Search engine optimization (SEO) is important for any small business that wants to attract organic search traffic (and not pay for ads). The basics are pretty simple:
- Make sure your business is listed properly on Google (it has a nearly 90% share of all web searches in North America).
- Set your site up so it’s easy for Google to recommend.
- Create relevant content, respond to reviews and stay active online.
- Try and get good sites to link to you (especially local ones).
Of course, simple doesn’t always mean quick or hassle-free. It can take weeks to create content that gets traction and months before you start to see meaningful backlinks, but nailing the fundamentals will pay off over time.
And when you’re ready to step it up, here are 6 things to try:
1. Pay attention to what Google wants
Google is by far the most dominant search engine, so it’s a good idea to focus on your Google ranking. Good SEO is good SEO, so if your website ranks well on Google, it will likely rank well on DuckDuckGo, Yahoo and the other smaller search engines.
What Google is looking for from websites changes with every Google algorithm update. And while some of how website rankings are calculated is kept secret, a lot of it is announced publicly through the Google Search Central Blog.
On the blog, the Google developers post about SEO best practices, issues they’re seeing and how to optimize your site for any changes they’re making. It’s one of the best places to find SEO tips and strategies. Keep an eye on it, and make sure your site meets all the recommendations.
2. Really focus on page experience
For the past year, Google has been focusing on rolling out “page experience,” described as “a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value.” It includes things like page load speed, mobile-friendliness and other general usability features. Going forward, optimizing for page experience is likely to count for a lot with Google.
To see how your website does, you can run a page load speed test with PageSpeed Insights. It will tell you how your site stacks up and highlight areas where you could improve the page experience for visitors.
Note: Some of it can get pretty technical, so you may need to consult with your web developer about making improvements.
3. Use schema to give Google more details
Google is pretty good at pulling meaningful content from web pages, but you can make its job easier by using structured data to explicitly state certain information about your business. For example, there’s a local business search schema that enables you to list everything from your phone number and address to your opening hours and the currencies you accept. There are also product, recipe, article and hundreds of other schema that may be relevant to your business.
For more, check out Schema.org and Google’s guide to getting started with structured data. You will have to manually add code to your web pages, so if you have any difficulties, contact your web developer.
4. Optimize for featured snippets
Google doesn’t just show search results in an unstructured list: It tries to present the best possible information as easily as possible. One of the ways it does this is with featured snippets. If you ask a question, say, “What’s the best way to reheat pizza?,” Google will often show an answer box with the content pulled from one of the top-ranked sites.
Optimizing for featured snippets won’t be relevant for all small businesses, but if you’re doing a major content marketing push, it’s worth considering. SEO rank-tracking site Ahrefs has a great breakdown on how to go about doing it.
As well as featured snippets, there’s also Google Discover—a feed of suggested content that users see when they visit Google on their smartphones. Again, optimizing for it won’t align with every small company’s SEO goals, but if you think it could drive people to your business, check out Ahrefs guide on how to rank.
5. Audit your content marketing
Content marketing is one of the most important SEO strategies—and a regular audit can go a long way to making sure your content drives traffic to your website. It’s easy to fall into the habit of just throwing up random blog posts without much thought.
A good content marketing audit should involve:
- Assessing your best-performing content and using it to generate new content ideas.
- Assessing your worst-performing content and either removing or improving it.
- Assessing your competitors content to see if there are any obvious ideas you’re missing.
- Making sure you don’t have too many pieces of content that all target the same SEO keywords.
- Using SEO keyword research tools to find relevant long-tail keywords you’re not currently targeting, plus coming up with new content ideas for them.
- Adding internal links between your existing related content.
- Removing any dead links in your articles.
If you perform a content audit quarterly, it will help you have enough blog posts and other content ideas to keep you going until the next one.
6. Use unique images with descriptive alt text
Images are an underrated part of SEO for a couple reasons:
- Google prioritizes content that has unique images. If you use photos you take or images you create yourself in your content marketing, instead of stock photos or reposts, it can help your site rank higher.
- Image alt text is often neglected, so doing it right is an easy way to get on Google’s good side. According to Google, it should be descriptive and not stuffed with keywords.
For more on using images in your SEO plan, check out Ahrefs full guide.
And…one more: Don’t rush it
SEO takes time to pay off. Come up with a strategy and stick with it long enough for it to work. Whatever you do, don’t buy links or look at any other “black hat” strategies. If Google detects any irregularities, your site could get delisted and your business listing suspended.