You hear it everywhere – SEO is the most important for your business to grow online. So, how do you improve your Google search ranking as a small business?
If you only just started, you really want your brand new website to rank high in Google search, but you don’t know where to start this SEO journey.
It seems overcomplicated, there is a lot of jargon and no online advice seems just simple.
Let me tell you, SEO is not a piece of cake, but it’s not magic either! There are things you can do yourself to improve Google search ranking (without spending a penny!).
What is SEO and how it helps improve Google search ranking?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization (you probably already know that!). Let’s just explain a simple relation.
It is a process that ensures a website can be found on search engines for the relevant words and phrases that describe it.
When your small business has a website, it’s crucial that people can find it. A good SEO strategy helps you get more free and organic traffic in exchange for you providing indexable information.
The free traffic is like a freebie you get from Google for providing great content (your website and service).
It’s a simple transaction: you help search engines give their users what they need (content or products) and in return, search engines are willing to help you with ranking your website correctly.
In essence, a search engine’s job is to match users seeking information with web pages providing that information.
As a small business, you might feel like a small fish in a big pond when trying to rank within Google. But what a lot of small business owners don’t realize is that there is more opportunity than ever before for small businesses to stand out online.
I want to help you make the simple steps to improve Google search ranking. Even if you’re not an expert and tech-savvy and all you want to do is just get on with your business plan, these few steps can help your website dramatically.
Follow my SEO suggestions and watch your website rise in the ranks to the top of search engine results.
Focus on Keywords
Ok, this is nothing new and you probably already know that keywords are the most important in your road to SEO perfection.
But the question is how to choose the best keywords for your website?
Keywords will essentially help to push your website to a better position, but you have to understand what keywords are going to attract your audience and pick the keywords your prospects are actually searching for.
So how do you select the best keywords for your business that will improve Google search ranking?
1. Look at your competition
The good first step is to search for your competition online. It’s good to monitor how they are marketing themselves and regularly check to see what keywords or keyphrases they are optimizing to help their search engine optimization.
Look at their copy and blog posts and pick out any repeating words that are relevant to your industry. The easy way to do it is by opening a search box in the browser (CTRL + F in Windows, or Command+F on Mac) and searching for phrases related to your business, or what you think they may be targeting. You will see how many keywords are used in the copy, which probably indicates the keywords they are trying to rank for.
Also, have a look into their meta tags (essentially the search result Title and Description) to pinpoint which words they are targeting – not only will this help to broaden your search, but you may find keywords that you hadn’t thought of that have good search volumes.
2. Keyword tools
The keyword research tools are the best things to help you search for effective keywords.
There are many tools on the market but my favourite (and free!) are:
Google Keyword Planner has a great tool where you see how busy a certain keyword is, keyword ideas related to your main keyword, and how many people search for the keyword. You can also enter the domain (for example a competitor website) and Google will suggest keywords that best match your query. If you need a guide on how to use it, here’s a super helpful blog post by Ahrefs.
Another super useful tool is Moz Keyword Explorer. With this tool however you have a limit of 10 free searches per month, so be careful to only search when you already know what your main keyword is!
It lets you see the monthly searches volume, keyword difficulty (how difficult it will be to rank for the keyword), SERP analysis (the top-ranking results for the keyword), and most importantly the keyword suggestions.
As you can see from the example, a simple search for “web design” shows me how difficult it is to compete in the industry whilst also providing alternative keyword suggestions relating to “web design.” This is an excellent tool if you are new to SEO and need extra help in choosing keywords.
Google Trends is another free, yet useful tool to populate how popular a certain keyword is.
Ask The Public can help you discover what people are searching and asking about.
After using all these free resources, I’m sure you’ll have a list of main keywords that you can base your SEO strategy around.
3. Search suggestions in Google
This is a super simple tip, and not many people really pay attention to it! When you search for something in Google, it suggests the most relevant queries that people are searching for around this topic. It’s a pretty awesome free tool to get a keyword idea for your website.
Say, for example, you are searching for ‘organic cakes’. Google will list all the keywords or phrases that people are searching around your main topic. You need to scroll right down to see those suggestions:
Pretty awesome, right?
This can help you to determine what phrases and other keywords you can use on your website/blog, that are related to your topic.
4. Long-tail and localised keywords
Going for long-tail keywords (a combination of three or more words/phrases) will help you to target lower search volumes, these usually attract more relevant traffic which is essentially less competitive and can be easier to rank for.
So instead of just targeting a “florist” keyword, try something like “fresh flowers for wedding” or “flower arrangements”.
It is also relevant to localize your keywords when you are new to SEO, then gradually go onto more generic, non-localised keywords.
For example, if you are a florist based in Cardiff, a keyword could be “florist in Cardiff” by adding the location, you are making it slightly easier to rank rather than just putting “florist.”
This means Google will see your website as being more relevant and you will gradually get higher spots with generic searches.
Once you have a bunch of keywords that you want to rank for, make sure that you use them across all your platforms – your website, social media channels and blog posts. With time, and if you consistently create high-quality content, you’ll improve your Google search ranking.
Google My Business for local SEO
If you’re not yet using Google My Business, you must do it right now. This free service can highly improve Google search ranking.
With an optimized profile that includes a detailed description including your local keywords (which you already researched following my steps above), setting the locations you serve and the services you provide, you will have a much higher chance of appearing in the local listing results.
When somebody searches for the term “florist near me” this is where Google My Business comes in handy. Your business will appear on Google search and if you take care of the details, like your branding and some business photos, you have the high chance that people will choose your business over somebody else’s. Combined with asking customers to leave you a review and adding regular posts within your account will vastly improve your visibility, allowing potential customers to find you more easily when looking for a service that you provide.
