SEO for Small Businesses
Search Engine Optimization
What does that even mean? Well, for starters.. Search Engine are websites like Bing.com or Yahoo.com or Google.com which allows users to search terms and find relevant content on websites. You want your website to be on the first page(s) to get visitors and clients. Optimization means that you have created (or altered) your website to be easily found in organic search results on Google. You have curated your website to be Google-friendly. Now here comes the real question: How do I do that?
Being Found on the First Page of Google
To accomplish organic results and be found on the first page of Google, you can either hire someone (like me!) to overhaul your website to be optimized and then maintain it OR hire someone to optimize your content and then learn how to maintain it yourself OR learn how to do the whole process yourself. Keeping in mind that I work on my clients’ SEO daily and/or weekly, and not just once every few weeks or months. Time is money, so spend whichever you’ve got more of to give. For you DIY-ers, here are a few ways to maintain your website’s SEO power to be organically found.
Please note: It will take months before you start being found consistently on page 1, but to demonstrate the ability of proper SEO, let’s review this case study as an example.
CASE STUDY : Photography Business
The following WordPress site was originally published on June 6 2014 under the domain www.gatineaunewbornphotography.com and used for several months. In January 2015, it was officially re-launched under the new business name of Pure Natural Newborn Photography (www.purenaturalnewborn.com) and coordinated with all social media accounts (more about this later). It is currently June 2015. That means for these results it had been active with SEO for 6 months, and ‘live’ for just over 1 year. Let’s take a look at the analytics graph provided by the photographer to see changes based on their actions. Click on the photo to bring it up full size and be able to zoom-in.
Tips & Tricks for being found in organic search results on Google
To be found on the first page of google, you need to:
Pay attention to the names of all uploaded content. This means images, documents, videos, anything. Search engines like Google cannot see like a human does; they have crawlers and bots that read in ‘internet braille’. Basically, this means that anything that is not text, Google is unable to read it so we have to give descriptions to all invisible things like photos. The easiest way to do so is using a few descriptive words in the file name itself. A good place to start is by including the author, the location, the service/product offered, and a short 3-4 word description of the image. For example: SEO-squirrel-ottawa-gatineau-business-portrait-headshot-blonde-woman-smiling.jpeg would be a great name for my profile photo because by reading it you can easily imagine what it looks like. That means google can too, and will share the link in search results with users looking for any of those things.
REMEMBER: Whenever possible, fill out the form on your website to include the title, the ALT text, the caption field, and the description (more detailed than the file-name). If you are using WordPress, it’s super easy!
Pay attention to your automatic website title. This one might be exclusive to WordPress, but I am sure other hosts are similar. The title of your HOME title (different than your SITE title) shows up next to your title page in Google search results. Back to our Case Study for a concrete set of examples:
This is different for page and post titles. For example, if you look at the results below for ‘baby photos ottawa’ you will notice that the two blog posts show up with the company name (inputted under SITE title), and the home page result has a different title. I set it up this way on purpose. BUT what I didn’t entirely plan for was the description of the posts. Google has a mind of it’s own, and can pick anything they want. In this case, the featured image description is what showed up.
Pay attention to your post and page titles. It is very encouraged to keep all page titles to stay within the 60 character limit, avoiding any use of “breaking words” such as AND, OR, IF, WITH, PLUS, etc. as GoogleBot tends to end it’s search after those words. For example: “Ottawa photographer captures images of gorgeous family” could potentially be cut off as “Ottawa photographer captures images”. Ruins the title doesn’t it. Instead, try to compose titles like “Ottawa photographer captures gorgeous family images”. Of course the description box has up to 150 characters and you can use all the linking words, but still avoid ‘AND’ whenever possible.
Pay attention to your URL links. The trick is to also apply the concept of keywords and search terms to your URLs. The easiest way is to ensure your categories come up within your links, in addition to your chosen title. From the title, only keep the bigger words. For example, THIS posts title is “SEO for Small Businesses | Tips and Tricks for getting found in organic search on Google” yet the URL chosen was only “seo for small businesses” because that is the most important part of the article, and in this case I kept it short so that people could remember it and type it in manually if needed. For blog posts, it’s just as important to be short because clients sometimes want to type things in.
