The marketing world is full of strange jargon and acronyms. One of the most common acronyms you’ll see people use is SEO. The internet is full of articles telling you that you should improve your SEO to grow your business.

There’s good reason for that. Search engine optimization – SEO – is one of the most effective ways to grow a business. Trouble is, most of the guides you find online are for marketers, but not necessarily business owners. And to be honest, if I didn’t have a marketing background, I’d be put off by them because they’re so technical.

In this post, I’m going to share some super straightforward SEO tricks that you can use to rank better on Google, pull in more leads, and grow your business.

But first, let’s go over the basics.

What is SEO?

SEO’s full name is search engine optimization. It’s a marketing strategy that you can use to rank better on search engines like Google. By using different tactics, you can increase your odds of ranking high on keywords that are relevant to your business.

Why SEO Matters

As many as 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. That means the number of web browsing sessions that start with a search vastly outnumber the ones that start with someone typing in the URL or even going to social media.

The natural conclusion that you can draw from such a striking figure is that ranking well on search engines is good for business. To do so is to meet people where they are, without attempting to change their behavior.

SEO also helps you not only generally rank better on search engines, but also rank better on relevant keywords. That means if you’re a lawyer in Chattanooga, TN, you don’t want to show up in searches for “lawyers in San Diego.” It just doesn’t make sense – you want people to be delighted to find you in the search results. You want them to say, “this is exactly what I need” instead of “I’m going to have to keep looking.”

You need not believe me on faith, though. The data shows that depending on your industry, time spent on SEO can see anywhere from a 317% to 1,389% payoff over a period of 5-14 months. There’s a lot of wiggle room based on your industry, to be sure, but the plain fact is undeniable: SEO work pays for itself many times over when you do it well.

Basic Principles of SEO

So let’s talk about SEO basics for a minute. Forget meta tags and keywords. Forget structured snippets and noindexes and all the other buzzwords you might have picked up while researching this subject.

What you’re really trying to do is be the result people want to find. That means that, at a minimum, the search results that go to your pages need to be relevant to the keywords typed in.

Then after people go to your site, you need to provide them the information they need quickly. You site needs to load fast and you need to provide an overall good user experience so people feel like they’re getting what they need.

That’s the strategy. Everything else I’m going to talk about in this article is tactics.

The last thing you’ll need before you start your SEO journey is a good tool to guide the way. My favorite is a free website called SEO Site Checkup. You type in your website and it will give you real, specific, actionable feedback.

Sure, a lot of it is going to be technical. But the personalized recommendations are invaluable, and many of them are ones you can take action on regardless of your level of expertise. Still, though, if you have trouble implementing them, you can always book a consult with us since that’s our wheelhouse!

Most school districts would consider this an A!

15 Easy Ways Your Business Can Improve SEO

1. Track search query data on Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Google provides two excellent tools for monitoring website and search engine traffic for free. They are Google Analytics and Google Search Console. I highly recommend that you take the time to set up both.

While using or not using these tools (probably) doesn’t affect your search engine rankings, they’re still very good to have. It’s much easier to see whether your work is having the desired impact if you can see how the data changes after you roll out a round of SEO tweaks.

2. Set up your meta tags.

Meta tags help search engines tell what your website is about. For example, our home page’s meta title is “Marketing is the Product: Digital Marketing Advice for Your Small Business.” Our meta description is “Learn how to share your small business with the world. Detailed and practical advice to grow your small business with digital marketing.”

That means that our home page shows up in the Google results looking like this:

Every page has meta tags, and how you change them depends on the software that you are using to maintain your website. Here are a few guides for common website software that can walk you through the specifics.

3. Figure out what your site is about and stay on topic.

The words and phrases that people type into search engines are known as keywords. In the old world of SEO, you found any excuse you could to cram keywords into web pages.

Now sure, there is a good case to be made for making sure that your desired searchable keywords make up, say, 1-1.5% of the total words on the page. But for most purposes, the best possible way to manage this aspect of SEO is super simple.

Figure out what specific actions you want people to take on your website. Then figure out which specific ideas you want to convey. Make sure that everything on your website in some way supports that purpose. Don’t veer off-topic.

4. Set up your main pages in a way that makes sense.

One of the major factors in SEO is site architecture. It is “the hierarchy of pages where users find content and the technical considerations that let search engine bots crawl your pages.”

To give you a specific example, our site architecture, as of the time of writing, goes like this:

  • First time here?
  • Articles
    • Start to Finish: Market Your Small Business for the First Time
      • Individual blog posts
    • Weird Marketing Lessons
      • Individual blog posts
    • Coronavirus Case Studies
      • Individual blog posts
    • Quick Questions About Digital Marketing
      • Individual blog posts
  • Podcast
    • Individual podcast episodes
  • Book free consult
  • Agency (external link)

Basically, we want you to be able to get to the majority of our web pages in three clicks. For most websites, you’ll want this to be two clicks. We just happen to have a lot of articles which need organizing!

