SEO. As a small business or startup, you’ve probably heard this term thrown around like a rag doll. In fact, SEO has become such a hot topic over the last years that it seems like a crime not to know what it is or have your own personal theories for nailing it. But let’s be honest: SEO is challenging. Being such a broad discipline, it can be hard to come up with an effective SEO strategy that suits your business and budget while simultaneously producing positive results. In fact, as a small business or startup, SEO may even seem slightly out of your league, especially if you run a local brick and mortar business. But trust us, SEO is important for all businesses, big and small. And best of all, you can start building an effective SEO strategy today. Below we explore SEO in more detail and share our top 8 SEO tips for startups and small businesses.
WHAT IS SEO AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
Let’s cover the basics first: Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of taking a website or webpage and maximizing its visibility on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It is a broad discipline that encompasses a wide variety of individual processes. SEO strategies encompass everything from copywriting and content marketing to usability and analytics. The reason why SEO is so important in today’s marketing environment is simple: You want your business to be easy to find online. And to do that, you need to be easy to find via search. Search engines have become a central part of modern life: Whether you want to find the best electric guitar for beginners or want to know where to take your date for dinner, chances are you’re going to turn to Google for answers.
In fact, we have become so dependant on search engines that Google has recorded it conducts roughly 2.3 million searches every second. Moreover, it has indexed over 130 trillion web pages, and that number is just going to keep climbing. Hence, it’s clear that if you want your business to be successful, you need to claim a piece of the search engine pie. Obviously, SEO is really important for online businesses like e-commerce stores or blogs. However, it is also really important for new companies like startups or hyper-local businesses like cafes, restaurants, or even local services like plumbers and handymen. But with so much competition online, how can a small business like yours ever hope to compete with the leaders in your industry? Well, launching an SEO campaign is a great place to start.
BEFORE YOU GET STARTED: DO YOU’RE READING
There are a number of things you need to consider when launching a new SEO campaign. First of all, you’ll want to read up on some classic SEO resources. Our 4 favourites include:
- Google Webmaster Guidelines: This is essential reading for anyone looking to really understand SEO. These guidelines explain what Google looks for in the websites it decides to rank well.
- Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Moz is a highly-regarded resource for SEO and other aspects of online marketing. This guide serves as a great entry point to SEO and is presented in a relatively easy-to-digest format.
- The Art of SEO: Currently in its 3rd edition, this book is often coined the “SEO Bible.” If SEO were a university degree, this would be the main compulsory textbook for all students. Think of it as a reference guide covering everything you could ever want to know about SEO.
- The Periodic Table of SEO Factors: This infographic by Search Engine Land offers a simple birds-eye-view of all the different factors that affect a page’s ranking online.
NEXT: MAKE A PLAN
Once you’ve read up on these resources, you’ll want to list out the basic online components you need in order to start ranking online: For most small businesses, this will include 2 basic components:
- A website: A well-structured, user-friendly and mobile-optimized website is essential for any business looking to improve their rankings in search.
- Content: This is a really broad buzzword that can encompass everything from basic product descriptions to weekly blog posts. Content is king when it comes to making your presence felt online.
Next, you’ll want to think about the various processes your SEO strategy will cover. In general, this will involve:
- On-page SEO: On page optimization techniques are an important first step to launching an SEO campaign. This usually includes things like meta titles, descriptions, and tags, which you’ll learn more about later in this post.
- Content marketing: This is the process of pushing out your content to a relevant audience.
- Authority and credibility: Businesses that succeed online have built up a strong, loyal base of customers. How? By marketing themselves as a credible and authoritative source of information in their respective fields.
- Local SEO: If your business model is based around your local community, you’ll want to incorporate that into your SEO campaign. This may include chasing up specific hyper local keywords or producing hyperlocal content.
SIMPLE SEO TIPS FOR STARTUPS AND SMALL BUSINESSES
So, now that you understand the basics of how to set up an SEO campaign, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Below are 8 simple SEO tips designed for startups and small businesses looking to get their foot through the door into the SEO world. Make sure to read them carefully and start applying them today.
1: REGISTER WITH GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE AND BING WEBMASTER-TOOLS
Google’s Search Console (previously known as Webmaster Tools) and Bing’s Webmaster Tools are free applications designed to help you monitor the SEO health of your websites. They’ll point out critical issues like error pages or pages that couldn’t be crawled by their relative search bots and can also show you whether the engines can easily access and interpret your content. While these tools are obviously limited in comparison to other paid applications, they are a great place to start for any small business or startup launching a new SEO campaign. Once you’re registered with these tools, you’ll want to do a basic background check on your domain. Start by looking at the keywords your domain previously ranked for in either Search Console or Webmaster Tools. If you notice any strange keywords, this may be a sign that your site was previously owned by spammers. Next, you’ll also want to make sure your site is indexed. Both Search Console and Webmaster tools have their own ways to do this. Finally, you’ll also want use either application to fetch your domain. This will show you whether your site is redirecting properly and whether either search engine can easily access your content.
2: CREATE A MY BUSINESS LISTING WITH GOOGLE
Google My Business is a digital representation of your company and harbours all your most important company information (like contact details, address, website, etc). Think of this like a modern Yellow Page’s listing and make sure you set it up correctly from the get-go to ensure all your company information is correct and easy to find.