If you are a business that has a brick-and-mortar shop or office and offers face to face meetings then you have a good chance of being included within Google’s Local SERPs.
Have you ever done a Google search and a box appears at the top showing all the local businesses in your area?
If so, then this is a Local SEO SERP. Being higher on the list will give you more visibility and ultimately help more potential customers to find you.
Create engaging and informative blog posts
Having high-quality content on your website is one of the best ways to increase traffic and improve your search rank.
In fact, Google itself said that having great, relevant content on a page is more important for ranking than page experience.
You know when you’re landing on an amazing-looking website, and it seems like this was what you were looking for…until you start to read a copy or blog posts that seem to be written by a computer?
Make sure your content is mistake-free, keyword-rich, mobile-optimized, written to address the specific needs of your target audience, and includes valuable links to additional internal and external content. And be personal, speak like if you were talking to a friend; be yourself and natural. Content writing may not be your forte, but with practice, this daunting task can turn into something that you enjoy whilst helping you rank in Google.
In the meantime, you can take a look at my previous post on how to get great content for your website for free.
Blog posts are an excellent way to add keywords into your content, plus it tells Google that you are publishing regular and fresh content onto your website. Depending on the time you have, creating 1 or 2 blog posts a month can vastly improve your SEO rankings.
But there are a few rules to keep in mind when creating blog posts for SEO:
Give your users a great user experience (UX)
The speed of your website
This is a huge topic and very complex. Many factors influence your website’s speed, however, you can make sure that the basics are done right.
In today’s world, the internet is getting faster, Google is getting smarter and people want to land on a website that loads quicker than the speed of light.
It is estimated that 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Pretty crazy, right? But this is the world we live in, and you need to make sure that your website is up to standards.
These steps will probably not fix any major speed issue on your website but can help. It’s always a good idea to seek professional help or opt for a managed website design plan where you pay monthly for a bespoke website and all maintenance and support is done for you, including website speed monitoring and backups.
Website design must-haves for SEO
1. Clear, non-confusing navigation
Label your navigation pages intuitively.
People are busy – they don’t have time to get lost on your website when trying to find information.
You want to make it as easy as possible for your visitors.
For instance, using page names like “About” or “Contact Us” is an intuitive way to communicate the purpose of the page. Your visitors don’t need to think too much about what each page is for, rather when you use things like “Reach Us” or “Discover Our Journey”.
Don’t overcrowd your website menu either; if you offer a lot of services, create for example “Our Services” page and a dropdown to the subcategories, which will make things more organized and easy to navigate.
Google also likes the clear and concise structure of your website; it crawls your sitemap and transparent navigation makes it easier for bots to index your pages.
2. H1 and H2 header tags
Not only do headers make your content more readable and easier to understand for humans and search engines alike, but there is also a strong correlation between Google search rank and the use of header tags in the body of your content.
When structuring your website make sure that there is only one H1 tag per page (the main heading) and any other headings on your page are H2, H3 etc. Your main heading H1 should always include the keyword that you want to rank for.
So whether you’re building your website yourself, or working with a professional web designer make sure that your headers are well-structured and include keywords.
3. SEO plugin
If you’re building a website with WordPress (and I wrote the blog post on why you definitely should opt for WordPress) there is nothing better to monitor your website and blog posts than the SEO plugin. I highly recommend RankMath, which you can install for free but also upgrade to the Pro version. The free version however is so advanced that you will not need anything else for a long time.
The SEO plugin can help you improve Google search ranking in a way that it notifies you about everything that you should do for your site to be more SEO-friendly.
So for instance, when you write a blog post, RankMath (or other plugins) will have a list of checkboxes that you need to tick for your content to score 100. It’s not an easy task to reach 100 on the RankMath scale, but a score over 90 is pretty good anyway, and obviously, you can keep working to improve it.
SEO plugin will also monitor your website’s performance and health, so I highly recommend it!
4. Different options to contact you
This is so important: just having a contact form is not enough!
As of 2016, it’s actually a legal requirement to display a contact email address somewhere on your website.
You want your visitors to contact you, so generally, it’s just a good practice to include more than one option to contact you.
It’s up to people’s preferences; some users are more introverted and don’t like phoning people (like myself!), so just a phone number isn’t enough.
Other people hate forms that in some cases crash or are irresponsive (another UX issue that is worth checking!).
You don’t want your potential customer to leave your website frustrated because he/she couldn’t easily contact you. It’s especially important if you’re selling services (the only way you can do it is by being contacted first!)
5. Optimized images (alt tags)
This one is very important and ignored by many.
If you’re using an SEO plugin, it will notify you about any images that are not optimized for SEO.
What does this mean?
In short, it means that your images don’t include “alt tags”.
It’s a space in your image description that allows you to put an alternative text that will describe your image in case if it can’t be loaded. One of the main purposes of alt tags is for the benefit of visually impaired users who use screen readers when browsing.
Alt tags help Google bots scan your images that’s why it’s extremely important from an SEO perspective to include your keywords as “alt tag”.
Fix broken links
Having quality links on your website is one of the best ways to boost traffic and establish the authority of your site, but links that bring up a 404 error hurt both your user experience and your search rank.
Use a tool like Check My Links (a Chrome extension) or Dead Link Checker to find any broken links.
Hopefully, I gave you some simple ideas on how to improve Google search ranking yourself.
As a small business or freelancer, it’s crucial to have a better understanding of how you can incorporate SEO into your website and try to rank for your keywords.
SEO is a time-consuming process that can take months for you to see a difference, but please don’t be disheartened by this.
With consistent work, in the long run, SEO can create wonders for your business by giving you more user visibility and increasing your revenue.