Getting the SEO rockin’ for your small business website can be tricky (and frustrating). Especially, if you’re trying to do it on your own. The good news is that there are a number of common issues you can easily resolve, with a little direction. Focus on these strategies, and your website will be taking a giant leap in the right direction.
I’ve completed hundreds of small business website SEO audits over the past couple of months. I’ve tracked the data from these audits and ran some statistical analysis on it. There are definitely some noticeable trends.
The first thing I noticed is something many owners/managers may not realize about their small business website…
Lots of people can put together a nice looking website these days. But from what I saw, many of the most amazing looking websites were some of the worst performing ones. A primary purpose for any small business website is to drive sales. So all the pretty in the world doesn’t mean a thing.
Aside from that, there are eight key observations I’ve been able to make from looking at the data. Each of these has a significant impact on your website’s ability to do its job well.
What To Expect
- Use an Effective Domain Name
- Get Encrypted with an SSL Certificate
- Build a Portfolio of Quality Links Back to Your Website
- Establish Your Authority
- Work on Page Speed for a Better User Experience
- Optimize for Mobile First
- Clean Up the On-Page Elements
- Step Up Your Professional Brand Image
Use an Effective Domain Name
This first observation simply blows me away. After all, this is the foundation of all other strategies for your website. It’s about domain name selection. One thing you need to understand is that the first thing people and search engines see is your domain name. And first impressions matter, to both people and search engines.
No pressure. But don’t mess this up.
Here’s what I’m talking about. Let’s say your company, Southern State Roofing Company, launches a new website. The worst thing you can do is to abbreviate the main identifying keywords into something like ssrcompany.com. That doesn’t tell anyone anything about who you are and what you do.
You’ll miss out on any kind of name recognition with people. You’ll also miss the opportunity to get the business keyword of “roofing” in there.
A domain name like southernstateroofing.com, while longer, will be easier to remember and will help your chances on search engines.
Better yet, try using one of the many not-com names that are gaining popularity. If the .com isn’t available, then a great option in this example could be southernstateroofing.contractors (yep, .contractors is an option). This can help a great deal when people search for terms like. “[your city] roofing contractors.”
TIP #1: It’s important to use a name that’s not only memorable but also one that sets you up well with the search engines.
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Get Encrypted with an SSL Certificate
If you don’t know already, security is a huge deal on the Internet these days. It’s such a big deal that Google is impacting search engine rankings based on how seriously you take this. And Chrome, the leading web browser, is starting to show “Not Secure” warnings for websites that don’t run an SSL (encryption) certificate.
Of the websites I reviewed, fewer than 30% of them currently do not have a security certificate.
Using an SSL certificate on your website means that it will run as an HTTPS website instead of the regular HTTP version. It will encrypt user information when delivered over the web. For example, when someone fills out a contact form on your website, their information could be exposed on a non-HTTPS website.
Taking care of security and encryption on your website with an SSL certificate will have two main benefits:
- It’ll protect you from the security-mageddon happening now with search engines and web browsers.
- Your visitors (potential customers) will have more confidence in doing business with you when they see the big green “Secure” indicator in their browser.
TIP #2: Get an SSL certificate for your website now. Standard Domain Validation (DV) certificates are inexpensive and are sometimes included in hosting plans.
Build a Portfolio of Quality Links Back to Your Website
There’s no doubt about it, the Internet is built on links. That’s why it’s called the web. That’s all Google is doing. At their core, they’re providing you with some links that should answer your questions. Google’s mission statement is to, “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Google not only provides links to answer your questions, but they also evaluate links to your site to determine usefulness.
Their goal is to always provide the best answers they can to your questions. If they start providing non-relevant information, then they know we’ll leave to find answers elsewhere. So the quality of the links they provide is of utmost importance.
One of the ways they evaluate the value and authority of your content is to look at the links to your website. The idea is that if a higher authority website links to you for an answer on something, then you must be valuable.
That’s where MozRank comes in as a measurement (for us, not necessarily for Google). It’s a way to measure link popularity of a website. A website is scored on a scale from 0-10, with 10 being the highest.
The average MozRank of the website evaluated in this study was 3.79. That’s not a horrible number but still shows that most sites have a great deal of room for improvement as it relates to link building.
The average website you’ll visit when surfing the web will likely be around 3-4.
TIP #3: Make sure you have a strategy for building strong links back to your website. This can be done with SEO link-building services (like ours), guest posting on other websites, and developing local citations for your business.
Establish Your Authority
Like MozRank, the Domain Authority (DA) score has to do with how authoritative your website it. But it takes into consideration more than just the MozRank factors. It’s a score that measures a site’s authority through measuring links (internal and external), mobile-friendliness, on-page content, and site structure.
In my experience, I’ve seen DA scores go up and down just based on the page structure of a website. Specifically, as it relates to the topic(s) your website is supposed to be about.
Using the Southern States Roofing Company example from earlier, that domain name is one of the factors considered in the DA score. Choose your name wisely, and it’ll help you out quite a bit.
In addition to that, it should be clear to search engines (and visitors) what your website is about. If your main pages and menu structure include more generic About, What We Do, Testimonials, Gallery, Contact pages, then you’re making it more difficult for search engines to figure out what you’re really about. None of your keywords are showing there.
