SEO … Search Engine Optimisation (or Optimization if you come from that part of the world). It’s a term we hear a lot, and one that can cost businesses a lot of money. But is that cost unnecessary? Is the outlay justified for small business websites?

Firstly it’s important to understand that “SEO” isn’t just one task, and it’s not even just a fixed set of tasks. SEO is a process, and that process varies depending on a large range of factors. The “secret” to┬áconsistently getting good ranking on search engines for your website is understanding which of the various tasks need to be done at what time, and how much of each is required. To use a baking analogy it’s a bit like trying to bake the perfect chocolate cake, and knowing what ingredients are required, but having to work out the quantities of each on the fly! Which is why, for businesses in a competitive category or marketplace, it requires an expert.

Local BusinessesBUT, that’s not necessarily the case for many small business websites. In fact, in many cases following a simple set of procedures will be sufficient to rank you well in Google against your local competition. And lets face it, for small to medium sized businesses, your trade comes from the local area, so that’s where you need to be found, and the websites you need to outrank are those of your local competitors.

And that’s the goal of Local SEO – getting your business (website) found within the geographic area your business services. For those who take out a full website package with us, we perform the steps outlined below – and a few others we won’t list here – for you. But with a fairly basic skill set on the computer you can do it yourself.

So what’s the catch? Well … ok, yes, there’s a catch. The catch is that for worthwhile results your business website must be mobile friendly. With a very large and growing percentage of local searches being conducted on tablets or smartphones, putting all the effort into be found, only to have the potential client leave your site immediately because it doesn’t display well on their device, would be a huge waste of time and money.

So here are some of the simple things you can do to potentially help improve your website ranking:

  • Know Your Target!
    No, we’re not going to shoot anyone, but we do need to know who we’re marketing to, and what they’ll be searching for to find you. Terms that match up with the services or products you offer are generally best, and that have good search volume. To get an idea of search volume use Google’s “Keyword Planner“. You need a Google account to use it, but then, you need a Google Account for Analytics and Webmaster Tools too, which you should already have monitoring your site. When you’ve prepared you keyword list…
  • Use Keywords in the Website Pages
    There are a couple of aspects to this. First is the content of the pages. Your website pages should contain useful, descriptive text that outlines the product, service or person. This text needs to contain the relevant keywords. Don’t over-stuff it with keywords because that’s worse than not having the words in there at all. Ensure the relevant keywords also appear in the page title – the words that appear at the top of the browser window and show up in the blue links in Google. The title should be as short as possible, but still both appeal to the searcher, and contain the keywords. Be sure to put the most important keywords at the beginning of the title. Also make sure that each page has a unique title.
  • List Your Address on Every Page
    Every page should contain your address and phone number. Optionally it’s useful to also include a Google map, and your business hours. This information is not only helpful for visitors to your website, but also reinforces your location details to the search engines.
  • Claim Your Online Business Directory Listings
    There are a large number of online business directories on which you can list your business. These sites all tend to get lots of traffic, and rank well in the search engines. The primary directory is Google Places, but the others are also important. Remember, all roads lead to Rome! It doesn’t matter which listing your clients find at the top of the list, as long as it links to your business, so give yourself as many chances as possible! Here are some of the more popular business directories:

  • Keep Your Website Fresh!
    Google likes active websites so it’s important to be adding fresh content, regularly. The simplest way of doing this is via a blog. If your website is build on WordPress – like all of Prosites websites, and more than 20% of all websites on the planet – the blog is built in! So start writing. It needn’t be a novel and you don’t have to possess journalistic skills. Just write about stuff relevant to your business. If you’re a plumber in Warwick and want to rank for “Warwick Plumbing” write a blog post called “Warwick Plumbing: How to Change a Tap Washer”. You could easily do a whole series starting with “Warwick Plumber:” then give some simple plumbing tip. Giving away information is a good thing. Most people don’t want to do the work anyway, and those who will do the simple jobs themselves will seek you out when there are bigger tasks that they can’t do. When you’ve written your first blog post go to Google’s Blogsearch and add your blog’s URL so that each time you write something it will be instantly added to Google, and each of those posts then has a chance of ranking well for those keywords.
  • Get Some Reciprocal Links
    Contact other local businesses – not your competitors of course – and offer links to their website if they’ll reciprocate. Set up a Facebook / Google Plus / LinkedIn etc page for your business and post the URL of your blog articles on them. They all generate links back to your site. Some other options include your local Chamber of Commerce or business groups, friends who have websites – it really doesn’t matter what the site is for, and partner or vendor websites.
There are lots of other avenues to promote your business online. If you’re posting on social media sites like Facebook and Google Plus, or B2B sites like LinkedIn, ask your clients / customers for reviews or testimonials or endorsements. Add photos of your business and / or the work you’ve done to photo sharing sites like Panoramio or Flickr.

And as more people use mobile web searches to find local services, SEO will become one of the more important components of your marketing plan. Becoming familiar with it today will save you a lot of angst tomorrow.

And if you’d prefer someone else took care of it for you, give us a call. ­čÖé