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SEO for small businesses: Why it matters

02 Feb 2016

SEO. Sure, you’ve heard about it. The ambiguous, ever-changing process of improving a website’s visibility in search engine results and earning traffic. That was a mouthful. As a business owner, it’s important to know what SEO can do for you. Do it well, and it could be what takes your business to the next level. Do it poorly, and people will have to use the Yellow Pages to find your business.

Image via www.moz.com

Before we get to the juicier stuff about SEO and how it can benefit your business, let’s cover the basics.

How SEO works

Google and other search engines use “robots” (often called “spiders” or “crawlers”) to gather and store the information from each page of your website. When someone searches for a term online, those search engines process all of the information they’ve gotten from all the sites they’ve “crawled”. Then they present a list of results with the most relevant sites listed first.

Google’s search algorithms analyse the quality and relevance of your site’s information. If the material is top notch and the technical aspects of your website are clean, your website’s ranking will typically be pretty high. Of course, other components play a role in your website’s overall rank. But understanding what Google rewards and penalises is critical.

Image via www.moz.com

The parts of SEO

If you’re a beginner, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation – and it means just that. It’s a practice used to grow visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. To rank highly you need to make sure your website is technically sound. You also need to publish creative, unique and valuable content on your website to make it stand out. Let’s break it down.

Technical elements of on-page SEO include: *list not exhaustive

  • making sure all key pages can be indexed
  • managing redirects and domain migrations
  • optimising title tags and descriptions
  • including primary keyword in header tags, on-page content, image filenames and alt text
  • listing clean and short URLs (breadcrumb structure is advised – example: www.yoursite.com/topic/sub-topic/title-of-page)
  • optimising for mobile

Creative and strategic elements include: *list not exhaustive

  • conducting proper keyword research to understand what people are searching online relative to your business
  • developing quality content (editorial, graphics, video, podcast, etc.) to answer questions that your audience might be asking relative to your business
  • using rich snippet formats to be more visible in search results
  • understanding where your audience falls along the sales funnel and building content to answers those questions

SEO is not a “set it and forget it” programme

Once all the nuts and bolts are figured out – wait, no – the nuts and bolts won’t ever be fully figured out, because SEO is constantly evolving. Search algorithms are regularly updated to make the web experience more intuitive and sophisticated. It’s important to understand how these changes affect your website. By doing so, you can be better prepared to manage the consequences – good or bad.

Article by Sarah Chung, Xero analyst

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