Everybody has heard the term SEO.
And yet, it would be more than fair to say that the actual art of SEO is something of a rabbit hole. The internet is full of information about what to do and how to do it.
The truth, though? Most of it is irrelevant or inaccurate. That’s where we come in.
In this article, we’ve collated 50 essential SEO tips that will deliver real benefit to a small business. Because improving visibility in search engines is vital for any business with an online presence, regardless of size or industry.
After reading our small business guide to SEO, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to transfer your website into an online powerhouse.
Our SEO practical guide
Here we go. Take a deep breath, and dive in:
- Understand what SEO is. Improving the visibility of your site in search engines, to increase organic traffic and conversions.
- Understand what SEO isn't. Some tools and techniques violate Google’s guidelines and may damage your rankings in the long term. These are known as black hat. Avoid them.
- Provide value. This is always your priority, with rankings always a second consideration to creating a genuinely valuable web presence.
- Provide it to humans first! It’s easy to get swept up in metrics and data, but always remember that human users are your priority.
- Recognise game. There are a lot of intelligent people in SEO. Familiarise yourself with names like Rand Fishkin, Brian Dean, and Neil Patel.
- Learn from the best. Spend a while reading blogs and websites. You’ll glean a lot of incredible SEO knowledge.
- Read the Google Webmaster guidelines. This page best articulates what Google expects a site to do to rank well.
- Read the Search Quality Rater guidelines. It’s a hefty document, but it provides unrivalled insight into what Google looks for when ranking sites. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, there are lots of summaries available.
- Read the Moz Guide to SEO. Seven chapters and a glossary, written by experts and for beginners.
- Put together a strategy. SEO is about incremental gains that strengthen your site. Finding shortfalls, addressing them, and refining this on an ongoing basis is much more effective than taking a stab in the dark.
- Set up Google Analytics. This free tool lets you track traffic and engagement and measure the impact of your efforts.
- Set up Google Search Console. As above, but measuring slightly different metrics: This tool tracks rankings, crawl errors, and much more.
- Set up Bing Webmaster Tools. While Google is the grand-daddy of search engines, it’s worthwhile optimising for other search engines, too. Here’s the tool.
- Run a Lighthouse audit. Another free tool from Google. Lighthouse breaks down the performance, accessibility, and SEO of your site, as well as how aligned you are with best practices.
- Run a site speed audit. Tools like GTMetrix give more insight into factors impacting site speed and will point you in the direction of improvements to make.
- Run a Screaming Frog audit. Weird name aside, this tool is incredibly useful for revealing technical SEO shortfalls. It will tell you what's missing, and what's not optimised.
- See how your site looks on other devices. Google prioritises mobile-friendly sites because the majority of web traffic is now mobile. Your site should work well on any device, from the earliest smartphone right through to a giant Apple monitor.
- Know your keywords. Good SEO is built on good keyword knowledge. Google Keyword Planner (free) and Ahrefs (paid) are good starting points.
- Know your long-tail keywords. You need to know what people are searching to be able to rank for it, and people rarely use the most obvious search terms. Understanding how people search for your product and service is key for an effective SEO strategy.
- Know your LSI keywords. LSI is latent semantic indexing, and the term refers to keyword phrases that are thematically related. Taking “coffee” as an example keyword, “best black coffee beans to buy” might be a long-tail. An LSI keyword, however, would be “how to wake up earlier”. Broadening your keyword strategy gives more opportunity for success.
- Keep voice search in mind for keywords. With the rise of Siri, Alexa, and friends, people search with their voice more than ever. Spoken phrasing is different to typed, so your site copy needs to target both.
- Sort your keywords into thematic groups. Understanding the different routes into your website is helpful when creating and organising content on your site. More on that later.
- Understand how competitive your keywords are. Higher competition means higher potential traffic, but most likely more work to rank. Keyword Planner can help with this (see #18).
- Remember: Human first! When discussing keywords, it’s important to reiterate this. Good keyword knowledge is vital to optimising your site, but please do not just stuff them in willy-nilly. Make sure your content reads naturally.
- Implement breadcrumbs. These navigational links are useful for human visitors and search engine crawlers alike. A well-signposted journey through your site will pay dividends.
