SEO tips for small businesses

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Understanding the basics of SEO is essential to maximising traffic to your site and therefore making more sales or creating more leads

So here you are. Your online shopfront looks amazing, you have some great products and your pricing structure is just right. The problem is that, unless customers are driven to your site, you are effectively working from a virtual back street rather than from Oxford Circus. Time to take a good look at your search engine optimisation (SEO).

Getting a high ranking on Google is the holy grail of e-commerce, and although there is no easy way to guarantee this, there are certain things that businesses can do to improve their results.

Start with the basics

The best place to start, says Jess Spate, SEO specialist at digital services company Zing Marketing Communications, is with a functional site with everything well laid-out and good, clean code.

“You need clear titles, headings and text that enable the searcher (and search engines) to figure out what your site is about. First and foremost, build a visually attractive, tidy site that is easy to navigate. Think about mobile as well as desktop users.”

Building links

But, says Spate, once the search engines are satisfied with the site itself, they start looking elsewhere. “They are trying to establish your trustworthiness and authority. One important way they do this is by seeing who links in to your site.”

Jonny Sitton, director of personalised baby gift company My 1st Years, says that one of the biggest challenges for small businesses is keeping up with the ways Google does this.

“It used to be about getting as many links to your site as possible out there. Now, it’s turned on its head and is all about quality links from authoritative sites. Take it slowly and realise that it takes time.”

It is no good, says Sitton, spamming thousands of links, because this sort of practice – known as black-hat tactics – will soon be detected by Google and you will find your business penalised. “It’s about building relationships and is much more like traditional PR.”

Keywords

When it comes to keywords, Spate says you need to work out what your market is typing into Google. “Make sure you have a page that reflects that. That doesn’t mean you should repeat your keywords over and over again.

“Search engines don’t like spammy text any more than people do. It just means you should build a page that has the right focus. Think about page titles, headings and text.”

Sitemaps

Sitemaps – essentially navigation tools – are long, technical files that list all your key pages and tell search engines where to find them. “Having a sitemap, especially if you have a large site with a lot of content on it, is important and can play a role in improving your rankings,” says Spate.

Analytics and webmaster tools

Google and Bing webmaster tools, as well as Google Analytics, can provide incredibly valuable insights into where your most important traffic is coming from, how people and search engines navigate your site, and what’s working and what’s not.

“They let you find a baseline to measure performance from and where to focus your improvement efforts. All of these are free to use and highly recommended for businesses of any size,” says Spate.

You can do it yourself

Spate believes that small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can effectively manage their own SEO. “Absolutely. Given training and a little bit of assistance there is no reason why people can’t do their own SEO.

“In fact, they are often very well placed because nobody knows their business like they do.”

Sitton agrees: “We used to outsource our SEO. We have now brought it in-house and it was one of the best decisions we ever made.”

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“The original article can be found at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/business/sme-home/business-tips/10796658/seo-tips-small-businesses.html

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