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5 Essential Steps to SEO Success for Small Businesses

seo Aug 30, 2021

How often have you asked yourself; What is SEO? Is it worth investing time into my website's SEO? Where do I start with SEO? Don’t worry we have all asked ourselves these questions. In this article I will help you to understand SEO and share the essential steps to take that in time will give you a competitive advantage against competitors in your niche.

What Is SEO?

SEO is Search Engine Optimisation. When google and other search engines (yes there are at least 17 alternatives to Google) crawl the web for an answer to a search query there is a range of criteria they use to decide which web pages are most relevant to the keywords used in a search.

Is it worth investing time into my SEO?

Absolutely 100% yes! SEO is an essential part of your marketing mix. Be warned, you won’t see immediate results it’s a long term strategy. According to SEO guru Neil Patel it can up to a year before you start seeing any real benefit from investing time into your SEO. This is a key reason that causes small business marketers to put SEO on the long finger. Ultimately you will pay the price when a competitor comes out of nowhere and suddenly starts popping up in every search related to your business, products or service.

Where do you start with SEO?

Possibly the most frequently asked question we hear clients asking in relation to online marketing. Well if I’m totally honest there’s easily 100 most frequently asked questions in relation to SEO alone. It’s possibly the least understood element within the modern marketing mix for this reason SEO is often seems to be shrouded in mystery. The short answer you start by setting aside time to do some research which will become your very own SEO plan.

Is SEO mainly using as many keywords as possible?

No. Once upon a time you could expect to get decent Search Engine Results Page (SERP) position by cleverly filling your web pages with popular keywords. Keywording is still a key part of SEO but today's Search algorithms can spot keyword stuffing and will penalise it. Web content must appeal to both a search engine and a human reader. In addition to keywords the following elements have a significant influence on your SEO performance: Unique content, Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions, Image Optimisation, Alt-Text in Images, Site Security, Page Load Speeds, Efficient web site code & scripts, domain authority, backlinks, internal linking, readability and quite a bit more.

Step 1: SEO Planning Keyword Research

The first step is to do decide what keywords you want to rank for. So, what are the keywords you want your website to be found for when somebody uses these words in a search? A good starting point is to make a list of seed keywords. These are the terms that best describe what you do. Now it’s time to test these keywords out and see what variations of them might be worth adding to your list of target keywords. This is where tools like Google Keyword Planner come in. Now you want to evaluate; are these the right keywords? How many searches do they appear in every month?  How difficult will it be to rank for these keywords? What kind of competition is there for these keywords? How many likely visitors are they going to bring you? Are these keywords likely to lead to conversions?

Next we need to check what keywords your competitors are ranking for. Again with most SEO Tools you can pop your competitors URL into a search and see what they are doing well, see if there’s any terms or phrases that could work for you too. 

Most SEO Tools have the ability to save a list of target keywords. If using a premium tool you can save to your dashboard or export as a spreadsheet. If using a low cost or free tool you can copy your target keywords into a document and put it somewhere safe.

Why do keyword research?

This is an essential step as everything you do on your website from here on will use this list of keywords. For example if writing a blog your topics may be inspired by relevant keywords and in each blog you’ll want to include as many relevant keywords from your list as possible.

Step 2: Add Your Keywords To Your Website

There’s 2 places we need to start adding your keywords. This is a tedious job but one that has to be done

  1. Add Page Titles & Meta Descriptions using relevant keywords
  2. Incorporate relevant keywords into the copy on each page.

Let’s start with the boring but easy stuff. When building a new web page or landing page it’s common to be in bit of a hurry so you skip over the part of the page where you input your SEO details. If using Wordpress, YOAST SEO  is an essential plug in, it makes this part of your SEO very easy. It analyses your page title, meta description, page copy, images and more. It provides you with a list of recommendations to improve your SEO score.  