REMEMBER: If you go and change any past URLs (which I don’t necessarily recommend doing), DO NOT FORGET TO REDIRECT YOUR OLD URLs, otherwise you will loose all returning visitors and get 404s for anywhere it’s already been shared. There are apps for this for WordPress blogs, and I am sure they exist for other CMS’s.
Pay attention to the text portion in your posts and pages. Of course you want to include your FIVE (5) most desired AND RELEVANT keywords NATURALLY throughout your text, but don’t overlook the headers (subtitles, section titles, etc.). They are often just as important as the actual page titles when formatted properly with the H1 and H2 tags (html). You want to make sure you include your keyword in the sub-title and within the paragraph (naturally of course!) to teach Google that it’s an important word. You should focus on one keyword or keyword phrase (family vs. family photos or family photographer) per paragraph to avoid confusion and overloading, which can get you banned by Google. No thanks! Another thing to keep in mind is that there are to be a ratio of no more than 2:3 for images to text in order to tell Google that your page is relevant (remember that crawlers can’t ‘see’ images).
Pay attention to your website meta-data. This is different from your photo meta-data embedded within image editing software like Photoshop or Lightroom. Go through your entire website and remove all the keywords and just focus on 3-6 most wanted searched terms. You can include different ones for each page and post, so make them count as they become relevant (ex: don’t include wedding keywords or tags on a family post even though you offer both). Something like “City Service Business Type” and it’s varieties. What you DON’T want, is to have your website bogged down with so many keywords so that Google just doesn’t bother to ‘read’ them and might just take the first few words of your post, or worse.. not at all! What you DO want to do is remove it all to start from scratch.
Pay attention to how easy (or not!) it is to contact you to book. This is UBER important. Now that you’ve got people on your website, you need to have it super easy for them to contact you. It should be available in at least THREE (3) different spots, and all within 1 click at all times. For me, I have it written at the bottom of my home page, I included my name & contact information at the bottom of EVERY blog post that I publish, and I also have a link in my menu bar that links towards a contact page with a form and phone number and map. Give them no excuses not to contact you. Make it simple!
REMEMBER: You want someone who comes to your site, be able to see WHERE you are located either with 0 or 1 click. The only thing people hate more than finding out you’re too expensive for their budget, is finding out everything is perfect except you are super far away. Make it obvious!
Pay attention to Call-to-Actions. Now that they have so many ways to contact you, give them a reason WHY they absolutely need to contact you right now (or at least right when they get home). No matter where you have your contact info, you need to give people a reason to pick up the phone. Why should they call YOU? Do you have a promotion running? Is there a limited number of available spots left on your schedule? Do you have a cool new product? Tell them why they have to call you, and tell them why they need to do it NOW.
Pay attention to old or expired content. Remove anything you don’t offer anymore. Don’t offer that type of session anymore? Take it down. Don’t offer that unique product anymore? Remove all traces. Offered a promotion last month? Make sure it is clearly indicated that the promotion is over and include an end date. You can password the page OR edit that particular page to say a cutsey message of thanks and invite them to another page with your current promotion or offering. Better yet!? Include a CALL-TO-ACTION to that they contact you! Either have them subscribe to your mailing list for future promotions, or sign up for your next event, or call you to ask about the current promotions. Your options are endless. Make use of them!
Pay attention to new content. Similarly to the importance of removing old content, is the importance of adding new content. Frequently. BUT the key is to consistently post new and RELEVANT content to your website. You want to train search engines into knowing your website has cool, new, and interesting content, which boosts you to the top for SEO.
