For too long, SEO has been presented as some kind of mystical expertise known to only a few individuals who charge a lot of money to do SEO for your website. Trying to get an answer as to how a website is “SEO’d” usually resulted in vague answers the few understood. Yet small business owners understand enough about SEO to know that it can make or break a site. So, what’s a business owner to do? Hire an expensive SEO “expert” and how that they’re doing works? Do nothing? Surprisingly, there are simple SEO techniques that anyone can do. Here are a few SEO hacks for small business owners, especially if they’re already somewhat familiar with the basics of how their website works.
What Exactly is SEO?
“SEO” stands for search engine optimization (you can see why people shortened it to “SEO”). Simply put, it’s the process of optimizing your website to earn “organic” traffic from search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. What does SEO accomplish to do this? SEO makes it easy for search engines to understand what your web page is about so that when people are doing searches online, it matches their inquiry with your website. SEO also shows Google and other search engines that your pages are ‘worthy’ of ranking by illustrating the importance and relevance of the content on your website. It’s easy to see why those website that are SEO-optimized fare better than those that are not.
Handling Basic SEO for Your Website
If you’re looking to implement your own SEO optimization, good for you! While at some point you may want to engage the services of a reputable small business marketer who understands SEO, doing a few basics yourself can be a smart move. Below is a quick checklist of tactics you can do on your own.
Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free tool from Google that lets you see how your website is performing, including new visitors, return visitors, how long they’re on your website, which pages they visit, and much more. Installing Google Analytics requires you to set up an account, then install the provided code on your website (they provide the details on how to do the code installation). How does that help SEO? It helps you to see how well certain pages are performing and what pages may need some attention.
Set up Google Search Console
Another great and free tool from Google, this allows you to see more technical issues related to your website such as 404 pages, how your website ranks for certain keywords, and any suggested improvements as provided by Google. Once you set up Google Search Console, don’t forget to link it to Google Analytics.
Install an SEO Plugin on Your Site
There are several plugins available that can be installed on your website. Once installed, these plugins will guide you through the basics of how to optimize your website, including keywords, internal links, alt images, etc. Two of the more popular plugins are Yoast SEO and All in One SEO. Yoast SEO has a free and a paid version. As with many plugins, it might be a good idea to start with the free version until you’re familiar with how it works. Not all plugins work with all platforms so be sure to see which are compatible to your website before you install them.
Create a Sitemap for Your Website
Sadly, many web developers fail to do this when they create a website. A sitemap is a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. You can use Yoast SEO or Screaming Frog to generate your sitemap, or use any of several other sitemap generators out there. There are three things you have to do with a sitemap:
- Create your XML sitemap.
- Add your XML sitemap to your website.
- Submit your XML sitemap to Google.
Install Screaming Frog
Speaking of Screaming Frog, here’s a great tool to get all kinds of insights on SEO improvements to your site. It will tell you about any issues with meta tags, title tags, alt tags, H1 tags and much more. It’s a handy tool and it’s free.
Now That You Know What’s Wrong With Your site’s SEO, Now What?
Congratulations, the research you just did on your own regarding the basic SEO health of your site would have likely cost you hundreds of dollars to pay an “expert” to do. Now that you’ve set up the tools, installed the plugins, and have a list of items to be fixed, now what? That depends on your comfort level in working on your own site. Many WordPress owners are familiar enough with the basics to know how to change title tags, add or change meta descriptions, and even add image and alt tags without fear of crashing their website. Others may not feel so confident and would prefer to engage someone else to do it. The difference now is that you know exactly what is wrong and exactly what needs to be done so now you’re not at the mercy of the unknown. Any small business marketer who has basic website optimization skills can go in and update page titles, images and more. All you need to do is provide them with the basic SEO enhancements you need based on what the tools above illustrated and provide them with a list of relevant keyword phrases for your business so that they can effectively leverage those terms within your content and your website.
There are Some SEO Practices to Leave to an Expert
What we provided above are some SEO basics that every website owner should be familiar with, but there are definitely more advanced SEO techniques that should be left to a technical SEO expert. SEO is ever-evolving so anything beyond the basics should be handled by someone who keeps up with the industry. What are some items better left to a technical SEO? Here’s a good list to start with:
- Structured data markups
- URL structure
- Canonical URLs
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
- Google penalties
If any of the tools illustrated issues with any of the above, reach out to an SEO expert for assistance. Get references and ask for specifics on what will be done and the expected outcome. A well-optimized website will function much better, bring in more traffic, more leads and ultimately more business.