What’s SEO?! It stands for Search Engine Optimisation and – in a nutshell – refers to how you optimise your website to appear on a search engine results page (SERP) for a specific search.
If your small business sells fruit and veg in Cambridge, you’ll want your website to appear in the results when someone Google’s “fruit and veg shop in Cambridge” or “Cambridge greengrocer”.
This is an often overlooked area of digital marketing for small businesses, and that’s mainly because a lot of small business owners simply don’t know about it! It’s also a complex discipline, takes time and effort to be effective, and outsourcing it can be very pricey.
Getting started with SEO can be tricky, but it’s certainly one to consider as, after all, what’s the point of having a website if no one can find it?
Getting started with SEO
The best place to start is with research. If you can find out what your customers are searching for, then you can optimise your content to suit those searches.
The place to find this out is Google’s free Keyword Planner. This tool will give you a breakdown of the number of searches per month on loads of different phrases (referred to as ‘keywords’ by Google).
To access this tool, you’ll need to have an Adwords account. If you don’t have one you’ll need to set one up. This is very simple to do and won’t cost you anything, although you may be asked to enter your credit cards details to complete the sign-up process. Once you’re in go to Tools > Keyword Planner and then expand Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category. Enter a few details about your business and hit Get ideas. You should now see a list of ad groups based on your information. These groups contain phrases alongside how many times they get searched for on Google each month.
Using this information, you can pick the ones that:
- Are most relevant to your business
- Get the highest number of searches
- But also are the least competitive (ranked based on high, medium, or low)
If you get stuck, Backlinko have a pretty long but handy guide here.
Install a plugin
If you have a WordPress website, then the next stage is to install a plugin to help you out. The best of the bunch by far is Yoast SEO. And it’s free.
This plugin will give you a range of back-end benefits – sitemap, Twitter cards, social integration etc. It will also add a module below each of your posts that will allow you to add page titles and meta descriptions as well as assess how good your SEO is. It will even show you this as a traffic-lighted to-do list, which is very helpful when you’re just getting started with SEO.
Once you’ve entered the phrase you want to target in the Focus Keyword field (let’s say that you found that “Cambridge greengrocer” was really popular and not very competitive, and you had a fruit and veg page on your website) you’ll notice that a lot of the list turn up red or amber. You can now work through this list to improve that page’s SEO piece by piece.
Page titles and meta descriptions
The first place to start is with page titles and meta descriptions. This isn’t as complex as it sounds. On a Google search results page, the page title is the big blue wording, and the meta description is the blurb that appears in black:
So for our Cambridge greengrocers (let’s say the business is called Top Fruit and Veg), the page title and description could be:
|Page title||Cambridge Greengrocer | Top Fruit and Veg|
|Meta description||Top Fruits is a Cambridge greengrocer that specialises in the very best fruit and vegetables, all sourced from within 20 miles of our shop.|
The main rule to follow with page titles is to start with your chosen keyword and end with your business’ name, separated by a vertical bar. Google typically displays 50-60 characters of your page title, so try to not go over. Yoast gives a green light when you’re between 46-65 characters, which acts as a good guide.
With the meta description, the keywords in here don’t have an impact on where you’re placed on the SERPs, so you can write anything! It’s best to keep it very relevant though and make the reader want to click the link. Add a point of difference, a call-to-action or a promotion to differentiate yourself from other results.
Write or edit your page content
The words on the page are one of the biggest ranking factors that Google takes into account. So it’s very important to make sure you work your chosen keyword naturally into the text. Drop it in a couple of times if it works, but don’t over-use it. Make sure you use good English at all times and make sure the content is relevant to the keyword you’ve chosen.
Wait. Organic listings on Google don’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term project that happens over many months, or even years.
But it’s worth the wait. Once you’re at the top, your website will receive a huge amount of traffic that you can aim to turn into new business. And if you keep developing your website and its content, you’re likely to stay at the top for the foreseeable future.
In the meantime there are dozens of extra bits and bobs you can do to improve your SEO, but I’ll tell you about those in another blog. Subscribe below for all the updates, or add a comment with your questions.