Pay attention to MOBILE. New this year, Google has implemented a new algorythm that boots you from search results if your website is not mobile friendly. This means that your site has to have a mobile version or is able to adapt to the different devices. It has to be responsive in size and orientation, the URLs cannot be too close together (think fat fingers!), the images or tables cannot be wider than the screen so the user needs to zoom out, and many more. Check the Google mobile checker to see if your site is compatible: https://www.google.ca/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
Pay attention to backlinks and traffic to your site (and from!). Never do you want to be blacklisted by Google! Getting fake backlinks and/or linking to “bad” sites will get you blackballed faster than you can say ‘oops’. The safest way to get back links is to be interactive in your community; whether it’s your real-life friends and businesses community, your online photography community, or another one altogether. For example, some photographers are also moms, so getting friendly in the local mom groups can help. What you DON’T want is to do link trades, because Google sees right through them. You can of course pay to get your business advertised on LOCAL business pages, but the best ones to utilize are the ones who coordinate with your service offering. For example, have the wedding planner link to your engagement photography service, or have your birth center link to your newborn photos page. When posting images on your blog, it’s always nice to tag and link the vendors. They appreciate more than you think. (don’t forget to let them know and sen them the link to the blog post!) Who knows, they may link to you in another area of their site or better yet, tell their clients about you and create referrals! Are you super knowledgeable about a certain topic? Write about it! Offer your article to another (relevant!) blog as a guest-post or write it yourself, so others in your communities will share it and create organic backlinks. Create useful, relevant content, and it will basically share itself! One of my favourite ways to immerse myself in the online communities around me is to scout out local blogs and participate I commenting and sharing of their stuff. Especially if it’s relevant to my business. Often when you leave a comment, you have the option to include your website, which links back to your site (any page you want!). Don’t abuse this though, Google (and your vendors and clients!) will see right through it. Another great one is using social media.
Pay attention to how you use social media pages. Your best friend right now is social media and their back links. You want to drive people to your website, and what better way then to attract them from the website they visit every day. First things first, add your business listings to Google
Places My Business. This will help you get into LOCAL search results! Even though it’s not very popular yet, you will also want to create a Google+ business page. Google is your friend. Make it happen! It might not “technically” boost your SEO settings with other search engines, but it certainly helps with Google finding you, and most people these days use Google. Facebook has mixed reviews these days. While most people are on there daily, the reach (distribution) or business posts are far gone from what they used to be. It’s down to something like 1% organic views, and you have to pay to boost your posts for people who like your page already to see. Not to mention you are already having to pay to get new likes. So basically, the number of likes on Facebook mean absolutely nothing other than that business has paid for reach (along with real clients of course!). I absolutely LOVE it for the groups and forums, but for SEO & getting new clients it’s not much help. The best way to utilize Facebook is to post whatever you were going to on social media, on your BLOG or website instead and post that LINK on Facebook. Most platforms will allow you to send that post link directly on Twitter and Facebook, and you can do the same thing for Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ etc. Otherwise you can use services like HootSuite or IFTTT to do so for you automatically (how cool is that!). This way all your followers (no matter what platform) are able to GO TO YOUR WEBSITE to read your post & view your images; increasing your web traffic. In turn, this is telling Google that your website is interesting and current, and therefore boosting your SEO which can be seen in analytics. And that brings us back to a full circle: do it yourself CONSTANTLY or invest in someone to do it for you. Consistency is key.
BONUS! Pay attention to existing everywhere! That’s right. Everywere. Create your brand recognition. Get a Facebook account, be on Twitter, be on Instagram, be on Flikr and Tumblr, post on Reddit, be active on Google+, be on Pinterest, be on Myspace; POST EVERYWHERE. Signup for a 411 listing, be in the YellowPages, get a Yelp account (great for reviews too), and promote yourself (literally YOU, company as your job title) on Linkedin; BE EVERYWHERE. However, the trick is to NOT BE THE SAME ON ALL PLATFORMS and if you exists somewhere YOU HAVE TO BE ACTIVE there. If you’re not active; DELETE the account! It makes you look like a slacker. Consistency is a must, but not the same. For example: if you post a picture on your instagram of your new product, post about the same thing on your facebook but maybe post a photo from a different angle, and again on twitter with perhaps a black&white image. Of course be sure to space these out; the morning, the evening bunch, and then the next afternoon to make sure to catch everyone. Then pin all those images to your pinterest page in a relevant album/board. Organized boards are important (we’ll save this for another post). Did you know that you can pin videos now? Yup!
Feel free to show some love by sharing from my website or commenting below. If you found my article helpful, I’d so appreciate you linking back to it! Thank you.
Totally confused and need help getting things set up?
Send me a message and I am happy to offer my services at a reduced rate during winter 2015-2016 when you mention this article.
STEPHANIE DE MONTIGNY
Local SEO & Website Management | Business Branding & Photography