are designed to attract traffic from search. These are the Top-of-Funnel pages. Bottom-of-Funnel pages are designed to convert traffic into revenue. By identifying the ‘job’ each page has on the website, the small business can now determine if the page is doing a good job or a poor job and will be able to take action to correct it.
For those Top-of-Funnel pages, the basic expectation is to attract most of the organic traffic and push them down further into the sales funnel. These pages may have a higher bounce rate than the site average since the visitors to these pages may not be ready to buy your services. The metric we really want to watch is the number of pages visited per session. If these pages are doing their job, they should have high traffic and higher than average pages visited per session. If they have high traffic but everyone is exiting the site from these pages as well, then you will need to make sure you have the right calls-to-action in place to guide them deeper into your funnel. Yes, saying it that way does make it sound slightly sinister.
Sean’s Secret SEO Metric – Keyword Efficiency
This is one of my ‘quick metrics’ to see if I’m helping a site or not. Keyword ranking reports are fine and dandy and I’ve set up quite a few in various tools, monitoring lists of keywords and producing visibility/share of voice reports. In general, I hate these reports because they are the tip of the iceberg and generally the lists of keywords can be manipulated in such ways as it looks like the site is ranking well for all sorts of keywords but may not be getting traffic from any of them.
My metric uses the monthly search volume of all the keywords the site is ranking for on the first search engine results page and then divides that by the actual organic traffic the site received in the month. The resulting number is Keyword Efficiency. Do not confuse this with the Keyword Effectiveness Index which is an entirely
This is more of an internal metric for me, rarely shared with clients. My general goal is to get a site to rank for more keywords, to expand the search funnel, and increase the traffic. Showing the site is now ranking on the first search engine results page for more keywords is great, but if those keywords aren’t producing traffic, that isn’t great. Sometimes the site isn’t ranking for new keywords but rewritten title tags and meta descriptions are helping with the click-through rate, producing more traffic. So a ranking report won’t show improvement, the keyword efficiency metric will at least let me know I am achieving positive results with my efforts.
The Final Step in the Strategy
The final step in this strategy is advice. You should ignore all the cold calls you get from companies promising to help you get your website to page one of Google or promising to help you to get back links. Not all of these are bad, but it is more important to work with a marketing service that has taken time to learn your business, your unique selling points, and your unique challenges. In this way you will have the ease of mind knowing you are working with someone with your best interests in mind.
If you do get a cold call and the service sounds interesting, investigate it thoroughly. Ask for references and examples of how they were successful. Ask for a breakdown of exactly what tactics they use to achieve the results. Be cautious of anyone saying they have special knowledge of Google’s ranking methodology and can exploit a loophole. Exploits are closed all the time and you might leave your website in worse condition.
Google does not care if you were unaware the vendor you were using used tactics violating their terms-of-service.
The 6 SEO Tasks You Should Do For Your Website Regularly
Run a broken link checker: Nothing destroys credibility and trust more than links to pages that have moved or been removed. It is the digital equivalent of telling someone to visit this great coffee shop or pub only to find out the place burned down or went out of business.
If your website links out to other sites a lot, then this should be a monthly task. Otherwise once a quarter or twice a year will probably be enough. You can use Google Search Console to help look for site errors or use tools like Xenu Link Sleuth to crawl your sites for broken links or if you have a smaller site, you can use the Check My Links extension for Chrome.
Basic On-Page SEO Audit: Using a free tool like Google Lighthouse or paid tools like Moz or SEMRush to check each page on your website. You want to make sure the page is optimized for a relevant keyword, every image has an alt tag, and every link has relevant anchor text (no ‘click here’ type of links). The title of the page should include reference to the keyword selected (if not the exact keyword), and the meta description should be a great call-to-action to encourage clicks from the search page. It may be take too much time to do every page every month, but you can set aside time and audit one or two pages a month.
Site Speed Audit: GTmetrix.com and Pingdom.com are two common tools with free options to let you evaluate the speed of the pages on your site and help identify what needs to be improved. This task is another one taking a lot of time to do every month, but you can select a few pages each month and optimize them to the best of your ability based on the reports the free site speed tool gives you. Use testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com to see how fast your site is on mobile networks and diagnose problems. Every little thing you can do to make your pages load faster will help your site in the long run.
Content Audit: Trim off the deadwood from your website. If you have pages with old information no longer relevant to your customers, it is time to either remove it or update it. Content audits can take a lot of time but can also help your site out the most. This audit can be done in conjunction with the On-Page audit.
Reading your content regularly makes sure you have the latest and best information on the site while also finding spelling and grammar errors you missed when originally publishing the site. In a survey of 1029 people conducted by Global Lingo, 59% said they would not use a company with obvious grammar or spelling errors. A full 74% said they noticed grammar and spelling errors on sites they visited.
Updating Sitemaps: As content is added and removed to the website, updating the sitemap file for the website is important to help the search engines crawl your website efficiently. After the file has been updated, then submit it to Google’s Search Console. If you website is under 500 pages, you can use a tool like Screaming Frog to create your sitemap. XML-sitemaps.com is a site which will also create a sitemap for you for free.
General Keyword Report: Once a month, pull the keywords the site is getting impressions for from Google’s Search Console. The queries report show you what people are actually searching for, which of your web pages are coming up in the search, where in the search they are appearing, and if people are clicking on them. This is a great way to see if you are targeting the right sets of keywords to attract the traffic you want and if your meta description and title are getting people to click on the search result.
Do not fixate on any single keyword. You want to keep the focus on the keyword concept as a whole and all the variations of keywords related to the concept. This information will help you determine which web pages need to be audited and what content needs to be added to your site to improve the results.