SEO – How to advertise a small business for free

This blog post is a transcript of the Complete Small Business Show Episode 3 / Series 2 // How To Advertise A Small Business Online – SEO – How to advertise a small business for free

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Gus Ryan:  Hey Sean, before we start, what is SEO or Search Engine Optimization?

Sean Markey (Deputy Head of SEO at Wolfgang Digital):  Search engine optimization, as it sounds, is optimizing your website to get found more frequently in search engine results.

When people go to Google and type in a search query related to your product or service, they should see your pages coming up as ranked number one, two or three.

There are several ways of doing this,

1. For starters, you’re optimizing for quality of traffic. You don’t want to attract all the visitors in the world, you want to attract the visitors that would be most interested in your product or service.

If you run an IT company, you don’t want to be ranking for things that aren’t IT-related. You need to be optimizing your keywords for traffic using search queries related to IT.

2. You’re also optimizing for quantity of traffic. Once you know you have the right people clicking through from the search engine results pages, you just want to get more and more people doing that.

You can do this by ranking highly in search engine results pages and having more of your web content ranking highly in search engine results pages.

3. Lastly, you’re optimizing for organic results. Every time you see an ad in Google or Facebook or any social media platform, somebody had to pay for that. Any link on a search engine results page, though, is free.

It will take time and maybe a little bit of budget if you consider hiring a search engine optimization company. But after the search engine optimizing has been done, this is essentially how you advertise a small business for free. It can be an extremely profitable source of business.

Gus Ryan:  Search engine optimization, is it as technical as it sounds?

Sean Markey:  From a beginners point of view, like what we’re going to talk about today is, it’s a lot easier than a lot of people make it out to be.

There’s a lot of neat hints and tricks that can get your even small businesses up and running very quickly. Now, it can get technical and complex very quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing, but we’ll get you to the easy bits.

Gus Ryan:  Okay, so how can SEO help your website or your business’s website?

Sean Markey:  Considering there are no real overheads needed to get started on SEO, it could be considered the most cost-effective form of digital marketing.

If you have a bit of time and you know what you’re doing, you aren’t paying any money for Google AdWords, you aren’t paying money to Facebook, you aren’t paying money for radio. This allows you to advertise a small business for free.

Gus Ryan:  And so what are we talking about here? Is it manipulating the content on your website?

Sean Markey:  That’s one of the major factors of SEO. There are three pillars of SEO, we like to say.

1. There’s on-page, so what you can do with the content, with the words on the pages of your website.

2. There are the technical SEO aspects of how fast your website’s running, what kind of server load you have, lots of other nitty-gritty bits and pieces.

3. There’s off-page as well, which are signals coming from other websites.

The technical and the off-page are pretty complex.

But, there’s are lots of quick wins that could be done just from the on-page, which is what we’re going to be focusing on today.

Gus Ryan:  Okay, so that said, what are the quick wins we can do on-page?

Sean Markey:  One of the best things that are quite overlooked by a lot of people is what we call your titles and meta-descriptions.

These are what you see in Google search results before you even click into a website. You’ll probably recognize the blue link with the name of the page and what the business is called. And underneath that, there’s a small description about 150, 200 characters. So you have control over them on your website, consider it like a shop window.

If you’re walking down the street and you see a shop, but there’s no sign on it and there’s nothing of interest in the window, you’re probably not going to go into the shop.

If you imagine the page title as the name of the shop, Sean’s Florist, for example, they’re going to see that and know “that’s some form of a flower shop”.

The meta-description would be a bit like the shop window. If you have lots of flowers in the window, people will see them and they’ll be more likely just go into your shop and buy some flowers.

Gus Ryan:  So where do you find that meta-description to change on the page title?

Sean Markey:  Well, every website has a front-end and back-end.

The front-end is what people see when they click into your website.

The back-end is the bit that only you have access to and you can click into it.

Most websites, WordPress in particular, are quite user-friendly where there’s a specific section often will be labelled SEO, sometimes it’s labelled metadata.

You can just click into the dashboard and there’ll be a list of all your pages and you can edit them to your heart’s content.

There’ll be little boxes for filling in your title and meta description. And you just put them in there and pretty soon Google will be picking up the descriptions of your website, so your customers will be able to see what your website’s all about and hopefully convert.

Gus Ryan:  Very good. What else is reasonably easy to do, to manipulate or change?

Sean Markey:  I suppose all of your on-page copy is pretty easy to change. Google loves content.

As a small business, you always have a disadvantage against the bigger players.

But if you box clever, and you write better meta descriptions and content about the products or the services that you offer on your website you’ll be able to compete for customers in your area.

You might have, say, instructions or FAQ (frequently asked questions), make sure they’re structured in a way that’s easy for people to read.

And usually, when a website is very easy for people to read, it’s quite easy for search engines to read as well.

And if they’re able to read it, they can index your site better and make sure that it’s ranking in a higher position.

Gus Ryan:  So, if you’re selling a product or a service, you need to have an individual page, written very well and descriptive for each product and services, is that what you’re saying?

Sean Markey:  Yeah, that’s exactly what it is.

