4 SEO hacks for small businesses to triumph competitors
If you’re a small business owner, you’ve probably heard of SEO. Search engine optimisation (SEO) can often seem like a smoke and mirrors discipline, with its sacred knowledge guarded by expensive agencies and contractors waiting to prey on small businesses.
In fact, SEO is a complex network of activities, implemented in response to ever evolving search engine algorithms. Businesses can’t do SEO, as SEO is cultivated and maintained over prolonged periods of time. It is an ongoing process of trial and error, act and react. Sounds impossible, right?
The truth of the matter is: SEO is accessible for and to anyone. You just need to be bold enough to foray into the depths of the web to learn its secrets, perhaps with a genuine guiding hand.
I’m Joel Evans, a content marketer, SEO demystifier, and hobby-fantasy writer and best of all, I love my job. Imparting some of my best intelligence on this area, with these four SEO hacks and a little time, your small business will be able to take its first steps toward an effective SEO strategy that will increase your organic traffic, and ultimately improve sales and lead generation (that’s the good stuff).
Why is SEO important for small businesses?
Before we get into the nitty gritty, why does SEO matter at all for small businesses?
SEO is important for small businesses because traffic generated through SEO is free. That’s right. SEO won’t require the media budget that you’ll need to make a dent in the search results on Google Ads or Facebook feed placements. Organic traffic will cost you nothing but the time you invest and fees for any external support to create the required assets to implement an SEO strategy.
With the right strategy, you could have thousands of eyeballs on your website with very little cost to your business. There is, however, a caveat to keep in mind. It can take up to 6 months for certain SEO activities to take effect, even longer if your website is brand new. Fortunately, there are a few hacks that can speed up the process.
1. Use a clean and logical site structure
When we talk about site structure for SEO, we mean the words between pairs of “/” symbols in your URLs. Each indicates a folder or layer in the structure, that may also be a page on your website. Each page needs to sit in a logical location, based on topic relevance. This is how search engines will find, index and rank your content. If your site structure is overcomplicated, it won’t matter how great your content is, you’ll lose out to your competitors in organic search.
A clean and logical site structure should:
- Be divided into sections
- Have a landing page for that section
- Not be divided into more sections than necessary
This component of SEO is a quick win for small businesses. It is very unlikely that you’ll have thousands of pages in a digital mess. It is highly likely that you’ll have a few dozen, perhaps a few hundred pages that if organised well, will be a competitive force in organic search.
Can’t decide if your URL is appropriate? Your guiding principle is to imagine a house. Each section of your website is a room in that house. Each page is a piece of furniture. Ask yourself, does it make sense to put the fridge in the bathroom? Worryingly, some will answer yes to this… But there are rules to this game and we just have to play to them.
2. When it comes to blogging, prioritise quality over quantity
A major gripe for business owners is blogging. It seems to be a lot of pain, for little gain, but blogging is essential for SEO. My advice is to forget quantity and focus on quality. It’s very easy to get caught up in the volume of articles when you’re starting out but choose a frequency that you can reliably commit to and go for it!
Keep in mind that a blog post doesn’t always lead to sale. That’s not what a blog is for. When it comes to SEO, a blog post is used to achieve the following:
- Rank for less competitive keywords
- Improve the topical authority of your landing pages
- Acquire links to your website
- Generate brand awareness
This isn’t to say blogs don’t lead to sales, but if that’s the primary reason you’re blogging, sorry to say but you’re doomed to fail.
3. Create ‘nests’ of blog content
So, you’re blogging for SEO but can’t seem to get onto the first page of search results? Google and other search engines probably don’t think you are an authority on the topic. A content ‘nest’ is a group of blog posts on the same topic area.
If you’ve already started blogging this is a quick hack. Simply choose three or four topics that are related to each other, produce the content, and add internal links to create a relationship between the blog posts.
Start with a big broad question as your first piece, and then choose two or three sections of that blog post that could be expanded into larger pieces in their own right. After you create the additional blogs, add links to them in the appropriate sections on the first blog post.
By creating this ‘nest’ of content and linking the posts together efficiently, you’ll make it simpler for search engines to determine the relationships between different pieces of content. This means your blog posts will be more likely to achieve higher rankings in search.
4. Use Google My Business like a social platform for better local SEO
Google My Business is highly underutilised as a platform. If you haven’t heard of Google My Business, it’s a free platform offered by Google to every business owner with a physical address and a Google account. It functions as a business profile or listing and appears in search results when users type in your brand name or certain keywords.
If you have an active blog content calendar, share all your content on Google My Business as Google Posts, as well as any events and business updates you have. Treat it like a social platform, in the same way you would post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels.
Don’t overthink what to post, just get in there and start doing it. Have you made an update to your business operations as part of a COVID-safe plan? Post your update on Google My Business. Have a video to share from your latest event? That’s something your audience on Google My Business might be interested in.
So what SEO gain is there to be had from using Google My Business? The primary SEO benefit of Google My Business is that your content is visible in search as soon as it’s published. Content shared as Google Posts on your listing are provided immediate visibility to your existing audience, and new users searching for your brand. The link placed in the Google Post sends an additional signal to the search engine, which can speed up indexing. This means Google will find your content faster, and it will start ranking in search for your target keywords sooner than it might have otherwise.
Regularly posting improves your rankings in the local pack. The local pack are the few businesses offered to users in the map feature of search results as relevant and nearby solutions to their query. The more opportunities you offer for users to interact with your Google My Business listing, the higher chance there is that you’ll feature in the local pack when it’s triggered for higher volume and non-branded keywords.
SEO is a long game, but it’s a game that can be hacked
The most important SEO hack I can offer is simply to get started. Jump in and have a go. Right now.
Like your business, the more time you spend on your SEO, the more rewards you will yield for your efforts. It is, however, a long game, one that requires patience and persistence, but you can do it. Every SEO expert has had to before.
Over time you’ll gain experience, and with that knowledge you’ll learn to act and react to anything the Google algorithm throws your way.
SEO is a game, play by the rules but to your advantage. Good luck!
Joel Evans is an Account Manager at Reef Digital, a Sydney-based digital marketing agency. He has over three years of experience in content marketing and SEO and was a world finalist for Digital Marketer of the Year at the 2019 Search Engine Land Awards. He has worked with Work inc on their SEO for over 12 months.