Posted: Thu 5th Nov 2020
With thousands of businesses having pivoted online over the last 12 months, and with non-essential retail still closed, it's absolutely imperative that would-be customers can find your website easily.
Fortunately, small businesses needn't worry about actioning a big-budget, super-technical SEO project. Instead, they can do the following three things:
1. Get the basics right, right now
This essentially means undertaking a technical SEO audit, which sounds daunting but is really just looking at the elements of your website that Google thinks are important. And, thankfully, there are free tools to help.
Google Search Console is probably the best, and most logical, place to start. Here, you'll be able to identify which of your keywords are underperforming - basically, any that don't rank in the top two positions. By looking at the pages the keywords appear on, you can determine the potential for on-page optimisation - adding more internal links, for example, or improving page speed.
Ahrefs' Joshua Hardwick has written a great post on using Google Search Console to improve SEO. Aside from underperforming keywords, he covers optimising pages with high keyword rankings but low click-through rates, fixing sitemap issues, and learning how to get more backlinks.
Another great tool is Hubspot's Website Grader. Relaunched in 2020, its essence lies in telling you if people - and search engines - can easily find your business's website. To do that it checks a few nuts and bolts like meta descriptions (the brief page summary that appears in search results), page index (how search engines store and organise your webpages), and descriptive link text (which words on a page are hyperlinked).
2. Capitalise on local SEO
If your business is remaining open for click-and-collect, you may be able to capitalise on 'open now' and 'near me' searches - literally people searching for a business type alongside either phrase.
If you haven't added your business to Google, you can do so here. You'll be entering the realm of NAP SEO - NAP standing for name, address and phone number. Google recognises these - and, crucially, your opening hours and website - as 'trust factors'. If your business is trusted - and to be viewed as such its NAP information must be accurate and consistent - it'll rank higher in search queries.
To ensure accuracy and consistency, double check your core business information, update your website (particularly headers and footers, and your contact page), and check where else your business is listed - other directories, for example.
Even if your business isn't able to remain open, add it to Google anyway. You'll be setting yourself up for success when restrictions are relaxed - particularly as more people are prioritising local buying.
3. Target new search terms
COVID-19 has massively affected what people search for. Take the restaurant sector, for example - in the third quarter of 2020, searches for takeaways and deliveries increased by 49%, with a 74% increase in clicks. Dine-in restaurants reported a much smaller search increase - 26% - and, tellingly, a 30% fall in clicks.
The Chai Guys, our November Members of the Month, might therefore consider experimenting with search terms like 'authentic chai delivery' - a concept that wasn't on their radar prior to the pandemic, but which is now crucial to their business model. They could even explore the 'curbside pickup' keyword phenomenon, as many other food and beverage outlets and retailers have.
If you're a Manchester-based yoga instructor who teaches small groups outside, maybe you could try 'socially distanced yoga class Manchester'. And if you're a tax adviser, perhaps you could exploit searches for 'coronavirus tax planning'.
Share your story with the local press. If they decide to write it up, they'll include a valuable backlink back to your website. Maybe you'd like to also be featured on Enterprise Nation? Connect with me and send a message!
Remember that SEO goes beyond Google, particularly in the ecommerce world. If you have a product page on Amazon, for example, you need to use keywords in product titles, ideally mention a specific component or ingredient, and include your brand name.
If you're not yet selling on Amazon, sign up to the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free. You'll learn, among many other things, how to sell effectively on its platform as it gears up for an "unprecedented holiday season".
Write evergreen content that's hyper-relevant to your niche. When you're deciding a topic, ask whether potential customers will think it's interesting in a year's time.
Update content that's already doing well. Fresh content degrades over time, and therefore becomes less successful for certain such queries.
If you're a service-based business, boost your online presence by becoming an Enterprise Nation adviser. You'll become part of a trusted online community that thousands of small businesses already rely on for support.
Connect with advisers who can help with your SEO
Based in Hampshire, Geoff - who's been involved in search engine optimisation since 2001, when everyone used Yahoo! and Google had no ads - runs a small SEO agency. He specialises in helping businesses get found on Google (and a little on Bing), as well as making his clients' websites work a lot harder.
An expert digital marketer, business analyst, strategist, and digital coach, Dan has over 10 years' experience in web and digital marketing across multiple industries. He loves working with people to help them utilise the internet to become a success, and is particularly good at finding and building tools, systems and metrics to help people discover where they are now, where they want to be, and how they can get there.
Search engine specialist Angus has a background in media buying and advertising. He set up The Business Guru - the marketing and business consultancy arm of South Devon-based Peritus Digital - in 2013, where he now helps small businesses perform better online, get more customers, and engage their target audiences.
Digital marketing expert Emma helps local Essex businesses who are all fingers and thumbs with their social media. By using their hands, hearts and minds (and 26 years experience in the industry), Emma and her team help you grow your business and brand through digital marketing.