Sunday, May 19, 2024

DIY SEO For Small Business Owners: Your Handbook For Success

Every customer journey begins with search engine results pages and it all comes to fruition through a technical SEO strategy. Up to 60% of marketers believe SEO is their highest quality of lead sources, yet more than 95% of webpages get zero traffic from Google.

Search engine optimisation can feel like technical jargon on complex algorithms, and as a small business owner, it’s likely you don’t have the time or budget to hire an SEO expert. Luckily, small business owners in their early stages can get away without hiring an agency.

By understanding essential principles and how search engine rankings operate, you can significantly impact your website’s visibility. Here’s what we’ll cover for you to master in manageable steps.

  1. SEO fundamentals & why it’s important

  2. Keyword research

  3. Meta descriptions, page titles & headings

  4. Local SEO

  5. Internal links & backlinks

  6. Measure your SEO progress

We strongly recommend setting up a Google Analytics account and connecting Google Search Console to your website.

Remember, SEO should not compromise user experience and avoid search engine manipulation.

Why SEO is Important

Search engines are like dating and SEO is the language you use to communicate.

Just like a date, with Google you have to build rapport, trustworthiness, experience, and more. Every website’s goal is to convince the search engine why they are the best possible answer for a particular search query.

Imagine a consumer is searching for a bakery that makes the best sourdough bread in town.

While you can pay to appear at the top of Google, this is not a sustainable method or one that considers long-term growth. This is where SEO becomes your secret weapon. By optimising your website with keywords like “best sourdough bread [your city]”,  you signal to search engines that you’re the answer to that search query.

Over time, as you build your website’s authority and provide a great user experience, search engines begin to trust you. This trust results in higher rankings in the organic (non-paid) search results, putting you right in front of customers actively seeking your exact offering.

Unlike paid advertising, which stops generating traffic the moment your budget runs out, SEO is an investment that continues to pay dividends. 

 

Keyword Research

This process involves researching what words and phrases your target audiences are searching on search engines. 

These words and phrases need to be strategically used across your webpages in page titles, meta descriptions and headings (which we will cover next), to ensure search rankings favour your site.

But it will take more than compiling a list of words and sprinkling them throughout your website. The key is to understand the language your ideal customers use, which is known as natural language processing (NLP) terms.

Consider placing yourself in the customer’s shoes, as this will maximise your SEO efforts.

What problems do they have that your products or services solve? What would they type into a search engine? After you have strategically found keywords as part of your DIY SEO strategy, the next step is to consider search volume.

This information tells you how many people per month are searching for these terms and the level of competition, which indicates how many other websites are trying to rank for these keywords. Often, you may notice strong competition for your target keyword, and this is where longtail keywords become useful.

These generally contain three or more words, have less competition and are related to your target keyword. For example, if your primary keyword is “coffee shop,” a longtail version may be “best coffee shop New York.”

We recommend:

  • Small businesses should incorporate a significant amount of long-tail keywords.

  • Observe trends and fluctuations in keyword competition.

  • Only use keywords in the copy where it feels natural; avoid keyword stuffing.

  • Use free tools such as Google Keyword Planner or Wordstream.

Meta Descriptions, Page Titles & Headings

Think of your meta descriptions, page titles, and headings as your virtual storefront in search results. 

These elements work together to give potential visitors a quick snapshot of what your page is about and why they should click through to your website. 

It’s your chance to stand out from the competition and make a compelling first impression, and they play a major role in search engine visibility.

Meta Descriptions: The Enticing Summary

This is the short text blurb that appears below your page title on search engine results pages (SERPs). Search engine algorithms don’t directly state that meta descriptions boost your ranking, but a helpful description will certainly improve your click-through rate.

  • Be concise

  • Between 50-160 characters

  • Include target keyword

  • Use a call to action

Let’s say you have a webpage that provides tax preparation services for small businesses.

A poor description would be “We offer accounting services for businesses.”

Here’s an idea for a stronger one: “Stress-free tax preparation for Sydney small businesses. Get maximum deductions and file on time. Contact us for a free consultation.”

Page Titles: The Attention-Grabber

This is the blue clickable text in your search result snippet, the words that appear in your tab, and how they appear when shared on social media. Search engines place high SEO value on page titles, and so they should accurately describe what the page is about.

We advise using the 3-30-3 marketing rule when writing your page titles and meta descriptions.

  • 60 characters max to avoid truncation

  • Keep it unique to your company

  • Place your primary keyword at the front

Page titles are straightforward but it’s very important to avoid something generic.

Here’s an example you can refer to.

Good: Custom Vegan Birthday Cakes Melbourne | Jame’s Bakery

Bad: Cakes | Vegan Bakery Melbourne

A good page title includes specificity, which will assist in reaching your target audience, creating positive local SEO signals, and improving your organic traffic. Page titles, meta descriptions and headers are something we recommend experimenting with.

It’s normal for these to change over time, but don’t overdo it, or search engine bots will struggle to assert your position as an authoritative website.

Headings

Every page has headings, including this article that you are reading.

Your headings should compliment the page title and meta description. Think of it as a team that supports each other by using similar keywords as a method to Google, “This is what my page is about.”

