If you’re looking to take your small business or startup to the next level, mastering SEO could be the oomph your business needs to get more traffic to your website. This guide will drill down into how small businesses and startups should approach SEO when they have a limited budget and limited resources.
What is SEO?
It’s not uncommon to have heard of SEO, know it’s important but not really know what it is or how it relates to your business opportunity. After all, chances are your business expertise is nothing to do with digital marketing or SEO. In a nutshell, SEO is shorthand for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s the process of optimising your digital presence to be more visible in search engines, such as Google. This is important because the higher you rank in search engines, the more likely you are to get potential customers coming through to your website, which should increase your chances of winning new business.
How does SEO for startups & small businesses differ from regular SEO?
It doesn’t, really. SEO should form part of an overall marketing strategy no matter what size or stage you’re at. All SEO is about increasing your business opportunity by increasing your visibility on search engines. However, the difference comes into play when you consider that most small businesses or startups often:
- Don’t have in-house SEO specialists
- Have a limited budget to work with
- Need to prioritise activity based on what will impact the bottom line
For this reason, SEO for small business websites needs to be savvy and work harder than companies with bigger budgets and resources. Small business owners need to be confident that their SEO approach is focused to reap the biggest rewards – which can be tricky if you don’t have the technical know-how. So, with all that in mind, let’s dive into Position Digital’s exclusive small business SEO tips.
Our SEO tips for small businesses & startups
Beginning with the basics and moving on to more advanced tips, we’ve compiled our top tips for small businesses and startups looking to improve their SEO.
Add your business to Google
You’ve probably noticed that when you search for a business in Google, it often shows you a business listing that looks like this:
It’s free to appear on Google in this way. All businesses need to do is head to Google My Business and begin. This is particularly important for businesses with a physical premise or a location-based business. It means that the next time somebody types for your business type in your area, i.e. ‘butchers in London,’ it will appear in the relevant local business listings along with your address and phone number.
Get Google Analytics & Google Search Console
These two tools are free for all to install and use and provide the foundations for SEO. Google Analytics allows you to analyse behaviour on your website and is really key for monitoring how much traffic your website is getting, how long people are spending on your site, who your visitors are and how they are reaching you. All of this information is useful for getting an overview of how your website is performing.
While Google Search Console is geared more specifically towards optimising how you are appearing in Google search results. It allows you to monitor, maintain and troubleshoot your website’s presence on the Google search results page to help ensure your target audience can find you.
Make sure your website exists to Google
If your website isn’t indexing, it won’t exist to search engines and it won’t appear in search engine results. This means you’re missing valuable opportunities for people to find your business.
Ensuring your website is indexed correctly means that your website can start to be discovered by people searching within Google (or other search engines).
To check if your website is indexing, search for your domain within Google, using the following search operator:
If you see some results listed, as in the example above, that means at least some of your web pages are indexing in Google. Look at how many results are listed and how that corresponds to the number of unique pages you have on your website. These numbers should match if all pages on your website are indexed. If they do, great, you can skip ahead to the next tip!
If there are fewer results than the number of web pages you have, that means some web pages aren’t indexing.
If nothing appears in the results, then it’s a sign that your website is not indexing at all. This can sometimes happen with brand new websites. You’ll see something like this if that is the case.
To get your website indexing, try following these steps:
- Request a page is indexed on Google Search Console:
a. Open up Google Search Console
b. Paste the page’s URL into the URL Inspection Tool and click ‘Request indexing’.
- Ensure you have relevant internal links pointing to and from all of your web pages.
- Make sure your pages contain high-quality valuable content.
- Make sure you do not have any duplicate or near-duplicate web pages.
If none of the above steps work, it might be time to dig into some more advanced indexing fixes. Ahrefs have pulled together this great guide on indexing that we’d recommend.
Make sure your website exists to Google
It’s not just enough to have a website, it’s also important to maintain it. A well-maintained website will tell Google that your website is high quality and will be valuable to searchers – which in turn boosts you up the search rankings.
Website maintenance could be a whole article in itself but here are the three most important points to consider for SEO:
1. Improve site speed
A slow website is not acceptable in today’s digitally-driven world. Gone are the days when we waited patiently for websites to load. We want easy to digest information at the click of a mouse. Improving your website’s load time signifies to visitors and search engines that your website is worthwhile visiting. We’ve written a whole guide on WordPress speed optimisation, but here are some key pointers if you’re in a hurry:
2. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly
According to Statista, 55% of all website traffic comes from mobile. And, while this does differ from business to business, optimising your site for mobile does help your business website’s SEO ranking. Here are some steps you can take to be mobile-friendly:
- Check if your site is mobile-friendly with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
- Use Google Search Console Mobile Usability tool to find website errors to fix to be more mobile-friendly.
- Upgrade to a responsive web design that optimises for viewing on different devices.
