Beginner Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tips For Small Businesses in 2020

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You are a small business owner and have a standard website with your contact information, your services, and an ”about” section, but you are constantly wondering why people aren’t visiting your website and/or store. In addition to this, when you type in your business services into a search engine you do not even see yourself listed on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd page of the listings until a minute later when you find yourself on page 5 and wonder, “why am I all the way back here?”.

This scenario is all too common for small businesses, and in this article I will help you out by explaining some of the key components of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which you can use and apply to your very own website. Whether you are using Wix, WordPress, Weebly, or Squarespace the process will all be the same. My personal choice for website builder is WordPress, but you will have to decide which Content Management System is the best for you.

 You may have heard the term ”SEO” tossed around and thought that it sounds too complicated to learn about, or even begin to have time to complete all of the work for it? Have you ever reached out to a digital marketing agency that does a great job of selling you on the project, but then charges $3,000 per month for their services!  A lot of larger and successful companies pay these prices but it is not 100% necessary for a small business to be paying that amount to a digital marketing agency for SEO work.

Now let me help save you some money and time by explaining how the basics of SEO work.

Search Engine Optimization, or more commonly known as SEO, is the process of trying to organically rank a website on search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. The term “organically”, means that you are not paying for your website to be ranked on the top of the first page. I would also like to clarify that paid advertisements  would be known as Search Engine Marketing or SEM.

In order to begin ranking organically there are many factors to be considered, but I am going to point out some of the basic/easy factors that can be attended to even if you are new to operating a website. These basic optimizations will not guarantee that your business is on the 1st page of Google, but there is  a possibility depending on how your competitors are operating and the overall competitiveness of your industry.

The following optimizations are easy to complete and will definitely get your website pointed in the right direction. It is very important to remember that Search Engine Optimization takes time. Getting to a position where you are satisfied with may take anywhere from 2 to 5 months!

On-Page Optimization

On-Page Optimization is everything that you can see on your website including  the content, title, heading tags, and descriptions. The alt tags are the exception and those can viewed in the HTML.

  • Content: When it comes to On-Page Optimization the most important thing on your web page is the content. When a visitor comes to your website (whatever the topic or niche) they are looking for complete and detailed information which will answer all of their questions. When writing your content, go into as much detail as possible (without repeating yourself) and aim for a minimum of 1,000 to 1,500 words. If you are the owner of a construction company, DO NOT  write a simple bulleted list of your services, rather explain  your new home building process from start to finish including the specific types of tools and materials required, as well as the different skills involved.
  • Title Tag:  A title tag gives a clear description of what a website page is about, and this is what you would see on the search engine results page. According to MOZ (a SEO focused website + tools +blog) suggests that the title tag should be between 50-60 characters and the formatting should be as follows: 
    • Primary Keyword-Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.
    • For my website, MC Web Studio, the title is: Kamloops Web Design & SEO Company | MC Web Studio.
  • Heading Tags:  Heading tags give information to search engines and let them know what the page is about and the content on it. There are six different types of heading tags (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6) with H1 being the most important and H6 the least.  When following SEO best practices it is recommended that there should only be one H1 tag per page and proper structure with the following tags.
An example SEO heading tags. H1, H2, H3.
An example of how heading tags work. Image Credit-Alex Chris
  • Meta Descriptions: Meta descriptions are what you see underneath the title on the search engine home page. It does not actually help with your website ranking but having some strong copy writing can help bring more visitors in.
A meta description from the Tourism Kamloops website
The meta description for the Tourism Kamloops website
  • Alt Tags:  Alt tags or alt attributes are sections which you can fill in when adding an image to your website. The tags describe what is happening in an image and the main purpose of this is  to assist individuals who may use a screen reader. When it comes to SEO, the search engine uses the alt text to figure out what the image is and how it relates to all of the text around it on your website.
Adding a alt attribute to an image in the WordPress content management sysytem.
An alt attribute/ alt tag in WordPress

You will notice a little bit of overlap between the different categories but it is all relevant as they are interconnected.

Off-Page Optimization

Off-Page Optimizations are actions that you can take outside of your website to help increase your overall search engine ranking. The most critical points of Off-Page SEO is link building, EAT (expertise, authority and trustworthiness), and social media accounts.

Link building is the process of obtaining links from other websites and having them point back to your own website. There are many ways to build links but the best way to get them is through solid content. If you create an article, blog, or video for your business website following the EAT principle, other websites will automatically want to link to your website. By providing content that shows expertise, authority, and trust, your website will be more likely to gain a back link.

Social media is another part of the equation to link building, and the best websites to utilize are Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.  These social media platforms can generate signals in the form of likes, comments, and shares which include your website URL/link. Out of the five platforms mentioned above, Instagram would be the least important as you can only include a link once you have reached a specific number of followers.

Getting Started With Your Own SEO

If you are ready to start trying this out on your own, I would start off by writing a good piece of content that will be helpful to anyone who visits your website. Once it is complete, I suggest that you add the title tags, followed by heading & alt tags, and the meta descriptions.

If your content is of high quality, you should start to gain some backlinks and should have to do less outreach for guest posting and blogs.

I will write about these topics and other methods in later articles,but hopefully this is a good place to start!

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