Small business owners understand the value of having a strong online presence. Since most people in the modern digital age use search engines to find what they are looking for, having a well-optimised website is essential. That's where SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) comes in. In other words, you can increase your online visibility and draw in more customers by optimising your website for search engines. However, if you run a local business, you might be wondering if there's anything else you can do to increase your visibility, specifically to customers in your area. In this situation, Local SEO is also useful.
In this post, I outline the differences between SEO and local SEO and offer some helpful advice for small business owners looking to increase their online visibility and attract more clients.
Before we begin, I understand that as a small business owner with limited resources, you might believe that optimising your website for search engines is beyond your means. However, it's simpler than you might imagine if you use the right strategies and tips. That is why this blog post is filled with practical and easy-to-implement tips. Making these changes doesn't require you to be an SEO or web development expert! So, whether you're an SEO beginner or hoping to enhance your current approach to website SEO, keep reading.
What are SEO and Local SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of optimizing a website to increase its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). The goal of SEO is to make your website more visible to people who are searching for products or services related to your business. SEO strategies and techniques include keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, and content creation.
Local SEO is a subset of SEO that focuses on increasing a company's visibility and ranking in local search results. When someone searches for a product or service in a specific geographical location, such as "best restaurants in Ringsend," local search results are displayed. The goal of local SEO is to help businesses appear in these local search results, which can lead to increased foot traffic, phone calls, and website visits.
Key distinctions between SEO and Local SEO
Basically, SEO and Local SEO are both important for businesses looking to improve their visibility and attract more customers online. While SEO focuses on improving a website's overall visibility and ranking in search engine results pages, Local SEO specifically targets local search results and includes additional strategies such as claiming and optimising local listings and getting online reviews from customers.
Easy Steps to Start Your Search Engine Optimisation
Keyword research involves identifying the keywords and phrases that your potential customers are using to search for products or services related to your business. You can conduct keyword research using free tools such as Google Keyword Planner or UberSuggest. These tools enable you to enter a keyword related to your business and receive a list of related keywords, as well as their search volumes and competition levels.
After you've compiled a list of relevant keywords, you can incorporate them into the content of your website. For example, if you own a landscaping company, you might identify the keyword "garden services" and include it in your page titles, descriptions, and body text.
If you are unsure how to use keyword research tools, simply consider what you want to be found for by your customer. As in the example above, if you are a landscaping company, naturally, you would like to appear when your customer searches "garden services". That does not require the use of a research tool. However, research tools can give you an idea of how likely it is that you will appear for that keyword. Research tools will tell you how popular the keyword is and how much competition you will face if you appear for that keyword. These tools will then also recommend a different but related keyword that could serve you better.
On-page optimisation involves optimising your website's structure and content to make it easier for search engines to crawl and understand. In the context of SEO, crawling refers to the process by which search engines discover and index web pages. Crawlers, bots, and spiders are software that search engines like Google use to systematically scan the internet for new or updated content.
When a crawler visits a web page, it reads and analyses the content on the page, including text, images, and links, and adds it to the search engine's index. The index is essentially a massive database of all the web pages the search engine has crawled and deemed relevant to include in its search results.
Crawling is an important first step in the SEO process, as it allows search engines to find and index your web pages, which in turn makes them more likely to appear in search results.
Here are some practical steps that you can follow to implement on-page optimisation:
Page Titles and Descriptions
Each page on your website should have a unique page title and description that accurately describes the content of the page and includes relevant keywords. For example, if you have a page about your garden services, your page title might be "Professional Garden Services - Your Company Name." If you use WordPress, Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, or a similar drag-and-drop website development platform, you are generally able to update your page titles and descriptions using a built-in editor or plugin. Check your platform’s documentation or support resources for more information.
Use header tags (H1, H2, H3) to structure your content and make it easier to read for both users and search engines. Include relevant keywords in your header tags where appropriate. Similar to the above, if you use WordPress, Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, or a similar drag-and-drop website development platform, you are generally able to update your page titles and descriptions using a built-in editor or plugin. This usually comes in the form of simply changing the text settings from a drop-down menu while you are adding the text to the page (like you would in a Word document). However, if you are unsure, check your platform’s documentation or support resources for more information.
