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The 6 Step Guide to SEO for Beginners and Small Businesses

Blog SEO Small Business Guide to SEO May 2, 2021

by Yiming Xuzhou | @siliconvalbread

SEO for small businesses

What the heck is SEO?

 

Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is one of the most important factors that will determine whether your small business succeeds or fails. 

 

Even if you have an amazing business plan and a stellar product offering, having a poor SEO strategy can ruin your company.

 

Having a great business is definitely important, but it is just as important for your company to be seen by your potential customers.

 

After all, if people can’t find you, how are they going to know how amazing you are?

 

SEO is the process of getting your business to show up on a search engine’s results page.

 

Having a great SEO strategy can give your business a lot of benefits, like:

  • It can increase your website traffic
  • Make you passive income from affiliate marketing
  • Help you grow with organic lead generation
  • Give you a trustworthy brand presence 
  • Enhanced online visibility
  • Growth in partnerships 

 

In this article, I will go over the basics of SEO and teach you how to generate organic traffic for your small business. 

But First, What Exactly is SEO?

what is seo

SEO is essentially the process of optimizing every part of your business’s website to get found by search engines like Google.

 

These search engines use crawlers called “spiders” to look through your website and analyze it. It takes information from your site and indexes your pages so that (hopefully) your site will be found when people make relevant searches.

 

You might be wondering: What determines the top 5 websites that show up on the search results page?

 

Let’s take a look at the types of websites that show up on the front page.

what is seo

Consider the search term shown above.

 

These websites may seem like any regular blog, but they have mastered the art of search engine optimization.

 

Right under the search toolbar, you can see that Google returned my question with over 700,000,000 results. Out of those 700 million results, only a few websites made it to the first page. 

 

These few websites are the ones that you are probably going to click on too!

 

In fact, the first 5 results that show up on a search engine results page receive 67.6% of all the clicks for that term (on average). 

 

Think about it. When is the last time you checked the 2nd page of a Google search results page?

 

Clearly, getting your website to show up on the first page is important. But how do you do it? That’s what we’re here to find out. 

order of seo operations
"Order of SEO Operations" by MOZ.com

SEO is Deep.

Before we get into the 6 steps you need to take first when working on your SEO, keep in mind that SEO goes deep. 

 

Entire industries and businesses have been built because of SEO.

 

Software companies have gotten incredibly big just because they help you do your SEO.

Consider a platform like SEMrush (we will be talking about this later too). 

 

SEMrush is a SaaS tool that marketers love because it gives you everything you need to strategize your SEO plan and monitor your competitors. 

 

Why is it great? You can see exactly what keywords your competitors are ranking for and the amount of traffic they get. 

 

Here is an example of me using SEMrush to see insights on Amazon. 

semrush

Clearly, they rank for phrases like “amazon prime” and “prime video” but the sheer volume of traffic they receive is stunning. 

 

This service can be recreated to see insights on any other website.

 

Additionally, you can see the competitors that are fighting for organic search results. If you dive further, you can pinpoint exactly what strategy they use to get ranked on search engines and increase website traffic. 

semrush

So what if you are just starting your small business and you want to start ranking on Google.

 

First, you need to take care of the basics. 

 

Let’s go over 6 essential SEO tips for small businesses and beginners. 

Step 1. Focus on Your Content

Before you worry about getting people to see the content on your website, you need to consider:

 

Is your website even worth visiting?

 

If people are finding your site but leaving immediately because it is:

  • Unfulfilling
  • Buggy
  • Irrelevant
  • Error-filled
  • Unattractive

 

then your SEO efforts will have gone to waste.

The key to having a low bounce rate (percentage rate at which people go to your site and leave) is to make content that thoroughly answers a viewer’s question or satisfies their need

 

Content marketing can take a lot of forms. Depending on the pain point that you are trying to solve, the right type of content can be a full-length guide, a video, a forum, or much more.

 

In terms of SEO, the content that you are trying to rank is the most important part of the formula.

 

While you are creating your site or blog post, ask yourself:

  1. Who am I writing for?
  2. What stage of the customer journey are they in?
  3. What is my unique message?
  4. What is the best way to send this message?
  5. Am I completely solving their problem?

 

Regardless of what you are trying to solve with your business, it is always a good idea to understand your target audience as deeply as possible.

 

That’s why it’s so important to create a buyer persona. 

 

The most effective way to understand how to create the best type of content for your target reader is to use a tool like Xtensio to visualize their exact needs and tendencies. 

user persona

Creating a user persona can help you create a content plan for your website. 

 

Then, you can craft your website’s offerings around it.

 

Before you go out and actually start making content for your site, a key step for SEO is to find and analyze the best keywords to use. 

Step 2. Find Keywords That Your Customers Search for

Organic search is the number #1 most targeted source of traffic.

