6 top SEO tips for small businesses on a budget

The modern age is becoming digitalised, meaning having a website is vital to growing your business. But having a website isn't enough by itself - it's easy for it to get lost under the heaps of other businesses scrambling to be noticed in Google. The key to succeeding is having a great SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategy. Here, Jack Reid of SEO specialists screamingfrog.co.uk gives his top 6 tips for businesses looking to improve their SEO on a budget.

Here are a few tips to help you if you are low on time and budget but need to have some online presence.

Target relevant opportunities

Perform keyword research and get a better understanding what key phrases people use to find your products or services using Google's Keyword Tool. Think you will be able to rank for broad generic terms which receive thousands of monthly searches? Think again. Using the tool can bring up some promising niche areas for you to concentrate within. Try to target in your business niche and area, i.e. "hairdressers in Bristol". This will convert higher and you will have a better chance of reaching the first page or even top spot due to lower competition.

When using the Google Keyword Tool make sure you select [exact] match in the left column, click 'only show ideas closely related to my search terms' and change the search location to your target area. Type in some queries which are relevant and think you will want to target, then look at the local monthly search volume to give you an idea of what may work for you.

If you're already running a PPC (pay per click) campaign, then analyse the data and let it drive what you target in SEO. Your analytics is also a very good place to get a better understanding, which leads us nicely onto the next point.

Tracking

Google Analytics is a free tool you can use to monitor various metrics such as traffic to your site, traffic source, search engines used, key phrases used to get there, language, amongst a whole range of other items. Once you become more confident, you can have goals or e-commerce tracking set-up within your analytics. This tool is great and you can really learn a lot about what is and isn't working and how to adapt your site accordingly. Google also has Webmaster Tools, which is similar to Analytics, but will let you know certain things such as if you are blocking the search engines via robot.txt and retaining 404 errors. It also has average position tracking for search queries and will show you some links back to your site.

Make your website relevant

This may be thought of as a given, but having a website free from errors (or broken links) and pleasing aesthetically is critical. You should use the keyword research you have already performed, to include your target key phrases naturally into your site. Most importantly, pages should have relevant keyword focused 'Page Title' elements which should be under 65 characters ideally.

Something like "Your Brand | Relevant on Page Key Phrases" should work. "Meta Descriptions" should be under 156 characters and should include key phrases - which will become bold when they appear in the search results for the given search query. You can ignore the 'meta keywords' tag, it's simply not used by the search engines. Headings and copy should also include your key phrases naturally within paragraphs, but do not stuff the copy, focus on quality of content for the user and include where it makes sense. SEOmofo has a great SERP Snippet Tool to check how your pages will look in the Google search results.

You can crawl your website with the Screaming Frog SEO Spider which will also help to identify any errors on the website as well as collect all the important elements you should be considering when improving your onsite relevancy.

Links Are Vital

Other websites linking to yours is vital in helping your website rank high on search engines. The more reputable the link, the more weight it carries with the search engines and the more visible you will become. So have a think about any relationships you may already have to get a link to your website, such as friends, suppliers, associations or trade bodies you may be part of. You can also consider local business directories and local news sites for quick wins. Try and get listed in all of these which should get you ranking for your brand name and possibly even some long tail specific results. Beenmentioned in the news or had a PR piece which news outlets may have picked up on? Make sure you are getting those links! SEOmoz's Fresh Web Explorer can be useful for this, as well as a having a look around a good old fashioned search engine after you type in your brand name. Follow up and ask for a link if you are not getting credited!

Get Blogging

I know you don't have time, but you should make time! Creating compelling and valuable content will make your website far more likely to attract links naturally. Think about solving people's problems with advice, guides and tips. If you're going to write about news, make sure you provide unique insight and don't just republish what has already been written elsewhere. Focus on quality over quantity, one top blog post a week, which people genuinely would want to read and share, is better than one a day which nobody is interested in.

Make sure your blogs have the right meta descriptions with this free guide.

Branding and Social Media

If you haven't yet got a business Twitter account, get one and use it! With the launch of Google Plus and the direction Google's algorithm seems to be going, we expect that social signals will play a big part in the rankings soon as a democratic vote for quality.

Customers may legitimately be interested in your company. If not create an engaging brand which will spark a buzz to get people talking…and bloggers linking.

There are many blogs and other resources out there about SEO best practices, tips and tactics. If any of the above is new to you, I would recommend reading the SEOmoz Beginners Guide to get started.

This post was written on behalf of Matt Payne, who is director of the plastic card printing company Oomph. Oomph print plastic cards such as membership cards, hotel key cards and NFC cards.

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