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The Ultimate 2017 SEO Checklist for Small Businesses - Guest post by Victoria Greene.

The Ultimate 2017 SEO Checklist for Small Businesses

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.

The Ultimate 2017 SEO Checklist for Small Businesses

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.

Solicit reviews

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.

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.

8 small business tips for conquering your tax return without tearing your hair out!

8 tips for conquering your tax return. Small business tips on Digibloom blog with guest post from Anita Brook at Reid & Co.

To kick off the new year (and self assessment deadline month.. eek!), I'm pleased to share wise words from financial expert Anita Brook in this guest post to inform and motivate small business owners. Anita is a Director of the leading small business accountancy firm Reid & Co based in Milton Keynes, working with individuals and businesses all over the UK.

Prior to this she ran her own small accounting firm, launched while caring for her young daughter Isabella. "As a result I know all too well the amount of stress that can be experienced with the self-assessment deadline imminent, trust me having a young child increased this tenfold!"

Self Assessment deadline tips for Small Businesses in the UK

Here are Anita's tips for Digibloom readers:

We all know that January is an incredibly stressful time for sole traders and small businesses, with the self-assessment deadline looming closer, and more important things to do than be online until the early hours completing your paperwork – so how can you make it as stress free as possible?

HMRC require self-assessments to be completed no later than midnight on the 31st January 2017. This is always an incredibly busy time for us as accountants and we understand how stressful it can be for small businesses.

Here are my top insights into how you can conquer your self-assessment this year, without losing any hair:

1. Register in advance

By the time you read this it’s already too late to complete the self-assessment on paper meaning you have no option but to do so online. You can’t actually submit your tax return online without being registered with HMRC first. If you haven’t already gone through this process, you need to do so ASAP!

It can take a few weeks for your activation PIN to arrive through the post, and HMRC won’t give you the information over the phone, which means that if you leave it too late to contact them, you probably won’t receive the information in time. As a result you’ll likely miss the deadline and automatically be fined £100.

2. Understand the financial year and deadlines

The last tax year started on 6 April 2015 and ended on 5 April 2016. The annual self-assessment means that any income earned during that period should be included in your end of year figures. If you sent out your invoice in the current tax year but didn’t get paid until after the deadline, you should still include it.

3. Find your UTR

You can’t submit your return without something called a UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference), which is a 10-digit reference, found on any paperwork from HMRC. If you don’t know your UTR, you’ll have to contact HMRC’s Self-Assessment Helpline and ask them to post it to you.

4. Collate all your information

To file an accurate return, you need to have all the necessary information in front of you to enter either manually or online. This ‘generally’ speaking should include things such as:

  • If you are employed, receiving wages (this includes if you’re a director of your own limited company), your employer should have given you a form P60 showing your salary and tax for the year to 5th April 2015. You’ll need that form to include with your tax return and if your employer gave you a form P11D showing any expenses or benefits received.
     
  • If your bank pays interest, you will also need to how much interest you received in the tax year and any tax deductions. However, don’t include interest on any ISAs and personal allowances.
     
  • If you’re in business as a sole trader or partner, you’ll also need to know your business’s income and costs for the tax year. If you haven’t started sorting through the receipts for these costs you’ve collected, you must start doing this now.
     
  • If you’ve received dividends on shares you own, whether these are in your own company or another, you’ll also need to include this dividend income on your tax return and demonstrate where it came from.
     
  • Finally, if you earn more than £50,000, and you or your partner receives Child Benefit, then these payments also have to be shown on your tax return.
8 Tips for conquering your self assessment 2017

5. Follow the rules – to the letter

There are so many rules and regulations when it comes to HMRC and tax, it can be incredibly confusing. However, you must ensure you follow these to the letter, particularly when completing your tax return. One of the biggest errors I see is when people add up their income/ expenses.

Bear in mind, if you sent out your invoice in the current tax year but didn’t get paid until after the deadline, you still need to include it.

Another issue we see is ‘expenses’ that you can and can’t claim, especially when it comes to travel, accommodation, food & drink, entertaining, clothing and the business use of your home etc.

One thing you can do is check items such as this via the expenses list on HMRC’s website.

6. Check, check and check again

The form needs to be submitted (not just completed/ started) by midnight on the 31st January, so clicking ‘submit’ is as vitally as important as the information in it. You can complete the form online, via the HMRC website, or alternatively you can complete within specialist software, such as FreeAgent (for sole-traders) or open software, such as TaxCalc which aids the completion before taking you back to the HMRC website to file.

7. Pay on time

This may sound pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how much we see this happen. Don’t forget to actually pay your calculated tax return amount which also needs to be settled by the 31st January!

8. Bring in a professional

If you’re still unsure – hire an accountant. We are accustomed to reading what can be jargon to small businesses, because we deal with it every day. You may find in the end it’s also more cost productive because of the amount of time you spend trying to decipher all the information into the form!

At Reid & Co, we can support with all tax matters including self-assessments, so feel free to call our team today on 01908 233700 or visit our website http://www.reid-co.co.uk.

Connect with Anita via the following links:

Anita Brook on LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/anitabrook
Website: http://www.reid-co.co.uk

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HMRC have useful live webinars and videos to help you understand the self assessment process.

What do you struggle with most when it comes to filing your self assessment? Let us know in the comments!