As a small business, you’re never going to beat a massive company in terms of domain authority.

More often than not, the bigger companies outrank the smaller company in SERPs.

However, if the smaller company has better descriptions, a better write-up for their products, which explains what it’s all about that bit better than the bigger company, it stands a chance of outranking them. Plus you don’t need a big budget to compete with the big companies. SEO helps you advertise a small business for free.

Gus Ryan:  Very good. And is there anything else we can do?

Sean Markey:  One thing that is becoming much, much more valuable, as time goes on is what we call local SEO.

One of the key components of that is what we call a Google My Business account.

Say, you’re looking for ‘flower shops Dublin’ on Google. You’ll have your usual links down on the left-hand side in the SERP, but you’ll often see in the top right-hand corner a panel with some more information usually about specific businesses. This is provided by your Google My Business profile.

To complete a Google My Business profile, you fill in what your business is about, opening times, address, contact details, services provided that you stand a better chance of having one these panels up on the right-hand side of the SERP.

And once you have that, your business is more likely to show up on Google Maps, and also more likely to show up on ‘near me’ searches, like ‘florists near the Aviva Stadium’, ‘florist near Dublin City Centre’.

Showing up on Maps is often seen as a way of skipping the queue. You might not rank in number one for that search. But if you rank on the map, suddenly you have this visibility boost that you didn’t have before you set up your Google My Business account.

Gus Ryan:  So we mentioned having an individual page for each product or service you provide. And what if somebody wants to update their website regularly, but not necessarily talk about the product or service. Maybe talk about how the service is used or how the product is applied or the benefits of using this product? How best can you regularly update your website, I suppose, is what I’m asking?

Sean Markey:  Blog content is good at bridging those gaps.

There are two basic kinds of searches. There are

1. Normal searches where you’re just typing words like ‘flowers’, ‘flowers Dublin’

2. Long-tail keyword searches like ‘what are the best kind of flowers to use for Valentine’s Day’

If you want to rank for long-tail searches you need to start creating blog content.

Because these searches take longer to type in, the number of people searching for these things are much, much less.

However, the more effort people are putting into their search generally means that they’ve more user intent. So if you do get those people to visit your website, they’re going to be much more interested and much more likely to convert than the people who are just typing in one-word searches, who are just kind of looking stuff up for the sake of it.

Gus Ryan:  Great. This is all good stuff, Sean. So let’s say a small business applies this to the website. Is there a way of checking to see if this is all working?

Sean Markey:  Yes, there is.

A lot of people are on to the impression that if you want to track your SEO campaigns, you need expensive tools and complicated programs. Small business can get by using some free services like Google Analytics.

This is a great way of checking how much traffic your website’s getting and where it’s coming from. Anybody with a website can set up a Google Analytics account for free.

But in addition to just going looking after your traffic, what you need to be looking at as well is what we call your keywords, the search terms or phrases that you want your business ranking for.

There are a lot of premium tools out there that can track hundreds if not thousands of keywords which professional SEOs use.

But if you want to get in on the ground floor and not spend any money, there are a couple of tools that I’d recommend.

1.  SEMRush is a premium tool, but they do a free version where you can track up to 10 keywords at a time. Which doesn’t sound like much but if you’re just starting your SEO journey, that’s enough to get the feel of it.

2. There’s a nice, free program called SERPSurf. You just type in your website address and find the keywords you want to track and see the rankings for it. It will give you the ranking straight away and show you everybody who’s ranking in the top 10 positions for those searches, which is good.

Gus Ryan:  Okay, that’s great, Sean. Could you just leave us with maybe two or three key takeaways for search engine optimization for businesses?

Sean Markey:  Yeah, sure.

1. I suppose the first thing you need to do is to, is make sure that your on-page content is describing precisely what it is that you do as a company and what services you offer.

You need to make sure that it’s written in such a way that is pleasing to people; when they read it, they know exactly what it’s about. And if it makes them interested in your products and services and therefore more likely to convert.

When people are interested in your content, they’ll spend more time-on-page, meaning your website content is good.

2. Good website content is not only pleasing to your users, but it is pleasing the search engines.

The knock-on effect here is your pages will rank higher when people search for terms about your business.

Therefore, you’ll drive more people onto your website and they will hopefully convert as well, which will add more user signals to the search engines and so on so forth.

3. Plan everything.

Keep an eye on Google Trends. This is a great way to kind of look into the future of SEO, so to speak, and see what search terms are not just driving a lot of search volume right now, but have been increasing over time.

If you can get ranking for search terms that are on the up, you’ll be more likely to drive more traffic, more business that way.

4. Get a Google Analytics account, measure this year’s traffic against last year’s traffic. And anytime something has changed on your website or something big changes in your industry, always mark it down.

In Google Analytics, there’s a section where you can put in annotations. So if you see a dip or an uptick in traffic, year-on-year. You can look at the date and see, well, did anything interesting happen? did Google make any strange changes around that time? Or did we change anything on the site that had a positive or negative effect? So basically, track everything.

Gus Ryan:  Okay. Super stuff, Sean. Thanks a million for your time.

Sean Markey:  All right. Thanks for having me.

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