SEO for the Small Business

Small business owners may be required to do many things. Selling, accounting, marketing … yes. But, master the dark arts of SEO? Surely not!

goldfish-in-bowl

You should, of course, be concentrating on creating the best products and providing the best services. That’s a “given.” But there is a reliable way of creating an ongoing stream of income. This is to use internet marketing strategies generally and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specifically.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

One of the most powerful ways of getting people to your website is to optimize it to increase search engine traffic. This systematic process, known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will bring organic traffic to your website from the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) of all the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

In a nutshell, here is how it works:

  • Create useful, keyword-rich content.
  • Place some of this content on your own website. It’s advisable to create this content on a WordPress blog as WordPress is fairly well optimized straight out-of-the-box.
  • Create some of this content on other websites to get backlinks. This is known as off-page SEO. For instance, you can write articles for article directories, or Web 2.0 properties or, even better, do guest blogging with high authority sites in your niche.
  • Promote this content through social media.
  • Develop mutually beneficial, genuine relationships with other bloggers in your niche.

seo wordpress

What are keywords?

Keywords are the phrases being searched for on Google, etc.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to try and get high rankings in Google for your chosen keywords. An example of a keyword that you may target is “freelance graphic designer London” (if you’re a freelance graphic designer based in London, of course!)

This may seem like a daunting task considering that there are millions of websites competing for certain keywords, but if you consistently update your WordPress blog with quality posts and get relevant inbound links from other websites, you will begin to see quality organic traffic from the search engines.

Tips on content creation

Content, as you may have heard, is king. This is even truer now that Google is developing new algorithms to measure the quality and relevance of content. This content should offer readers valuable information about your industry. Google has been downgrading sites with poor quality that at one time ranked high. The best way to create quality is to do it yourself.

I found it very difficult at first to create content. Who would be interested in what I had to say when there are so many excellent design blogs out there? Well, amazingly, people were interested in what I had to say. And, after a while, my writing and confidence in blogging improved. Here are a few tips:

  • Write about what you know.
  • Block-off a couple of hours each weekend to devote to writing.
  • Get yourself into a relaxed state and meditate on what tools, techniques or practices have helped you the most this week.
  • Think about who you’ve spoken to or received an email from this week. What did they talk about? Did they mention any problem or issue that was industry-related that you could write a good article about?
  • Write quickly in a stream of consciousness style without worrying about spelling, grammar, punctuation or flow. Edit when finished.

long tail seo graph

The power of the long tail

Keywords are an essential part of your SEO. By using keyword research tools, you may be able to find the best keywords which can be defined as those that have low competition and high search volume. Highly competitive single keyword phrases are not as good as two word keyword phrases; but even better than two word keyword phrases are more descriptive keyword phrases. Search engine optimization experts have found that the long tail keyword phrases have a bigger total search volume and convert better than single or double word keywords.

The long tail is one of the reasons why you should keep blogging. You may find it difficult to rank for “graphic designer London” at first but it may be easier to rank for “freelance graphic designer photoshop illustrator London”, for example. If you write articles about freelance graphic design on the one hand and Illustrator and Photoshop on the other, you may rank for this keyword phrase, and land a big client as a result!

Here is a random page from my Google Analytics from the last fortnight. I have highlighted the phrases that could result – and have resulted! – in landing a client with thousands of dollars worth of business.

google-analytics

Keyphrases like “what is the hourly rate of a freelance graphic designer in London” and “what question is good to ask a graphic designer” are phrases that show buyer intent. They are exactly the sort of phrases someone would enter a search engine just before hiring a graphic designer. So someone looking for a designer and with money to spend will land on my website everyday for years and years!

And, all this because I wrote the following blog posts: How to Hire a Graphic Designer – 9 Questions to Ask (April 2012) and What rates should a graphic designer charge? (June 2009).

The long tail is typically low search but accounts for the bulk of what’s being search for online. Here are some mind-blowing stats:

  • 54.5% of Google queries are greater than 3 words.
  • 1 in 5 searches conducted on Google either haven’t been done before or at least haven’t been conducted in the last six months
  • 70% of queries have no exact-matched keywords

“… it’s not just about dominating any specific keyword. It’s about having a really broad stable set of terms that people are searching for.” Fraser Cain from Universe Today.

