How to improve your SEO

Setting up a website is an important first step for your business, but equally important is how small business owners leverage their online presence to generate visitors and eventually sales. If your existing and future customers aren't able to find your website in the first place, all your efforts will be largely wasted.

This is where Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, comes in - it is the process of enhancing your website's visibility in a search engine's results. In short, an ideal SEO environment ensures that your webpage is the first result a customer sees when searching certain keywords related to your business.

So how can businesses make the most from their website? Here are four ways to improve your SEO ranking for free.

Write concise page titles

A page title, or title tag, is the name of your webpage that appears in the title bar of the browser when viewing the page. Having an accurate, keyword-rich and concise page title is extremely important to SEO, according to Dun & Bradstreet's Digital Marketing Manager, Ersel Aydin.

"Content is king in a digital world, and businesses who do not use catchy or relevant page titles that encapsulates what people are looking for will only lose out. This is all the more crucial for small businesses who cannot afford to compete with larger firms in online advertising, which is why SMEs should increase their focus on organic rankings based on quality content."

Mr Aydin suggests that page titles should reflect what products or services your business is providing and should incorporate important keywords within the first 60 characters.

For instance, if your business provides bed and breakfast accommodation, instead of using general terms such as "a perfect place for you to rest" or "enjoy life", use something more direct such as "Bed & Breakfast in Daylesford".

Pairing accurate page titles with online locators such as Google Places or Yahoo Local can also help your website get noticed when people type a specific location in the search engine. This service allows you to include your address, trading hours, phone number and photos in the listing, which will make it easier for potential customers to contact you.

Write appropriate copy

As with page titles, your page content (or copy) should also contain appropriate keywords that will be found easily by search engines.

"Keywords play a prominent role in SEO, the main reason being that they describe a group of words most likely to be searched by visitors. They should therefore be unique, meaningful and directly relate to your business."

Avoid using overly flowery or abstract sentences that make it difficult for search engines to pick up what you offer. Use informative and to-the-point sentences, and short headings, that will enhance your SEO.

Keeping your content fresh is equally as, if not more, important - if search engines detect new content that is informative and complements the products or services offered by your website, this will no doubt increase your ranking higher than your competitors'.

Create a site map

Creating a site map, which is a hierarchical list of every single page in your website, can also help your business get found more quickly. Search engines will be able to find and index your pages more easily with a site map, allowing for enhanced navigation and visibility.

It also allows newly created pages to be added to search engine results at a faster rate - think of a site map as a way of transmitting information to search engines.

Creating a site map is relatively easy, particularly if you have a content management system (CMS). If you don't, you may need to search for third-party online sitemap making tools.

"It is recommended that small businesses use CMS to develop and maintain their website, as it not only makes it easy to create sitemaps, but also reduces dependence on web developers and IT teams," Mr Aydin says.

Use directories

Small business should also have a presence on local online directories such as:

  • Google Places
  • True Local
  • White pages
  • Hotfrog
  • Local council directories

Using these free directory listings will increase the number of sites bearing your business name and therefore increasing search results for your business.

"The recent growth of mobile searching and location-based services means that making your business's physical location well-known is becoming more important than spending a great deal on online advertising," Mr Aydin says.

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