7 Essential SEO Recommendations for New Business Websites
As a business or community/charitable organisation, acquiring new customers through Google ( or any other search engine, because there is more than one) is crucial to the success of any new (or already existing) organisation. To achieve this requires a focus on SEO strategy right from the very beginning.
At the technical (HTML) end, let’s not pretend about any of this – SEO is a complicated and skillful task for even the most seasoned digital marketers. However, in our experience, there are plenty of simple tasks that an organisation can do to improve their chances of SEO success.
And so, this guide on SEO exists for new websites (and older sites too). There is no complicated theory here, just logical and achievable steps to lay a solid foundation for your new website to succeed from the beginning.
It’s important to remember though, that true SEO success requires a specialist campaign that takes into consideration your industry, business size and current online competition. Google will handle different search queries and business types differently and so ideally, you should do further research into and invest in specialised tactics. But for now, these general points will at least set you up on the right path.
1. Don’t cut corners on the website build – SEO from the get-go
I’ll start with this first point at number one for a reason; it is simply that important. I’ve learned this through experience – a large part of SEO “on-page” work revolves around fixing websites which were previously built with no SEO focus. Anyone can build a website these days – look at Wix or Squarespace. But building one which is technically optimised for SEO is still a very different matter and the skillset needed, still requires an expert.
It is tempting for a new business to opt for a cost effective, “fit for purpose” website. However, in the modern marketplace, Google has to be considered as one of your most important channels of business acquisition and whether you know it or not, Google’s “bots” (that crawl your website to analyse its quality) are the most hard-to-please, discerning visitors you’ll ever encounter. This makes cutting costs at the initial build a sure-fire route to having to invest heavily in SEO later on to fix it. So, I would recommend that you speculate to accumulate on this one!
Before you choose a website developer, you should be rating their SEO credentials. While SEO and web development are two distinct disciplines, a good developer should be able to build you an SEO-friendly website with the basics in place that can be easily built on later with a specialist investment campaign.
2. Where are you audience based? Prioritise Local SEO
Regardless of your opinion on them, Google knows it’s customers search intentions well and, in particular, can differentiate between local and national search queries. For example, someone searching for a plumber will want a local company so Google displays local tradesmen via Google maps. However, location is largely irrelevant to someone looking for “car insurance” and so Google will list national insurance companies.
This should immediately strike you as an opportunity for businesses who are prepared to define themselves locally with Google. For example, a plumber will find it a lot more achievable to outrank the local competition than they will British Gas on a national scale.
The ultimate aim for your local SEO objectives should be to get listed in the “local pack” which Google displays at the very top of search results for people who are searching in your local area. New and smaller businesses which sell locally can often find these local listings will drive more business through Google than their own websites.
To appear in the local pack, you have to optimise your Google My Business profile by writing a strong description of what you do, add quality photos, list your opening times, etc. To give yourself an even greater chance, build local directory listings and ensure that your business postal address is on your website and includes a link to your Google My Business profile with a common description such as “Find us on Google Maps.”
3. Write website copy in plain English
A common issue for both SEO and new customers is the problem of unclear website messaging. This can often arise as a result of a new organisation wanting to differentiate itself in the market so they describe simple services in clever and cryptic ways. At the other end of the spectrum, we have organisations who haven’t defined themselves and prefer to leave the website sparse of any useful information at all and so potential customers are left scratching their heads.
The above is most evident on the homepage headings which use clever puns and strap lines instead of practical descriptions.
For example, a hair salon may go with a headline like “we take the stress out of your tresses!” While that’s filled with personality, it doesn’t really convey much. To optimise for SEO, you would want to go with something simple like “Luxury hair salon in (LOCATION).”
The simple takeaway point here is to keep it simple. If a customer is looking for a particular service or product and you make it difficult for them, then they will go elsewhere to find what they are looking for.
Of course, there is a specific art to keyword research and usage, but you don’t need to let this put you off the concept of optimising your website content. You should remember that people search using really simple language and expect to see simple descriptive language on your website. Following that advice should mean that you naturally include keywords that Google’s “bots” will understand as well.
