8 Top SEO Tips for New Businesses
If you’re just starting out in business and want to make your website a real marketing tool, SEO can be a daunting prospect – what is it exactly, and where do you start? Everyone wants to position their business well in search engine results, but how to achieve this is clouded in confusion.
Fortunately you don’t have to be an IT expert to grasp the fundamentals of SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation, to give it its full title). Here are eight basic tips that will start you painlessly on the road to success.
1. Create a Sensible URL
If you’re a grocery called Martins in Manchester, a web address like www.martinsgrocery.com or .co.uk would be very useful. Importantly, the first line on your homepage needs to include your location. Even though this address isn’t taken (yet) a search for “martins grocery manchester” highlight groceries (and some very useful and targeted results pop up).
Focusing in on your name, business type and location makes it a lot easier for you to be found, both by your customers and by Google (it’s called a “higher conversion rate”, which means you’ll rank higher in search listings).
2. Content is King
Content is something that some early SEO pioneers forgot about almost completely. People assumed SEO was all about keywords, and that all Google cared about was that you stuffed enough keywords into your content. The result was some pretty weird websites that looked more like a grocery list than anything you might want to call content.
While keywords (those words people are likely to use when searching for your products or services) are extremely important, business is about more than just getting people to visit your website. You have to make sure that your home page sets out your most important messages, with your top keywords – the ones that are most relevant to your particular business. There’s no need to repeat them over and over – it’s important that your text makes sense to your visitors.
For example, our hypothetical grocer might want to tell people on their homepage that they are a “family grocer, selling quality local, organic food in Manchester”. There are several keywords in here that customers will be searching for including, critically, the location. Our grocer might then want to add links to pages setting out the types of foods that they sell, a company history, blog, and news pages (the possibilities are endless).
3. Visuals Are Key
Whatever your business, you’re looking to create nice clear titles and headings, and text that tells your site visitors exactly what you’re about. Make sure your site is clean and uncluttered, and easy to navigate. Don’t overcrowd your pages with words – 200 well-chosen words and an attractive image work far better visually than endless text you have to scroll through to digest. Provide contact details on every page, including your address and phone number, and make sure every page links back to the home page. There’s nothing more irritating than reaching a dead end on a website!</p>
4. Keep Your Website Active
Create a blog, and a news section – and factor in the time during your week to ensure that you provide updates. It’s a big commitment, but it will pay off in many different ways, some of which are explained in the next section.
A blog is useful in that it allows you both to present your key business messages and your culture and principles to potential customers. You may well be bursting to tell the world about yourself, how great your products are, how you got to where you are now and your thoughts on your sector, in which case a blog is your ideal outlet.
News can be brief – 200 words is plenty – but again this gives you a chance to showcase your business as a dynamic entity. If there’s a local event you’ll be attending in a business context, write a release giving the details so people can make contact. If you have a particularly great contract you’ve won (and you are able to get client permission), write some details about that. News also gives you another chance to showcase your key messages.
You should of course weave keywords into blogs and news, and provide links to your blog and news pages via social media – another important aspect of your SEO strategy, as I explain below.
5. Get Into Social Media
Links to your website are vital, as they play an important role in your SEO visibility – Google places value on backlinks as they show that your business is authentic and live.
This strategy will make Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media websites very important tools. Such sites draw people to your website from the wider world and dramatically raise your visibility. It’s simple to join these sites and for the most part free, so it’s very worthwhile.
Some words of caution though – you’ll have to be proactive. You’ll need to post regularly, and respond quickly to any feedback or complaints from customers (politely and professionally, you don’t want to go viral for an outburst!). You also have to make sure that any external links are of good quality – that is, they link from credible sites. This is important to Google: if you “spam” links everywhere you will be actively penalised.
6. Create a Presence on Directory Sites
Yell.com, the Thomson local directory, TripAdvisor – such websites rank high in search results so it’s well worth making sure that your business is listed in as many as possible. Where such websites ask what categories your business falls under, think hard about anything that might be appropriate.
Also make sure your listing is highly focused, providing the most important information in the heading: name, business and location. From our earlier example, this would mean the heading would be “Martin’s Grocery Manchester”.
7. Examine Successful Competitors
Who among your competitors has the highest ranking when you search for the keywords that are relevant to your sector? Have a good look at their website and see what they’re doing that could be getting them this coveted position.
You need to assess various aspects of the site – how appealing is it visually? How easy is it to navigate? How have they arranged their website? How well is it written, can you identify the keywords? One way to work the keywords out more easily is suggested below.
8. Study Google AdWords
If you really aren’t sure what keywords you should be using, it might be worth investing in Google Adwords. This is a “pay-per-click” solution – signing up is free and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad to visit your website, or calls you. You can set a daily budget too, so it doesn’t run away from you.
What this also gives you is access to Google Keywords, which is great for generating keywords – you submit a URL and Google extracts keyword suggestions from it, which will give you a really good idea of what other similar businesses are using for their keywords.
Basic SEO is not nearly as difficult as it looks. Essentially:
- Make sure your web address is relevant
- Make sure your content is clear, direct and appealing
- Make sure your website is uncluttered and easy to navigate
- Keep posting blogs and news
- Ensure you have a good social media presence
- Make sure you’re on local listings websites
- Check out your competitors’ websites
- Try out Google AdWords
If you’re working on all the above, it won’t be long before you see positive results!