Next it’s time to review your web copy on each page and make sure your relevant keywords are used and repeated throughout your site. Now this is a great time to point out that Search algorithms are very sophisticated and are very hard to fool. They don’t want pages stuffed full of keywords, they want to show people pages with relevant content that is good to read. So again it’s important to remember each page on your website needs to appeal to the search engine and to a person reading it. Finding that balance is a real skill. Many people with sales / marketing experience can write decent copy. However a good copywriter is worth their weight in gold as they have a unique skills. A copywriter can write copy that jumps off the page, excites a reader but also hits key SEO criteria to appeal to a search engine too.  There's a subtle but huge difference between content that's written well versus good copywriting. 


Step 3: Blog - Blogs Really Do Matter

Blogs are an essential part of improving your SEO performance. Search engines love written content. They love in-depth content. What’s the ideal word count for your blogs? Well this is where you may want to sit down…2100 - 2500 words per article is recommended by the worlds leading SEO experts like Neil Patel, Moz, Hubspot. 

The great news for your SEO efforts is that writing an article with over 2000 words allows you to really show off your expertise as well as to insert lots of keywords into your content without being guilty of blatant keyword stuffing.

With over 2000 words it’s very important to use headings and sub headings. People usually skim over long articles so it’s important that the key information stands out at a glance. Also search algorithms like headings and sub headings, they like structure and information that’s nicely broken down.

I hear small business owners regularly dismissing blogs for being too time consuming or not relevant to their audience. I usually challenge this asking "Will Google want to send people to your site to read your about page or to an insightful article on a topic that matches a search query?" (Tip: it's the latter).

How often should you blog for SEO? Again the leading experts all recommend 1 new article a week for best SEO results. The important thing to remember is something is better than nothing. If  you haven’t updated your blog in recent months then take small steps like writing a new blog every month, then try every fortnight, then every week. There are other options like outsourcing that can fast track your blog and SEO efforts.

Top up your coffee

Congratulations on making it this far, many good people may well have fallen by the wayside feeling like they simply aren’t ready to face SEO. These next steps are the really essential steps to get started with, if you’ve done no SEO on your existing website or new website then perhaps save this article and come back to it when you’re ready. But if you’re like me you might prefer to see the big picture so that you can budget your time over the next 3 months, 6 months and year. Like all intimidating tasks when you break it into small pieces it’s much more do-able and less overwhelming. 

Step 4: Complete an SEO Audit of your Website.

There’s lots of tools both paid and free that allow you to audit your website and create a list of tasks that when completed will improve your websites ranking in search results. At this point you may be thinking “but I thought SEO was all about keywords”. Remember I said search algorithms are very sophisticated? Well they judge on many variables as mentioned earlier. Don’t panic when using any tool to audit your website you will get a list of items to be improved. You can hand this list to somebody else to fix or you can take the DIY approach if you have the time and willingness to learn. Again, before you get that sense of overwhelm any list generated from a website audit is like a to do list to save and work on over a period of months. A little bit every day soon adds up.

Step 5: Look For Backlinks

Okay this bit is relatively simple but often we can be reluctant to chase after good quality backlinks for many reasons. The goal is to to get other websites to link to your website content as it adds credibility and domain authority. In simple terms if you add insightful blogs to your website, well then you want other sites to share links to it. The more reputable the site linking to your content the more it helps your own Search performance as reputation rubs off.  Simply put do a little research into who your content would be relevant to whether it's a blogger, online trade publication, professional associations, anyone who publishes content relevant to your area.  Email them or direct message with a short summary and link. Also when you guest blog for other websites / trade publications you can include a link to your website in the byline or authors bio so look out for these opportunities too. 

Finally.... keep doing it

At Achieve Marketing we advise small businesses to prioritise response and engagement when selecting marketing strategies. However we make an exception for SEO as it’s planning for your future responses and engagement. What you start today will make life easier for you next year and the year after. When it comes to Search Engine Optimisation small daily steps really count, it’s a great habit to develop.