Search engines, like people, don’t want to click too many links to get where they need to go. That means everything on your site needs to be as easy to get to as possible. If you have to click more than a few times to get to any given page, you either are running a massive eCommerce site or you have poor site architecture!

5. Make URLs specific, but succinct.

URLs need to be long enough to be useful and easy to read, but short enough to where they don’t go on forever.

Here is an example of one of ours:

That is a good URL because the part after is under 60 characters, but still long enough to give you a sense of what you’re about to click on.

6. Use headers frequently and correctly.

Google and other search engines like it want to crawl websites automatically and get a sense of what’s important on the page. They do this by looking for header tags, which look like: <h1>, <h2> and so on all the way to <h6>.

To keep things simple, you only want one <h1> and one <h2> tag per page. Everything else should be somewhere between <h3> and <h6>. Those smaller headers, <h3> and <h6> should be used frequently to break up sections of a long page.

For example, every header in this article is an <h4> and all the subheaders are <h5> tags. This makes it easy for both humans and machines to get a sense of what’s important in this article.

You don’t have to be a programmer to do this, by the way. Most web editors will have settings like “Header 2” or “H5” that correspond to their HTML code counterparts (<h1>, <h2>, and so on).

7. Use images with useful file names and alt tags.

Untitled, Untitled 1, Untitled 1 (1). That’s not very useful!

Give your images useful file names before you upload them to your website. When prompted to add in alt tags, do that as well. Google, as well as users with visual impairments or people with slow internet connections, use the alt tags to know what images are about when they can’t see them.

This is an easy way to put more useful on your website in a useful, natural way.

8. Use social media regularly.

Search engines like regularity. Fresh content, in particular, is really important. There is evidence that consistent social media use indirectly benefits SEO.

Even if you don’t have a huge following, it’s worth it to maintain social media accounts. It’s worth it for the branding, customer service, and SEO benefits alone.

9. Make sure your loading time is fast.

Search engines don’t like slow websites. That makes sense because users don’t like slow websites either, and Google wants to please their users.

Use any and all tools at your disposal to speed up your website. A lot of the techniques used to do this are technical: caching, compression, smart use of coding, and so on.

However, if you want an easy way to get started, here are two. Don’t load bigger files than you need to on your website. They take up space and take forever to load.

Next, look for a lazy loader plugin to install. Here’s one for WordPress and another for Shopify.

If you want specific feedback on how to improve, one of my favorite resources is Pingdom Tools. It’s completely free!

10. Make your website secure.

Make sure you are using HTTPS. It’s more secure, and search engines will penalize you if you are not. Google provides a guide on how to do that.

However, if you’re using Shopify, along with many other eCommerce vendors, rest easy! This has already been done for you.

11. Make sure your website works on mobile devices.

Search engines expect your website to work well on mobile devices. If your website design is not responsive to different screen sizes, your site will not rank as well.

This is a really big factor these days, and it’s not one that you can skip. Most website editors make it easy to make mobile-responsive websites these days. If you are using WordPress, Wix, Shopify, or another editor and you’re having trouble accessing your site on a phone or tablet, try switching to a different theme. If you have to spend hours correcting this, it will be worth it.

12. Set up structured data.

This is relatively technical, so I will include a full video on how you can do this. Suffice it to say, this will change the way that your search results look and make them more engaging to readers. How you will set these up depends on which website software you are using.

13. Make sure you’re not accidentally using noindex, disallow, or nofollow.

Not everybody wants their website to land in the search engines. That’s why there are unique meta tags that can be used to alter search engine bot behavior.

  • Noindex tells search engines not to list your pages in the results.
  • Disallow tells search engine bots to go away and stop crawling your page.
  • Nofollow tells search engines not to follow the links on your page.

There are perfectly good reasons to use noindex, disallow, and nofollow. But if you turn them on and forget to turn them off, the search engines won’t do their job the way you want them to!

Here’s how you can turn these tags off/on in WordPress, Shopify, and Wix.

14. Customize your 404 page.

Sometimes, people will try to go to your website, but the link won’t work. Maybe they clicked on an old result. Maybe they typed in a URL wrong. There are a lot of different ways this can happen, but they all result in the same error: 404.

An easy way to improve the experience of using your website and to improve your SEO is to customize your 404 page. Here’s how you do this in WordPress, Shopify, and Wix.

15. Make content that’s worth someone’s time.

My last point is a broad one, but an important one. Search engines love fresh content, and one of the best ways you can make that is by writing blog posts, recording podcasts, releasing videos, or generally making media that people want to consume.

Search engines change their algorithms all the time. Trying to tweak your site around super-specific search engine quirks is a losing game. The best way to rank well on search engines is to create what search engines want to give to their users – the answers they’re searching for.

Final Thoughts

SEO is nothing to be afraid of. Time spent working on SEO often pays off in the long run. By following these tips, you’re well-equipped to start improving your rank in search engines!