The Small Business Owners SEO Bible

Small business SEO bible

During the last 18 months, I’ve completed more than 20 SEO audits for small businesses and global brands. I enjoy analyzing the data in Google Analytics and identifying areas for improvement to help businesses grow their organic search traffic. We’ve helped a lot of businesses grow during this period. It’s been fun.

Whether you sell products online or you want to generate leads via your website, our research has found that by not optimizing your site for search engines, e-commerce stores are losing up to $100,000 per year. That’s a lot of money, isn’t it?

So you have now launched your website and you want to increase organic traffic. Where do you start?

This post has been created to act as a bookmark for people like you who have just launched a new website and want to immediately fix your SEO issues. You can revisit this post time and time again, and the issues outlined can be fixed by yourself, without the need to invest in hiring agencies/ consultants.

The 10 points outlined below affect 90% of all websites I’ve audited. By fixing them you will not only have the SEO basics in place but, you will also start to see an increase in organic traffic and sales.

1. Avoid duplicate content by having one website

Type the full URL into your browser and hit search. In this example, we’ll use www.mywebsite.com. If the page loads (as it should), now do the same but do not include www. For example, mywebsite.com.

Most people think it’s the same webpage. It is, but not to Google. If the page loads, then you have site wide duplicate content and Google is indexing two versions of your website.  You will need to ask your IT team or web developer to redirect one version of the website to another using a 301 permanent redirect.

If you notice that when the browser loads mywebsite.com it automatically redirects to www.mywebsite.com (or vice verca, www.mywebsite.com redirects to mywebsite.com), then you do not need to implement the redirect. It doesn’t matter which URL you choose, just as long as you have only one.

Tip: It’s important to use a 301 redirect and not a 302 redirect. Check with your IT team to make sure you are using a 301.

2. Register with Google and Bing webmaster tools

In order to increase the process of being indexed by Google and other major search engines, you should register the new website with Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools. You won’t be able to prepare for everything before you launch, but by registering the website you can find and track crawl errors and optimization issues quickly.

Webmaster tools is a great resource to identify problems and is offered by both Google and Bing for free. Both offer reports on errors and issues that are hurting your search engine performance and with Google recently hiding keyword information, webmaster tools remains the only place for where you can see what keywords people use that shows your website in the search results page.

Tip: You can verify your webmaster tools account by implementing the code into the <head> section of your website.

3. Write unique title tags and meta descriptions

For each page on your website you will have the opportunity to write unique text for title tags, meta descriptions and page headings (h1). Matt Cutts recently went on record by saying that missing information for all of these is not such as problem as Google will automatically pull text to show the user but, he did make it clear that the information should not be duplicate and the same for each page.

  • Title tag: Between 30-60 characters, and be a short sentence on what the page is about
  • Meta description: Between 70-150 characters, and a brief summary of what the page is about
  • H1/ heading: Between 20-40 characters, and is the topic of the page

Tip: If you have a website with more than 1,000 pages, it might be easier to let Google pull in the information automatically for 90% of your website but take the time to write unique text for your top 20-30 most visited pages.

4. Fix broken links and deleted pages

Enter your URL into the following website and fix any broken links that are reported: www.brokenlinkcheck.com

Prioritize fixes based on 404 and 500 errors. A 404 error means the page is no longer found, and you will need to redirect the old page to the new page (again, use a 301 redirect) and a 500 error means there is a server error.

Tip: You can also monitor your webmaster tools accounts on a bi-weekly or monthly basis and continue to fix any new issues that are reported.

5. Create a sitemap for search engines

A sitemap is a page that lists and links to all the other major pages on your site.

An XML sitemap is a sitemap that is created specifically for search engines. It helps tell Google and Bing which pages you want to appear in the search results pages. You can create an XML sitemap using the XML sitemap generator. Once created, the sitemap should be uploaded to your website. Most sitemap URLs look like this: www.mywebsite.com/sitemap.xml.

Tip: Once the sitemap has been added to your website, you can add the sitemap to both Google and Bing webmaster tools accounts.

6. Create a sitemap for humans

Whereas XML sitemaps are specifically created for search engines, HTML sitemaps are specifically created for humans. However, there is an added benefit in that you can link to important pages on your website, which can boost the overall authority of your website.

A HTML sitemap can be automatically created within your content management system (CMS). If not, create a manual version and include a link on your home page (either in the header menu or the footer menu).

Tip: For examples on HTML sitemaps, click here and here.

7. Use search engine friendly URLs

It’s easy to remember simple URLs that include keywords. Which URL are you more likely to remember?

The first URL is known as a dynamic URL. The second is known as a keyword friendly URL. Having a keyword friendly URL makes it easy for search engines to navigate and crawl your website. It also helps your customer’s access pages quickly, instead of having to remember long URLs.

Tip: Use a 301 redirect to redirect dynamic URLs to keyword friendly URLs.

8. Write fresh and unique content

Each page on your website should be unique. Research has shown that content that is longer than 1,500 words ranks better than content that has fewer than 1,000 words. Longer content is usually well researched, and delivers more value, which in turn leads to more social shares and visits.

Focus on writing great content that website visitors love to read. If you are struggling to think of content to write about, start off by answering questions that customers ask you (you can use your customer service team).

Tip: Stuck for ideas? Use these 20 content marketing tips to help you get started.

9. Block pages that don’t add value

A robots.txt file specifically tells a search engine which pages you do not want shown in the search results. Similar to a sitemap, the robots.txt file should be uploaded to your website. The URL to view the robots.txt file is usually www.mywebsite.com/robots.txt.

If you see the line Disallow: / in your robots.txt file, remove it immediately as this means that your entire website has been blocked from search engines.

Tip: Pages to be included in the robots.txt file are login pages, checkout pages, and any pages that you feel will not add value to search engines.

10. Optimize your images

Images are important for your website. Search engines can only search text and not text in your images. Images should be no larger than 100kb, so each time you add a new image, make sure it’s not too big or it will slow down your website.

When it comes to naming your images, both the file name and ALT tag should be descriptive of what the image is. For example, most websites that have a picture of an old man wearing a pair of blue socks will have the file name and alt text as follows:

  • File name: 000023.jpg
  • ALT tag: socks

The best way to upload an image is would be:

  • File name: old-man-wearing-blue-socks.jpg
  • ALT tag: Old man wearing a pair of blue socks

Tip: To compress images and make them smaller, use tools like Compress Now or Image Optimizer.

Conclusion

Use these 10 tips to improve your organic search traffic and once you start to see an increase, focus on getting more business by optimizing for conversion, which you can do by signing up to our free conversion rate crash course.

Feel free to share this post on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+, or leave your comments below.

5 thoughts on “The Small Business Owners SEO Bible

  1. Great stuff. Eagerly awaiting the new testament.

  2. Kåre: You are the anointed one. Thou shall write the new testament of SEO.

  3. Great checklist here Steven!

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