Most websites don’t have thousands of pages of content and millions of visitors each month. Those that do will have a team of SEO specialists and website developers that optimise those sites. But even if you own a far smaller website, investing in an SEO strategy is key to attracting more visitors.
Investing in a search engine optimisation strategy will help you increase your online visibility. In this article, we will provide SEO tips for small business websites.
Why do I need SEO?
You need SEO because it's still one of the most cost-effective methods for generating more organic website traffic. If done right, it can significantly improve your search result rankings and help build backlinks (link building) or attain featured snippets. Note that SEO is an ongoing long-term strategy, it’s not a quick win solution in all cases.
What is link building in SEO?
Link building is having other websites link back to your content because the quality of the content is so good. Google uses backlinks as a ranking factor for your own page search results. Effectively the more links you have, the better your content must be.
However, do not buy backlinks. Buying spammy links from link farms will have a detrimental effect on your search results.
If you use a premium SEO tool like SEM Rush, you can use its link building tool to prospect for backlinks. By monitoring your competition you can try and get backlinks from the same sources they currently do. We discuss this in more detail later in this article.
Featured snippets in Google Search
Featured snippets are the pieces of information that you see displayed at the top of search results on Google. They are excerpts of text from highly ranking pages that answer your question, preposition or statement in the search bar. Featured snippets are highly sought after as they drive greater traffic to your website.
SEM Rush has an “on-page SEO checker”. This tool advises where you can update your on-page content to try to rank for a featured snippet. Using premium SEO tools will enhance your ability to rank your website better. And no, the free version of Yoast for WordPress isn’t going to help you fight this battle.
But what is a small website precisely?
Contrary to popular belief, your website can still be described as small if your website has a couple of hundred pages. Small isn’t just because you only have 5-10 pages.
Websites with a lot of content are usually news media, popular eCommerce stores or booking sites like travel agents. For these, SEO is a complex process that requires professional technical expertise. A comprehensive SEO toolkit and continuous collaboration with web developers. Writing about solving complex SEO problems on huge sites is a topic for another day.
This article will show you how to do SEO for a small website in a few simple steps. Let's dive right in!
Before we get into on-page SEO, you need to ensure your website is responsive. Responsive websites are designed to fluidly adapt to the viewpoints of the device that the site is viewed on. Think mobile, tablet, laptop and desktop.
This graphic shows an example of a non-responsive website. Note how the page on the left behind the “X” has crammed the whole webpage into the screen. This means the browser has just reduced the whole page to fit the mobile device’s screen.
The image on the right however shows a responsive version of the same page. Note that this page has been adapted to be shown and easily read on a mobile device.
FACT: Google ranks websites that have a mobile-first design higher in search results than those that do not.
What are AMP website pages?
But this isn’t all you need. Your mobile version of the website needs to present AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages. AMP pages serve scaled-back versions of the desktop website pages ensuring that your visitors have a great mobile experience. They tend to remove graphics and videos to enable the pages to load faster on your mobile device.
In addition to this, they are also a ranking factor in the Google search results algorithm, although not a key factor.
What are core web vitals?
In 2021, Google released a number of updates to its algorithm including core web vitals. Your core web vitals are now another ranking factor for the position of your website in search engine results.
Core web vitals look at how fast the website loads. When it delivers the first meaningful content and how fast the view stabilises. Making sure that these factors are all working well is good practice for SEO focused organisations.
If you are able to work with an SEO specialist do so. It’s worthwhile paying for an experienced agency or consultant to help you get the most from your website.
The purpose of keyword research on a small business website is to find the keywords you already rank for. You can also discover new keyword opportunities. This helps you better understand how people look for your website and uncover the most popular search terms they use.
Use tools like SEM Rush, Ahrefs, and MOZ to dig deep into the psychology of your visitors. These tools help you understand how prospects search for products or services like the ones you offer. You can then use your on-page content to answer their questions. Like “what problem do I solve?” or “what type of people look for my solution?”.
