Basic SEO for a small business

small-business-seo-solutionsBeing in the online marketing world I spend a lot of time on forums and blogs exchanging ideas and discussing search marketing and other forms of online marketing.

One thing that has struck me is that there is a lot of helpful information and discussions going on for those already with experience in SEO, PPC and affiliate marketing etc but that there is a lack of information for small business owners that just know the word “SEO” and that it is something that they should be doing but are unsure of where to start.

Therefore I thought that a basic guide to some of the things that you can be doing to help your business get more visibility in the natural search listings without too much hassle would be helpful.

First of all I just want to make it clear that SEO is not actually as confusing and complicated as many people in the industry would have you believe.

Basically, search engines want to display the most relevant results for the searches that people run on them. This makes people happy with the experience they get on the search engines and will go back and use them again. If search engines do not show the most relevant results that meet the searchers intent and needs then the searcher may go and try another search engine. This is Google, Bing and other search engines fear so they work towards relevance for the user.

For example; if somebody searches ‘buy red t-shirt’ then the search engines want to show you results for websites where you can BUY a red t-shirt. Whereas if you searched ‘red t-shirt photo’ then they would want to show you results for websites that have lots of PHOTOS of red t-shirts.

You need to determine what words people are using to search for the products and services that you sell and to then create content on your website that fits well with these searches in order to signal to the search engines that your website is a good contender to be shown in their listings for these types of searches.

This brings me to my first point:

Creating good website content for SEO

If you do not have good, interesting, well written content on your website that meets your users expectations and raises their personal image of your brand then you are at a major disadvantage.

Many search marketers used to say ‘content is king’ to mean that the most important thing that you can do to achieve success with SEO is to create good content for your website. Many now argue that content’s importance has been superseded by links into your website, however, I beg to differ – without great content you will have to work much much harder to build good links to your website.

If there is one thing that you should be rigid about, that is the website content – make it good, don’t cut corners, don’t be lazy or half hearted and you will be rewarded with links and web traffic as well as sales (assuming you have a good product).

For content you need to think about your average customer; what are their needs and concerns in their business, what would be helpful for them? what can you do for them that will make their business life that little bit easier? If you can answer these questions and provide something helpful to them then they will appreciate it and remember you. They will then probably buy from you in the future and may even link to you from their website in the form of a vote (this is SEO).

How does SEO work?

  • Search engines index and crawl all web pages that they can find out there on the internet and they save copies of these in a massive database.
  • The search engine companies then analyse all of the content on these pages to determine what they are about – they do this by looking at the HTML code and textual content of the page.
  • To determine the core theme or purpose of a page the search engines will look at the pages URL, the page title, the H1, H2 and H3 title tags, the pages text content, the pages image names and alt tags as well as some other technical aspects of the page.
  • They will then look at the links coming into the page from all over the web (this is an important one!) They will look at the anchor text (words used on the linking website’s link to you) to determine what other websites deem as important about your page (e.g. if your page is selling red t-shirts and the links coming into you all say ‘ buy red t-shirts’ or similar words to that effect then you will get bonus points for that search term and will rank better). They will also look at the authority of each of the domains (and pages) that are linking to you. Basically if you have the BBC linking to you then you are sorted, if you have a spam filled autogenerated website linking to you then not so good.
  • Once they have pieced together all of this info about every page on the web for every search term out there they will then rank pages for each search term.
  • Then when somebody searches for something on their computer the search engine will reference their database for all of the most relevant pages related to that term and display them to the user (in order of relevance).

So what can I do to improve my rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs)?

I will take you though a few of the things that you can be doing with no technical knowledge of websites coding that will help you to improve your search engine rankings.

1) Create great content – this has been mentioned above but is so important that I just stuffed it in your face again.

2) Become active on website forums and blogs that are key in your industry: search Google for forums relating to the products and services that you sell or that you feel your customers will be active on. e.g. if you sell used cars then get yourself onto used car forums, car maintenance forums etc. Sign up, create a full and complete profile with a link to your website on it and start commenting in as many places as possible on as many different forums as possible. Just be helpful, kind and informative. As an expert in your industry you will find that you can answer lots of the queries that people have. This will make you feel good and helpful and will at the same time get your name out there in the community as a knowledgeable, helpful and trustworthy person and business. Also, every time you comment you will get a link back to your website (sometimes follow and sometimes nofollow – this is technical so best ignored for now but look up if you like as really you want links that do not have “no follow” as an HTML tag on them).

3) Get blogging on other sites – many of the forums will allow you to post articles too – and often you can put in self serving links to your site in the content. Do this and aid content on these sites, you will start to get more visibility and links to your site and if your blog pieces are good then you will find that people will come and check out your website, if they like what they see then they may link to you.

4) Use article directories – whenever you write some new (informative) content for your site such as a blog article or press release you should be using it externally. There are hundreds of article directories that you can sign up to and then publish your content on their sites, again with links to your website embedded in the article and in the author profile (this is at the end of all articles on article directories). Some good article directories are and but there are plenty more out there.

*before re-publishing your content onto another article site or anywhere else on the internet, first insure that at least google has indexed the content on your website (so that they give you the credit for creating it). You can check this by taking the URL of the page and prefixing it with site: and then running a search for that on Google e.g. site: then if the search engine returns a result for the page then you know it has been indexed and you are safe to use elsewhere. if it doesn’t return a result then just wait a day or two and try again.

