These SEO tips for small businesses will ensure that your site is on a strong underpinning to build upon in the future. Getting these bits right at the beginning is a vital first step in your online marketing strategy. Once this is done, you can then look into other areas of marketing to further enforce this foundation.

Some of these things take very little knowledge of search engine optimisation and are pretty straightforward to implement, as long as you have access to your site! If not, of course, go through these SEO guidelines noting everything down that you want to change, then contact your webmaster and ask them to change it all on your behalf.

1. Get the basics down yourself first

Keyword Research

No matter if you have a small 4 page website or a vast, sprawling e-commerce store, there are a number of basic steps you can carry out yourself without the need of a search engineer. Keyword research is the first step to optimising your site, and this is also something which you are in the best position to carry out. Knowing your industry is key here as it will help you to come up with ideas for long tail keywords (keywords containing 3 or more words) that will send people to your site. With long-tail keywords there is less competition, and so achieving higher rankings is more easily attainable.

Our keyword research guide can walk you through the process.

Title and Meta tags

Another area that doesn’t take much work is creating unique Title and Meta descriptions for each page for your site. If you have a large site with hundreds or thousands of pages, begin with the primary pages; your homepage, FAQ or info pages, product or service category pages, and your most popular products or services. You can look at optimising other pages when you have more time or resources (obviously, if you are able to, it is best to get everything done ASAP).

Write unique title tags and Meta descriptions for each page according to the keyword you have chosen to target for that page.

Have a look through our onsite optimisation guide for a more detailed explanation.

Content

Make sure that each page has relevant content according to the keyword you’re targeting. In text, ensure that the keyword is mentioned within the first sentence, and, ideally, the last sentence of the first paragraph. Include different semantic interpretations of the keyword throughout the text, but don’t overdo it.

Make it natural and, above all, informative, accurate and engaging. Don’t copy content from somewhere else. Embedding a video is fine, taking a quote and citing it is fine, but copying blocks of text and pasting it in, or rewriting a few phrases here and there; no.

For a quick guide as to how to do this and what kind of content you need, have a look though part 3 of our SEO Strategy Guide.

Image Optimisation

The speed each page loads has an effect on rankings, so it is important to optimise each image before you upload it. Images that contain extreme detail look great, but the majority of users won’t even notice as they are browsing on computer monitors or tablets, not high definition televisions. Reduce the pixel density using free editing software such as: Image Optimizer

Also, when saving. your files, give each file a recognisable filename that relates to your keyword (for example: ‘dog-with-a-bone.jpg’ and not just leave it as ‘D188923.jpg’).

Finally, make sure you include an alternate attribute (img alt) for every image. The img alt should be between 3 and 7 words long and describe the image concisely.

Don’t forget that when you create new pages for your site, you should include a URL that also relates to the keyword you are targeting. If your site has been around for a while, it might not be a good idea to go changing URLs for each page as there could be backlinks from other sites which would then not work. This can be overcome, but is something for another guide as it isn’t so simple.

2. Blog

Companies who blog have 97% more inbound links and 55% more visitors. [Source: Hubspot]

Create a simple blog to keep your customers and potential customers up to date with your business and the industry as a whole. Be natural in your approach and create interesting and useful content in different formats. Within written posts include images and embedded video to aid communication. Don’t just write 100 words that mean very little, and don’t worry about blogging every day. Once or twice a week is fine; think quality over quantity.

3. Call to Action!

A call to action is essentially an instruction to visitors in the form of a pop-up, image or button which aims to persuade users to interact with your site in some way (for example: ‘Call Now’ or ‘Request More Info’). In this, you are able to push a user to the next step of the purchasing cycle, to your contact page, to an offer or promotion or just to a landing page that is designed to take a visitor right to the end of the purchasing cycle and drive home a sale.

Make sure that you include a call to action in every appropriate place on your site, but don’t make it overly disruptive to the design of the page.

The best places for a CTA really depends on the action you want the visitor to make. You must consider the thought processes of your potential customers and what the most effective kind of CTA could be. It is advisable to spend some time testing different types of CTAs to see what is most effective.

4. Build a Mailing List

With each customer on and offline, try to obtain contact emails to build up a database of interested people for marketing or re-marketing. Having a solid list of potential and previous customers means that you can then use email marketing software, such as MailChimp, to send out details of offers, promotions, or even just updates from your blog.

This kind of marketing is extremely powerful as with an email database you can market directly to your potential customers, instead of hoping they might notice an ad on Facebook, or hear a message on the radio. Without going into too much detail, it is one of the most important parts of developing your business online.

5. Combine Online and Offline Marketing Efforts

Consider looking into ways in which you can combine on and offline marketing to persuade customers who may not even know of your website, to visit online. At the least you should be notifying customers of its existence through printing it on receipts, signs in store, business cards and quote sheets. Some ways in which you can combine marketing efforts is by offering online visitors discounts in-store by printing off a promotional voucher, or by switching it around by offering store customers special discounts online by giving them a code to enter online.

6. Link Your Business’s Social Media Profiles

Once you’ve set up your Facebook page, Twitter account, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and so on, then you can look into linking them together and setting up automatic submission when you update your blog. Remember to utilise appropriate hashtags for Twitter, and, if your product or service is heavily visual, post often to Instagram and link it to your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts.

7. Get Involved in Forums and Social Media

Becoming active on forums and social media can be time consuming, but it can also help to build up a great reputation for offering useful advice to other businesses and individuals. Obviously it is important to join forums directly linked to your industry, but also consider joining Google+ Circles which also discuss recent news and events and common issues. An added bonus is that some forums may allow links within posts and forum signatures. However, it’s important to remember not to go overboard on the links, especially to your own site. Don’t get into arguments or post anything controversial, and introduce yourself properly before you get stuck in, it’s only polite.