3. Fix broken pages & links
Your URL structure is an important and often overlooked aspect of SEO. To be clear, your URL is a webpage address. For example, Position Digital’s homepage URL is https://www.position.digital
Google looks at URLs to understand what a webpage is about. So, it’s important that they’re optimised with a logical structure to make it as easy for Google to understand as possible. Here are a couple of rules of thumb to follow when it comes to URL structuring:
- Customise each URL and include the primary keyword. For example, this blog article is about SEO for startups and small businesses so the URL is:
- Stick to a consistent URL structure. For example, all of Position Digital’s service pages contain the prefix /services before each specific service.
For example, https://www.position.digital/services/seo/ and https://www.position.digital/services/link-building/
Keywords in SEO act like dating agencies. They help people looking for something and people offering that something to connect.
Using the same keywords as the target audience searching for your product or service will mean you’re more likely to appear in their search results. It’s best not to guess your keywords, though.
While you may talk about your product or service in a particular way, your audience might talk about your same product or service in entirely different terms, meaning they don’t find you when searching in Google. Here are some tips for utilising keywords:
- Conduct keyword research using free keyword research tools such as Answer The Public or Ubersuggest.
- Alternatively, invest in a paid keyword research tool such as Semrush or Ahrefs.
- Include your primary keywords in your body copy, headings, URLs, image file names and meta descriptions.
- Don’t overuse keywords as you will be penalised by Google for this. Use them naturally within your content.
Quick tip: Before investing in Semrush or Ahrefs, make use of their free trial offers.
A quick example of using Answer The Public:
1. Input your topic into the search bar – here you’ll see I’ve searched for ‘digital marketing’.
2. Answer The Public provides me with 75 most common questions asked around this topic, as follows:
Zooming in a little, the ‘why’ strand of questions looks like this:
3. Under that, Answer The Public provides 56 prepositions around the topic:
Which, when you zoom in on the ‘to’ preposition, looks like this:
4. Answer The Public, then goes on to provide comparisons and an alphabetic list of popular search terms surrounding this topic.
It’s a good place to start when you’re just starting out with SEO and want a broad look at what people are searching for around a particular topic.
Get backlinks to your site
An important part of SEO for small businesses and startups is getting backlinks. Why? Because links from other reputable, quality sites tell search engines like Google that your website is valuable and high worth.
Backlinks are a key factor Google uses to score websites on when assessing which websites should rank highest on the search engine results page. Think of it as a vote of confidence in your website. Here are a couple of quick-win actions to take to generate backlinks:
- List your business on directory sites such as Yelp, Thomson Local, and Tripadvisor, plus any directories in your niche.
- Ask relevant businesses you work with to list you on their website.
- Register your business with coupon or discount sites, such as hotukdeals.com
- Ask content owners if they will feature you in relevant existing listicles. E.g. Best Independent Businesses in [Location].
- Send out newsworthy press releases to publications in your niche market.
If you’ve already taken these actions, then you might be interested in reading our guide to getting your site’s first 100 backlinks, where we’ve listed some of our more advanced link-building strategies.
If you don’t already have one, you might want to consider setting up a blog. Blogging is a great way to generate informational content relevant to your audience that will drive up your website’s authority in the eyes of Google. It’s a way to dive deeper into SEO for your business.
Writing blog content can be time-consuming, though, so it’s important to make sure you’re focusing on the most frequently searched for content topics within your niche, so you stand the best chances of getting good engagement with your content.
A poor quality blog will not be worth the time and effort, so only begin a blog if you’re confident you can put out high-quality content that informs and engages your audience. Here are some points to consider when it comes to setting up a blog:
- Keep your blog within your existing website so the rest of your website benefits from the additional traffic coming to your site from blogs.
- Conduct keyword research using the tools listed above to come up with content topics with a lot of traffic potential (i.e. they’re being searched for a lot).
- Stick to blogging about topics that relate to your product or service so you’re more likely to convert people reading your blog posts.
- Include a call to action at the end of each blog post, either to read other relevant articles or to engage with your product or services.
- Prioritise writing about topics with a long shelf-life (also known as evergreen content).
Keep an eye on the competition
When it comes to SEO, competitor analysis is key. Getting the edge over competitors can help push you up the rankings.
Understanding your competitors’ SEO strategies and improving upon those will push you above your competition on the search results page. Follow these pointers to stay one step ahead of your competitors:
- Type your primary keyword into Google and see which articles are appearing in the top 5 search results spots.
- Note down where you are appearing in relation to your top competition.
- Utilise competitor analysis tools within Semrush and Ahrefs for an in-depth look at the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Check out Ahrefs’ guide on conducting competitor analysis.
Work with a specialist SEO agency rather than DIY
Working with people who have SEO knowledge and tools can have a big impact on your business. After all, why spend precious time doing something you don’t have the skills in when you could simply outsource to someone who does?
There’s a reason why we go to a mechanic rather than fix our own cars. And it’s the same for SEO. Agencies, like Position Digital, can run audits to find out what your SEO weak points are, what your SEO opportunities are and will advise you on the best SEO strategy for your business. To get a head start, read more about how to devise an SEO strategy here.
What’s more, a good SEO agency will work to your budget – providing you with a tailored programme of work that you can afford – and upscaling or downscaling activity as your budget fluctuates.