- Add schema markup. These standardised tags that provide context for web content. They further strengthen signposting and give search engines a clearer understanding of your site.
- Tidy up under the bonnet. Everything should be fine-tuned and optimised. The tools in #14, #15, and #16 will reveal a list of tasks to be getting on with.
- Peek under your competitors' bonnets. In a zombie apocalypse, you don't need to be an Olympic gold medal sprinter to survive, you just need to run faster than the people you're with. The same is true with SEO, to some extent. If your site is stronger than your competitors' - even if it's not perfect - you will rank better. It’s good to know what you’re up against.
- Optimise images on your site. Just because you're looking at an image 400 pixels wide, doesn't mean your browser has loaded an image 400 pixels wide. It could have loaded one 4000 pixels wide and scaled it down: A massive lag on page speed.
- Use the site: search operator to see how your site looks in search engines. This shows the pages indexed pages. If pages you expect to see don’t show up - or vice versa - troubleshooting may be required.
- Reflect on your site structure, and maybe reorganise things. Old pages can be removed and redirected to newer, more relevant content. Or perhaps there are gaps where content should go? Make a note of these for later.
- Learn about redirects. There's no harm trimming pages out of your site, but you need to understand how to retain the links and authority those pages had accrued.
- Create good content. Create content that addresses all potential search intent. Make it keyword relevant. Invest time and effort making it engaging, interesting, and well-presented.
- Create good content regularly. A living, breathing site is more appealing to prospective customers than one that’s been gathering dust for years.
- Fetch as Google. When you create a juicy new piece of content, use Search Console’s URL inspection tool to fast-track its indexing.
- Organise your content into clusters. Google rewards content organised into topic clusters. The keyword groups you created in #22 will provide a good starting point.
- Revise old content occasionally. Is everything up to date? Information should still be correct, and links should still work. Also consider whether there are insights you can glean for future content: Look at what performed well and aim to replicate that. And vice versa.
- Build good links. Links are key ranking factors. A hyperlink from another site to yours is seen as a vouch. The more authoritative the source site, the better the vouch.
- Don't build bad links. Yes, this distinction is worth its own bullet point. When building links, remember what you learned in point #2: Good SEO does not rely on spammy, black hat techniques.
- Use internal links. There will be logical flows between content pieces and pages on your site: Internal links let humans and search engine crawlers follow and understand it.
- Go local. A strong local presence is invaluable for SEO. You’re more likely to rank in local searches, and you may even jump above other rankings.
- Fill in your Google My Business listing. Google has built a sophisticated tool for local search. Make the most of it by claiming your listing.
- Make sure your NAP is consistent. This isn't referring to napping at the same time each day (although apparently, that's also advisable). Rather, it’s making sure your name, address, and phone number are correct and synchronised around the web (on and off your site).
- Add a map to your contact page. Or somewhere else on your site. This is very much a case of 'human first' design.
- Build local-specific content. Local pages, content outlining areas covered, and anything else that strengthens the local signals your site sends.
- Ask customers to review your business. Testimonials are a great trust signal, showing that real people used and (hopefully) enjoyed your service / product. Ask existing customers to review their purchases, and bake review prompts into future purchases.
- Go social. Add social icons to your site, and invest time in social media feeds. Be selective, though: Each platform lends itself best to certain industries, and no business has the capacity (nor the need) to be present on every single one.
- Apply #34 to social, too. “Create good content regularly.”
- Keep abreast of changes. SEO is always evolving. What’s good practice today may be black hat tomorrow (see reciprocal links, directory links, and paid guest posts for just three examples). And while we advocate updating old content regularly (see #37), don’t take what you read about SEO for granted.
- Outsource! Maybe you're reading this list of SEO tips and thinking, "wow, there's a lot to do..!" In some ways, you're right. Although the key premise is simple, SEO is a complex web. You've got to build and maintain a lot of knowledge, and you need to stay on top of things. If all this sounds like too much work, partnering with an SEO agency can let you reap the rewards without the effort.
And there you have it: A bunch of reasons why SEO is essential for small businesses, along with 50 actionable SEO hints and tips to help you achieve success.
If you’re looking for an SEO agency for small business, then look no further. Get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to help.