Every website needs Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – it’s what helps your site rank well in organic searches. It also plays an important role in your marketing strategy. And while there is a technical side to SEO, there are things small business owners can do to improve their websites for search engines.
By incorporating these tips into your website design and content, you can harness the power of SEO to get your website seen by more of your target market.
Optimise for mobile
By now you’re probably aware that more people use their smartphones to browse the internet than laptops or desktops. This is particularly true in South Africa where smartphones are more affordable than any other type of computer.
With the majority of your existing and potential customers browsing your site on their phones, it’s crucial that your design is responsive – able to adapt to smaller screens and easy to navigate.
Whether you’re designing a new site from scratch or updating an existing site, you need to pay attention to how your content and functions will work on a smartphone. If your site is unattractive and it’s too difficult to search for products or complete a contact form, your visitors will go somewhere else.
Build good-quality links
When other reputable and high-ranking websites link to you, it can do wonders for your ranking. Google puts a great emphasis on links, so it’s worth putting in the effort to build meaningful affiliations with other websites.
But before you reach out to other websites, make sure you have plenty of relevant, high-quality information on your own website. Good quality links aren’t enough to make up for bad content.
Answer questions in your copy
Have you ever typed a question into Google and seen the answer appear in the search results? These snippets are known as ‘Rich Answers’ and, as you can see from the example below, Google retrieves them from high-ranking websites.
The copy is structured in a way that makes it easy for Google to find and display it. And most importantly, it provides the searcher with the answer they’re looking for without having to open a website.
Imagine how your website would rate if your copy appeared in a Rich Answer whenever a potential customer searched for information on your products or services.
You can increase the chances of this happening by asking and answering common questions in your copy. You can also create lists and a separate FAQ page. Creating valuable content and structuring it the right way will help search engines and people see you as an authority in your industry.
Use shorter URLs
Adding keywords to your URLs is a well-known SEO trick. And while you may be tempted to squeeze in as many keywords as you can, it seems that using shorter URLs could improve your ranking.
While there are no hard and fast rules, it’s the first five words that carry the most weight. To make this work for your website, identify your primary keywords and use these first. You should limit the number of keywords in your URLs to five at most.
Optimise your site for local search
With smartphones making easier to access the internet on the move, it follows that they’re looking for local businesses. So if your business services a specific area, it makes sense to optimise it for local searches.
There are a few ways you can do this. First, be sure to add the name of the city your business services in your title tags and meta-descriptions. This is the information Google uses to create a description for your listing in organic search results. Adding your locations here will let the searcher know that you’re in their area.
You should also claim your Google My Business (GMB) page. You’ll need to verify your business with a pin code that Google will send to you on a postcard. On your GMB page, you can supply important information about your business, such as the physical location of all your stores, your contact information, a link to your website and directions and even your hours of business.
Then, when customers search for you, all that information appears in a block on the first page of the search results. Customers can instantly find out everything they need to know about your business and get in touch with you.
Invest in longer content
Businesses that blog get more visitors, more leads and more links. It’s worth the effort to post fresh content on your site as often as you can. New research suggests that how often you blog is not the only factor that can affect your rankings – the length of your posts is also important.
It’s no longer enough to dash off a 300 or 500-word article; you need to be aiming for blogs that are at least 1200 – 1500 words long. If you’re creating ‘evergreen’ content (content that stays relevant all year round), you should aim for 2000 words or more.
Most small business owners don’t have the time to write blogs every week (even short blogs), but this is a job that can easily be outsourced to a competent copywriter for a reasonable fee.
Reduce your page loading times
Google prefers sites that load faster because it knows that people are impatient. If users have to wait more than a few seconds for your website to appear, they won’t hesitate to click away.
Site speed is even more important when it comes to viewing sites on smartphones. Remember that people use their smartphones to access the internet and get information while they’re on the go. They don’t want to waste time waiting for a site to download; they need the right answer immediately.
Your web maintenance company should be able to test your site speed and find ways to improve it.
Think about the way customers search for your business
Don’t just think about the keywords you want your site to rank well for; think about the way people look for your business online. How would they phrase a search query to locate the products and services you offer?
Do some analysis and find out if the keywords you’re using attract the customers you want. Do your keywords just drive more traffic to your website, or do they convert visitors into paying customers.
Implementing all of these suggestions won’t get you to the top spot on Google right away; SEO isn’t a magic wand. It takes time for your efforts to be recognised and rewarded. But if you focus on using your keywords in the right places, create valuable content and provide users with a good experience on your site, your ranking will improve.