More about the longtail here.

Nurturing relationships

I’ve have found my relationships with other bloggers have flourished quite naturally. In the real world you are friendly with people who share the same interests. So, you’re likely to get to know other bloggers in your niche by reading their articles and commenting on them and then, once in a while, by dropping them an email.

So, if you’re not doing this already. Reach out to other bloggers in your niche, comment on their blog posts, see if they’d like to do an interview with you in return for a link to their site, hook up with them on social media.

These relationships will pay dividends as these friends will eventually promote your stuff – usually without being asked.

You can do it

Here are 8 WordPress SEO essentials.

1. Put Keywords in Your Blog Title

You’ve identified some keywords that you want to perform well for. Put these keywords in the titles of your pages as much as you can without making it look unnatural. If your keyword is “web designer” then go to Settings > General and put those keywords in the title of your blog.

And, by installing and setting-up Yoast’s WordPress SEO plug-in or some other SEO plug-in (see next point), you can get the blog title in the all the pages’ titles.

2. Install an SEO Plug-in

My choice would be to install Yoast’s WordPress SEO plug-in or use a well-optimized theme framework like the Genesis theme but it’s important to understand what these SEO plug-ins do. The most important SEO factor on a page is the page’s title, so you should make sure that the heading of your page or post is at the beginning of the title then, if you wish, followed by the blog title. This can be set globally with an SEO plug-in.

3. Put Keywords in Headings

Words placed towards the beginning of the headings of the blog posts will be given more importance by Google than those towards the end. As explained above, the headings of your blog posts should be first in your post’s title. Use this rule when creating subheadings in your blog posts. If your blog post heading is <h1> then break each post up with subheadings of <h2>s. If your blog post heading is <h2> then break each post up with subheadings of <h3>s. Either way, it’s important to divide up your articles with subheads. It helps the visitor as it looks better and further informs Google as to what your article is about. So, the more keywords you put into headings and your subheads the better. (As long as the article reads well and it’s natural to do so!)

4. Get Keywords in your Permalinks or URLs

In the WordPress admin panel go Settings > Permalinks and choose a custom permalink setting.

5. Create Categories with Keywords and Write Descriptions For Them

Enough said.

6. Sitemaps, Google Webmaster Tools and Robots.txt

You can use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plug-in or a Google sitemap generator plug-in to create your XML sitemap. Once the XML sitemap is created you should go to Google Webmaster Tools and register your sitemap. Create a raw text file with this in it: User-agent: * Sitemap: http://yoursite.com/sitemap.xml Save the raw text file as “robots.txt” and upload it to the root of your server so it’ll be at http://yoursite.com/robots.txt.

7. Make Sure non-www Redirects to www or Vice Versa

Check in a browser to see if your site has just one version. Try http://yoursite.com/ and http://www.yoursite.com/ and if the non-www redirects to www, or the www redirects to a non-www then that’s fine you can skip this step. If not then Google can see these two different addresses as two different sites, diluting your site’s authority. You can contact your host to rectify this problem – there may be a setting to change in your hosts control panel. Or, you can redirect one to the other by editing the .htaccess file on the site’s root.

8. Insert Images Properly

Give your images a proper file name and a proper alt text. Enter keywords in here but only where it’s natural.

And, keeping it natural is a good message on which to end. There is no easy SEO tactic that will give you instant results. You have to provide quality, nurture relationships and engage in marketing for SEO to work. But, then, it’s great fun!

Comments

  1. says

    Hi, Rob.

    I liked your article. I think it shows that SEO should begin even before the web design even starts. The keyword research is critical. The category names should be made up of the keywords you are targeting. I have learned (the hard way) that planning the navigational structure and layout ahead of time, is easier than making the changes later.

  2. vinodh says

    short and useful tutorial. I followed this long back and it brought me hundreds of visitors to my programming related posts over few months span and some customer leads too :-).
    regards
    vinodh

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