When optimising your small business website for search engines, your first port of call should be keyword research. After all, how can you expect to rank highly on search engines if you don’t know which search terms you’re aiming for?
Here are five steps to identifying the best keywords for your website and optimising your content with those keywords in mind:
1. Think like a customer
Start your keyword research with a brainstorming session. Think about specific search terms prospects may use when searching for a product or service like yours. Come up with a list of as many search terms you can think of, from the broadest to the most specific. These can be whittled down to the most valuable keywords by following the next two steps below.
2. Look closer to home
Local search is becoming more important as mobile web use is on the rise. Consider optimising your keywords for local searches – there is less competition and your web visitors are more likely to convert into actual paying customers. Somebody searching for ‘pizza’ may not be interested in your pizza restaurant in Leeds, but someone searching for ‘pizza in Leeds’ probably will be! It will also allow you to compete more effectively with bigger companies that have nationwide coverage.
3. Make use of free tools
There are a number of free tools on the web to help you identify keywords, but Google’s AdWords tool is one of the best around. Enter your potential keywords and it will show you their search volume as well as offering suggestions for similar terms. The tool also identifies how hot the competition is for each search term.
As a small business, it may be worth targeting the niche, less competitive terms even though they have a smaller search volume. These are easier to rank for, and your website is likely to be relevant for those searching for so-called ‘long-tail’ search terms (i.e. ‘independent bookshop in Guildford’ rather than ‘bookshop’).
4. Optimise your website
Now you’ve chosen your most valuable keywords, implement them on your website by crafting your page titles, URLs and headings to include the terms. You should also try to include them in your meta text (the snippet of text Google presents in its search results). This doesn’t help your SEO but will help your site’s listing stand out because the keywords will be bold.
Don’t be tempted to force your keywords into every piece of text on your website – this is known as keyword stuffing and is highly frowned upon. Use the keywords only where they work naturally in a sentence, or your site content will be difficult to read and you could potentially be penalised by search engines.
5. Craft niche content
If you’re an expert in your field and think you could provide answers to the questions people are searching for online, write a blog about it and post it on your site. You don’t have to be a professional writer to make something informative and useful to your readers. You simply need to have an expertise or knowledge about your subject matter to inform. It could rank for relevant keywords and drive search traffic to your site.
But remember, only write something which will be useful to your potential customers, don’t do it for the sake of including your keywords. Small business owners have a passion for what they do and most will certainly have a great deal to talk about whether it is about building materials, the latest hair salon products or new accounting guidelines.