If you want to have a go at keyword research though, then please do! You will learn so much about how to market your busienss simpler and in a more precise manner. Google AdWords’ keyword research tools are also free to use. They include an “ideas” tool where you can insert content or product ideas and see what their suggested keywords are. An even easier (if not slightly sneakier – but let’s face it, we all do it) tactic is to look to your direct competition, particularly organisations that you know/think have invested in SEO work before you. What keywords linked to your industry seem to be used prominently throughout their website?
4. Get the basics right and prioritise low hanging fruit
If we ignore the technical side of SEO for a moment, if you have invested in a well-developed website, you can take comfort in the fact that the majority of website optimisation will actually be fairly simple. These simple elements, we’ll call the ‘Brilliant Basics.’ They may seem unimportant to the untrained eye, but trust me when I tell you that they will work extremely hard for your SEO everyday if you do them well:
Page Titles – These require simple, no-nonsense language, just like your website text, e.g.
(KEYWORD) + (USP) + (LOCATION) | BRAND NAME
Which, in real life, could look something like: “Holistic Therapy Centre in Belfast | Sadie’s Salon”
The likelihood is that your business will offer more than one product or service, and so will need its own distinct website page, so check that each page title is unique and follows this guiding principle.
Page Headings (also called H1 Tags) – this is simply a repetition of the page title of KEYWORD + USP / LOCATION. No need for funky one-liners!
5. Build links from your business network
You may already know that links back to your website from other sites is a really big part of SEO success. Building links is a specialist service than many businesses will invest in. But if you’re just starting out or your budget isn’t quite ready to invest in this just yet, you should be pleasantly surprised at how much of this “link building” you can achieve simply by leveraging your existing networks.
This is the time to reach out and call in some favours.
Look at your suppliers and customers, or any local communities or clubs you’re part of, committees you sit on, places you volunteer for or sponsor, etc. Do they have websites they could mention you on or link back to your site from? Do you know any websites that you could guest post on?
Ask your friends, family and close business contacts if they will do the same. It should technically fit with their websites naturally – in a list of suppliers, members or as part of a case study for example. There may well be websites that you are already mentioned on where you could just ask them to include a link to your website in your biography or article.
6. Showcase your expertise through blog content
Content is something that many new businesses are aware of and are actively trying to include within their own marketing strategies. The trick to getting the most from it is to use your expert knowledge to create the best articles that answer people’s queries.
The search landscape is very competitive which can make it hard for you to rank highly for the most common, popular search terms. For example, “smartphone repairs”, you could attract website traffic by using “long tail” keywords in the titles of your articles, such as “Cost of Repairing a Smartphone Screen.” The advice would follow that you then detail the advice within the article (you don’t need to give an exact cost as an answer, just prove that you know the cost and how it is calculated).
In this instance, your website will likely start to rank in the search results on Google for people searching for not just answers to that question, but solutions to that problem, meaning they are potential customers.
To compile a list of possible articles to write that would fit this mould, look at the frequently asked questions your organisation receives every day. Then simply publish the answers to each one as an article on your website blog with the question incorporated into the title. There is barely an industry or company imaginable that can’t do this and what’s more, it saves you from having to answer the same question over and over. Just point customers in the direction of your answers online – which will also drive traffic to your site!
7. Be patient and look into other channels, short term
At our final point, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately time is a huge factor in SEO rankings. Even worse, there’s a lot of spammy websites out there that get built for short term gain and then discarded. As a result, you have to earn your place with Google who won’t rank you until they’re happy that you’re the real deal.
While there is no definitive answer to the question “how much time is needed?”, following all the above advice will obviously help you along and of course you would speed up the process drastically if you could invest in SEO services. But you would still need to be patient as SEO is a notoriously slow burning channel, but one that is totally worth it!
I would recommend that you get the SEO basics down first and if you need to drive some short-term success then ideally look to diversify your digital marketing strategy. Think about paid channels (e.g. Facebook ads or Google Pay Per Click advertising). Yes, they will require a budget, but so does any marketing, and some of Facebook’s advertising can cost as little as £1 per day, so this might be a perfect way to start, particularly if you’re not sure about paying for marketing, or simply want to move methodically, but in a way that doesn’t result in a costly mistake. Paid channels are great for demonstrating clear ROIs which enable you to access its impact quickly and efficiently, particularly with the available metrics through each platform – but that’s another post for another time.