An SEO guide for small business owners — improve your website search engine rankings

June 11, 2021

This guide provides steps on how small business owners can use search engine optimisation (SEO) to help improve your website ranking.

So you’ve just launched your new website and are sitting back waiting for all those website visits to roll in, except a week goes by and there’s very little improvement. Since then a month has passed, then three, and you’re now stuck wondering exactly what went wrong…

While there are a number of factors that impact visitors finding your website, if it isn’t optimised for search engines - you’re already behind.

This guide and checklist is for small business owners who have created their own website, and want to ensure that their best foot is forward when it comes to getting found online. It’s also a handy resource for website designers and developers (who may also use Webflow) as a workflow before launching a website.

What is SEO?

At Domin8 Designs, we define SEO, or search engine optimisation, as a combination of strategies you can perform on your website that aim to improve the experience for both visitors and search engines.

SEO is an effective tool that small businesses and not for profit organisations can tap into. Some of the benefits of SEO include:

  • Increase brand awareness;
  • Improve traffic to your website;
  • Better answer visitor questions;
  • Connect to more relevant visitors; and of course
  • Improve your search engine rankings

This guide runs through eight ways that you can optimise both your website, and its content, to improve your search engine rankings:

  1. Create a user profile;
  2. Research keywords;
  3. Create content;
  4. Add internal and external links;
  5. Submit a sitemap;
  6. Reduce load speeds;
  7. Consider accessibility; and
  8. Track progress;

1. Create a profile for your ideal website visitor

Many people jump straight into designing a website and creating content without considering the aims, goals and destinations of their primary user.

Creating a profile of your ideal customer, clientor visitor can help identify what they might be looking for on your website; and importantly — the ways you can improve your content to meet these goals.

Action: Grab a pen and paper, or open a Word document, and brainstorm who a list of all the people that you think may visit your website. From this list, identify 2 to 3 key users. Develop a profile, or a persona, for each of these users.

A profile may include:

  • Who the person is (sex, demographic, age etc.);
  • What their interests are;
  • Their job or career;
  • A list of questions they may have (i.e. how much does this service cost, how do I contact you);
  • How they found your website;
Action: Once you've developed the key users, list down the goals and aims they have on your website.

The Domin8 Designs website is a great example - our key users are business owners and executive officers looking for a professional, easy to use website experience. Their goals are things such as seeing the costs, viewing other work we've done to know it's high quality, and ultimately getting information or a quote about their project.

This first step helps create content and design a website with intent, rather than guessing, and gives you a better platform to begin search engine optimisation for your website.

2. Research and implement keywords

Searching a term like “SEO” and “Keywords” in Google will return millions of results.

Simply put, keyword research is identifying words or phrases that people are most likely to search for that are relevant to your content. It’s discovering and implementing relevant words or phrases throughout your content to make it more relevant and useful for your customer or visitor.

An example of this is ‘small business website design Hobart’ for Domin8 Designs.

Broadly, there are two types of keywords: short tail and long tail.

Short tail are short, sharp words or phrases that consist of around three words or less. An example of a short tail keyword is “web design”. Because of the direct nature of short tail keywords, they often have a wide search intent and are very competitive (i.e. hard to rank in search engines).

Long tail keywords have more than three words, and are usually much more specific (i.e. ‘best web designer in Hobart’). These keywords are often less competitive and are targeting a specific intent from the searcher.

Where to start keyword research? Check out Neil Patel’s “Uber Suggest) — https://app.neilpatel.com/

Action: Brainstorm a list of 10+ keywords that you want people to find your website for, or, that you think are relevant for your business/organisation. Incorporate both short and long tail keywords.

You may also need to repeat this process for different pages of your website, such as individual service pages or blog posts.

Tools like Ubersuggest are great for discovering similar and additional keywords for your website.

3. Create (and optimise) content for your website

Once you’ve developed your profiles, goals and keywords, it’s time to create the text content for your website.

Action: To begin, identify 2 to 3 primary keywords that you think are most relevant to the content you’re about to work on. These become the focus for your meta-information.

These become your ‘primary keywords’.

There’s two steps to creating the main content for your website: the meta information and then the body of text itself.

In a loose hierarchy, the meta information includes:

  1. The Page Title
  2. The Meta Description
  3. Site URL/Address
  4. H1 (Heading One)
  5. Sub Headings

Here’s an example:

  1. The Page Title: Professional Website Design in Hobart
  2. The Meta Description: “Domin8 Designs creates professional, affordable website design and development in Hobart and across Tasmania.”
  3. Site URL/Address: domin8designs.com.au/web-design-hobart
  4. H1 (Heading One): Professional Website Design in Hobart
  5. Sub Headings: About our website design, The cost of website design etc…

Your primary keywords should appear in the title of the page, as well as the meta-description (if you have access to this from your website editor), site URL and Heading 1.

