There are some simple things any small business can do to improve their chances of customers finding them online, and creating content that meets their needs is one of the most effective.
A few things before we begin…
Firstly, search engines tweak their algorithms fairly frequently, so what works well today could change in the future.
Secondly, the following focuses mainly on building new content or pages to boost your visibility, but there are important ‘technical’ things to consider too, such as your site speed.
Finally, these tips offer simple pointers for beginners only so make sure you seek out some extra support if you need it.
1. Find out where your web traffic is coming from
There’s a lot to be gained from finding out how much traffic your site receives from search engines, and which keywords (what a potential client types into Google) people are using.
There are some simple, free tools out there that can tell you this and, soon, you will have a starter list of keywords you can build upon, improve, and use to spark ideas for content.
Set up an account with Google Search Console as a minimum.
- After a week, look at the keywords and pages driving traffic to your site.
2. Write down what you know about your target clients
Think about your target clients. Who are they, what are their concerns, and how can you help? You’ll have a pretty good idea about these things already, but writing them down can show you the areas to focus on to improve your search ranking.
Brainstorm keywords you think potential clients would search for.
- Think about how their keywords might differ depending on how much they know about a topic, or how ready they are to seek your advice. For example, somebody who needs guidance on inheritance tax might begin by searching ‘inheritance tax’ to learn a bit more. Later however, when they are ready to speak to an adviser, they may search for ‘inheritance tax advice’ or ‘IHT help’.
- Type these keywords into a search engine and look at the results – which content is ranking best?
- We are in the ‘age of assistance’, and more people are using voice to search on connected devices (such as Siri and Alexa). As a result, search phrases are getting longer and more question based, so it is worth bearing this in mind when creating content.
3. Use a keyword research tool
Now you have a long list of your clients’ key concerns, you can find out how potential clients actually search for help around these topics. What search terms are your target audience using? Use a keyword research tool to guide you.
Use a tool to learn the keywords relevant to you. Here’s a useful resource for finding one.
- Categorise keywords as ‘branded’ (searches that include your company name) and ‘generic’ (searches that don’t).
- Group similar keywords together in categories.
- What content works best? Search for your top phrases to see which types of content come up in the results (do they tend to be articles, infographics, videos?).
- Who is competing for these phrases? The top results may be aggregators or big businesses. You aren’t trying to compete with these sites so look at some of the results further down.
- The number of results and whether there are sponsored ads are two indicators of how competitive a phrase is.
- For competitive terms consider alternatives where you may have more authority. You have a better chance of ranking higher for these.
- Consider ‘local’ search, which will help you promote your products and services to local customers. Sign up to Google My Business to get started.
4. Build your content
You are ready to produce content, whether it’s blogs, articles or something else. Revisit what you have learned about what potential clients want to know and how your business can help.
Produce content which reflects those questions, and explicitly states how you can help.
Before beginning, sketch out a URL structure for topics and sub-topics. It might be something like https:/www.domain.com/blog/category/subtopic – the simpler the better.
- Produce and publish your content.
- Give it the best possible chance by following a few simple rules for what is called ‘on-page SEO’. This website has some great content on on-page SEO.
- Test and learn to create quality articles and consider different content types. Review after a few months to see what’s working well and what not so well.
5. Drive local media coverage
One of the most powerful ways to boost your website’s search ranking is to create reasons for other websites to link to yours. This helps to give your website ‘authority’.
A fairly straightforward way of doing this is to produce informative content and share it with local newspapers or distributors.
For example, you might write a blog called The Importance of Creating a Will and publish it on your website. You could then create a shorter version of the same content and send it on to local newspapers to publish on their sites (if they’re interested, of course). The newspaper may (indeed should) point readers to your website for the lengthier version of the content, creating a ‘backlink’ and boosting the credibility of your website.
Create longer-form content around your preferred keywords or categories, and publish it on your website (this could also be a video or infographic, for example).
- Produce shorter (or ‘teaser’) versions and distribute to publishers you think would be interested in the content. Who else might wish to publish it?
- You may explicitly ask the publisher to include a link back to your original content, though they are under no obligation to do this.
- Google Search Console is one resource that can tell you how many websites are linking to yours.
Search marketing is always evolving, but a basic awareness of how much traffic to your website is being driven by search is a good starting place. Consider how much time and investment you want to give to achieve positive results, and seek help if required.
Get into the habit of checking how effective your content and fixes have been and create a list of priorities you can address over the longer term.