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Search Engine Optimization tips for small businesses

Search Engine Optimization tips for small businesses
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Tolulope Ambali offers Search Engine Optimization tips for small businesses hoping to thrive online.

So, you just launched your business and you’re looking to reach your customers online.

One of the tools you should use is Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short.

Search Engine Optimization is used to increase the quality and quantity of website traffic, expose your brand through organic (non-paid) search engine results. It is also about helping search engines understand and present your content to an audience for visibility, traffic, sales, and/or profit.

search-engine-optimization-for-small-businesses
People seen walking through Ikeja Computer Village, the tech market hub in Lagos.

To get organic ranking, there are some questions and metrics to be considered:

  • What does your business do for your customers?
  • What types of devices do they use? Mobile phones, desktops or tablets?
  • What drives their need to find you? Personal desire? A need to improve their businesses? Domestic issues?

The answers to these questions will allow you connect with the people in need of the solutions you have to offer. Any information you gather will propel your keyword research and form the basis for content creation.

Having sorted out your audience’s needs, the work on how search engines can find and deliver content and solutions in such a way they can easily locate you online then begins.

Search engines are powered to function as answering machines. They gather and break down tons of content using hundreds of factors to deliver the closest (suitable) results to search queries.

The internet has made it easier to connect with an expansive range of customers and buyers, irrespective of physical limitations.

Search engines are powered to function as answering machines. They gather and break down tons of content using hundreds of factors to deliver the closest (suitable) results to search queries.

Through a process called “crawling and indexing”, search engines discover and catalogue all available materials on the internet (web pages, pictures, videos, word documents, PDF files, etc.), orders these materials by how well they match entered queries.

CRAWLING

This is when a search engine rummages through the internet for content materials and looks over each content/code for URLs.

They use small pieces of programs (called crawlers or bots) to follow all the hyperlinks and discover new pages, as well as updates to the pages that have been discovered before.

INDEXING

Indexing stores and organizes data and content found during the crawling process. A page that has been entered in the index will run to be displayed as a relevant result to queries. The search engine index is basically a gigantic library of all the crawled websites with the sole purpose of understanding them and having them available to be used as a search result.

RANKING

SEO ranking provides pieces of content best suited to answer queries. Results are ordered by the most relevant to the least. The higher your website is ranked, the more authentic the search engines believe it to be.

GOOGLE ALGORITHM

Google’s Search Algorithm is used as an umbrella term to refer to all the individual algorithms, machine learning systems and technologies Google uses to rank websites.

To provide the best results, they consider various factors, namely:

Meaning of the query: the search engine needs to understand what exactly is the user searching for.

Page Relevance:  the page must be relevant to the search query.

Quality of content: the search engine tries to pick the best results in terms of quality of content.

Usability of pages – the pages should also be usable (in terms of accessibility, readability, safety, speed, etc.)

Context and settings: also of importance is the user’s location, settings, and search history.

SEARCH RESULTS

Search results can be organic or paid. Organic search results are earned and built from scratch.

Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) are filled with both paid and organic features. 

You can check if your website has been indexed by typing “site:domain.com” into the Google search bar. An example is ” site:google.com” which will return results Google has in its index for the site.

Make sure your site gets crawled and indexed as it is a prerequisite to showing up in the search results. 

search-engine-optimization-for-small-businesses
A lady seen searching for information on a mobile phone. When done right, SEO lets customers find your business online.

WHY IS SEO IMPORTANT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

A good number of businesses are fully operational in the online space without the traditional brick and mortar locations. 

Paid advertising, social media and some other online platforms can generate traffic to your website, but the majority of online traffic is generated through search engines. Therefore, optimizing your site will deliver better information to search engines which will in turn, properly index and display your web content within search results.

WHITE HAT vs BLACK HAT SEO

“White hat SEO” are SEO techniques and strategies that follow search engine rules, and primarily provide more value.

“Black hat SEO” on the other hand, are techniques that attempt to spam search engines. These techniques may work, but they tend to put websites at the risk of being penalised and removed from search results.

