SEO

SEO for Small Businesses - The Ultimate Introductory Guide

The ultimate guide for small businesses to get their search engine optimisation strategy up and running and making it a long-lasting practice for success.

If you are new to the world of digital marketing and have questions you need answers for, then stop for a minute, get comfortable and have a read.

In this guide, we’ll provide you with an all-encompassing rundown of Search Engine Optimisation, including an explanation of why it is important, tips on how to build your SEO strategy and how you can implement it effectively. We hope that reading this helps you gain some clarity on the topic and learn something new that you could potentially apply to your own business strategy! So, let’s get started. Here's what we're going to cover:

  1. What is SEO and Why Does it Matter?
  2. Brief History of SEO
  3. SEO Strategy
  4. Keyword Research
  5. How Do Search Engines Work?
  6. Measuring SEO Results
  7. Pros and Cons
  8. Optimising SEO Strategy
  9. Tools for SEO
  10. Terms to Know

What is SEO and Why Does it Matter?

What is SEO?

Well, that’s the million dollar question. Without sounding too technical, Search Engine Optimisation or also known as ‘SEO’, is the digital marketing practice of optimising websites and boosting their visibility and performance on search engine result pages. By helping your business rank higher in the search results, it will drive visitors to your website and in turn increase your lead conversion opportunities - which is why we're all here, right?

Why is SEO important?

SEO is so important because it is centered around understanding what your target audience is searching for online; including specific search terms, keywords and types of content. The more knowledge you have of this, the better equipped you will be to optimise your website and create content that will connect you with your prospects, and hopefully develop those all important long lasting relationships with them.

Whilst your social media platforms can be a good source of traffic to your website, try not to rely wholly on an aesthetically pleasing feed and creative captions for your SEO. The majority of site traffic is still generated through search engines despite the rise in social media - in fact, Google drives 8x more traffic than all social media platforms combined!

That’s why when built up correctly, your SEO strategy would pay for itself over time. If you keep your content consistent and engaging, it should hopefully generate sustainable results - whereas paid advertising will always require you to fund it in order to send visitor traffic. 

The Brief History of SEO

You are probably asking yourself ‘why do I need to know this?’. Well, like everything else, it’s always beneficial to gain some background knowledge on a topic - it might even help you better understand how to correctly implement it today.

The first ever web page was created in 1991, and a few years later in 1997 content creators discovered the practice of optimisation. Whilst this was super progressive for marketers, there were no set rules or conditions on how to perform SEO at that time. 

This meant that webpage owners could utilise spamming efforts to rank higher above their competitors; which nowadays is categorised as ‘black hat SEO’ *tut tut*. Over the years, techniques for the dark side of SEO have unfortunately advanced and developed - this does not mean they should be followed! You want to stay on the search engine’s good side after all.

It can be argued that the key point of evolution for SEO started when Google changed their algorithm to enable more relevant and quality content to become more visible and higher ranking; a system that would benefit the creators to get better traffic, and the audience to get better information. 

Since then, algorithms have been rewritten many times, and the way SEO works and the way it is used is constantly changing as a result - this is something you should always keep in mind. As long as you are consistently optimising your techniques in line with this, and creating content that has actual value for your visitors, you’ll be good to go for the long run.

So let's dive a little deeper into the Yin and Yang of SEO...

White Hat vs Black Hat SEO

White Hat SEO

“White Hat SEO” encompasses the strategies and best practices that adhere to a search engine’s policies. It is known to be the ethical form of SEO, as its main focus is to provide a valued experience for the user and build and nurture relationships with them. 

The best practices for a white hat SEO strategy are to perform careful keyword research and analysis on search terms, write relevant meta descriptions, create backlinks as well as link building, and content creation for human readers. Thumbs up from us at Beanstalk if you do this!

Black Hat SEO

On the flip side, “Black Hat SEO” capitalises on the unethical strategies and techniques that are used to spam and fool the search engines, in order to manipulate the website rankings. This is BAD

Some examples of black hat techniques are: keyword stuffing; link farming; link  buying; and blog comment spamming. Don’t start getting ideas, now. Practices like these are detrimental to the integrity of your website, and being penalised or de-indexed altogether (removed from the search results page) is a high risk, not to be taken! It may also result in the bankruptcy of your business, so stick to the straight and narrow and hold on to your coin. 

Finally, a popularity contest where being well behaved gets you to the top!

The 4 Elements for an Efficient SEO Strategy

As any other marketing concept, here we also have strategic elements that form the existence of search engine optimisation and each element has its own unique attributes.

