In today’s digital-first world, your website is often the first interaction prospective customers have with your business. Whether they’re simply checking hours and offerings or partaking in your e-commerce system, it’s important for the process to be seamless. Because of this, more small businesses are investing in their digital presence to attract more — and retain more — customers. Learning how to optimize and update your website could prove to be a critical foundation for your business’s success.
What is SEO?
One quick website win is to optimize your SEO. SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to the methods that improve your website’s visibility on search engines such as Google. The position in which your website appears in an organic search is called its ranking. To determine your ranking, Google automatically crawls the web looking at websites, analyzes and indexes individual pages, and then serves up results based on the user query.
For instance, let’s say Store A is based in Brooklyn and sells cheese. If Store A has taken the time to optimize their website’s SEO, someone might search “buy cheese in Brooklyn,” and Store A will show up as one of the top results. According to Semrush, the top result in Google is 10x more likely to receive a click than the tenth result. That means that if Store A doesn’t optimize its SEO, there’s a chance its competitors will rank higher on the page and will be clicked on, and potentially converted, before patrons even see that Store A is an option.
Complete an SEO audit
The good news about SEO is that optimizing a website can be completely free. The first step to search engine optimization is to conduct a technical audit. An audit will help to compile a list of factors that may be hurting your site’s performance. Poor SEO can happen for a variety of reasons, including:
- Broken links on your website
- Low word count
- Misplaced or missing title tags
While there are many other technical and content-related factors that go into SEO, these three items are easy fixes that have the potential to improve your search engine standing.
A broken link occurs when you indicate that a piece of content or a button on a website should link somewhere, but the link doesn’t work. Having multiple broken links across your website can be a quick way to hurt your website’s SEO, as it signals to the search engine that the website may be of poor quality or not kept up to date.
Fortunately, broken links are quick and easy to fix. Use the free tools Google offers such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics to quickly find out which of your pages or links are returning 404 errors. Then, simply go in and add fresh links to those spots.
Low word count
The word count on your website also affects SEO. Low word count can indicate to the search engine that your website will not be useful to the searcher. A low text-to-HTML ratio could also indicate technical issues that the search engine will take into account when ranking your site.
Word count is also an easy fix, however. Trained content writers and copywriters are often specialists in writing for SEO. They can help you identify what you should be talking about and write long-form content that the search engine will latch onto. This is also something you can do yourself with some research. The goal is to ensure your website has robust content full of the keywords that will rank your business highly on search engines. And of course, you should aim for content that is easy to understand for your customer as well.
It might be tempting to quicky raise your word count by duplicating content on different pages of the site, but be warned that duplicative content is yet another red flag to the search engine.
A slightly more technical fix that can have a big impact on your SEO is to optimize your title tags. A title tag is a small piece of HTML that helps the search engine quickly recognize the title of the website and its corresponding pages. Quite literally, it tells Google what your pages are about — and it will be the text that shows up in the search results. To that end, your title tags should be concise and easy to understand, typically only 50-60 characters in length.
A good place to start is to simply ensure that you have title tags. Then, take a closer look at them to determine if they are accurate and relevant. Common website builders such as WordPress will often generate title tags automatically based on your content, but you may still want to optimize them further. Your title tags should be unique, descriptive, and ownable. They should be titles you’re comfortable with a customer seeing. And above all, they should simply be there.
Make your website mobile friendly
Mobile browsing, meaning website searches done from a smartphone or tablet, equal or exceed the number of searches from a computer — and that ratio is becoming more disparate each year. In 2021, mobile devices accounted for 54.5% of global web traffic. Mobile search lets your customers find you from anywhere at any time. But if your website isn’t optimized for it, you might miss out on the opportunity.
A mobile-friendly website is one that is responsive, meaning it recognizes the platform the user is on (phone, computer, etc.) and adjusts accordingly. In the best cases, it serves the user a custom experience based on their platform. When a user is searching from a mobile device, Google prefers to serve up mobile-friendly sites in turn. Plus, it can have a serious impact on your user retention — and therefore your sales. According to HubSpot, 73.1% of website designers say that a non-responsive design is a top reason why users leave a website.
An easy way to ensure mobile friendliness is to start with a template that allows for it. Most common website builders used by small businesses, such as WordPress, Wix or Squarespace, offer templates that are automatically responsive. If you already have a site that doesn’t offer that capability, it will be worth the time and effort to switch to one that does. Always double check that your website is working as planned on all devices.
If you want to adjust your website’s mobile offering manually, there are a few quick tips and tricks that will help:
- Adjust button size and placement to be more accessible to hands holding a mobile device
- Use a font that is readable on a smaller device
- Compress your images for faster load time
- Find different ways to express your content than large chunks of text
If achieving a mobile-friendly website starts to feel overwhelming, consider enlisting a freelance web developer to get you started.
Establish a backlink strategy
Backlinks are one of the more nuanced aspects of SEO that can be a major contributor to a good ranking. A backlink is a link from another website to yours. It is sometimes referred to as off-page SEO, since it’s not something you can control on your own site. High-quality backlinks are like great word of mouth — they show Google that other websites trust your authority on a topic. The top-ranking websites on Google have 3.8x more backlinks than other sites. Having a good number of quality backlinks increases your relevance to the search engine.
But how do you secure backlinks when they occur on other sites? This is the part that takes a little bit more effort and outreach. A good way to start is to set a Google alert for your brand. When you see your brand mentioned on other sites, for instance in online newspaper articles or blogs, reach out and ask for attribution. While there’s no guarantee, ideally the owner of that content will comply with your request to link to your website.
An optimized website is a compelling one
SEO gets customers to your site, and compelling content keeps them there. At the end of the day, customer acquisition and customer retention hinge on your willingness to invest time into curating content that is friendly to both the search engine and the user.
It doesn’t have to take a large budget to build a digital marketing strategy for your small business, but it does take a willingness to learn. And the right tools certainly help. Optimizing your website with the strategies mentioned above is a good place to start building the foundation of your digital marketing efforts.