UNDERSTAND YOUR COMPETITION

There are many other similar businesses vying for your customer’s attention online, so you might as well make your business and website stand out.

One strategy that works perfectly is creating content that is ten times better than your competitors, also known as the “10x content” strategy.

SEO has been divided into four key aspects:

  1. Link Building;
  2. Keyword Research;
  3. Technical SEO;
  4. On-Page SEO.

Keyword Research 

Your business has been set up to solve a problem and meet certain needs. The bedrock of a successful business establishment is the understanding of what the customers are looking for, and how best the solution is communicated to its intended audience. In this case, words, phrases, and general lexis of your industry/niche.

It goes without saying that original, authentic content is key

Align your content with what your audience is looking for.

TOOLS YOU CAN USE TO DETERMINE THE VALUE OF A KEYWORD

  • Google Keyword Planner is the most common starting point for keyword research. Though it restricts search volume data by lumping keywords together into large search volume range, you can come up with seed keywords and phrases unique to your business. If you sell vegan sandwiches and smoothies in Lagos, phrases like “vegan food spot in Lagos” will work for you.

USE GOOGLE SUGGEST TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

Web stored data are a dime in a dozen. To discover what other aspects of your business niche your audience might be interested in, Google Autocomplete, “People Also Ask” or Related Searches can be a great source of keyword ideas.

The autocomplete feature only needs you to write a seed keyword into the Google search and the suggestions will appear automatically.

Getting customers is the easy part of the job; retaining them is where the real juice is.

  • Keywords make the difference: “mobile wardrobe in Lagos” is more likely to show up on the first two results than a “wardrobe for sale”
  • Less is more: you might want to narrow it down to the smallest, (relevant) details. Cut the ambiguity and help your customers.
  • Keep them engaged: an average human has a short attention span.
  • Your choice of title carries weight: Or scrolled past a headline because of how bland it sounds. Regardless of how interestingly detailed the body is, the title 

Compelling enough to catch and retain their interest

USE THE RIGHT IMAGES

The saying “dress the way you want to be addressed” does not only apply to humans. You can invest in stock images 

Trust you enough to part ways with their money. 

Utilize the right tools: the chances that your business will make it to the first page of Google search result.

You can insert your focus keyword into various image metadata such as image filename, image title, image caption or the image “alt” text.

KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER’S GOALS

This will help you determine the areas of SEO you should pay attention to, how to track conversions, set benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure returns.

“Bounced” sessions indicate that a searcher visited the page and left without browsing your site any further

CLICK-THROUGH RATE (CTR)

Your CTR from search results to a particular page (meaning the percent of people that clicked your page from search results) can provide insights on how well you’ve optimized your page title and meta description. You can find this data in Google Search Console.

There are lots of different tools available for keeping track of your site’s position in SERPs. Examples include, but are not limited to SE Ranking, AccuRanker, Morningscore and Serpstat. In the past we also used ProRankTracker

  • Understand your goals and the basic rules of SEO;
  • Make sure your site is crawlable and indexable in search;
  • Conduct thorough keyword research;
  • Make sure your on-site optimizations are up to snuff;
  • Perform necessary technical SEO optimizations or audits;
  • Earn links and establish your site’s authority;
  • Prioritize effectively and measure the right metrics;
  • Take the time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t after an SEO project. How might you do things a bit differently in the future to improve your performance;
  • Read reliable resources;
  • Get hands-on experience;
  • Don’t be afraid of experiments;
  • Have a lot of patience.

DOCUMENT YOUR RESULTS

Common KPIs you can utilize to measure results are:

  • Phone calls and Inquiries
  • Email signups
  • Downloads
  • Contact form submission
  • Sales
  • Website traffic

When done right, SEO can help your business achieve real goals for sales and real conversions.

As a small business owner, you should utilize SEO to build a strong web presence and bypass your competition to gain new customers for your business and take it to the next level.

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