Instead, consider main navigation pages like About, Roof Replacement, Roof Repair, Roof Inspections, etc. This will make it more clear what you are an authority on.
And for a bonus, create subpages to build more depth and structure. So under Roof Replacement, consider adding subpages for Tile Roof Replacement, Shingle Roof Replacement, Metal Roof Replacement, etc. Additionally, blog posts can be another way to add depth to the website and pass authority up to other cornerstone content pages.
The average DA score for the websites we evaluated was 15.25. That’s on a scale of 1-100. Getting your DA score more into the 30-40 range can result in great improvements in rankings. Get yourself over 50, and you’ll almost be able to write your own ticket on the search engines.
TIP #4: Consider how well your website is built from an authority perspective (check out this case study on website structure). And develop some depth with strong content to establish your authority.
Work on Page Speed for a Better User Experience
One really important ranking factor that seems to be often missed is PageSpeed. From Google’s perspective, if you’re too slow, then you’re not a good answer for them to present. They want to minimize the impatient-factor in the results they present.
Too often, website owners and developers go for the super flashy and pretty design, but don’t do it in a way that keeps the site running smooth. Too many large images and videos and scripts can knock you way down on this score.
The average PageSpeed score of the websites I evaluated was 60, well below the 85 (on a scale of 1-100) that Google gives a green light to. And the greatest offenders were the people who likely thought they have an amazing new website that looks incredible but had scores in the 30s.
In WordPress, there are plenty of great tools to help you optimize images, minify scripts, and leverage caching. All of these are crucial in maintaining quicker page load speeds.
TIP #5: If you’re on WordPress, then consider some optimization plugins to clean things up right away. If you’re on other site builders like Wix or Weebly, consider moving to WordPress. Our managed WordPress hosting will include plenty of these tools, and we’ll even help take care of it for you.
Optimize for Mobile First
Whats worse than scoring a 60 for Google PageSpeed on your website? How about scoring a 51 for PageSpeed on mobile for your website? Unfortunately, that’s the average mobile PageSpeed score for the evaluated websites.
During a time when Google is focusing so much on mobile-first indexing, you need your website to perform well on mobile.
There are two ways you can do this:
- Get your web pages running on AMP. This is Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. Basically, the idea is to push your page content into a more mobile format that Google serves up really quickly through their results pages on mobile devices. The downside is that it technically doesn’t get the traffic ON your website, so you may lose some of the experience as pages are stripped down for speed.
- Focus more on the mobile version of your website’s design. All websites these days should be mobile responsive. But mobile responsive doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s mobile optimized.
With the typical website getting around 50% (and constantly increasing) of their traffic through mobile now, you cannot afford to skimp on this.
TIP #6: There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the methods of mobile optimization. The important thing is that you spend some time doing this optimization. Do take a desktop-only approach to design. And don’t just think about converting the design to mobile optimized, consider mobile-first content too.
Clean Up the On-Page Elements
One of the biggest on-page factors for your content is the metadata, image alt tags, and header text. Your keywords should be built into each of these elements on every page. Too many websites fail to optimize this for their keywords, or simply miss it altogether. In our experience, cleaning this stuff up across the website is one of the easiest ways to get some big wins with your SEO.
And don’t optimize every page on your site to the same keywords. That feels unnatural because not every page is about the same exact thing. Using our roofing company example, consider optimizing pages like this:
- Homepage –> “roofing contractor” as the keyword focus
- Roof replacement page –> “roof replacement [your city]” keyword focus
- Roof repair page –> “roof repair [your city]” keyword focus
Using a plugin like Yoast SEO, the metadata can be updated in the “snippet” settings for the page. That’s the information that shows up in the search engine results for your page. (Can you guess what keyword terms the page shown below is optimized for?)
Many websites also contain generic text in header text on most website pages. For example, the header text for a section on the page might be “Our Services,” which doesn’t contain keywords. Instead, consider using something like “Roofing Services” instead.
TIP #7: Review the metadata settings for each page on your website, and make sure they contain your keywords and look enticing for searchers to click on. Also review all header formatted text to make sure it’s specific, and check all images to ensure the “alternative text” contains your keywords.
Step Up Your Professional Brand Image
This last item isn’t necessarily a performance or SEO metric. It’s more of a branding issue. Many (a large many) of the websites analyzed used a non-domain based email address for their contact email.
For example, our southernstateroofing.contractors should be using firstname.lastname@example.org for email instead of email@example.com (or worse, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Honestly, Gmail is not as bad because of how widely used it is. But using a domain name based email address that matches your company’s website address provides a much more professional image. And people will judge you based on little things like this.
TIP #8: Just get the email addresses set up. If you prefer, you can set up your Gmail to send/receive that email for you. So you can continue to use the Gmail interface, but with a much more professional image.
If you want your online marketing efforts to be successful, then getting your small business website design done properly is of great importance. And it involves more than throwing up some cool photos or some drone video. You’ll need to get these website design fundamentals done right if you’re going to have a chance of succeeding.
But if you get these elements right, you’ll set yourself up far ahead of the competition. If you already have a small business website in place, then let us run a free, no-obligation website SEO analysis report for you. You can use the information to improve your website on your own. Or hit us up to talk about how we can help take care of issues or just build you a well-designed website.
Regardless, it’s important to know where your website stands and to take steps to improve its ability to drive results for you.