Your SEO strategy should focus on these 4 core elements:

  1. Content -  the strategies you will use to communicate and create awareness (i.e. examine content on site, audit length, high quality and relevant content)
  2. Technical SEO - the quality is measured by how easily your website can be crawled and indexed (i.e device friendliness, loading time, page security)
  3. On-page SEO - optimising your content and HTML (e.g. including keywords in titles, URLs and meta descriptions, keeping these things updated, data testing)
  4. Off-page SEO - creating links and authority-influencing properties on your websites (i.e. guest blogging posts, local focused sites, social media engagement and industry influencers) 

TIP: One thing to remember is that whilst the phrase “content is king” will always ring true, try to delegate your efforts to these other aspects of your strategy as well, because they also hold great value for your business. 

What is Keyword Research and Why Is It Important? 

Every time your target audience carries out a Google search, more often than not, it will include specific keywords that they know will help identify the answer to the problem that they are experiencing. It is your job as a business with an online presence to make yourself apparent, and create awareness that you are the thought leader that they have been missing in their lives. 

Therefore, the first step you need to take in shaping a successful SEO strategy is to carry out some keyword research. Start by asking yourself simple questions such as:

  • What topics do I want my brand to be recognised for?
  • What’s the purpose of the content I’m producing for these topics?
  • How will my target audience search for these topics? 

It is vital to have a complete understanding of what your brand is all about before you begin targeting users. Once you have done this, you can use a keyword research tool to simply enter a topic name and they will produce a variety of potential keywords, alongside each one's MSV (monthly search volume).

3 Steps to Starting A Successful Small Business Blog

How Do Search Engines Work?

This point will lead you towards the back bone of the search intentions and how search engines operate. It will give you an idea of how some web pages perform better than others. For the purpose of this blog we will provide you with the information of how Google’s algorithms work.

How Google Ranks You On Their Search Engine

Google’s main aim is to display websites based on their content and the relevancy they hold for it’s users. The algorithm is designed to narrow down the results to the content that will provide the most appropriate response to a user’s search, and rank the websites that hold the most authority and popularity at the top. 

There are two factors that influence the engine’s analysis besides the typical equations and algorithms:

  1. Relevancy - does the information match the search query? This is typically determined by factors such as topic and keywords.                                                                                                                                 
  2. Authority - how popular are you online? When Google recognises that your webpage gains a lot of visits, it will assume other users will also want to engage with it too.

The 3 Primary Search Engine Functions

  1. Crawling - web crawling refers to how a search engine collects data from various URLs across the world wide web - think of it a bit like a spider. This includes webpages and any other documents or files, such as images, videos or PDF. This content can then be added to the index.
  2. Indexing - Caffeine is Google’s database system. It stores the URLs and later retrieves them when a search query has been made, and if there is a good match Google will display it in the search results.
  3. Ranking - When the search results are displayed, the search engine’s system will have ranked them. The higher the ranking of a website, the more relevant is believed to be. 

Measuring and Tracking Your SEO Results

So, you’ve put your SEO strategy into place, but how do you know if it’s even working or not? Why aren’t you seeing results? What if you’ve wasted your precious time?!

Fear not. There are an abundance of tools available to help you monitor and track your performance, and make improvements to your strategy accordingly. Measuring your SEO success includes tracking traffic data, engagement and link building. 

Don’t forget, however, that data performance varies from business to business because it is formed around the specific KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that companies have set for themselves. Examples of the most common KPIs for SEO are:

  • Organic traffic growth
  • Keyword ranking (branded or non-branded)
  • Bounce rates
  • Average time spent
  • Conversions
  • Link growth

When it comes to setting goals for your performance, always try to be SMART. What we mean by this is that the goals you set should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. It is important for them to be tailored to the size of your business. Start small if you have to, that’s alright. Keep track of their progress and make changes if necessary, but avoid reaching for the stars at first - be realistic about your capabilities. 

And remember: results are never immediate! Especially with SEO. It may take a while for you to see significant growth from your new strategy, so don’t panic if you’re not seeing those numbers straight away.

The Pros and Cons of SEO

Of course, there are identifiable advantages and disadvantages to putting SEO into action. This is the same with all marketing efforts, it’s just about how you want to weigh them up for your business. We have distinguished what we believe to be the main pros and cons, as follows:

Pros 

  • Expands reach - greater visibility on SERPs
  • Creates opportunities for long term sustainable growth - consistent and targeted traffic
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Leads you towards high ROI when performed correctly

Cons

  • Can take a while to see results because the impact builds up slowly
  • Search engine algorithms constantly changing and rankings fluctuate
  • Increased visibility also leads to increased competition

Congratulations! 

