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Something that is becoming seriously clear in today’s market is the fact that all businesses (both here in the UK and further afield) are all caring more and more about one thing – being Number One on Google, Yahoo and Bing (the search engines). Search engine rankings can massively effect a company and, for return on investment, a top place on these search engines can benefit your company far more than any other form of promotion or marketing.
Now normally Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) comes in one of two ways, on-site optimisation or off-site optimisation, today we’re going to focus on both and go through our official top 30 tips for small business owners to use to improve their companies SEO and website rankings.
It’s a classic website directory but it’s still highly ranked and monitored closely by most of the search engines. Getting a listing on this site can take time to be approved but it’s worth it.
2) Header Tags
In the last week I’ve done 3 audits on websites for new customers and all three of them were mis-using header tags (H1, H2 etc.). You should always try to have the main title on the page using a H1 tag and only have one of them per page. Have as many other tags as you want (within reason!) but only have one H1 tag.
3) META Description Tag
Make sure you’re using these effectively.
It’s true Google isn’t using the META Description tag as much now-a-days and they don’t have as much of an influence in your search engine rankings but they’re still important – if only for providing content to the search engines to show in their results. Which Google still does.
4) Compress Images
There are loads of sites on the internet that provide free online compression of images tools (I quite like this one).
It’s amazing how large a .JPG or .PNG file can be and consequently when it’s loaded over the internet it can slow down the loading time of your website. Use these tools and shrink images of i.e 200kb down to i.e 20kb. Some businesses’ websites really use an extensive amount of images and these can soon make your web pages contain over a 1MB of data. This isn’t good, especially as mobile web usage is on the up and trying to load 1MB, of webpage, on a mobile phone is a tedious task! And if that isn’t enough of a reason then we say to you that Google likes websites that load quickly and they favour a fast site over a slow site. Which brings us on to our next point…
5) Optimise your Site for Speed
Although internet connection speeds have improved across the UK and the Rest of the World we must remember that so have our expectations, as a result, speed matters. Google and other search engines aren’t looking to send their users to slow sites or sites that load incorrectly.
As a result webmasters now need to monitor page loading times closely and make sure their pages load as fast as possible (ideally in under 2 seconds). If you wanted more information on the importance of web page load times I wrote two articles on it in 2010 called Speed Matters to Google, and also, Is your Website Fast Enough?.
6) Share the Link Juice
Think of a search engine spider (crawling bot) as a person. It’s task is to browse the internet, read pages and then move on. Now… it has just come to a web page and there’s your typical top menu & company logo (which it has seen on every other page – so doesn’t really look at) and then there’s the content. The good stuff.
When it crawls your content you want to make sure you link appropriate keywords to other pages of your website. This way, it’ll browse your web page and then go to the linked web pages.
All too often small businesses just place content on their pages without inter-linking to other pages within their site. You should always be linking to other pages. Share the link juice! That way the search engines will spend longer on your site.
7) Use Rel=Nofollow
Now some people say this is almost not used now (due to webmasters using it extensively) but I still am optimistic that it’s worth using this technique when linking to a majority of outbound pages.
The idea behind Rel=Nofollow is that you use it when you link to an external website and it informs the search engines not to follow that link (i.e to prevent the search engines seeing the link and leaving your site to go to crawl the site where your link points to).
8) Do you need a re-write?
Content is king. Fact. As a result it is probably one of the most used phrases when it comes to giving “Tips for SEO”.
Have you read your website recently? Can you confidently say that there’s not one spelling mistake on it? Don’t feel scared to change up your content, keep it fresh and make sure you’re using all your keywords across your site.
9) Create a Sitemap Page
Make sure you have a page that lists all the other pages on your site and links to them. When the search engines come this will ensure that they can find all your pages easily – via this sitemap page. It’s also useful for your customers as well!
All the search engines will look for your XML sitemap and when they find it they should see a full list of all the pages on your site – that you’re wanting them to crawl.
See our XML Sitemap for an example. If your company has a sitemap it should ideally be located at http://www.YOURWEBSITE.co.uk/sitemap.xml . Why not check your site now and see if your web developer has set up a sitemap. Equally, read up on Google’s explanation of what they’re looking for from your XML Sitemap.
11) Consider Blogging
Get a company blog on your website and generate content to put on it. In return for your work Google will constantly be returning to your site to read the new content that you’re generating weekly/monthly(/daily?!) and that they’re needing to index this so as their search results are the best.
In all seriousness if you were to generate a new, high quality, story on your site each week within 6 months you’d notice a massive difference with your search engine rankings. No one can expect all businesses to be turning out stories that frequently but even doing it once a month would be beneficial for your company.
Search Engine Optimisation can become an expensive thing and you can easily get lost in it. Before you start going wild on getting that number one ranking make sure you write out how much you’re willing to spend, what exactly the aims are and how much time you’re willing to commit to it. You always need to measure SEO and remember what the core purpose and aim is.
12) Social Buttons
Use social bookmarking buttons on your site to allow your users to share your content. At Media Street we love using Add This, but there’s loads of alternatives out there.
