SEO for small business isn’t as difficult, nor time consuming as you might think. Sure, there are some things you need to know, some things to avoid and some things to pay attention to, but overall it’s rather easy once you follow the steps I outline here for you.
This article series is about how to raise your search engine rankings (mostly on Google search) for your small (or local) businesses website with the least amount of effort expended, resources used and money invested. I’m not going to go over the history of SEO or what it really means, but I do have to start at the beginning so let me say this about SEO so that I get you into the proper frame of mind:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a game what website owners play to outrank each other on search engines (like Google) in-order to be placed higher in the pecking order. This is done because the higher you rank, the more ‘natural’ web traffic will flow into your website, and thus more potential customers and monies.
It’s a game because just like when playing poker in Las Vegas, the house always wins … and you’re just a small fish in a pond full of other fish trying to do the same thing. If you want to win (or at least try to win) you have to keep playing the game which get more and more expensive (time, money and resources) as time goes on.
In this first article, I’ll go over the basics of how to setup your website to look it’s best in WordPress. In the next article I’ll cover how to do that in other platforms and in regular html. After that I’ll get into strategies for SEO (including but not limited to social profiles, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, videos, audio, images and so much more), how to include SEO are one small piece of a bigger picture and some great things you can do with SEO. I’ll conclude this article series with things to watch out for, how to avoid the Google Slap (and sandbox) and what you should and should NOT outsource.
So let’s jump straight into SEO for small business and local business in WordPress!
While there are many plugins and tools for WordPress SEO, I (generally) only use three. Well, four if you include WordPress itself. The three plugins I use are:
- AuthorSure – Makes it easier to authenticate Authorship with Google using use rel=me, rel=author and rel=publisher links
- BWP Google XML Sitemaps – A more lightweight Google XML Sitemap WordPress plugin that generates a Sitemap index rather than a single sitemap. Despite its simplicity, it is still very powerful and has plenty of options to choose.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – Improve your WordPress SEO: Write better content and have a fully optimized WordPress site using the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.
- local seo plugins –> I’ll get to these near the end because there is a lot to discuss about it.
The AuthorSure plugin lets your picture get put up on Google Search results. I wrote a nice post about it here if you’re interested in reading more about it (and how to figure it). BWP Google XML Sitemaps creates a special file for your website that is essentially a roadmap for search engines on your website; XML sitemaps tells search engines where things are on your website and how it’s structured. WordPress SEO by Yoast is the most streamlined and optimized SEO plugin that it very up-to-date with Google’s standards and gives you the best fighting chance.
To configure the XML sitemap plugin, first you have to install it and activate it. After that, look on the left side of your page in the admin area to find a menu item called “BWP GXS”. Wacky name, I know. But that’s what it’s called. To configure it, click on that link. You’ll most likely see that the plugin hasn’t been able to do any work yet. That is ok. Give it some time. The plugin will handle everything by itself. But it’s up to you to submit the sitemaps properly (initially) to the Search Engines. The plugin gives good instructions on this so I’m copying them here for you:
After you activate this plugin, all sitemaps should be available right away. The next step is to submit the sitemapindex to major search engines. You only need the sitemapindex and nothing else, those search engines will automatically recognize other included sitemaps. You can read a small How-to if you are interested.
To configure the WordPress SEO plugin, or more specifically to configure the seo for small business and local business keep these things in mind:
- Your front page should be optimized for your one primary keyword phrase (There is a difference between keyword and keyword phrase). Preferably a phrase that gets lots of traffic.
- We will deal with long tail keywords on inner pages (and in later parts of this series). If you don’t know what a long tail keyword is, that’s ok. I’ll explain that in a future post.
- Setup what you can, and focus on content. SEO will only get you ‘so’ far.
- Never ever try to stuff as many keywords as possible into one page. Search engines hate that.
- Focus on one keyword per page.
Let’s start setting up WordPress SEO. From the admin area look on the left bar and find a little yellow-orange icon with “SEO” next to it. That’s the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin; click on it.
At this point you can take the tour by clicking on the “Start Tour” button, but today we’re jumping in straight into the water. Under the SEO menu you’ll see a list of setting sections. We’ll start at the top and go through each one, one by one. First is:
Titles and Metas
There are two settings here you want you to pay attention to: “Force rewrite titles” and “Use meta keywords tag?”. IF and only if your wordpress theme doesn’t allow for the titles of your posts to be changed should you enable this. What does it really do? Well, by default the title tag, and thus the title/name seem by the search engines and what you see on the tab in your browser, is not exactly the most SEO friendly title. With this plugin, we’ll be able to configure it for awesomeness. So, if when we make those changes and nothing does change, well … select this option.