Now that you have successfully gained your basic knowledge around this complex concept, here are some tips on how to effectively optimize your search engine intentions!

Tips On How To Efficiently Optimise Your SEO Strategy

  1. Keyword analysis 

If you want results, apply the correct keywords instead of arbitrary ones. 

  1. Analyze Google’s First Page

Studying your competition is key. You should form a solid understanding of the standard others are working at, and what successful methods and practices you could take advantage of yourself. Getting on that first results page should be an important goal, as only 0.78% of Google users will click on a result that appears on the second page when searching. 



  1. Create Something Different, or Better

Recognise what topic gaps and holes in content there are, or even build on the content they have already used but take it that step further. You might notice that there is a lack of video content for a certain topic, and seize the opportunity to capitalise on this by providing additional multimedia elements that will intrigue and re-engage the visitor - whatever it is, just ensure it still makes sense for your brand!

  1. Optimize For Search Intent

Keywords and search terms reflect a prospect’s search intent - use keywords in your meta description, URL, page title, link description, and at a normal cadence throughout your content to optimise it. Introduce long tail keywords that will narrow down a user’s search from the ones more commonly used.

  1. Make Your Content Look Awesome

Making your content eye catching, easy to digest and enjoyable to look at is very important. Add relevant and descriptive images that reflect your written content, but ensure you don’t make the page look too busy, as this can make it distracting and hard for the prospect to focus - ‘white space’ on a page is your best friend! 

Remember:

  • Consistency is KEY
  • Highlight points using subheadings and bullet points, and draw the prospects attention to key pieces of information using bolding and underlines
  1. Improve and Update Your Content 

If, at a previous date, you have produced content that has since become outdated or unexciting, this should be historically optimised. For example, you might have a blog post that outlines how to navigate a certain phone application, but that application could then be updated and makes your information useless and void. Instead of panicking and deleting the blog completely, you should update it to make it accurate to the current state of affairs. Furthermore, if you think that an old post will perform well in the current climate, tweak it and republish it!

Tip: Make sure you archive any content instead of deleting it completely. Once it’s gone, there’s no going back!

Content Marketing: An Overview to Help Small Businesses Grow

What Are The Best Tools For SEO?

There are different categories for SEO tools and each of them has a variety of instruments you can utilise, here are some examples:

  • Analytics - Google Data Studio (combines the data from both Google Search Console and Google Analytics), Seolyzer
  • Keyword Research - Ubersuggest, Wordtracker, Moz, Keyword Hero
  • Links - Link Redirect Trace, Ahrefs, Linkody, BuzzStream
  • Local SEO - Local SEO Checklist, BrightLocal, Whitespark, SEO Profiler
  • Mobile SEO - Mobile Meter, Our Mobile Planet, Google Webmaster Tools
  • On-page SEO - Screaming Frog, SEOCrawler, Moz On-Page Grader
  • WordPress SEO - All in One SEO for WordPress (AIOSEO)
  • Paid Advertising - Google Ads, Facebook Ads and other social media advertisements

Of course these are just some of the many available tools that could be used. There are more where these came from. So, make sure you understand their practice and use the tools you feel comfortable with!

5 Best Tools to Begin Your SEO Journey - by Beanstalk Social

Furthermore, if you want to learn more about online Ads and how to implement them into your SEO strategy, check out our blog - Ads: How You Can Promote Yourself On Each Platform.

Terms to Know

  • Organic SEO = non paid methods of obtaining high search rankings on search engines
  • Website Performance = The speed at which web pages are downloaded and displayed in a user's web browser
  • Crawl, Index, Rank = primary 3 search engine functions
  • Lead conversion rate = turning leads/prospects into paying customers
  • Featured Snippets = short snippets of text that appear at the top of Google's search results in order to quickly answer a searcher's query
  • Meta description = an HTML element that describes and summarizes the contents of your page for the benefit of users and search engines
  • Link Building = the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own - encouraging people to lead to your website
  • Historical Optimisation = identifying content worth updating - outdated/needs improvement, or could potentially rank higher
  • Responsive web design = a web design that functions the same on every device (laptop, mobile, tablet)
  • SERP = Search Engine Results Page
  • KPI = Key Performance Indicator 
  • SMART goals = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely

Think You Got It?

Hopefully you’re leaving with some solid understanding of the SEO concept and some of its best practices! We hope that any information you’ve taken away will benefit you and your business, and give you a bit of a head start. 

However, if you are still unsure of what is happening, not to worry, we at Beanstalk Social are here to help and support you throughout your journey! Don’t hesitate to ask any questions, or book a call with us. Our mission is to nurture your business!

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