If you’re a small business owner, you’ve probably come across the term “SEO” before and thought to yourself, “I know I need to do more of that, but I don’t know how to get started and I don’t know how much time (and money) to invest in it”.
This is perfectly normal – especially when you consider how vast and ever-changing the field of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is.
Whether you’ve dabbled in SEO before or are just getting started, this article is aimed to help you:
- Get a clear picture of what exactly SEO is.
- Understand how good SEO practices can benefit your small business.
- Gain insight into the top factors that influence your website’s credibility.
I’ll follow this up by sharing a few practical ways to get started with SEO as a small business owner, and what you can expect in terms of timings and impact.
What is SEO?
SEO is an abbreviated term for “Search Engine Optimization”. Simply put, SEO is a marketing process where you optimize your website and online presence in a way that maximizes your searchability on Google – without paying for advertising.
Why is SEO important?
Because when your website performs well in Google Search, then people searching for your products or services are more likely to find you (and ultimately buy from you!).
For example, if you have an Ontario-based flower shop and a potential customer makes a Google search for “flower shop in Ontario”, it’s good for your flower business if you are listed on the first page of the search results – and even better if your website is listed in a position closer to the top.
Think of it this way: Google is designed to help users find exactly what they are looking for. That means that they only want to display search results that are high-quality, accurate, and credible. By implementing good SEO practices, you can ensure your website meets (and exceeds) these expectations set out by Google – which results in high rankings for your website.
7 Factors that Enhance Your Website’s Credibility
There is not just one factor that can influence your website’s credibility – there are multiple factors that can be optimized and tweaked over time to improve your online presence. Below is a brief overview of seven of the most important factors to consider.
- Security – Making sure that your website has HTTPS encryption and keeping all plugins, themes, and software up to date.
- Accessibility – Designing your website in a way that is accessible for individuals with disabilities. To learn more about AODA compliance in Ontario, check out my article Accessibility Makes Your Website Better for Everyone.
- Page Speed – Reducing the size of images, cleaning up any code, and installing a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to improve the speed of your website.
- Mobile-friendliness – Making sure that your website is responsive and easy to use across all devices including mobile phones, tablets, and PCs.
- Age of website – Established websites are perceived by Google as more “credible” and “trustworthy” compared to newer websites – however, it’s important to always keep your website updated and free from malware.
- Optimized content – Presenting the content on your website in a way that is organized, easy to understand, and includes the right keywords for your niche.
- Technical SEO. Programming your website in a way that can be easily crawled by search engines.
In addition to the above factors, it’s also important to note that your online presence in general can also serve to influence the credibility of your website. For example, anytime your business is mentioned online via social media, Google reviews, and/or through backlinks from other websites, this helps to elevate your overall digital brand presence.
How to Optimize your Google Ranking
Step 1: Take care of the basics
There are several things you can do to establish a good SEO foundation for your website. For example, I often recommend taking care of the following items first-thing:
- Set up a Google My Business (GMB) page. To learn more about setting up a GMB page, check out my article How to Get the Most Out of Your GMB Listing.
- Review your website’s text and content – is it clear and easy to understand? Are you speaking in the same language as your potential customers? Is it organized in a way that is easy to navigate?
- Make sure that your website is suitable for use on mobile devices (since over half (56%) of web traffic takes place on mobile phones)
- Have your website audited for accessibility (AODA compliance in Ontario). Read my article Accessibility Makes Your Website Better For Everyone
Step 2: Check-in regularly
After you’ve established a foundation for SEO, you may notice that your website now ranks higher for certain keywords or phrases than it did before. However, to continue to improve and maintain your rank, it’s important to have regular check-ins to see what’s doing well and what needs to be improved. For most small businesses, a monthly or quarterly check-in is enough to stay on track.
Step 3: Make continuous tweaks
Remember, optimizing for search is not something that you only have to do once. In order to stay relevant and up to date with Google, it’s important to make continuous tweaks over time. As a small business, you may not be able to do everything all at once – and that’s okay! Small improvements over time can still make a big difference in the long run.
What to Expect after Optimizing your Online Presence
SEO is a gradual, long-term process, and it can take at least 3-6 months to see any noticeable difference in your website ranking.
Not being able to see this immediate improvement can be frustrating – however, it’s important to be patient and focus on gradually increasing your rank over time. As a general rule of thumb, always avoid “black hat” or “quick fix” methods for SEO, as these can do more harm than good for your website in the long run.
Final Thought: Google is Always Changing
On average, Google changes their algorithm up to 600 times per year while also rolling out several major updates annually. This means that even the most optimized websites still need regular maintenance to stay on top of these changes.
As a small business, it is likely not necessary to have full-time SEO support. However, you can still reap the benefits of SEO by at the very least taking care of the basics. If you need specialized guidance to help make that happen, there are a number of marketing agencies and SEO specialists with affordable rates who can provide tailored guidance for your business.