5) Submit your website to web directories – this is a labourious and time consuming task so one that I suggest that you farm out to a business that specialises in it. There seem to be a lot of these companies in india – read my article on SEO directory submissions to understand more. Basically it involves listing your website on loads of directories that are similar in function to the yellow pages. Companies will do this for about £7 per 100 directories.

6) When networking offline with businesses who are non competitors to you but service a similar customer base then you could exchange links to each other through recommending each others businesses in a blog post or just through a ‘recommended services ‘ page. I would not suggets going too heavy handed on this but just if you do have acquantainces where there is mutual respect for each others businesses then it is something to get done.

7) Create a listing for your business in Google places – this is free and features a lot in local based searches so could bring you a lot of local web traffic.

8) Create a Facebook business page/fan page

9) Ensure that your linkedin profile is up to date and 100% complete with full details of your current business.

10) Get onto Twitter and post your blog posts as well as other blog posts that you find interesting – it does not all need to be business, you should also show a bit of your personality too. Also follow people who you think fit your customer profile as they may well follow you back or check you out through curiosity.

11) Submit your blog posts and content onto social bookmarking sites such as Reddit, Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon etc.

12) Create and submit press releases onto online PR newswires – there are a number of PR sites that have this service – here is one. Obviously you need a reason for a press release that is interesting for others but do not hold back – it is not expensive and can get you ranked in Google news results quickly.

There is more but that I think is enough for any small business to be getting on with. SEO is a lot of work, there is no such thing as an SEO Guru that can guarantee #1 rankings so just ignore that crap and get on with it. It takes time and effort but done well you will reap the benefits for a long period.

There are good SEO consultants out there; just look around the forums that relate to SEO and see who seems like a nice, knowledgeable person or even better get a recommendation from a friend for someone who has actually done positive things for their business.

If any other search marketers would like to add anything obvious that I have missed then please add as a comment and I will include.

Also, if you want more information on the technical side of SEO then there is a great post here that takes you through a basic checklist of things to do.

7 thoughts on “Basic SEO for a small business

  1. Brilliant advice, it is so difficult to know who to trust in the dark arts of website optimisation!! I’ve a background in PR so feel I should be able to do all of these things but its knowing where to place copy etc so thanks for including specific examples.Our website is currently undergoing a rebuild, I think we should wait until the website is ready before generating profile, what do you think? We are itching to start dabbling in this but I dont want to create an inferior impression of our brand….
    May the force be with us all!!!

  2. Hi Lisa
    Thanks for the comment.
    Yes, I would wait for the rebuild to be complete before actively promoting your site externally as if you start building links to your current website and then the URL’s change you will lose a lot of the value of those links especially if the old pages die (404 error).
    Also, just in case you haven’t thought of this yet – you can (and should) redirect any old page URL’s to their new equivalent (assuming that the URL’s do change) using a 301 redirect.(Your web builder will know what this is).
    However, I would get on the case with things like press releases to announce the new site and research PR sites that you can submit them on for free or for a small fee.
    I would also start generating blog articles (if you do have a blog or are going to) as the more content you have for launch the better. You can then just get on with promoting the content once the site is live and working fine.

  3. Thanks for the advice Joel, sounds good. So basically I should start stockpiling some copy which we can then push out at launch. How long does a blog need to be? I could witter on about all manner of things but I presume blogs need to include keywords etc, I’ll read your article on blog writing! Have you announced on facebook that you have this website? More soon, Lisa 🙂

  4. Hi Lisa
    A blog can be as long as you like but should be kept focused to a topic. If you have a fairly narrow theme then you shouldn’t need to worry too much about the keywords as they will come naturally when you write about the topic. However – if you would like a guide then do not focus on more than 1 or 2 keywords per blog article. Just use them a few times throughout the piece but don’t overdo it – just keep it natural.
    A blog post can be anything from a single paragraph to 4,000 or so words – just write what you feel like.
    If you are starting to think that it is a hassle to write and that you are getting bored then stop writing as it will come across in the piece.
    Just write about stuff you are interested in – e.g. if you are writing about using t-shirts as corporate gifts you could use case studies of how your customers have used them in the past or an imaginative use of T-shirts at an event etc.

  5. Hi Joel.

    Great post – I’m friends with Lisa and saw your website on FB. One question on content is whether posting duplicate content harms SEO?

    I have a press release that will be posted to an online news wire and slightly changed for my client’s website. It will also be sent to online journos.

    Should I also post to other sites like ezinearticles and articlebase as it remains or should I change the copy? And how do you know which of these article sites are good… I always thought using a good quality paid-for newswire was better than loads of free sites?

    Hope that makes sense!

  6. Hi Suzy
    As long as you check that your original post has been indexed by Google on your site before posting elsewhere then you will be fine to publish elsewhere.
    e.g. for this post I would check with putting “site:” into the Google search box and if it returns a result with my page then I know that it has been indexed, if it says no record then I know that it has not yet been indexed.
    Once it has been indexed it means that google has recognised that it has been published firrst on your site so you do not need to change anything before publishing elsewhere.
    However – many article sites have rules about the number of links that you will need to comply to.
    The free article sites are woth using as well as the PR wires as you never know who will pick up your article. However, in my experience article directories get you lots of low level links.

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