Following this, you can use the questions from your ‘visitor persona’ to structure some sub-headings for your text content.

Action: Review your keywords list and identify another 4 to 7 keywords as your ’secondary list’. Use these keywords, along with your primary ones, to develop the rest of the content.

Dom’s tip: be mindful of ‘keyword stuffing’ — trying to cram as many keywords into your content as you can. Search engines like Google are incredibly smart these days and will penalise you for tricks like this. Ensure that keywords occur naturally through out the content.

Stay tuned: We’ll be developing a content-writing specific post soon.

Adding keywords into your website’s title tag and meta description is a really useful way to improve search engine rankings.

4. Consider external and internal links

Internal (links to other pages on your website) and external (links to other websites) links are also important for SEO.

Once you've developed the initial draft of content for your website, consider opportunities to implement links.

In particular for newer or smaller websites, external links to reputable, bigger websites can really boost your search presence; while internal links help keep website visitors engaged in your content and on your website.

Action: When creating content, aim for three to six links, dependent on the length and intent of your content.

Dom’s tip: If you mention or refer to another article or blog post, either on your own website or another, this is a great way to incorporate links into your content.

5. Submit a sitemap

A sitemap (or structured list of pages and URL’s of your website) helps Google and other search engines understand and crawl your website, including information like when a page was last updated, the importance of a page etc.

One of the great things about Webflow is that it automatically creates an XML sitemap for your website.

Most website editors should generate a sitemap for you, or you can create one yourself — and once complete, you can submit this sitemap to Google’s Search Console.

Action: Find out if your website platform automatically generates an XML sitemap. Submit this sitemap to Google Search Console or other search engines.
Submitting a sitemap to search engines like Google can help improve your search engine rankings.

6. Reduce load time and improve speed

The speed of your website can make or break a visitor's experience and in turn effect your search engine rankings.

How do I test page speed?

You can type your website URL into Google PageSpeed Insights to test your website.  

Action: While there are a range of ways to improve the load time and page speed, the main actions you can take include:

Dom’s tip: Be mindful that PageSpeed Insights are an indication only. Sometimes you can run the same website twice and get vastly different results.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights can provide tips and areas of improvement to speed up your website.

7. Consider accessibility

This section can use a whole other article, however we’re considering the accessibility of your website from both a general use perspective, but also for those with physical, visual or intellectual impairments.

Considering accessibility can mean aspects such as:

  • Creating a responsive website;
  • Develop a useful 404 (error) page;
  • Adding ‘alt tags’ to images.

A responsive website is one that is legible on desktop, mobile and tablet devices (and now even big screens). Google specifically penalises websites that aren’t mobile friendly, so this should be a starting point.

Creating a responsive site is an easy one, particularly in Webflow — and is a well known standard and expectation of websites today.

Action: You can use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to see if your website passes.

A 404 page is where visitors may end up if they visit a nonexistent or moved page of your website; which can happen from time to time.

Instead of being a dead end, a 404 error page can be useful in letting visitors know where they may have gone wrong — but also importantly how they can get out; such as through a link back to the homepage or a search box.

Finally, although incredibly important, are HTML ‘Alt Tags.’

An Alt tag is assigning a text description to an image, something that people with vision impairments may not be able to make sense of, to make it more accessible.

This lets people with poor or no vision understand the purpose of the image in the context of the page and naturally flow through the content.

Action: Add Alt tags to all images on your website. If you’re not sure how to do this, do a quick Google search on adding Alt tags to your website platform.
Adding Alt tags to images on your website is a handy way to improve accessibility and in turn improve SEO rankings.

8. Track your progress

What good is it making all these changes if you can’t see the progress you’re making?

There are a range of tools that can help track your improvements, whether it’s the number of visitors viewing your website or the overall position of specific keywords.

Our favourites include:

  • Google Analytics — helps track they amount of visitors to your website, including where they came from, what device they used, how long they stayed for etc.
  • Google Search Console — helps view what terms brought people to your website, check for errors, submit a sitemap etc.
  • SEO specific tools — websites like UberSuggest, Moz and SEMRush offer a number of free and paid tools to both optimise and track the progress of your website
Tools like SEMRush can help track your position in search engines, as well as compare to your nearest competitors.

Wrapping up…

Ultimately, it’s important to keep in mind that nothing with search engine optimisation is a definite — however performing any of the above can be the first step in gaining even a one-percent improvement for your website; and in turn more customers or awareness of your business or brand.

At Domin8 Designs, we use Webflow to develop our websites which make a lot, if not all, of the above tasks incredibly easy; and we’ve achieved a heap of page-one results thanks to these simple strategies.

If you’ve found any of the points above useful, be sure to let us know via the comments or through our social media.  If you get stuck or would like more information on any aspect, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

An SEO guide for small business owners — improve your website search engine rankings
An SEO guide for small business owners — improve your website search engine rankings

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