 

In fact, about 70% of the links search users click on are organic–meaning they come from SEO, not ads. 

 

If you want the highly targeted people to find your business and make a purchase, you need your keywords to match what your business offers. 

 

To start, you can look at the type of keywords that show up on Google’s search engine results page. 

 

For example, if you have a flower shop that sells roses, look at the type of keywords that are ranking for other stores with similar offerings. 

google search results

Pay attention to the words that are bolded in the description. These are the words that Google sees when they are determining what words to rank the site for. 

 

As you can see, even though the search was “rose flower shops”, words like bouquet, delivery, and florist were considered keywords to Google. 

 

This is a good example of the type of keywords you want to include in your business website when you are creating content. 

 

It is also a good idea to check the suggestion page at the bottom of the search results to see more keywords that are good to include. 

By starting here, you are essentially letting Google do your keyword research for you. 

 

It is always a good idea to conduct more research. A great tool for this is Ubersuggest.

 

Using a tool like Ubersuggest can give you an idea of what keywords are more easy or difficult to rank for. 

 

It can also tell you other keyword ideas that are related to the term you chose. 

Simply type in the phrase that is most related to your business and Ubersuggest will return with data that can help you decide what keywords to include. 

 

The best part is that you can get 3 free searches a day with this tool.

You can see the volume of searches each term gets, the average CPC (cost per click) that advertisers pay for these keywords, and the overall difficulty for you to rank in the organic or paid search.

 

You may be wondering: how can I possibly rank for these generic search terms when they are already so many results?

Introducing... the Long Tail Keywords

In the past, you would be able to write a simple post and rank for specific keyword phrases with less than 5 words.

 

Nowadays, the game has changed. These keywords are saturated with huge website posts that are flooded with social shares and backlinks. 

 

The best way to get your foothold on Google’s SERP in 2021 is to target long-tail keywords. 

 

These keywords are more like search queries, or long-form questions that people ask Google. 

long tail

As you can see from this infographic, the long-tailed keywords account for about 70% of all search traffic–a big majority.

 

Established marketers call long-tail keywords the “holy grail of SEO” for their ability to generate organic search traffic to your business’s website. 

Long-tail keywords are the key to ranking over your competition.

This SaaS company created a study on how its keywords rank on Google’s SERP. 

 

They discovered that long-tail keywords were consistently impacted more by on-page optimization efforts. 

The point is, if you target your content to be optimized for a long-tail search, you have a great shot at outranking your opponents. 

How do you find long-tail keywords?

We already talked about Google’s suggestion box and Ubersuggest–both of which give you a few great long-tail suggestions–but is there a way to generate more long-tail keywords from a specific search term.

 

Hint: the answer is yes. 

 

I use a tool called Keywords Everywhere to find new long-tail keywords for every search I enter into Google.

 

It functions as an add-on to my Chrome browser and gives me great insights in addition to the long-tail keywords. 

Here, I conducted the same search as before but I used Keywords Everywhere.

 

Now, I can see a bunch of suggestions for effective keywords I can target if I want to make a blog post about my fictitious flower shop. 

 

Pretty neat.

 

So after you make a list of keywords to use, what should you do for your SEO?

Step 3. Optimize Your On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is all about using your keyword list to write great content for your site. It is also closely related to the way you structure the words you use in a page or blog post. 

 

To optimize your on-page SEO, you need to make sure to:

  • Optimize your page title and headlineOn average, 8 out of 10 people will read the headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. Headlines are the promise you are sending to the reader. They are important. One of the factors that Google considers when they are ranking your site is the click-through rate. This is the percentage of people who view your headline and end up clicking on it. Here’s a full guide on how to optimize your page title and headline.
  • Use a proper h1 or header tag – The header of your page (or your h1 tag) is also very important. It should be optimized to be a long-tailed keyword phrase that is related to the specific keywords you are trying to rank for. 
  • Add lots of pictures and add alt tags – When you add a picture to your site, you are given the option to give it an alternative tag. This is essentially a word or a few words that describes what the picture is. This is very useful for Google because they can understand what your content is about using context clues from your image descriptions. 

 

By the way, you should try to make an effort to add a lot of pictures because visuals will help human readers stay focused on your website. 

 

This also ties back to the point about focusing on your content. Great content includes a great selection of pictures.

 

I would recommend selecting the pictures you are going to use for your page before you start creating it so you have them ready. 

 

I do this and it saves me a lot of time.

 

Let’s keep moving!

Step 4. Get Your Technical SEO Done

What is technical SEO? 

 

This is the process of optimizing the infrastructure of your website so Google’s website crawlers can have an easier time reading and indexing it. 

 

This could result in a new post ranking faster (since the crawlers can see it and add it to their index faster).

