Google recently released a video (SEO essentials for startups in under 10 minutes) talking about the essentials of SEO and especially aimed at start ups and small business sites with less than 50ish pages. It is intended for those business owners or webmasters who don’t have much time for SEO research though realise its importance and benefits and wish to know the basics.
Let’s talk about some of the actions described in the video.
Choosing www or non-www for your domain
This may seem like a waste of time for most small business owners, though it does have important benefits over the longer term for your site. Implementing a 301 redirect from one version to the other (it doesn’t matter which you choose) tells the search engines that this is the preferred version for indexing.
It also passes maximum link benefit to your domain. Now what does that mean?
Let me try and explain with an example. If you have a site www.mysite.com and you have two external links pointing to the home page, you would expect that all link benefit is passed. Right? Well, maybe but maybe not!
Let’s say that one of the links references your home page as mysite.com and the other link references as www.mysite.com. In this case, your two links are shared between the two representations of your home page rather than giving maximum benefit to one.
The answer is to implement a 301 redirect from one version to the other, let’s say from non-www to www.
By the way, a 301 redirect tells the search engines that the redirect is permanent as opposed to a 302 which is temporary.
This then tells search engines to pass maximum value of any back links to your home page to the www version. The link pointing to mysite.com will now redirect to www.mysite.com giving your site (and home page) maximum benefit from that link.
There are situations where you may have multiple representations of your home page, for example www.mysite.com/index.html. Again, the answer is to 301 redirect all representations to your preferred, say www.mysite.com.
Once you choose your preferred version (www or non-www) it is a good idea to be consistent with linking to your site pages. So if you choose www, then make sure you link to your pages using www. This avoids the redirect and passes 100% link value to your page. Although a 301 redirect passes maximum value, it doesn’t pass 100% value.
As you can now see, choosing a www or non-www version for your site and implementing a 301 redirect from one to the other is quite important and plays a major factor in the authority of your site and pages due to links.
Setup a Google Webmaster Tools account and verify ownership of your site
Google Webmaster Tools offers great insight for your small business site on Google. It will notify you of any critical issues such as crawl errors or malware on your site. There are also numerous configuration settings and optimisation tips to help your site achieve maximum visibility at the search engines.
I highly recommend that you setup an account and make a habit of checking in to ensure everything is running smoothly. You can also setup email forwarding to receive an email to your inbox when Google sends you a message.
Domain background check
It is a good idea to perform a background check on your domain in case it was previously owned by ‘spammers’ or if there are penalties applied. If you discover something out of the ordinary such as unwanted keywords in Webmaster Tools or no visibility at the search engines for your domain (search with this at the search engines site:www.mysite.com), then it would be best to fill in a reconsideration request via Google Webmaster Tools explaining what you have discovered.
Provide as much information as possible and this will enable the Google Search Quality Team to lift any possible penalties.
Include Analytics Code such as Google Analytics
Google Analytics is FREE and is essential software for your site. It enables you to gather important metrics such as the number of visitors arriving to your site, the source of the visitors, visitor behaviour, conversions, and much more. Google Analytics has added further features recently such as insights into your social media marketing efforts and even the ability to perform A/B testing for optimising your conversions. A/B Testing allows you to compare two or more different versions of a page to test which version is more effective at referring quality leads and customers.
All you need to do is sign up for a Google Analytics account and place tracking code on the pages of your site you wish to track. You can also setup goals such as the submission of a form, or signup for your newsletter, or a sale! This lets you see the number of goals reached for a specified time period and the source of the visitor leading to the goal.
For example, did the sale originate from your paid search campaign with a particular keyword phrase or from your social media efforts?
This question (and many others) can be answered by Google Analytics and enables you to make marketing decisions for your small business to maximise your website goals.
While we are on the topic of site goals (conversions), it is important that there is a clear path to them on your site. Having a prominent and clear Call to Action on each page of your site will guide users to your goals and maximise conversions.
Strategy in site design
Your site should be designed with your target audience in mind. You want to offer an enhanced user experience so that site visitors convert! You also want them to leave with a positive impression so that they return and recommend you to their circles.
Your site navigation should be clear so that visitors reach the information they seek easily and quickly.
The information architecture of your site should be structured logically and focused on the products and services you are offering.
It is important to perform keyword research beforehand so that you have an idea of what phrases people are searching with at the search engines when seeking your products and services. This enables you to structure your site accordingly and to use those important phrases within your page copy.
It is crucial that you always produce high quality, unique, and useful content aimed at your audience and to naturally ‘slot’ those important keyword phrases in.
Not only does this help with the overall user experience, but you are also rewarded by the search engines with maximum visibility at their search results.
A well optimised page
Every page on your site should be based around a unique topic with well defined target phrases (say a primary target phrase and relevant secondary phrases). These should obviously be relevant to the copy on the page.
Each page should have a unique title tag, a unique meta description, and the primary phrase within the URL (lowercase and separated by hyphens).
As mentioned above, the target phrases of the page should be slotted into the copy ‘naturally’.
It is also advisable to use descriptive anchor text (link text) when linking from one page to another. For example, ‘click here for further wedding photos’ is more descriptive than just ‘click here’.
For images on your page, add an ALT attribute describing the image and using target phrases where relevant.
Our fast paced world definitely applies to the internet and potential customers want pages to load quickly otherwise they will simply just leave. Studies show that the user threshold for e-commerce sites is two seconds!
For this reason it is important to ensure your site pages load quickly and without error. If for whatever reason(s) your pages take too long to load, then they should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid losing potential customers.
You can use a site like www.gtmetrix.com to get tips on what technical elements on your site you can address to ensure it loads quickly.
Small Business Social Media Marketing
Should you bother? The answer is a definite yes! Social Media is a great opportunity for you to connect with your audience. It presents itself as an excellent and innovative channel to connect and keep your products and services in the forefront of your customers minds. It is also an effective tool for reaching prospective customers – the friends of your existing clients.
Search engines are taking into account social signals (such as shares, comments, likes, +1’s, etc) when ranking your site pages for given search queries. The buzz generated on social media for your site content attracts natural links – the best kind of links.
Thus your SEO results rely on your social media efforts and this is becoming increasingly more significant as social media continues to overtake our daily lives.
It is important that you have a clear social media marketing strategy with well defined goals and targets. For example, is your goal to increase the traffic arriving to your site from social media or is it to increase activity and engagement between your business and customers? Whatever the case, set some targets and come up with tactics that move you closer to them.
I hope you have enjoyed this summary of Small Business SEO essentials and have taken something from it. Above is the official video from Google featuring Maile Ohye and what she’d tell a start up if she had ten minutes as their SEO consultant.
I understand how busy small business owners are to gain the knowledge and find the time to develop and implement a Search Engine Optimisation strategy themselves. This is where we can help! SEO for Small Business offers Small Business SEO campaigns specifically designed for small to medium size businesses. Feel free to contact us for a discussion about your website’s SEO needs.