SEO for Startups and Small Businesses

Here’s what everyone should know about Search Engine Optimisation.

Without some basic SEO, no one's gonna find your website

There are about two billion websites live at this very moment. That’s almost one website for every three people on Earth. 

Now, most of the people use Google to guide them through this jungle, but how do you get Google to bring people to your page? 

This is where SEO comes in. Search Engine Optimisation. First, you organise your website in such a way that Google understands what you’re all about (on-page), and then you go out and find other websites to confirm that (off-page).

But before we continue with on-page and off-page SEO, it’s important that you understand this very simple thing about Google.

Google is a business and its most important customers aren't the people with websites, but its users

When you ask Google a question, you expect to get the best answer – instantly. And Google wants to deliver because it knows that if it doesn’t, tomorrow you might set your browser to start at Bing. Theoretically. 

So when Google ranks websites, it will always ask: where will this question be answered as quickly and as trustworthy as possible. Basically, this means that when you think about creating content and organising your website, you should always consider three things:

  1. How are is it helping your (potential) website visitors?
  2. What are you doing to make Google understand you’re helping your potential website visitors?
  3. Why should Google consider you to be a better destination than your competitors? 

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is relatively easy, as you’ve got complete control over your own on-page SEO. This is about how your website works, where you put your keywords and internal links.

When XowoX Digital creates websites, we’ll always make sure it optimised for on-page SEO. But just in case you’ve already got a website, here are some pointers you can use to improve your on-page SEO.

Make sure your website is fast

How much time do you wait for a website to load until you open a new tab, move on to the next website and forget all about the previous one? According to Google, most people give up after about two seconds. And as Google doesn’t want to send people on quests it knows many will abandon, slow websites are ranked substantially lower than fast ones.

You can test your website speed on Pingdom. Have you got a WordPress website, but are you dissatisfied with the result? We’ve got a great article for you by Daan van den Bergh, which will teach you how to optimise your website and get closer to a perfect score.

But not even a perfect score is gonna help you unless you’ve got a fast host. In fact, better a low score combined with a fast score, than the other way around. The fastest shared host is, in our experience, Siteground. Expensive, yes, but with servers in London perfect for UK companies.

Put long-tail keywords keywords into your titles

It’s important to put some effort into the titles of your pages and your website itself. Are you the lucky owner of a hair salon in Plymouth named ‘Hair’? Don’t choose ‘Hair’ for you site tittle. Instead, consider something like ‘Hair | Hairdresser Plymouth’.

Even better, add some popular treatments and go with something like ‘Hair | Hairdresser Plymouth | Colouring, Head Massage & Something Hairy.’ Now, if some girl in Plymouth is searching for ‘hair colouring near me’, Google understands that girl is looking for you. 

Make sure all your pages have a tittle like this too, and you’ve taken a big step towards improving your on-page SEO.

Add a short, clear and catchy meta desctiption to your pages

When you’re looking for something on Google, it won’t show just show you the titles of pages. It will also show you descriptions. 

You want your descriptions to be better and more catchy – in a good way, not clickbait – than the page above you. Because if Google sees people are clicking more often on your page, it will automatically start to rank you higher.

Keywords in images

Google can’t read decipher your image, yet, but it can read its title and the alt-text (this is the text you add to an image that’s shown if, for whatever reason, a browser can’t load the actual image.

Make sure you put some keywords here too, but don’t overdo it. You alt-text should also describe the image.

Quality beats quantity

And we’re not just talking about the kind of content you’re putting out there, but also about the keywords you use.

Google knows it if people read your articles. If they don’t, Google will consider it to be a bad sign. That’s why you can better have one great article that’s read by half of the people who find it, than ten mediocre ones that are only read by one in ten people.

And to get people to read your articles, they gotta be readable. So don’t stuff your article full of keywords. Put them in your title, the first paragraph and in a subheader somewhere. And you’re allowed to use synonyms too.

1 page = 1 topic

Googles is pretty smart, but if you write about more than one topic in an article, it won’t understand.

Or maybe it will – we’re not sure – but it will automagistically decide that articles focusing on one topic are more focused and therefore better at answering questions than articles focusing on three. 

Whatever the reason, when creating content for SEO purposes – or organising your website – just stick to this mantra: 1 page = 1 topic.

Internal links

If Google sees that you’re guiding visitors through your website using a combination of links and keywords, it will give extra points to those keywords – especially if the pages you’re guiding your visitors to have the same keywords at the imporant places.

And don’t just link to pages on your own websites. External links tell Google you’ve been doing your homework.

Structure

Google likes order, because it’s easier to find things in a place where everything is organised – not just for the search engine, but for visitors too.

Thus, Google gives a better score to websites that are organised.

Furthermore, you’re punished for pages and links that don’t work.

Sitemap

You can use the Yoast plugin to create a sitemap, which you can upload to Google through the Google Search Console.

This will tell the search engine exactly which pages it should index, and if you make life easier for Google, we’re thinking it will also make life a little easier for you.

Off-page SEO

Once upon your time, when you were still using your landline to go online, Mark Zuckerberg was in school and premier league teams feared Manchester United, search engines operated something like this:

Occasionally, a supercomputer crawled the entire web and indexed everything it found there. So if you went to Yahoo, for example, and typed in ‘Spice Girls’, that computer would search it’s memory to see which websites had the most references to the Spice Girls.

And then it would take you there.

Clearly, this wasn’t a perfect system. For one, everyone could put a thousand references to the Spice Girls in his website to get traffic.

Enter Larry and Sergei, founders of Google. They figured out that if other websites had external links using ‘Spice Girls’ as title, this said more about quality and actual topic of the destination page than the number of keywords the page used itself.

After all, if someone asks you for directions to Liverpool and you point them in the direction of Dover, you can be pretty sure next time they’ll ask someone else.

And in fact, this is still the foundation of Google. The practice of acquiring links we call ‘link building’ and it lies at the heart of off-page SEO. But it’s not all you can do…

Sign on for Google my Business

This is the easiest step you can take to improve your SEO.

Sign up your website at Google-my-Business, and claim ownership. Now you can link your website, adjust its location, add photos and receive reviews.

Social Media

What do most people trust better: popular brands or companies they’ve never heard of?

That’s right. For better or worse, the more popular and better known your brand is, the more people will trust you – and the more confident Google will become leading people to you.

So how does Google measure this popularity? One of the ways is your popularity on social media. Increase your followers and engagement, and over time your rankings will improve too.

Linkbuilding

The quickest way to getting hundreds of links is simple: buy them.

It’s also the worst way, though. You’re risking severe punishments from Google, as it’s against their regulations, and in the long run doing the work always pays off.

How do you get the real links?

  1. Create content people will want to share. This will take time, but in the end it will also attract traffic through the links.
  2. Check directories in your town or about your industry. Do you have restaurant in Newcastle? Check tourist information and restaurant guides or invite local bloggers to come eat at your restaurant.
  3. Sponsor events. In many cities there are meetups where you can trade high-authority links for pizza. Locally, you could check out the football club, schools or library.

Finally, remember SEO is always a long-term strategy. You’re not gonna get results tomorrow or next month, but in the end it will be worth your while

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