25 Mar 2017 10 SEO Tips for Small Businesses in Australia
Here’s our series of search engine optimisation (SEO) tips for small businesses in Australia, first published through our Facebook page.
Like our page for useful web and design-related tips for small businesses in Berry, the South Coast and around Australia.
How search works
First up though, get clear on how search works by watching this 3 minute video by Google’s Matt Cutts.
A few definitions
These may help those following our series. And please feel free to ask any questions in a comment or by messaging us.. there are no silly questions!
- SEO = Search Engine Optimisation: Designing, optimising and running a website so it performs well in search results.
- SMM = Social Media Marketing: Using social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to influence consumers and build brand awareness.
- PPC = Pay Per Click: Paid advertising on search engine results pages e.g. the sponsored listings that you see above and to the right of Google’s search results.
- SEM = Search Engine Marketing: The broader discipline that encompasses all the above activities.
SEO Tip #1: Get as many links to your website from other websites as you can.
This isn’t so much to get people clicking through from those sites, but because having this link gives your website more credibility in Google’s eyes. The higher the quality of the site that links to yours, the better.In our SEO work we often create a detailed list of sites that clients can then get listings/links on, or some clients like us to get the links for them too.But here are a few ideas to get you going: business directories (True Local, Hotfrog), social media sites (Linked In, Pinterest, YouTube), directories for your particular industry (Eatbility, TripAdvisor, XYZ Association), local directories (Berry.org.au, South Coast Local), local blogs, industry blogs, websites of complementary businesses/suppliers/colleagues, friends’ and family websites… the list goes on!
SEO Tip #2: Avoid links from dodgy, spammy websites.
On the flipside to Tip #1, be careful to avoid getting a link to your website from any other site that looks dodgy to you, as this can be detrimental to your rankings. These are the kind of sites that some SEO ‘professionals’ will obtain links on for you – if they come across as dodgy and make outrageous promises – be wary!Look out for poor, ‘cheap-looking’ design, loads of links, and written content that may not make sense. These two pictures show examples of the kind of thing to watch out for…
SEO Tip #3: Identify your ‘keywords’.
Keywords are the words or phrases people type into a search engine when looking for products or services like yours. SEO folk use Google Adwords tools for this, but they aren’t intuitive for most people. So either pay a pro (it could take as little as an hour for them to do some keyword research and put together a summary for you) OR as a poor man’s alternative do an informal survey of your friends, family and customers to understand what words they would search with.Sprinkle these ‘keywords’ into your website in various strategic locations… more on this coming up!
SEO Tip #4: Have a page on your site dedicated to each main keyword.
Once you have an idea of your keywords (Tip #3), try to make sure you have a page on your website dedicated to each.For example if you run a cafe which also makes birthday cakes, your keywords might be ‘cafe/s in berry’, ‘birthday cakes berry’. You would have one page focused on the cafe side of things, and another focused on the birthday cakes service. The main title on each page should incorporate the keyword – e.g. ‘Home-made and decorated birthday cakes in Berry’ – and it should be mentioned again in the written content on the page.
SEO Tip #5: Optimise your page titles and meta descriptions in the code of your website.
The page titles and meta descriptions for every page of your website should be optimised to reflect the keywords you’ve identified (Tip #3).Now this doesn’t mean the titles you see ON the page, these are titles IN the code of the page. e.g. for the Handmade Web homepage, it is written after <title> in the image below.
It’s best to get a pro to craft these for you as there are lots of best practices to be aware of, and these little pieces of code are the most powerful factor influencing your search rankings. For a regular website this might just take 1-2 hours. For a big online store it takes much longer.But if you’re confident using the Content Management System your website is built in and like to do things yourself, you could do your own research on how to write these, or get 1-2 hours of training from a pro.If you have a website already, your designer probably did these for you. You can have a look at what they are by going to one of your webpages and pressing the keyboard shortcut Apple+Option+U (on a Mac) or Ctrl+U or go to the View menu then select Source (on a PC). This will open the code of your webpage in another tab. Look for the word <title> somewhere near the top. The text afterwards is your page title. Your meta description should be somewhere below this – you can see ours in this image, after the code <meta name=’description’ content =
SEO Tip #6: Don’t duplicate content on your website.
This means don’t copy written content from another site; write it in your own words instead. And don’t have very similar content on multiple pages of your site. Google dislikes sites that do this as it suggests they don’t have anything original/valuable for visitors, or could even be spam sites.This is a particularly tough challenge for online stores who may have hundreds of product pages to write unique content for. It’s tempting to just use the descriptions from manufacturers – but lots of other sellers will be using these too. And very tempting to use similar descriptions for each product, changing just a little bit for each one.Push yourself to write different content for each page. There are more tricks your web designer or an SEO pro should give you to help avoid this issue, and some techie things they can do too.
SEO Tip #7: Have a blog on your website, and update it often.
Google favours sites that add fresh and relevant content regularly. Also blogs that are well set up, with categories for different services/product types you offer, mean that you automatically have a lot of extra category/tag pages focused on your keywords (see Tips #4+5).And if you need another reason, blogs allow people to get to know you and your business, and people tend to do more business with those they know.
SEO Tip #8: Use descriptive file names and alt tags for your images
Before uploading photos to your website, rename them so they are descriptive and include keywords e.g. kids-birthday-cake.jpg. Separate each word with a hyphen. Use a maximum of 3-4 words. Most content management systems will have a space for you to put a description of an image (also called an alt tag). Write about 5-7 descriptive words e.g. ‘Blue kids pirate ship birthday cake’. The purpose of alt tags is to describe images to people who have visual impairments and use ‘screen readers’, which read out the content of a website to them. The alt tag is what is used to describe an image that someone cannot see. So completing this is a good thing to do anyway; the SEO benefit is that search engines may use these too.These two things can help your images appear in Google image search – particularly important if you’re selling products online.
SEO Tip #9: Avoid having parts of your website that search engines cannot read.
Examples of this are having text that is actually done in an image, or imagery/animations built with Adobe Flash.To illustrate this, take a look at this website for a Paris-based designer. It’s beautiful, but most of it can’t be read by search engines and also won’t display properly on iPhones/iPads.http://www.khadiandco.com/
SEO Tip #10: Be realistic.
SEO isn’t usually a one-time thing you can tick off – it can take a while and a fair amount of effort to start seeing results if you want to rank well for a keyword beyond just your own business name.High search rankings also depend on which industry you’re in so bear that in mind; fashion and tourist accommodation are particularly difficult as you’re up against big companies with vast amounts of money to invest in SEO and big names that lots of other websites will link to (Myer, Stayz etc).
Bonus SEO Tip #11: Don’t do anything that seems ‘sneaky’.
If something feels like a quick fix or a sneaky cheat, it probably is and Google may penalise your website for it.A few examples of so called ‘black hat’ SEO are:
- Keyword stuffing – repeating your keyword so often in your written content that it sounds unnatural
- Getting links from dodgy spam sites (see Tip #2)
- Putting anything ‘invisible’ on your pages e.g. listing keywords in white text on a white webpage, so people can’t see them but search engines can
- Listing lots and lots of keywords on a page – you often see this at the bottom of a website, as in the image below
There is so much more to SEO than the 10 tips above, but we hope they give small businesses some things they can do to get the ball rolling themselves, or things they can ask their web designer or an SEO pro to do for them. To be simple to understand, these tips naturally simplify the huge amounts of knowledge available on SEO.
Good luck! Let us know if you have any questions in the comments.