Search engine optimisation for small business
- Given many purchases start with an online search1, an SEO strategy could help to drive sales
- The words you use and where you use them matters, including copy, links and images
- Google looks for quality content on fast, well-structured websites.
82-87% of internet users research a product online before making a purchase1. So, if you want potential customers to find your business, it can be a good idea to have a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) plan in place. But where do you begin?
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation which covers words, links, images and the structure of your website. Basically it’s all about getting your business found on a search engine like Google. Knowing what words to use and where to place them is the essence of SEO.
"Unless someone specifically searches for you, to be found online you need to appear in search results. These are called organic results that you don’t pay for," explains David Hirsch, QBE’s Head of Marketing.
While there are a number of search engines, Google has the majority of market share2. So, in this instance, we’ll focus on Google.
What does SEO have to do with Google?
When a user enters a search term, in a fraction of a second Google’s algorithms sort through billions of webpages to find the most relevant, useful results3. Results could be presented as a website, a map, images and more. With an SEO plan in place, the result that appears could be your business.
Getting started with SEO
It’s important to remember that SEO isn’t a quick fix. It’s a long-term strategy with many moving parts.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Determine the core focus of your business then build a list of keywords
- Make sure every page on your website has relevant keywords meta titles and meta descriptions (more on this below)
- Create quality content (such as blog articles and product pages) that’s written to help your customers
- Make sure your site load speed is fast
- Consider outsourcing your SEO as it can get complicated and changes often4.
The right keywords are key
Keywords relate to the words people use to search in Google. There are two type of keywords – short-tail and long-tail.
A short-tail keyword features one or two words to form a common term. While they can attract a lot of traffic, there’s generally a lot of competition.
For example, imagine how many businesses ‘insurance’ would serve up.
Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific, such as ‘Best business insurance for a hair salon in Sydney.’
This specific detail could help you attract better qualified leads5, as you narrow down the results and have fewer businesses to compete with.
While there’s no set formula, including a combination of short-tail and long-tail keywords across each page on your website can be a good place to start. You could also consider questions people might ask. For example, ‘Do I need public liability insurance for my hair salon?’ could be an answer your customers should know – so providing this information may help new customers find you.
Meta titles, descriptions and alt tags
Put simply, a meta title is like a clickable headline. The meta description sits underneath and features two lines of copy to promote your business, as shown below.
This is where your keywords can come into play. Try placing your most important keywords at the start of your meta title and include secondary keywords in your description. Remaining keywords can be lightly peppered throughout your website.
It’s important to know that meta titles and descriptions also have to be informative and entice someone to click on your link – don’t be tempted to ‘stuff’ your descriptions with lots of keywords as Google can actually penalise you for it.
Alt tags are the file names you apply to your images. Alt tags also affect your rankings, so it helps if they’re descriptive. While ‘8908345-C.jpg’ means nothing, ‘John-Smith-Insurance-Broker-Melbourne’ can be searched and stored in Google’s library.
Get your pages up to speed
Research shows 50% of potential customers will drop off if a page takes more than two seconds to load6. That’s why it’s important your web pages load quickly.
To test your website’s speed, you can run Google’s Page Speed Insights tool – it’s as easy as typing in your URL.
One way to speed up your site is by compressing your images using an image compression tool, however if that doesn’t help, you may need to bring in a developer.
Quality content matters
Google has put together quality guidelines7 that recommend you:
- Make pages primarily for users, not search engines
- Don’t deceive your users
- Avoid tricks to improve results. Ask yourself "Does this help my users?"
- Think about what makes your website unique, valuable or engaging
- Make your website stand out from others in your field.
Well-written, structured content is key. If you’re not confident with your writing skills, a professional copywriter may be able to help.
Manage duplicate content
Duplicate content is a common problem which could affect your ranking on Google8. It happens when you have similar content housed under different URLs, and the Google algorithm doesn’t know which URL to rank first.
There are a few ways to fix this. If you have technical skills, you can refer to Moz's tips for fixing duplicate content issues. Otherwise you may need a developer.
Consider a content audit
A content audit of your website can be really helpful. It will pick up issues like slow load speeds, broken links, duplicate content and more.
The good news is, once it’s done it’s done, so you can get back to business knowing everything’s working. It will also give you a starting point to measure your SEO strategy.
Once you’re getting traffic to your site, you have the opportunity to build backlinks. But what are they?
Imagine if National Insurance Brokers Association featured one of your articles on their blog. They’d do this by linking out to the article on your site. That link is called a backlink. In fact, the hyperlink in this paragraph is a backlink for NIBA.
Quality backlinks can give your business credibility and improve your Google ranking9.
Search engine marketing
Search engine marketing (SEM) is paying a search engine like Google to feature your business prominently on their search results.
Hirsch adds, "SEM is when you pay the likes of Google to display your website when a user types in specific search terms. The ads will appear above or alongside organic results."
Call in the experts
SEO is technical and changes all the time. In fact, Google introduces 500-600 changes to its search algorithms every year4. A good SEO specialist will be on top of all the latest developments. That’s why it’s often best left to the experts.