Take a listen to our Podcast discussing SEO 


We’re all about the bonus content at Achieve Marketing so here’s some frequently asked questions we have been asked at speaking events, by our 1-2-1 clients as well as from within The Achievers Club community.

Do Videos or Audio help SEO?

Search Engine algorithms pretty much favour text based content. If you have a great video include it in your blog as it's good content for the reader, but important to note it will be the written copy of that page that will mostly influence your SERP.

Should I pay for backlinks?

No, over the years there has been lots of sites set up to create backlinks for sale but they usually get flagged as untrustworthy and it won't help you to be associated with lots of sites with poor reputations. This is why it’s important to scan your site for bad links and disavow links like these where possible. 

 Remember there’s no shortcuts, there is lots of tools that can help save you time but that’s more from a productivity point of view where they combine features of multiple tools under one roof.

How do images influence SEO?

Another step many people skip is properly formatting images for web use as well as not completing the Title and Alt Text fields for the image. By not properly optimising your images for web use they may be bigger than needed and end up slowing down your page load speed. Alt text is important. The purpose of alt text is text that is displayed when there’s a slow connection. But in an SEO context they are an important variable as alt text influences images to display in a Google Images search result.

Whilst it’s tempting to skip and come back to it later, very often once skipped you won’t go back to it. You're always better taking an extra 10 minutes to resize your images and add relevant titles and alt text after uploading to your site.

What tools are recommended for SEO?

There’s lots of SEO Tools available ranging from premium subscriptions to low cost and free. Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google Keyword Planner are great tools. However these require advanced knowledge to set up and to use. They will provide you with all the data you need but won’t tell you how to improve.

The leading authorities in SEO Tools that guide and instruct you are Moz, Ahref, SEM Rush, SE Ranking, Yoast. There are some free options within each of these brands. A free tool that I highly recommend is the Moz Toolbar, it allows you to open any webpage and easily view the Title, Meta Descriptions, Keywords, Headings, Sub Headings. These tools are more designed for agencies and larger businesses hence the premium subscriptions. There are other tools out there that are designed with small businesses in mind like Diib, SEO PowerSuite, Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest, Screaming Frog. Just be aware whilst Diib gives some good insights on what you need to improve but it very much has a focus on selling you packages to do SEO essentials for you. This is great if you want that but can be quite annoying if you subscribe to this tool with a focus on doing it yourself and need a tool to tell you what you need to do and how to do it.

What are backlinks & how do I get backlinks?

Backlinks are when other websites share links to your websites. The higher the authority of the website sharing your link the more valuable it is to you as a backlink. It’s like getting a referral. Imagine you’re looking for business and your friendly next door neighbour recommends people to give you a call. All referrals are welcome but some carry more weight than others. So compare the weight of your neighbours referral to that of say a former world leader like Barack Obama or a respected publication like Time Magazine. There are some good backlink strategies but we’ll save that for a dedicated article on Blogging and Backlink strategies. 

There is no doubt about it, SEO is daunting with lots of potential for confusion and overwhelm. Like everything else it’s seems a lot easier when you know what to do and what tools to use. If you don’t have hundreds or even thousands to spend every month on your SEO but want to improve, fear not there is help available.

Achieve Marketing is all about empowering small businesses to do better marketing through a do it yourself, do it with you or do it for you model.

The Achievers Club is a community of small business owners committed to growing their businesses through better marketing. The Achievers Club gives members the opportunity to learn and improve through monthly marketing training, with live Q&A sessions every week. Not only that but there’s open zooms every fortnight as a chance for each member to drop in for a second opinion, chat or to celebrate a breakthrough. The Achievers Club members area is full of useful resources with a dedicated community site which means you can safely interact with other club members. That means no compromising your privacy and most importantly you're free from the distractions that compete for our focus in groups hosted on Facebook or LinkedIN.

Whether you want to be a little better known or even achieve world domination talk to us.

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