Posted: Fri 24th Jun 2016
Getting found in Google and Bing is top of most small business owners' marketing wish list. Susan Hallam from Hallam Internet gives three areas to focus on, and some practical first steps to take to improve your rankings.
Susan will share more SEO secrets at our digital business bootcamp in Nottingham on 29 June. The one day event will cover digital basics, digital marketing and digital growth. Book your place and build the online business you've always wanted.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving your website so that it ranks well in the search results. And ranking well means you are making it easier for potential clients to discover your business, to drive more traffic to your website, and to ultimately make your business more successful.
The challenge with SEO, however, is trying to estimate how much time and effort it is going to take in order to get your website on the first page of the search results. The key variable for all businesses is competition: how many other websites want to rank for the same key words prospective customers will type into the search engines when looking for a business like yours.
What new businesses need to do is give the trust signals to the search engines in order to outrank the competition. And this SEO work demands a serious amount of time and effort. Your rankings in the search engines will improve gradually. You may already know how wonderful your business is, but it will take search engines time to figure this out, so don't expect to immediately jump to the top of the search results.
For your business to have competitive advantage and to rank well in the search engines, you should start by focusing on the three key areas that the search engines use to determine website rankings.
1. Your online reputation
The greatest single SEO challenge new businesses face is trust. The search engines want to deliver the highest quality pages in their results. Your business is new, so why should the search engines trust you? Your job is to build that trust.
Trust is measured by your online reputation, and more specifically by links coming into your website from other high quality, trusted sites. And it is also measured by mentions and sharing in social media, and on other relevant websites.
a. Compare your online reputation against your competitors using Moz Open Site Explorer's Compare Link Metrics tool. It will show reveal to you where your competitors are getting their links from, and give you some idea of how much work it is going to take in order for you to be ranking as well
b. Your trust isn't measured by the number of links, but rather by the quality of websites linking to you. A good starting point is to focus on getting links from trustworthy sites like newspapers and the trade press, professional bodies like your Chamber of Commerce or trade associations
c. Identify the high quality links coming into your competitors' websites, and use them as the basis of your link building campaign.
Links from other websites are a gift and they have to choose to give you a link
This brings us to the second of your strategies: content. You need to give people a reason to link to you, and the reason for links is almost always great content.
2. Your content
The search engines index the text on your site, so quite simply if you want to rank well for a specific phrase, then you need to create a page focusing specifically on those words and writing about your specific topic in detail in such a way that will engage your readers.
a. Use freely available keyword research tools to discover the best phrases for your business to target. Your very best phrases will be specific enough to your business that means the customer has the intention to buy from you, combined with a low enough level of competition so that your business can knock the competitors off the first page so your own business will rank
b. Each page on your website should have an SEO purpose, a key phrase that it could rank well for. You need a separate page for each specific product or service or keyphase you want to rank well for. An essential part of your website will be your blog, where you can create fresh, new pages that can target new phrases by creating informative, helpful content that will be of interest to both your customers and the search engines
c. High quality content will give a good user experience, where visitors will stay longer on your site and browse around and look at several pages. How users interact with content, how long they stay on your website, how many pages they look at, are all ranking signals to the search engines. Great content is a reason to stay, and more importantly a reason to get in touch and make an enquiry
And that takes us to the third of your strategies: the underlying technology that powers your website.
As a start-up business you may be in the process of developing your first website, or as an established business you're embarking on building a new site. The software and technology that powers your website plays a key part in search engine rankings, so make sure your solution is search engine friendly.
a. How easily your website can be indexed by the search engines is your starting point. At this point, search engines still are still focusing on text processing, so the facility to provide additional text information about your images and your videos is key. And the use of Java, Flash and other plugins can disadvantage your site when it comes to ranking
b. The speed of your website, or page load time, has a direct impact on how satisfied users are with your website, and is therefore taken into account when it comes to SEO. As a general rule of thumb, faster is better. Try the Pingdom tool to check the speed of your website, and get suggestions for improvement
c. The structure of your site gives strong signals to the search engines. This includes how your URL's are formed, the way your navigation and content is organised and linked together, and the use of sitemaps and other quality signals
Need more help?
If you start by addressing these three key areas you will be off to a good start in getting your website to rank well in the search engines. But chances are you are going to need more than this very brief introduction. In order to get started with search engine optimisation, be sure to take a look at Google's Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide and Bing's Webmaster Guidelines.
Susan will share more SEO secrets at our digital business bootcamp in Nottingham on 29 June. Find out more here, book your place below and build the online business you've always wanted.
The event runs from 9.30am until 4pm and costs just Â£10 (or Â£7.50 for Enterprise Nation Classic members). But that's not all! You'll also receive Â£50 in Bing advertising credits plus free refreshments and lunch. Attending is a no-brainer!
If you're an Enterprise Nation Classic member, log into your account and go to our events section where your 25% off ticket discount will be automatically applied.