Welcome to the Digital Marketing for Small Business series.
I, Josh - founder of Hedgehog (helping small businesses to sell more online), will be interviewing channel and discipline experts to find out their key tips to help small businesses with their digital marketing. I ask 7 quick questions with the goal of giving you, the reader, a concise and simple guide to follow to get you started in each discipline or channel.
By channel, I refer to a distribution medium for your content - Google Search, Social Media, Email, etc.
By discipline, I refer to the craft that produces the content - copywriting, design, web development, user experience, and more.
Today I am interviewing Joe Romeo from Aperitif Agency. Joe is an SEO wiz who has helped various Hedgehog clients to get their SEO up to scratch and drive some serious traffic.
That’s enough of an intro from me. Let’s talk to Joe and learn about SEO for small business from the expert.
What’s the first thing you look at when reviewing at a company’s SEO?
The first thing I look for is have they done SEO before? Was it completed by a specialist who left the site better off than not having done any SEO? If the site has a lot of duplicate content, or a high amount of dodgy backlinks this is usually the telltale sign that someone has cut corners in the past. That’s a red flag highlighting immediate work to be done to patch things up before kicking off.
As an SEO specialist, sometimes it’s better to start with a clean slate than if I’m inheriting a poorly executed SEO campaign, which often can actually be hindering results. Measuring the ‘pulse’ of the site is a key step in understanding what’s been done, and what needs to happen next. This involves a full audit of the site itself and it’s backlink profile (the number of and quality of links pointing to the site). This audit is critical and paints the roadmap (and the amount of work) that’s required to get it on track to generating good results.
What are 3 key things that make the most impact for a company’s SEO?
You can pretty much break down SEO into three key pillars;
On-Page, which is all about onsite optimisation - that is, the structure of your website. The biggest impact on-page change I think has the biggest impact is tidying up your meta titles. Meta titles can normally be set on a page level (meaning each page on your website can have a different meta title) in any CMS worth its stripes, just make sure it includes your target keywords and explains what you do. Best to keep it to less than 60 characters, too! Anything longer than that and it will get cut off, or not used by Google at all.
Off-Page, which is the level of trust your site has and is made up of things such as links pointing to your site, and; For the off-page pillar, the biggest impact you can make is generating some quality links from other trusted websites, back to yours. Have a wide breadth of suppliers? See if you can get a mention in their blog. Tiny changes like this may seem trivial, but quality links from trusted sources are a surefire way to improve rankings and increase organic traffic. Just make sure not to overdo it! Poor, spammy links can also be detrimental, so it’s best to check with an SEO specialist if you’re not sure.
Content, mainly the quantity of quality content on your site. Finally, for content, write well and write often. You are an expert in your chosen field and there is a wealth of opportunity to leverage that knowledge to answer people’s questions. Offer a service? State it on your website. The more explicit you can be, using a wide breadth of language, the greater the likelihood your site will rank for a variety of keywords.
What’s the #1 mistake you see businesses make with their SEO?
This one’s easy! Deleting or replacing pages on their website, without redirecting the old page to the new page (or back to the homepage). A page URL is like a home address, if you even update one single character (for example from /collections/shoes to /collections/footwear), Google views it as a new page and therefore, the ‘page strength’ starts from scratch.
If you were to move houses, you’d set up a mail redirect to make sure that all your mail ends up at your new house, right? Same goes for web traffic and backlinks. I often see e-commerce sites deleting categories or changing the names of them, not realising the damage it’s doing to their traffic. Most CMS’ have a redirect module inbuilt, it’s best practice to get into the habit to always 301 redirect dead or changed pages to a URL that is still living.
What’s your most consistent SEO recommendation across your clients?
What consistently comes up in conversations is working out how I can help get my clients’ businesses producing quality content regularly. As I mentioned earlier, content is incredibly important for SEO and blogging or producing articles is a surefire way to success.
With the number of free tools available right now, you don’t need to be Ernest Hemmingway to start writing, just pick some topics relating to your business, sign up for a free Grammarly account and away you go! Unsure what to write about?
Check out tools like answerthepublic.com or keywordtool.io (both are free) to find questions related to a topic that people are searching for online. Simply write a post in response to one or more of those questions and there’s a high likelihood that you’ll get at least some traffic from it!
What’s one thing that any business can do today to check their SEO health?
The easiest way to run a quick SEO health check is to verify Google Search Console (visit Hedgehog’s blog to learn how to do this) for all your site versions. This includes https://, https://www, http://www. http://, etc. etc. Each URL is classed as a different version, so for starters, you want to make sure that unsecure versions of your site (non-https) are not being indexed in Google. This is where you check.
Google Search Console is also where you can check if Google is at least indexing your most important pages, how much organic traffic they’re getting, and what keywords are bringing traffic. Hopefully, there’s a lot of generic, non-branded keywords in this list, that means you’re on the right path and you’re ranking for topics, not just your brand name.
Tell us an SEO strategy you’ve used that had a great result.
For a blinds manufacturer client, we went really hard on the location-based searches and it proved fruitful. We found that when a user searches for <product> for sale in Melbourne, or <product> for sale in Sydney, the user's purchase intent was much higher and they led to more leads, even though these keywords had less traffic volume than the root product keyword. A root product is the general keyword for that product, for example ‘hats for sale’ or ‘legal services’ - usually high in volume, but difficult to determine the intent of the majority of those searches.
Creating location-based pages, optimising for the aforementioned location keywords and sending some strong local signals through Google My Business and local directories turned each location page into a mini lead-generating machine.
What’s your favourite paid and free tool for SEO?
The best-paid SEO tool on the market at the moment is AHREFs. It’s basically an all-in-one keyword tool, backlink checker, site-auditor and more. It’s not the cheapest (normally around $2k per year) but it’s the most comprehensive tool on the market. Depending on your level of SEO knowledge, you might not always need it and if you have a quality SEO agency taking care of your business, chances are they’ll have it already.
I LOVE ScreamingFrog. It’s a site crawling tool that can help you pick up all your site’s pages, broken links, etc. and the free version is great for small sites (there’s a URL limit). Its a quick and easy way to get a snapshot your site as a whole and fix any leaks.
How can we contact you?
If you’d like to grow your business without breaking the bank, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation chat, or reach me at our website at https://aperitif.agency.
Hedgehog is run by Josh. Josh helps small businesses to sell more online with detailed advice, planning and management. Learn more here.