Keyword research may seem like hard work, however, it's the only way to fully understand what content resonates with your audience. And also keywords that you need to focus on?
As Google puts more emphasis on matching the intent of every search query, this step is necessary. You can't just rely on data from the tools like Google Search Console. Instead, choose a more proactive approach and think about your audience needs from a bigger perspective.
Keyword research benefits
Keyword research will allow you to determine what content marketing or landing pages you need to create to get more visitors. By tying the content you write to the needs of your ideal customers, your website will improve search rankings. Analysing this content will provide valuable insight into how you need to further optimise your website content. This will help you get better search results, known as on-page optimisation.
Additionally, it will also help you to get your site architecture right. Site architecture is usually more important to bigger eCommerce sites with many products. It is also crucial for ensuring a good user experience for visitors that land on your website. Good site architecture works by making your website easy to navigate helping visitors easily discover what they are looking for.
Choosing the relevant keywords will help you categorise the content and create seamless navigation throughout different pages on your website. Making your website easy to navigate will result in lower bounce rates. It will also increase your visitors' average session duration or dwell time.
Sidenote: SEO difficulty varies across different industries. If you work in the software space check out my SEO guide for SaaS.
After identifying your keywords, it's time to analyse their potential for bringing new visitors. Generally, you want to consider three main metrics for each keyword:
In other words, you are looking for the average search volume, keyword difficulty and the search intent behind your keyword. Keyword difficulty is essential to focus on. It lets you know how difficult it would be to rank organically for that keyword.
If your SEO strategy is in its early stages, then focus on less difficult keywords or long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are longer versions of the chosen keyword.
It's essential to create the right mix of high-volume and long-tail keywords with lower search volume. While it's useful to use keywords with high traffic potential, long-tail keywords can often convert better. This is because searchers are more specific and intentional in their searches.
As for difficulty, it's a good practice to manually analyse SERP results and see what domains and pages rank high. If you discover well-written content in the search engine results, focus on different, less competitive keywords.
Finally, look for the search intent behind your keyword. Often, Google will give you different results than you would expect. Use tools like answer the public to discover what topics the visitors are looking for? The page on your website that you want to rank for the specific keyword should reflect this topic.
Popular intent content types great for driving conversions include comparison posts and articles about pricing or product/services and case studies.
I am a big fan of productivity and using what's already working. Hence, this is why I like competitor analysis. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. By identifying your competitors’ websites and using a tool like SEM Rush, you can compare your website domain to theirs.
You can then see where your keywords overlap and do not. Knowing what keywords the competition is ranking for means you can use this data to formulate your content strategy.
Competitor analysis helps you with the following:
- Understand what works well in your industry
- Discover your competition's strengths and uncover their weaknesses
- Learn what it would take to rank higher than them
Side note: Remember if you run a blog or have an eCommerce store, your site probably ranks for many different keywords. Use one of the paid SEO tools to see what sites are your competition at the domain level. Do this instead of looking at individual keywords and just analysing the SERP results.
Next, analyse the competition's organic traffic numbers, backlink profile and overall site's authority. Using a paid tool, like SEM Rush you can quickly analyse their online presence and discover new competing sites.
After creating a list of competitors, you can move on to the next step. Here are some ideas on what to do:
- Analyse the competition's on-page optimisation and site structure
- Look for the top competitor’s organic keywords
- Identify content gaps to get ideas on creating new content
- Find your competition's top-performing content (ranks for many keywords and drives a lot of traffic)
- Perform link gap analysis to discover relevant link opportunities
Good site optimisation is vital for both users and search engines as it creates a better user experience and improves crawlability. Utilise your keyword research and competitor analysis data to proceed most effectively and use what already works.
These are the things you should keep in mind when doing on-page SEO for a small website.