 

Technical SEO tasks include:

  • Creating a sitemap and submitting it to Google Search Console – if you use YoastSEO this is created automatically and all you have to do is send it to Google.
  • Delete old or trashed pages
  • Fix any broken areas or old links
  • Compress your images and add alt texts

 

The first thing you should do is check to see if your website is showing up on Google at all. 

 

Go to Google Search Console, log in, and click on “URL inspection”. 

google search console

Google will prompt you to enter a URL at the top of the page. 

 

Enter the URL you want to check and press enter. 

 

You will either see a good screen that tells you Google has indexed your website, or a neutral screen that says the “URL is not on Google”.

 

If this is the case, don’t worry. Simple press on “Request Indexing”. 

 

Whenever you add a new page or post to your website, you should go through this process to make sure Google indexes all your new content. 

 

Another good idea is to add a sitemap. On the left menu, click on “Sitemaps”.

google sitemap

If you are using YoastSEO, you should already have a sitemap. You will be able to show it to Google by typing in “sitemap_index.xml”.

 

If you don’t use Yoast or don’t know how to make your own sitemap, I would recommend going on Fiverr and seeing if any developer could provide you with one for less than $5.

 

After that, you should check out this technical SEO checklist and find a day where you can go through your website and run all these optimizations. 

Step 5. Get Your Website Speed Up

You should already know how important website speed is for your user experience. 

 

Over 50% of your website’s visitors will leave immediately if your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

 

If that wasn’t bad enough, having a slow website will also cause Google to dislike your site and it could result in poor rankings. 

 

Low visibility + high bounce rate is a recipe for disaster.

 

On the other hand, if you make your website very fast, it could become a great advantage over your competition.

How to Speed Up Your Website

Making your website fast can be a big task on its own. 

 

After all, if only half of the web can get a site to load within 2.9 seconds, it must be pretty complicated. 

 

So yeah, it will take a lot of effort and research to get your site to load in something like 1-2 seconds but what can you do now?

 

Some actions you can take now to speed up your website include:

 

Again, an easier solution that will probably save you money is to ask a developer on Fiverr who specializes in website speed to fix your website.

 

I did this for another site and a $10 service got me down to 1.5 seconds. 

It can seem risky to hire an unknown person to log onto your website and make changes.

 

That’s why I only hire people who have had over 1000 positive reviews and lots of references. 

Make Sure to Constantly Check Your Speed

Using a tool like Google Pagespeed Insights or GTMetrix, you can see how fast your website is loading. 

 

It will also give you suggestions of things to fix in order to speed it up. 

 

These are things you can communicate to your developer or try to fix yourself. 

As you can see, GTMetrix gives you a grade rating based on your site performance. 

 

Under the rating, you will find a complete analysis of your website speed and vitals. 

 

Currently, my website has a very fast loading speed which comes as a result of a lot of experience in search and backend optimization.

 

If you run a small business and you need to get a faster website, this is one of the services that my digital marketing agency team provides

Step 6. Make Sure Your Mobile Site is Optimized

In 2021, having a responsive mobile website in addition to your default view is essential. 

 

What makes a website responsive?

 

In website development, the design and development of your content must be optimized to respond to the reader’s behavior regardless of screen size, platform, and orientation. 

 

A site that is poorly optimized may appear to break on the smartphone version or have issues if you rotate your screen. 

 

In order to make your website responsive, you need to use a mix of grids, layouts, images, and intelligent code. 

social media management agency

Why is mobile SEO important?

Google takes your mobile website’s speed, layout, and performance into consideration when it is evaluating your SEO score.

 

In addition, 52% of users are less likely to engage with your company again due to a poor mobile experience.

 

Clearly, having an optimized mobile site is a very important task and it should be high on your priority list. 

How do you make a mobile site responsive?

If you a page builder like Elementor for WordPress, you can cycle between responsive modes. 

On the bottom of your editing screen, look at the third button from the right. 

responsive design

By pressing on “Responsive Mode”, you can cycle between different views of your site. 

 

Then, you can change the mobile and tablet view according to the best way it should be organized. 

 

This is a great way to make your site responsive with intuitive tools. 

 

For a full guide on making your website responsive, head here

Summary

After reading this, you should have a pretty good grasp on a few things you can do to start building a stronger SEO score for your website.

 

After all, if you only focus on making a great business and neglect SEO, you could be working long hours in the dark. 

 

SEO is vital to getting your small business the visibility and attention it deserves. It all starts with understanding how SEO works in terms of Google and real people. 

 

Google created search engine optimization to help people. Your goal should always be to make content that thoroughly solves a reader’s problem. By creating understandable content, you will eventually begin to rank organically on Google. Of course, there are ways to speed this up but SEO is a long-term task.

 

If you keep working and stay in line with Google’s needs, you have a winning formula for SEO.

 

Do you have any questions about this article or about SEO? Comment below!

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