Add alt tags to your images to help search engines understand what the image is about. Include relevant keywords in your alt tags where appropriate. An ideal alt tag for a landscaping company using "garden services" as a keyword would look something like this:
alt="Professional garden services by Pete’s Landscaping: Before and after photo of a garden transformation with new plants, trees, and mulch"
In this example, the alt tag accurately describes the contents of the image (a before-and-after photo of a garden transformation with new plants, trees, and mulch) and includes the target keyword "garden services" and the company name "Pete’s Landscaping". This can help search engines understand the relevance of the image to the company's services and improve the chances of the image appearing in relevant search results. Additionally, the alt tag is descriptive and provides specific details that can help users better understand the image.
Again, if you are using a drag-and-drop platform similar to the ones mentioned above, you can easily update alt tags by simply clicking on the image and changing the information in the given field. To be a bit more specific (and helpful), I have included the general steps below:
Log in to your platform’s admin panel and navigate to the page or post that contains the image you want to update the alt tag for.
Locate the image and click on it to edit the image settings. In most platforms, you should see an option to edit the alt tag.
Enter a descriptive and relevant alt tag for the image. Your alt tag should accurately describe what's in the image and include relevant keywords where appropriate. See the example above.
Save your changes and publish the page or post.
Here's a brief overview of how to update alt tags on some popular drag-and-drop platforms:
WordPress: When you add an image to a post or page in WordPress, you should see an option to enter the alt text in the image details section. You can also edit the alt text by clicking on an image in the visual editor and selecting the edit option.
Shopify: In the Shopify admin panel, navigate to the product or page that contains the image you want to update the alt tag for. Click on the image and scroll down to the "Alt text" field in the image details section.
Squarespace: In Squarespace, you can edit the alt text for an image by clicking on the image block in the page editor and selecting the "Design" tab. From there, you should see an option to edit the "Image Title & Description".
It's worth noting that the exact steps for updating alt tags may vary depending on your platform and the specific theme or template you're using. Check your platform's documentation or support resources for more information if you are unsure of how to do this.
In terms of on-page SEO, having a mobile-friendly design is crucial for improving user experience and search engine rankings. With the increasing use of mobile devices to browse the web, search engines like Google have placed more emphasis on mobile-friendly websites in their search results.
Having a mobile-friendly design means that your website is optimised to display and function properly on various screen sizes and devices, including smartphones and tablets. This can include using responsive design techniques that allow the website to adjust and adapt to different screen sizes automatically.
By ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly, you can improve the user experience and make it easier for visitors to navigate and interact with your site on their mobile devices. This can lead to lower bounce rates, longer visit durations, and ultimately, higher search engine rankings.
In addition to the design of your website, there are other on-page elements that can impact mobile-friendliness and search engine rankings, such as page speed and the use of mobile-friendly technologies and responsive images.
Claiming your business on Google My Business and other local directories like Yelp and Bing Places can help improve your visibility in local search results. Here's an example of how to claim your business on Google My Business:
Go to the Google My Business website and sign in with your Google account.
Click the "Start Now" button and enter your business name and address.
Follow the prompts to verify your business, which may involve receiving a postcard with a verification code in the mail.
Once your business is verified, you can add information about your business, including your business hours, phone number, and website URL.
Encouraging your customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor, or other business listings can help improve your local SEO and increase your credibility with potential customers. Here's an example of how to encourage reviews:
After completing a project or providing a service to a customer, follow up with an email thanking them for their business and asking them to leave a review on your Google My Business or other listing pages.
Make it easy for customers to leave reviews by including direct links to your business listings in your email.
Regularly publishing high-quality content that addresses the needs and questions of your target audience can help improve your search engine rankings and attract more traffic to your website. Here's an example of how to create content:
Identify common questions or concerns that your target audience may have related to your business. For example, if you have a landscaping business, your target audience may be interested in tips for maintaining a healthy garden.
Write a blog post or create a video that addresses these questions or concerns and provides useful information to your audience. Include relevant keywords in your content to improve your search engine rankings.
If you want to take a deep dive into how to create high-quality content that converts, have a look at this blog post about how your content should cater to where your customer is in the sales funnel and this post on 7 best practices for creating high-quality content.
Remember, SEO and Local SEO is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and monitoring. By following these basic steps and regularly reviewing your website's performance, you can lay a strong foundation for your website's search engine optimisation and local visibility. As your business grows, you can consider investing in more advanced SEO strategies or hiring an experienced SEO professional.