SEO Tips for SMEs
(Five Cheap and Easy Ones)
The internet is supposed to be the great leveller. The UK’s small businesses could be forgiven for thinking otherwise though, as they watch the country’s, or even the world’s, largest companies hoover up a fortune of online business by pouring cash into search engine optimisation. The internet is a big place, however, and I believe there is room for us all so I want to show how small business owners can level the playing field by keeping it local online. To that end, I’ve offered up five cheap and easy SEO tips that adhere to the three golden rules: keep it local, keep it fresh and NEVER try to pull a fast one over Google. But first, some key stats to demonstrate the opportunity for small businesses:
- Two thirds of British adults shop for goods and services online (according to the ONS) and one in five searches is local (Get Your Business Online).
- Online factors influence offline behaviour: four out of ten people prefer to ROPO – research online, purchase offline (Think Insights).
- But almost a third (32 per cent) of 313 small business owners, partners and directors surveyed by XLN Telecom, do not even have a business website. Worse, of those that do, 23 per cent say their websites are not optimised for search engine traffic and 24 per cent “do not know”, which means theirs aren’t either.
- However, even a small improvement can make a big difference: top spot on Google claims 32.5 per cent of clicks but third place still claims 11.4 per cent (the Value of Google Result Positioning).
So, here are my five cheap and easy SEO tips for small businesses. They’re not comprehensive, the world of SEO is huge, but they’re a great place to start. And I’ve stuck mostly with Google because it is far and away the world’s most used search engine:
- Register for Google Places for Business
It’s free, takes only a few minutes and when people search for local services and goods the map is one of the first things that comes up with a little pin in it marking your business. With Google Places for Business, Google knows you’re local straight away and will give you due prominence, even more so for mobile searches where location is even more important.
- Go past national terms
Google’s mission is to provide users with relevant, useful information and, as I’ve already said, a big part of that is location based. Register with other local business directories, write your location on your homepage (not hidden away on you contact page) and use the free Google Adwords tool to look for uncompetitive keywords relevant to your location. Google Adwords works by taking your list of what you think are relevant keywords and comparing them to actual searches from around the world. Using the results it returns you can see monthly global and UK searches for each suggested term and the competition for that term. Take ‘printers in North London’ for example – there were nearly 400 searches for this last month and the competition for that keyword is zero. It’s best to start with around ten keywords or search terms in order to allow you to focus your activity.
- Website design
Template-based website building tools mean you don’t need to be a specialist developer to create a slick site anymore. Anyone can do it so you shouldn’t be paying thousands for someone to build one for you. And, the best part is, they are constructed from SEO-ready coding and feature easy to fill in forms designed to capture all the necessary information for onsite SEO.
- Keep it fresh
Template-based websites also mean you can add pages and new content quickly and easily. You don’t need to become a famous blogger but new content is how Google knows there’s somebody home. So, if you don’t fancy blogging, consider the occasional addition of content such as ‘How to guides…’ or a client testimonial page. This is useful, informative content and Google will reward you appropriately. A photographer, for example, might add a new page with preparation tips for customers before they even get to the studio, so that they can make sure they get the most from their photo-shoot.
- Don’t ever try to trick Google
You never want to appear as if you’re overtly or unduly trying to influence Google. So stuffing your site with an un-natural amount of keywords is a no-no for example. Google can spot this easily and the penalties for appearing ‘spammy’ can be severe. In the worst cases, sites can effectively be wiped off the face of the internet by being buried so low in search rankings. It’s tempting to get carried away but use your local keywords (found with the Google Adwords tool) naturally so that your sites copy is still readable, and be patient. So there you have it. Do all of the above, review your keyword choices every six months or so and ensure your site is in good working order and it will eventually pay off. As a small business you don’t need to be the best performer on the internet; just performing the best you can locally can make all the difference.
James Wilson is Marketing Director of XLN Telecom, a specialist provider of business broadband services tailored for SMEs and a keen follower of SEO best practice.