Increase Your Visibility in the Search Listings with our Small Business SEO Checklist for Beginners
Ranking in the search engines is never easy and for small businesses with a limited budget, time and resources, getting found online can be particularly challenging. Organic SEO takes time, but there are a number of things you can do to get ahead of your competitors. Our Small Business SEO Checklist for Beginners will help you prioritize your SEO tasks and give you a solid foundation to start your SEO journey.
Before you start doing any SEO, you need to do your research, this is one of the most important steps in SEO.
Define Your Goals and Write Them Down
What is it you are trying to achieve? What are your business goals? What is the purpose of your website? By defining a clear set of goals, you can plan the type of SEO that will have the most benefit for your business.
Brainstorm Search Queries
What words might people be typing into the search engines to find your business or services?
Research Chosen Keywords
Once you have settled on some keywords you want to rank for, you need to see how worthwhile they are and whether your business can realistically rank for them. A great place to start is Google Adwords, create an account and use the keyword tool to do your research.
Analyse Current Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
By analysing the pages occupying the top spots in the search results, you can get to know your competition, understand what they are doing well and where you can do better.
List Your Competitors
Once you have discovered who your competitors are, make a list of them. You can refer to this list for further competitor analysis and use it to see how they managed to rank for your target keywords.
Check that Your Site is Indexed in the Search Engines
You need to check that the search engines are indexing your pages, if your pages aren’t getting indexed, you need to find out what is preventing the search engines from crawling your website. You can check this by going to site:mysite.com.
Onsite SEO Tasks
Once you have finished doing your research, it’s time to put your findings into action and start doing some onsite SEO.
Set Up Google Webmaster Tools
Sign up to Google Webmaster Tools, this is a free service provided by Google, but an invaluable one for SEO. Sign up to Google Webmaster Tools here.
Set Up Google Analytics
Google Analytics gives you in-depth information about your website traffic, like how many people visit your site, which pages they are viewing, how long they stay on each page and much more. Use these invaluable insights to track the success of your website. Sign up to Google Analytics here.
Evaluate Your Website’s Design
Is your website well designed? Does it engage your customers? If your website design is terrible, no amount of SEO is going to help. Look at your competitors, how does your website compare? If your website is turning customers away, it could be time for a redesign.
Check that Your Website is Responsive
Google has recently switched to Mobile First indexing, this means websites that are responsive are likely to rank higher than those with fixed layouts. Make sure your site is fully responsive to avoid being penalised.
Identify and Fix Technical Issues
Technical issues such as page speed, broken links, 404 errors and poor website structure can have a negative effect on your ranking, fix them to avoid being penalised.
Check Cross Browser Compatibility
Make sure your website renders correctly across browsers and on both Mac and PC.
Optimise Your Web Pages
Take a closer look at your website code and make sure you optimise all SEO related tags. This process can be time-consuming, but it is critical to your pages being ranked for your chosen keywords. How to optimise web pages correctly deserves a standalone article, but in brief, focus on making sure that your page title and H1 tag both contain your target keyword and that it appears in the first 100 words on each page. Avoid thin content and focus on writing authoritative content for your audience, not for the search engines.
Add Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions help your customers understand what your page is about in the SERPs, so focus on writing clear, informative meta descriptions to encourage clicks.
Optimise Website Images
Make sure your images are optimised for web-use, large images can slow down your site which can in turn have a detrimental effect on your ranking. Make sure every image has an informative Alt description to help your pictures appear in image searches.
Add Company Address and Phone Number
This information is essential to local search, so make sure you have your company details on every page.
Check Page Speed
Page speed is a ranking factor in the search engines, with slow pages being penalised and fast loading pages gaining a better ranking. Check the speed of your page here. If your website is slow, check the size of your images, your website code and the quality of your website hosting.
Add Schema Markup
Scheme Markup gives the search engines more information to help them read and represent your page in SERPs.
Add a Robots.txt File
By adding a robots.txt file, you can tell the search engines exactly what pages of your website to crawl.
Offsite SEO Tasks
Offsite SEO tasks, as the name suggests, are carried out externally from your website, but are some of the most important steps towards successful SEO.
Set Up Google My Business
Every business should have a fully optimsed Google My Business page, this is especially important for companies that want to rank in the local search results.
Build Local Business Citations
Business citations are essential to local SEO. A citation is an online reference to your business, featuring your business name, address and phone number (NAP). These count towards your website’s authority in the local search results.
Analyse Your Competitors for Backlinking Prospects
Try to find out which websites link to your competitors, if there is a website that links to a number of your competitors, there is a chance they will also link to you.
Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors for the search engines, they determine your website authority and popularity. Building backlinks with authoritative website within your industry can boost your ranking significantly.
Utilise Social Media Platforms
Social media is changing the way businesses engage with their customers, leverage the power of social media to drive traffic to your website and increase conversions.
Create and Submit Sitemaps
Create an XML sitemap and submit it to the search engines to tell them about the page structure of your website.
Ask Customers for Google Reviews
Reviews can not only help your ranking, but customers are far more likely to contact a businesses with positive reviews than one without.
SEO is a moving target, while the steps above will provide a solid foundation to build on the real work has only just begun.
Track and Record Progress
Record your progress in the SERPs, Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics by taking monthly screen shots, this is an easy way to gather a lot of information quickly.
Create and Maintain a Spreadsheet of Your Ranking
A spreadsheet is a great way to track your ranking over time, you will gain insights into what works and what doesn;t to enable you to refine your approach.
Create Original Authoritative Content
Create content based on your keyword research. Your goal should be to create the most authoritative content on your subject available, this will encourage sharing and backlinks to boost your authority and ranking. When writing, check to see which pages currently rank for your chosen topic, analyse these pages and make sure that yours is better.
Continue to Make Data-Driven Changes, Build Links and Track Progress Over Time
This step never ends, you should aim to occupy the top positions in the SERPs for all of your target keywords, get ahead of your competitors and surpass your business goals.
If you are a small business struggling with SEO, we can help. Get in touch to discuss your project.