3: DO SOME BASIC KEYWORD RESEARCH
Keywords are search terms that people use to find content in a search engine. To run a successful SEO campaign, you’ll want to build up a list of keywords that are relevant to your site and target them with your various strategies. Picking the right keywords is a hot topic in the SEO world and, given the scope of this article, we won’t go into details about how to pick the right search terms for your business. Ultimately, you’ll want to target keywords which attract a decent amount of search volume but aren’t super competitive, all the while staying relative to your niche. For example, if you run a plumbing business in Vancouver, BC, you’re probably going to want to target keywords like:
- Plumber Vancouver.
- Emergency plumber vancouver.
- Plumbing services Vancouver.
- Vancouver plumbing services.
Try to create at least 3-5 variations of each search term, always focusing on the most popular variations first. A good way to start brainstorming keyword ideas is using Google. Run a search for the first keyword that comes to mind and you’ll find that Google will suggest a wide variety of related search terms to help you find what you’re looking for. These terms usually make pretty solid keywords.
Once you’ve done that, consider using one of these simple tools to help you generate more keyword ideas:
- Google Keyword Planner (part of Adwords).
- Moz Keyword Explorer.
- Uber Suggest.
- Google Trends.
Once you’ve compiled a list of keywords you’ll want to split them into separate logical groups. One group may include keywords like “plumber vancouver,” “vancouver plumbing,” and “plumbing company vancouver,” while the other group may include keywords like “emergency plumber” and 24/7 plumber vancouver.” Grouping your keywords will help you get an overall view of the terms you’re targeting and will make it easier to get on with the rest of the tips of this article.
Pro tip: Create a keyword spreadsheet including information like the search traffic, the page dedicated to each term, and more. This will help you easily see your most important keywords and how you’re targeting them.
4: FIND LONG-TAIL KEYWORDS
Long-tail keywords are much more targeted than regular search terms. Let’s imagine you run an online shoe outlet; some obvious keywords that come to mind include “men’s shoes” and “women’s shoes.” Unfortunately, you’ll probably find that ranking for these keywords is not only difficult but also ineffective. This is because they are really vague. Someone Googling “men’s shoes” is much less likely to be ready to make a purchase than someone searching for “men’s black leather hush puppy dress shoes.” The latter has a very particular product in mind, which suggests that the users are much more likely to commit to a purchase. The former seems like they’re just ‘window-shopping.” While long-tail keywords obviously generate far less search volume than short-tail terms, they offer a far higher ROI. Finding these keywords, however, can be difficult. A good place to start, once again, is Google’s suggestions, which are usually complete with a few popular long-tail keywords related to your search. You can then search for a long-tail keyword in the suggestions list, check out the suggestions for this new keyword, pick a winner, and repeat the process. Forums and boards are also some great places to check out for long-tail search term ideas. Alternatively, consider using a free online tool like Soovle to get suggestions on long-tail search terms.
BUILD YOUR SITE
5: GET ORGANIZED!
Once you’re armed with a nice selection of keywords, you’ll want to make sure your site is well organized to suit these terms. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to structuring a website. However, it helps to think of your site as a cupboard: The entire cupboard represents the site, the draws and compartments within the cupboard represent the sections of your site (such as the service and contact sections), and the individual items within the cupboard represent your web pages. Let’s imagine you run computer company that specializes in reparations and sells both hardware and software. Your site could be structured like this
Site: Core Computing Experts
– – Software
– – – Software product 1
– – – Software product 2
– – Hardware
– – – Hardware product 1
– – – Hardware product 2
– – Laptop repairs
– – Desktop repairs
– – Tablet/mobile repairs
– – Installations
– – Vancouver, BC
– – Toronto, Ontario
This is a simplified example, but it demonstrates an easy way to organize the relevant parts of your site. When structuring your site, remember to keep your keyword list handy and aim to create a relevant webpage for each term. This will help you create targeted content to cater for all kinds of different users. Also, pay special attention to your URLs and make them as search engine-friendly as possible.
6: CREATE META TAGS, TITLES, AND DESCRIPTIONS
Once your site is nice and organized, you’ll want to make sure each page is easily identifiable for search engines and users. A great way to do this is by writing custom meta titles and descriptions for each of your pages. These are like short summaries of each of your pages and generally show up under the blue clickable links in search engine results. These summaries should contain a relevant keyword and “sell” a potential customer on why they should pick your site over a competitor’s. Hence, you’ll want to make sure they’re well written and attractive without making them sound like click-bait. A great way to do this is to work with a professional copywriter with experience creating meta tags, titles, and descriptions.
7: CREATE KILLER CONTENT
Content is king. This is another buzz-term in the SEO world, but it’s true. There is a strong consensus among the SEO community that high-quality content is one of (if not the) most important factors influencing how well a page ranks in Google. A simple way to push out content is via a blog. You can then further market your blog content via social channels, email, and more. However, before you start writing weekly blog articles, go back over the content of each of your web pages and read it. And we mean really read it.
Remember that no matter how important search engines seem, your key target audience is still people. And you’re content should reflect that. Hence, don’t get caught up trying to fit as many keywords into product descriptions as possible. Instead, go over your content with a fine tooth comb and try to imagine yourself on this page for the very first time. We highly recommend working with talented authors and copywriters to create the content for your website. Then, once you’re happy with all your on-page content, you can start thinking about a blog as a way to crank out more content in the future.
8: REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW
The SEO landscape is forever changing. What might be an industry standard today might be a malpractice by tomorrow. Hence, to stay ahead of the game it’s important to constantly review new SEO literature and always update your site and strategy accordingly. At Yuqo we’ve combined a top-shelf team of writers, translators, designers, and other industry professionals to help small businesses and startups like yours grow their online presence. To find out more about how our team can help you develop a comprehensive SEO strategy that adheres to today’s standards while also keeping you up-to-date with new trends, contact us now.