Small business SEO for SMEs looking to grow: the 2021 guide

If you know that you need to generate more business from your website, but are unsure where to start, this guide explains effective SEO for SMEs.

Chances are you’re already aware that SEO stands for search engine optimisation and remains the cornerstone of effective online marketing. You may also know many of the core principles to these mysterious arts, perhaps having read some of our previous posts on the topic: What is SEO? and How SEO Can Help your Brand.

Today we’re going to look at just why SEO is important for small businesses and how SMEs can harness the power of SEO to grow online leads and sales in 2021 and beyond.

Understanding small business SEO

It is more true today than ever before that the first place customers seek out answers is Google, or occasionally one of its competitors (Microsoft’s Bing is creeping up towards 10% of UK search market share, whilst privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo is steadily growing in popularity). Even with more queries being raised on social media channels or with voice assistants like Alexa and Siri, regular desktop and mobile web search remain the most popular launching points for gathering information. If that information is around buying something your business offers, then naturally you want to be front and centre when the results are returned.

In a world that’s unrecognisable from that of just 12 months ago, one behaviour shift that many experts predict is here to stay is that of customers choosing to buy local. In fact, research carried out by EY this year found that UK consumers are now 57% more likely to purchase from companies in their local communities. That might mean picking fruit and vegetables from the high street greengrocer rather than driving to an out-of-town supermarket, but it is also true of B2B commerce. Goods and services that you can deliver to your clients and customers face to face (lockdown permitting), in your local area, while contributing to your local economy, matters more to people now.

What may have started as a civic duty to support local businesses has quickly become the default position for so many more reasons than those of merely “doing the right thing”. Local businesses have local knowledge, local understanding and, crucially, a local interest.

In order to tap into this increased desire to do business locally, brands need to be found when local searches are performed. A village centre butcher can attract footfall by virtue of its location but what if your business is a service offering trading from an industrial estate? You still need to be able to let people know that working with you contributes to the local economy and that you can offer the personal touch lacking from faceless online behemoth brands. This is why your small business SEO activity needs to be a top priority consideration right now.

Actionable SEO tips for small business owners

Getting to grips with SEO can seem bewildering and knowing where to start is half the battle. You’ve got a website and you know it works, but how do you get it in front of more people? The tips below should be your first considerations for optimising your website to attract more customers:

1/ Define your offering

You might think this is obvious and that your website already tells everybody looking at it what your business is about. But have you ever asked somebody unconnected to the business to give you objective feedback about what they think the site is about?

To an architect the phrase “masterplanning design studio” may perfectly accurately describe their business to other architects. But that doesn’t help homeowners looking for a local specialist to extend their bungalow. Don’t be afraid to explain what you do in simple terms because simple terms are what people tend to use when they search online. This is why as a WordPress agency you’ll see our homepage kicks off with “we create super-fast WordPress websites.” It’s a straightforward explanation of what we do best.

Once you think you’ve more accurately represented yourself in terms of your offering you may find there is a whole raft of services you haven’t actually previously explained on your website. Why not give each individual specific service a page of its own? A plumber in Pirbright might get visitors searching “Plumber in Pirbright” but what about users searching for drain unblocking, a new bathroom suite installation or boiler servicing? Write down everything you can offer and you have a greater chance of more people finding and contacting you.

2/ Use your own data to your advantage

Did you know that Google shares data on how visitors find your site? If you’ve not already set up a Google Search Console profile for your website, now is the time to go and do it (there’s no cost and anybody with a website can use Search Console for free). This useful data suite will show you some of the search terms for which your site has been returned in search results.

You can see data on impressions (the number of times your site was returned in results) and clicks (the number of times somebody followed the Google result to your site). If you can see search phrases where your impressions are high but your clicks are low then that’s an indicator of your site content not appealing enough to the users seeking those search terms. Identify the offending pages and see if you can improve the content on them to better address the queries you’ve not been getting clicks from.

3/ Make Google’s job easier by auditing your metadata

When Google (and other search engines) are scouring your site to determine what it’s about, one of the first places they’ll look is in each page’s meta title. This also determines how your pages show up in search results (i.e. the blue text of the link users will follow if they choose your result).

Whilst effective optimisation of page meta titles is an art all of its own (and we have covered the importance of metadata previously), one very simple yet often overlooked strategy is to deduplicate your page titles. Using our earlier plumber example, if your homepage has a page title of “Plumbing Services in Pirbright” but your services offered page has the same title, search engines can get confused as to which page is the most relevant result for that search term.

Every page should have its own unique meta title that doesn’t compete with another page of your site. Make sure your most important keyword is used in your homepage meta title, then work down through your other pages to ensure each has its own relevant meta title that’s distinct from the others. Get “Boiler Servicing Pirbright” on the boiler servicing page and “Drain Unblocking Pirbright” on the page about drain unblocking.

If you have a WordPress site the free Yoast plugin helps you to easily edit page meta titles so you can be sure you’ve got no duplicates or irrelevant confusing titles that won’t help search engines find your content. It’s one of the reasons WordPress built sites are among the most customisable, and easiest to make SEO friendly.

Keeping your SME SEO A-OK

The techniques above relate to some of the most common pitfalls of working on SEO for a small business website and we hope you find these actionable SEO tips useful. If you have the time, resource and patience to dedicate to optimising your website in order to generate more business then this is only the beginning. If, however, your time is better spent elsewhere and you’d like to entrust your online marketing to the experts why not get in touch with Preface Studios today to take advantage of our FREE SEO audit and consultation for local businesses in Farnham, Surrey and beyond?

We’re confident we can deliver you more of the customers and leads that you want, so fill out the form below and let’s work together on growing your business in 2021.

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