Headings will be a staple in your SEO strategy so let’s explain how it works.

  • Heading 1 (H1): This is the most important heading of the page; think of it as the name of a book.

  • Heading 2 (H2): These are subheadings and they provide more opportunities for including the target and longtail keywords; think of them as chapters in your book.

  • Heading 3 (H3): An H3 breaks up the “chapters” further to offer even more granular organisation.

  • Heading 4 & Beyond (H4): Although less common, you can consider using these headings in extremely long or complex content.

Overall, the heading function will be a regular consideration in your SEO efforts and assist in a business’s website’s search engine rankings. Tailor these headings to appeal to your target audience by using psychographic segmentation.

Local SEO

Small business owners should always heavily strategise how their DIY SEO strategy can influence local search results. If you have a brick-and-mortar business or serve a specific geographic area, then your primary concern will be mastering local SEO.

Follow these essential steps!

  1. Google My Business (GMB): Your Google profile holds high search engine optimisation value, and is a trust factor for customers. Claim and fully complete your profile, add your business name, phone number, hours, photos, and an enticing description.

  2. Local Keywords: Open Google Analytics and find a mixture of high and medium-search volume keywords that include your city, region, or neighbourhood to include in your website’s content, titles, and descriptions. Find opportunities to naturally weave in local landmarks or street names.

  3. Local Listings & Directories: List your business in local and relevant directories. To take it to the next level, list your business on industry-specific websites. Ensure your NAP (name, address, and phone number) is consistent on all listings.

  4. Gain Reviews: Great reviews send strong signals about your business’s reputation and trustworthiness, which is something Google’s algorithm cares about.

You may find creating a local SEO strategy more complex than creating a general one, but completing these basics will improve your website’s position.

Internal Links & Backlinks

Links are like roads connecting various parts of the internet. They will be crucial in helping your search results because they help search engines discover new pages, understand the relationships between content, and determine a website’s overall authority.

Quick Tip: Hyperlinks have a clickable blue text. This text is known as anchor text, and it’s favourable to incorporate a mix of links that include keywords and some that don’t.

Using Internal Links for Your DIY SEO Strategy

Internal links are the hyperlinks that connect pages within your own website. They serve several important purposes.

Your internal links will help visitors explore related content and increase website engagement. For example, a product page about protein powder can link to a blog page about the benefits of protein powder.

The page with the most internal links will tell Google which pages you deem the most important. Your homepage will most likely have the most, and it can send strength down toward other relevant pages.

The clickable text of your link will help search engines recognise the topic of your page.

Carefully map out your internal links to create a spiderweb of related content, and ensure it assists the customer’s journey.

How Backlinks Can Assist Your Small Business Website

Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are links pointing to your website from other websites. Think of them as endorsements. When a reputable website links to yours, it tells search engines that your content is valuable and trustworthy.

Dozens of links may sound great, but they won’t make much of a difference if they are from low-quality sites. Prioritising a single backlink for a high-authority website will hold more value.

Forced backlinks or ones that seem bought can lead to Google penalising your website. Work toward a diverse mix of backlinks rather than a sudden influx from the same few websites.

A business that sells vacuum cleaners won’t benefit much from random backlinks from a makeup store or skydiving experiences. Strive to acquire links from websites that serve a similar topic or audience; otherwise, you’ll confuse search engines.

Gaining backlinks is difficult for a new business, but there are opportunities through guest blogging, creating high-quality content, and listing your business in directories.

Measure Your SEO Progress

DIY SEO for small businesses requires great effort, so do not make it a “set it and forget it” strategy. Although there are many tools, we recommend connecting your website domain to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Google Search Console (GSC).

Using website analytics to measure search engine optimisation results.

This process will take time and you’ll need to refer to YouTube tutorials to make it easier.

Start with simple reports and the essential metrics before delving into more complex analysis.

Compare changes in organic traffic after implementing your SEO changes. Use the ‘Path Exploration’ feature to analyse the downstream traffic results from one page to another.

Observe any fluctuations in the percentage of people leaving your site after viewing just one page.

 

Can you see a correlation between your SEO improvements and visitors completing desired actions, such as making a purchase?

Remember, SEO is an ongoing project that you will need to consistently visit to make the most of. Set a regular schedule (e.g. monthly) to review your key metrics. Look for trends between keywords, traffic, algorithm changes, and more to identify patterns.

This may feel overwhelming at first, but regular reporting and active SEO efforts will separate your business from the pack. Experiment with different tools as you become comfortable, such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, and many AI based SEO tools.

Click the ‘search results’ function and look at ‘queries’ to see where your website appears in search results for specific keywords.

Your page titles and meta descriptions can influence the percentage of people clicking through to your website. You can access these numbers on GSC.

Eventually, your website will get to a stage where you have many pages, and it’s hard to manually track if they are error-free. Use GSC to scan for broken pages, failing redirects, and much more.

Reap the Rewards of DIY SEO

Search engine optimisation is a marathon and it’s always best to start now than later. By understanding the basics and taking action, you’ll boost your website’s visibility, attract higher-quality leads, and transform your online presence into a powerful customer magnet.
 
Consider hiring an SEO specialist or an agency once your business expands.
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