Affordable SEO for small business
What is SEO and why do I want it for my small business?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about improving your search engine rankings. This attracts more of the right visitors to your website. At the time of writing, Google – the most famous and arguably the best search engine – accounts for 95% of the search engine market share in New Zealand. SEO is one of the best and most affordable ways for a small business to promote themselves online.
Is SEO really affordable for small business?
Yes, it is. For a small business, affordable SEO often means you, the business owner, taking the time to understand how it works. But don’t be daunted. In this article we assume you have WordPress, which takes care of some SEO out of the box (not elaborated on here; if you have the time, and are keen to learn, much of this can be done yourself). Otherwise this article should give you an understanding of what to look for (and look out for) if you hire a professional. Many of the principles below apply regardless of the platform you use.
How do search engines work?
Search engines consist of several parts:
- a crawler or spider – this is a small program that browses websites, following links to explore every corner of the web;
- an index – the crawler saves the content it finds to the index;
- an algorithm – this is used to search the index when a user enters a keyword or phrase into the search box.
Google is very secretive about its algorithm, but research and experience (combined with what little Google does say) means we do know what the most important components are.
Focus on the user
Understand that SEO is not a checklist you can tick off and rise to Number One on Google. Always start by building the best possible website experience for your users and ensure you have the content they want to find.
Start by thinking about how people will search for businesses like yours. What makes your business unique? What problems do you solve for your customers? Do you have unique selling points?
Compile a list of the keywords and phrases your customers use (there are lots of online tools to help with this). Bear in mind that longer phrases may well be easier to rank for than major keywords, so these are a better place to start. Go to Google and search for the keywords and phrases you have found. How does your competition look? Can your website provide better and more relevant content?
Write high quality content
Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Their aim is to make it easy for their users to find the best and most relevant content. In other words, if you want to rank well you have to provide high quality content.
Great copy writing improves user experience. On the other hand, poor copy can be as bad as poor design – it looks unprofessional and raises doubts. Write first and foremost for your users, but also try to get your keyword or phrase into the page title, first paragraph of text, one or more sub-headings and the meta-description.
The most important technical SEO often improves your user experience by itself. (You may be starting to see a theme here.)
Improve your website speed by choosing good website hosting (don’t shop on price alone), optimising your image sizes (either use a plugin or seek help if you aren’t sure how), and setting up an efficient caching policy. Google is obsessed with speed for good reasons; it’s been widely proven that users hate to wait, and will rank slow sites poorly.
Also, make sure your links and content are current, use SSL for security, and ensure your site is responsive on mobile, tablet and desktop.
Site structure is important for your users as it determines how easy it is to find the information they want. So it should be no surprise that this is also important for search engines. Make sure your website navigation is well thought out and easy to use. Think carefully about the links to different pages within your website and make sure the structure helps Google understand what is the most important content.
How many others link to your website is an important factor for Google rankings. However, not all links are equal and links from some poor quality websites could even get you banned. The best and safest way to build links is to provide great content that other reputable websites want to link to. Also make sure you talk about your website on social media.
Things to avoid
There are no shortcuts or “get rich quick schemes” when it comes to SEO. Unfortunately, however, there are lots of people who still offer dubious short-term “tricks”. Many will likely get you banned from Google. We suggest you keep away from things like: keyword stuffing; link buying and trading; and page swapping. Also make sure your content is unique – Google will probably ignore your content if it is copied from somewhere else.
Our go-to plugin of choice for optimising your SEO in WordPress is Yoast. With Yoast you can state the keyword or phrase you wish to optimise for on each page and it will check your SEO. Yoast’s traffic light system of suggestions makes the SEO copy writing work a lot easier.
Do I need to hire a professional?
To do SEO well requires knowledge and time, as well as access to the right software tools (such as Moz Pro or Ahref) and good copy writing skills. If you have time on your hands you might be able to learn, but a lot of companies (especially small-to-medium sized businesses) will struggle to find the time. If you’ve already decided that you want to hire an SEO company we offer SEO services and a free consultation, so why not get in touch and find out how we can help your business grow.