Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a hot topic. Every website owner has heard of it and needs it, right? But the SEO options are endless. You can pay an SEO company hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to do keyword research, develop a content strategy, and build backlinks, and this service is necessary for some businesses. But if you’re just starting out, there are some SEO essentials you can do yourself, and for free. Here’s a list of 9 SEO tricks that every small business owner needs to do now.
- Generate an XML SitemapAn XML sitemap is a roadmap for Google to find all of the pages on your website. They are normally found at www.[yourwebsite].com/sitemap.xml so test your website now to see if you have one. If not, it’s time to get one! You can generate an XML sitemap yourself using a generator like this, or platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, and Drupal offer other options. Look for an XML sitemap generator as a plugin for WordPress, or simply Google “how to get an xml sitemap on [platform name]”.
- Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free tool that allows you to see how many users are visiting your website, how they found you, and what they are doing on your website. You’ll need a Gmail account (as with all Google products). Go to google.com/analytics and follow the instructions for setting up an account. You’ll be given a tracking code. This code must appear in the <head> section of every page you would like Google Analytics to track (that would be every page on your website). You can add this code manually (or ask your web developer to do so), or find a plugin on WordPress that inserts the code for you. My preferred WordPress plugin is GA Google Analytics as it’s the simplest one to use that doesn’t require multiple verifications. Drupal and Squarespace will also have options for inserting the tracking code throughout the site. Once the Google Analytics tracking code is installed, you’ll see visitor numbers at www.google.com/analytics after 24 hours.
- Get an SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate changes the prefix of your website address from http:// to https://. Google wants to provide its users with the safest online experience and having an SSL certificate protects your website visitors from certain types of hacking attacks. I talk more about what an SSL certificate is and why you need one here.
- Submit an XML sitemap to Google Search Console
Once you have an XML sitemap at www.[yourwebsite].com/sitemap.xml, it’s best to submit it to Google for indexing. While logged into your Gmail account, search for “Google Search Console” and login. Choose to add a property by typing in (or copy + paste) your website’s full website address. You’ll be asked to verify the ownership of the website via a few options. If you’ve installed Google Analytics as suggested above, choose that method to verify ownership of your website. You’ll find a Sitemaps option in the left side bar. Click this and follow the instructions for submitting your sitemap. This will speed up the process for Google to find and index your website. It’s not automatic, but submitting a new or radically changed website is highly recommended to speed up the indexing process.
- Create a Google My Business (GMB) Account
Google My Business (GMB) is how you get your business on Google Maps, which is hugely important for local search. I give full details about how to set up a GMB account here.
- Ensure NAP is Consistent Across the Internet
NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, Phone. Make sure that you’re using the same business name, business address, and phone number across the entire internet. Many businesses have multiple phone numbers (like local area code or toll free), offices, or variations of their business name. While Google indexes your site, it also indexes the rest of the internet so if there are multiple phone numbers, business names, and addresses out there for one business, the Google search results might not return your preferred contact details. Keep a note (and record logins) for every place you’ve added your business’s contact details (like yellowpages.com, manta.com, etc.) and make sure they’re consistent. And if you move or change phone numbers, make sure to update every directory listing with the new details.
- Link to Pages on your Website
Search engines are constantly crawling and following links on the internet to add to their index. Beyond submitting your XML sitemap to Google, linking to your website from other places online will help the search engines find your site faster. Consider linking to pages on your website from your social media platforms. This will help the search engines, but also drive more traffic to your site when your friends click on the link.
- Write a Blog
Adding a blog to your website is your opportunity to show your visitors that you know what you’re talking about. Blogs can also help with SEO as they add more content to your website, and writing a blog about a topic that draws lots of visitors will help your search engine rankings. Struggling for blog ideas? What do your customers ask you about all of the time? Write a blog series answering these questions. If your customers have these doubts, its likely lots of other people have the same questions and will be searching for answers online. Writing not your thing? Create a video blog (vlog), post it on YouTube, and embed on your website. Videos are more engaging than written word, and certain topics like instructional videos are just better in visual form.
- Ask for Online Reviews
Positive online reviews indicate to Google that you’re doing a good job, and may help your Google Maps listing show up higher in search results. Getting online reviews is always a challenge, so experiment with different ways to ask your customers to say nice things about you online. FGM Internet Marketing has an Online Review Management tool that helps generate, monitor, and respond to online reviews in a single dashboard. Contact us for more information.
These 9 tips are simple for any small business owner to do. If you get stuck, use Google to find the answer. Google has many free tools for business owners so take the time to use them and understand them, and save some money by doing it yourself.