Yoast doesn’t care about the ‘meta keywords tag’ much, but I do. So make sure it’s selected and then click save. What does it do? It adds the tags you set for each post/page into the code of that search engines see in a special format that search engines like. So make sure it’s checked and save.
This Titles and Metas section has multiple sub-sections (tabs) for settings. Each one of those “Home”,”Post Types”, “Taxonomies”, and “Other” are where you can set the format for default for every page.
Here are the settings I recommend you use:
Home title –> %%sitedesc%% | %%sitename%% Home description –> %%sitedesc%% Post types all titles –> %%title%% Post types description –> by default, put your websites (or business) elevator pitch here. 160 characters or less. Post Types post Date in Snippet Preview -> enabled Taxonomies –> same as Post Types. Other –> Same as Post Types
For now, let’s mostly ignore this section. Though if you have and use twitter, add your twitter handle there.
Yes, we do have a plugin to handle this though this section helps out a bit too.
Check the first box “Check this box to enable XML sitemap functionality.” to enable xml functionality (important!). Also select/enable:
- Ping Yahoo
- Ping Ask.com
We’ll cover this section later, so let’s move on. Plus, nothing to do here yet anyway.
This will be important depending on your WordPress theme. If your theme already shows people breadcrumbs (where they are on your website and how far in) then you’re ok. If not, that’s ok. We’ll get to it in other article.
RSS feeds are an extremely easy way for people to read your content and for other systems to get notified of new stuff you post. Sadly, there isn’t much that we can do to help ‘optimize’ an RSS feed. What you really have to focus on is content. These are all rather advanced strategies, so for now all you need to know about RSS feeds is that you should have one. Thankfully, WordPress comes with one already, which means you’re set.
Done with basic setup!
And that’s it. You’re website is now ready to get for SEO optimizing. So what shall we optimize to start with? First and foremost, your home page. Then we’ll optimize any sales/niche pages you have. While this introductory article won’t cover niche pages in depth I’ll give you a quick overview.
Home page optimization
Thankfully, we’ve done most of the work for this already when we setup the Titles and Meta section of the Yoast plugin. The settings we put will give you a result similar to: “My businesses description here | Company Name”.
In-order to make this work, we need to go change these settings. So head over General Settings for your site, which is located at Settings -> General. You need to change two things here: the site title and the tagline (description).
For the Site Title I recommend putting just your business name. So if your businesses name is “Joe’s Glenview Flower Shop” and you sell flowers with the tagline “Best Flowers For Him And Her” (Glenview, Northbrook and Winettka are all local towns for me) then you put have:
Site title: Joe’s Glenview Flower Shop Tagline: Glenview, Northbrook and Winettka’s Best Flowers For Him And Her
Pay close attention to that tagline. I purposefully crafted it that way so that the tagline (description) has some local town names to it that I know the flower shop services. The idea here is that the flowershop picks some very relavant keyword phrase and puts that into the tagline.
I’ll go over keywords and keyword phrases in the future articles, but for now think of it this way: what is the big seller for your business and what do people call it? If you sell flowers and everyone you know searches for “Flower Store” then put flower store in the tagline somewhere. Do websites but focus on just the design part? You can put the keyword phrase “Web design Chicago”. Are you a plumber? Try putting “plumber” and “water leaks” (or maybe even ‘leaky faucet’) into the tagline.
These are things that people will search to find you. Find out what they search for (covered in a future post) and use that!
Local SEO Plugins
So what about local businesses? Since a lot of traffic for local businesses can come from local searches (for example, “cafe within 5 miles of Milwaukee, WI” or “Flower Shop Glenview”). If this sounds like you, then you also need special information on your website that gives search engines that ‘local’ information.
One of the best ones is another Yoast plugin, sadly it’s $70. But it’s worth checking out if you really are local: http://yoast.com/wordpress/local-seo/
You can achieve similar results with the following free plugins:
Give one of those a shot!
That’s it for the first article in this series. In Part 2 I’ll go over core WordPress settings to change and how to do SEO for non-Wordpress websites.