Brand Marketing Consultant and Freelance Writer Victoria Greene of Victoria Ecommerce shares her SEO expertise in this article for small business owners and Digibloom readers! Read on for 'The Ultimate 2017 SEO Checklist for Small Businesses', and do let us know what you think in the comments!
The Ultimate 2017 SEO Checklist for Small Businesses
Every small business with an online presence needs an SEO strategy, regardless of what you do, sell, or provide. It doesn’t need to be expensive or over-engineered, but it does need to be consistent and varied to give you the best chance of visibility. For some, the concept of SEO can feel daunting, and if that applies to you, start by reading this beginner’s guide: How to Explain SEO to Your Mom.
Others may already have a working knowledge, and what you’re seeking now is a plan to get you started. In previous posts, Digibloom has covered how to optimise your Etsy shop; now we will look at how to optimise your own independent business website or online store to ensure that you are discovered by the right people online. Small businesses: here is your ultimate SEO checklist for 2017.
Start with research
As with so many things in business, good SEO starts with thorough research. Don’t rush through this stage, as it’s what will form the basis of your strategy. Your initial research should include:
- Market research – discovering what’s happening in your industry and uncovering popular trends and untapped requirements
- Niche research – taking your market sector and filtering it down into the subsection who will really go crazy for your products or services
- Keyword research – finding out what your target audience wants to know, and what they are searching for online
- Competitor research – figuring out who your primary competitors are and observing their own strategies online
- Data gathering – collating all of your data in one place to help you spot any trends and see where your own business currently fits in
This is also a good time to conduct an audit of your existing website (if you have one) to see where quick fixes and improvements can be made.
Set up your Google Analytics account
Get started with Google Analytics as soon as possible so you can start keeping track of your data. To get set up you will already need a website and a Google account. Google will ask you to confirm that you are the legitimate webmaster of your domain. You will then receive your tracking ID, which will enable you to attain all of your website’s data, such as site visits, bounce rate, and average time on site.
Refine your on-page content
Content is one of Google’s most important ranking factors and should form a central part of your online marketing strategy. Consider this a long-term process; one that will stand you in good stead for the future. Here are some simple adjustments you can make to your existing copy that will improve its ranking potential:
- Ensure that your name, address and phone number are clearly visible on every page. You should also include this information on your social media pages
- Give each page a unique meta-title and meta-description containing localised keywords
- Add relevant meta-data, headings and subheadings containing your key search phrases
- Upload and optimise images using alt-text, which enables Google to ‘read’ them
Invest in content marketing
Providing consistent, fresh content is one of the best ways to rank for your top keywords and keyword phrases. A good way to start is by attempting to answer frequently asked questions about your business and your industry. You should have a list of top questions from your keyword research – if not, try using Answer The Public.
Your content must be unique (you shouldn’t plagiarise from other websites) and it should offer some value to your readers. User-generated content is very valuable, if you can get it. Running a blog on your business website is the ideal way to get pieces of content that rank individually for your primary keywords and naturally accumulate backlinks from other websites.
Set up your local listings
It’s not just about your own website – plenty of people still look to find local businesses through directories such as Yahoo, Yelp, Foursquare and Angie’s List. Go through each of the online directories that are popularly used in your area and add your business to their listings, being sure to include your business name and address, your phone number, and your opening hours (if applicable). This will help to give you a boost in local search results, which comprise just under half of all online searches.
Start building links
Link building is the process of getting other websites to link back to a page on your own website. Each link acts as a vote of trust from that website and helps search engines to figure out what you do and whether you are a good source of information. A website with a strong backlink profile will have a higher domain authority, which is a score developed by Moz to predict how well a website will rank. The higher your domain authority, the better.
It’s important to go after organic links by promoting your website to influencers in your niche and making sure that you share high-quality, relevant content that others will naturally want to link to.
Optimise your ecommerce listings
If you run an ecommerce business, it’s important to ensure that your products are unique, correctly categorised, and free of duplicate content. You should also aim to make all customer reviews visible to other website visitors, as this builds trust.
Look at the URL structure of your products – what you want is for the focus keyword to also form that focal point of the URL structure, like so: www.domain.com/shop/keyword. As a rule, every product should be accessible from the homepage in no more than three clicks. If it takes more than that, then your navigational structure is likely too convoluted. (Store builders allow you to quickly tweak your URLs, so take advantage of this).
Check out this guide to writing ecommerce product descriptions.
Customer reviews can work wonders for your local SEO. Many businesses curate their own online testimonials, but of course, all visitors are aware that this is a biased process. No business in its right mind would include negative testimonials.
Reviews from websites like Trustpilot boost your recognition and (as the name implies) are more trusted by users. Try asking your best customers to leave you a review next time they shop with you – and offer incentives if need be. Negative reviews, if they occur, should also be embraced as an opportunity to show your dedication to good customer service.
Have an email marketing strategy
Regular newsletters, whether weekly, fortnightly or monthly – are a great way to keep your business in the forefront of your customers’ minds. Programs like MailChimp work wonders for automated email marketing campaigns, and some ecommerce builders have their own inbuilt email marketing tools.
Email marketing can help to boost your website’s SEO by increasing on-site engagement, promoting your best content and potentially generating inbound links. It’s also an ideal tool for building brand recognition, especially when you’re just starting out.
Make sure you’re mobile-friendly
Have a mobile-friendly (or responsive) website is key if you hope to make it as an online business. The majority of today’s consumers are multiplatform – they may even be multi-screening as they access your website. Therefore, a consistent experience is crucial.
When a query pops up in a user’s mind, it is often to mobile that they first go. If your website isn’t fast, responsive and easy to navigate, then even with the best SEO in the world, your visitors are not going to hang around. To help your local SEO, make sure your contact details are clearly visible in the top right corner of every page. It’s also worth making yourself aware of Google’s guidelines for mobile to avoid being penalised for providing bad UX – or you could find yourself losing traffic.
Which of these items have you already ticked and which have you yet to check off? As a new business, it can sometimes feel like there’s an endless amount to do and never enough time to do it. Take things step-by-step and you will soon start to notice the results. What’s worked well for you?
Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant & Freelance Writer.
I work with new ecommerce businesses and entrepreneurs to create targeted content marketing strategies that yield strong results. I am always happy to share some of my SEO knowledge with others to help them get their startups seen.