When you're talking SEO with most business owners, the majority think there's a magic bullet that can shoot their business up Google's rankings.
Money and expertise tend to be the magic bullet that allows top companies to dominate search rankings, but the absence of such elements from your own armory doesn't mean you can't compete.
It also takes time and dedication to improve but, if you're willing to put the work in, you could see great benefits from enacting small changes to your SEO strategy.
The thing is, there will always be businesses willing to spend big bucks to ensure their websites show up above yours and, let's be honest, if you're the big dog spending that money on SEO you wouldn't be reading this right now.
Instead, for us smaller businesses we need to think smart and longer-term, too. As way of example, we won't win a war over saturated and popular keywords but we might just sneak into the first page for long-tail search terms that are highly relevant to our businesses.
Below, I've listed some of the best basic tips for those looking to improve their online presence.
1. Clean Up Those URLs
Ever been on a website where the URL ends up looking like a weird, cryptic bit of gobbledegook?
Maybe you missed it, seems irrelevant right?
Google doesn't agree.
According to Google's Matt Cutts, when Google analyzes a URL more than five words in length, it lends less weight to the surplus words.
This is supported by a recent piece of research (2016), which analyzed more than one million search results. The study, which was conducted by BackLinko, found that webpages with shorter URLs rank better.
That would suggest that not only are lengthy URLs useless, they are also damaging to search rankings.
I'm not suggesting you create URLs with so little to them that they make no sense but it is important for you to be as succinct as possible with your URLs, for example:
Is too long, why not simplify it?
2. Build Citations
Citations are 'mentions of your business name and address on other websites'.
They count as a ranking factor even when your business isn't linked.
Despite the lack of link, Moz suggests that citations are actually an integral Google ranking factor.
Why are they so important? Because citations help Google confirm the legitimacy of a business i.e. 'you are who you say you are.'
Not all citations are created equal and you should aim to build up your citations on reputable sites: think Yell, FreeIndex, Thomson Local or Superpages.
Still, you can build an impressive portfolio by also looking for websites that will provide citations within your niche. If you're a wedding service provider, a caterer, for example, you will find plenty of websites that will happily list your services. Sometimes it might cost a bit, but there are plenty of websites that will happily list you for free.
The more citations you can accumulate the easier you will find it to rank, so alongside preparing that link building strategy, start thinking about your citation strategy as well.
3. Build Some Links
Time-consuming, too hard and painful. Just a few of the ways people who want to improve their SEO have described link building to me.
The problem is, link building is a crucial part of SEO strategy. According to Moz, the elements associated with link building such as inbound anchor text, linking domain authority and linking domain quantity are some of the strongest indicators of a website's quality to Google.
So it's time to start building a nice set of inbound links directed at your website.Â Here's a few ways to go about this:
One of my favorite tools is HARO (Help A Reporter Out). If you're a business owner it stands to reason that you have some insight, expertise or, at the very least, opinion on your industry and journalists value an expert opinion on subjects they're writing about.
Using HARO, journalists can send queries that you (the expert) can answer. In return, the journalist will credit you with a link, so make sure your answer always includes your URL.
If you're unsure how to pitch to journalists, read this expansive guide on using HARO for some tips.
B) Guest Post
Another way, is to approach publications and offer guest posts. Make sure the publications you approach have a decent domain authority before you post for them, because not all links are created equal.
You can use a site like SEO Review Tools to do so. Once you've found relevant sites with a decent domain authority approach the editor with a pitch. Make it easy for them to say 'go ahead and write that, if it's good I'll publish it'.
That's a time-consuming process - you will need to write quality, original content to be featured on good sites but start smaller and work your way up and you will soon get the hang of it.
Additional Tip: Finally, don't forget the importance of internal links. They're not as effective but linking an older blog post with great stats to a new post will help. So feel free to go back through your posts and 'link up'.
4. Improve Your Website
This is basic but it's a must. If your website is poor it doesn't matter what other measures you enact, you will struggle to attract and retain users.
Research suggests that if it takes any longer than three seconds for a page on your site to load you've already lost the customer.
People are browsing on mobile more than desktop now and they expect things fast. They're impatient and you need to make sure your website is built to appreciate this.
B) Responsive Design
According to Over The Top SEO: "Users expect to experience the same level of quality and consistency on a website whether they are accessing it on a tablet, desktop or Smartphone."
Your website needs to work seamlessly whatever device it is displayed upon.
With more people now browsing on mobile than desktop, this can't be ignored.
Effectively, every website should now feature a responsive design. Responsive design means that the site is built to accommodate a variety of different browsers and devices. If you don't know if your site is responsive, use Google's Mobile Friendly Test to check.
If you're website isnâ€™t responsive, potential customers will bounce off your site into the clutches of more mobile friendly competitors.
SEO can appear a rather troubling and overly technical world for the small business owner, but basic tactics such as the ones listed here can make a big difference - especially when your competitors aren't employing correct practice.
Not only will employing such tactics help your website's visibility, it will also give you credibility online. Getting featured in other publications, even if you are just looking for a link, will demonstrate your expertise and make you trustworthy to potential clients, while a good website will ensure they can purchase safe in the knowledge your business is legitimate. So start employing a few new tactics for the good of your business.
Have you got any SEO tips? If so, put some in the comments below.
About The Author:
Henry McIntosh is the director at Twenty One Twelve Marketing, a digital marketing agency that specializes in enhancing and optimizing the online presence of luxury brands.