- Content readability and the use of white space, text size and colour
- User-friendly URLs
- Optimised page titles, meta descriptions and subheadings
- Target keyword in the first 100 words
- Internal linking and the use of quality outbound links
- Optimised images with correct alt tags
- Unique visual content
- Site speed and responsiveness
After you have identified the main areas of improvement, it's time to review the current state of your website. Many on-page enhancements will be discovered during the site audit. For this article, I will focus mainly on the technical part of the audit.
Performing a technical site audit helps to eliminate the errors and issues that slow your website down, hurting its ranking. According to this SEM Rush study, the three most frequent problems are the occurrence of 4XX errors. 80% of websites have them.
404 errors occur when a page in your website has been deleted. They also occur if the URL was changed and a 301 redirect wasn’t applied.
301 redirects are manual entries that tell a search engine where to redirect a deleted page or an updated URL. You can apply this in the DOMAIN>URL settings on HubSpot CMS and there are various plugins for WordPress based websites.
You can also be penalised for a low text-to-HTML ratio and duplicate content. Low text to HTML ratio literally means that your website page has little or no written content.
As a rule, you must have a minimum of 350 words on a page. These include an H1 header tag. Use the keyword in the H1 tag and the body tag or the paragraph.
Page speed is also a common problem for many websites. The recent Wolfgang Digital report suggests that the global page speed average in eCommerce is now around 5 seconds. This is still far from the ultimate Google's goal to reach 2 seconds.
With a professionally executed site audit, you should prevent all of these issues and many more. Additionally, you can also hire an expert to review your website. Technical site audits are covered as part of our SEO services.
Here's a simplified approach you can follow when auditing your website.
- Look out for any crawling and indexation issues (pages that don't show up in the results)
- Check your site's preferred domain
- Check HTTPS status codes
- Discover main on-page issues (missing/duplicate tags, orphan pages, incorrect URLs, thin and duplicate content)
- Get your site speed report from GTMetrix
- Audit your link profile and find broken links (both internal and external)
- Check if your site is mobile-friendly
Measuring SEO Success
Another critical part of SEO is monitoring and tracking the results. Firstly Analyse the impact of new content created based on effective keyword research. or assessing the changes in your site's performance, these are the two main tools that you need.
Google Analytics is the most popular website analytics software on the market. It provides you with information on user engagement - how online users find your website and interact with it.
The data includes demographic and behaviour data, traffic sources, bounce rates, conversion rates, popular landing pages, and much more. All of these metrics are useful for both your content and paid advertising campaigns.
Pro tip: Need more information on Google Analytics? Here is a practical 30-minute guide that takes you through the basics of setting up your account.
Google Search Console
This tool is useful mainly for uncovering technical problems on your site and analysing the performance of your content.
The index coverage report provides you with information on the number of pages indexed in Googles search engine results. It also shows any potential errors and /pages excluded from Google's index.
The performance report shows your site’s overall search performance on Google. This includes the total number of clicks, impressions, average CTR and average position.
Here are two quick tips for content optimisation based on GSC data:
- Look for pages ranking relatively high with low CTR. Then optimise their content or experiment with changing titles and meta descriptions.
- Search for keywords that already rank between the first 10 and 20 positions. Then optimise the pages related to that keyword. Often, creating more relevant content or adding internal linking will do the job.
Bonus Tips for Local Business SEO
Local business SEO is for small business website owners that want to target customers in a specific local area.
Here are five essential steps to generate results from local SEO.
- Set up your account with Google My Business and focus on getting all of your business' local information right.
- Create your NAP (name, address, phone number) with the local schema mark up.
- Get reviews from local customers by offering small incentives and actively asking for feedback on your services.
- Get featured in local business listings (e.g. Trip Advisor). These will help identify your website as a local solution and ensure its correctly identified in the relevant service section.
- Optimise your titles, meta descriptions and URLs on the landing pages relevant for the local search. If they don't exist, then go ahead and create them.
This article was updated on 30/12/2021. Digital BIAS is an award-winning web design agency specialising in SEO. We provide solutions to businesses that increase their online visibility and boost sales.