13) Use an SEO Firm and be nice
Although, as a SEO provider myself, you’d say I’m being biased but I still thoroughly recommend small businesses to use search engine optimisation experts. They come at a cost but they should always be worth it.
14) Get Social
Facebook is a free service and has over one billion users. Google+ is a free service and has over 170 million users.
Do I need to explain why it’s good to be in front of a market of 1,170,000,000 people?
15) Distribute Content on External Blogs
Write and distribute content on other blogs and websites and link it back to your site. Not only is it an extra link but it also would be (obviously) high quality and relevant to your keyword, making that returning link to your site that bit sweeter and more beneficial.
16) Use 404 Pages
Make sure that if someone goes to i.e http://www.YOURSITE.com/asfasfasf they see a 404 Error Page that provides them with a message and some options. Without a 404 Error Page the user will see a blank page (without your company colours and options) and then potentially just go to another site. With a 404 Page set up the user will be dealt with in the proper way and the search engines will also know that it’s an error page and therefore not worth indexing.
On the whole, they shouldn’t be happening. If you’re using a Content Management System (like Joomla or WordPress) chances are you can download an extension that’ll allow you to monitor when customers hit a 404 page and what URL they were trying to reach – equally, Google Webmaster Tools, can also do this.
Monitor these 404′s and try and identify why people are getting to pages that don’t exist – is it because you have bad links on your site? Find out why it’s happening. Equally, try and set up re-directs so instead of the customer hitting the non-existent page at i.e /oldpage.html they get redirected to i.e /newpage.html .
18) Update Often
The more often you update your website the more often the search engines will return to read it. Their job is to know the internet and all that is on it. Therefore, if you keep on putting up new content, then they’ll keep on coming back to read it.
Equally, if you stop providing new content and changes then they’ll return less and less frequent as they don’t need to….. this won’t improve your search engine rankings or SEO.
19) Use target=_blank on external links
If you link to another website then using this in your link will mean that when the user clicks it, it’ll open in a new window.
20) Increase your Keywords and Keep Up to Date
Don’t focus on one keyword, don’t focus on two, instead have a campaign going for both niche and mainstream search terms. Also keep your keywords up to date, search habits change almost as often as the seasons so don’t become still. Your market is changing their vocabulary as time progresses as should your keyword choice.
21) Monitor, Adjust and Review
Don’t just march on. Monitor your changes, study the effects and adjust as required and then review further. Some people can spend way too much time on just adjusting – but if you’re not monitoring or reviewing it then there’s no point at all.
22) Use Robots.txt
Using a robots.txt file allows you to tell the search engines what pages not to crawl and what to crawl.
23) Structure your Site in Levels
Ideally you want to build your site with only a two or three tier architecture. By this I mean you want to be able to access everything within only 2 or 3 clicks from landing on any page (but most definitely the homepage – at the least).
You’ll notice our site (this site you’re on now!) is a two tier site. You have your top eight menu items along one row (and they’re viewable on every page of our site) and then from those options their you can access within 2 clicks any page on our site *.
* Technically speaking that excludes our checkout and a couple of our blog pages
24) Be patient
Search Engine Optimisation takes time and so do the results. You won’t ever get an instant benefit, it’ll take months and months. Think of it this way, if you make a change today you still need to wait for all the search engine robots to find that new content, index it and rank it. This doesn’t happen over night. Be patient.
25) Don’t Focus on Google Page Rank
It’s not important and it doesn’t influence your websites rankings. It’s nice to look at, yes, but still not important.
26) Get More Links
Links are gold. The more you get the richer you’ll be. Make sure you get high quality links (not from spam sites).
27) Don’t Pay for Links
A majority of the time paying for a link will not be the best long term solution. They normally expire and you can get free, relatively permanent, ones elsewhere. Search engine optimisation really is a thing about time and effort – paying for a link does not represent that.
If you’re uploading image files with names like 039d8FH.jpg consider renaming them with more appropriate titles i.e holiday-home.jpg. The search engines like images correctly named.
29) Use www. or don’t use it
Did you know that, as standard, websites can be view in two ways:
www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com
You should only use one of these options and re-direct the other to the main one. Having the two different versions, in Googles eyes, is like having two different sites with identical content (that isn’t a good thing).
Hosting isn’t a case of paying £2 a month and being sorted. Invest in your website and give it a home it deserves, make sure it’s a top of the range server with good speeds.
Often people go with cheap hosting firms that offer server space with poor connection speeds. Our company’s Web Hosting aims for all servers to respond in milli seconds. Make sure your host does. Equally, consider a VPS, Hybrid Server or Dedicated Server. These options can end up at over £40 a month but the performance is exceptional and you’ll notice your site loads a lot faster. Which the search engines like a lot as well as your customers.
So there we have it, 30 Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Tips for Small Businesses. What do you think? Have we missed any vital SEO tips? Leave a comment below with your search engine optimisation advice.
However you approach SEO we hope you enjoy it, remember, the Search Engines aren’t out there to get you so provide them with good content, loading in fast times and you’ll always be rewarded. On top of that, make sure your search engine experts are taking items of this list into account when they work on your site.