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SEO for a small business – A practical guide based on experience

Before retraining to be a hypnotherapist I had spent close to 2 decades as a teacher, so like many
others who start out on their own I had no practical experience of running a business. My course was split into 12 modules with just 1 of these dedicated to marketing. I learned the very basics of marketing during this weekend, but nothing that would really help me to spread the word about my new business.

The focus was more on developing your niche and thinking about the problem that you solve, as opposed to identifying the best methods to use in order to actually make money. At the end of the weekend having identified my ideal client, I genuinely thought that all I needed to do was post in a few local Facebook Groups and people with anxiety would come running. As you can imagine the phone didn’t ring and my inbox remained empty. It was still tumble weed after a few more weeks of posting. I realised I was deluding myself if I thought this was ever going work.

Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation

It was at this point that I found out about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO I learnt is the process of improving a business’s visibility on search engines to attract more relevant traffic. In the world of SEO, it doesn’t take long to discover that Google is King. In fact, roughly 93% of searches are done through Google. In second place is Bing with just 3%.

As a complete novice it can be very easy to be put off exploring SEO. Each article I read was full of technical jargon such as: long tailed keywords, keyword density, meta tags, back links and SERPS. It’s easy to see why many ‘run for the hills’ and call in a professional, or just blank it entirely and concentrate on other aspects of their marketing.

I found that there are things that you can do yourself to improve your visibility on searches and things that are definitely best left to the experts. Thankfully you don’t need to understand any of the above terms to be able to appear in local searches quite quickly.

One of the things that you can do as a business owner is to create a free Google Business Page to improve your visibility in your location.

Local SEO

Having good local SEO will mean that your business will show up in location based searches. If a potential client searches for ‘Hairdressers in Hitchin’ Google will show them a list of results specific to that location. Research shows that around 46% of all searches have a local intent. If you have a ‘bricks and mortar’ business, appearing on page 1 of Google is key. This is especially true when you consider that over 70% of all traffic goes to the businesses ranked on the first page.

The 3 map pack

If you search for ‘Hairdressers in Hitchin’ then the businesses that Google believe offer the best service will be shown at the top of the page, in what’s known as the ‘3 map pack’.

If you want your business to get the most clicks, then it’s important to try and show up in this 3 map pack. It’s estimated that the 3 businesses listed will get somewhere between 44-61% of the clicks for that search term.

How to get a space in the 3 map pack

Like anything related to SEO it’s important that you understand that Google will try to ensure that organisations that have gained a good reputation are shown at the top of the page. This will however depend on how competitive your search term is. It will be harder to appear in the 3 map pack for ‘Accountants in Hitchin’ than ‘Acupuncturist in Hitchin’ for example.

Because of its mission to only show the best results local SEO takes time. You need to think in terms of months to show a positive result rather than weeks.

There are many you tube videos you can watch will help you to create and then optimise your Google Business listing. I have found videos from Ranking Academy
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQD4YAgc7PE) particularly helpful.

If you prefer you can read the process, I used below. Make sure you give yourself time to complete the process and know that it all doesn’t have to be done at once. To do it well will take many hours over a number of sessions, but I believe that the more effort you put into the process, the more that google will reward you and show you in the 3 map pack.

1. Google Business Listing Optimisation: Your Google Business (GB) listing is the heart of your local online presence. To increase your chances of ranking well it’s important that you complete each section with detailed business information, relevant categories, an engaging description, high-quality photos, and genuine customer reviews.

2. Local Citations and Consistency: Consistency is key. Your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) should be uniform across all online directories, platforms, and your website. Search engines value this consistency when determining your local authority.

Ideally in addition to your GB listing you should have a good quality website. In order for Google to trust your website it’s important that you obtain citations (listings) from a number of directories. These citations send signals to Google that your website is trusted. By linking your website to you GB listing you increase your chances of appearing in the 3 map pack.

It’s important that you list your business in reputable directories that Google trusts. A list of the top 10 directories can be found by using this link https://cylex-international.com/blog/top-10-best-uk-
business-directories

3. Online Reviews and Ratings: Positive reviews from satisfied customers can work wonders for your local search visibility. If these reviews include specific keywords these reviews may be shown when a potential client searches for that term.

From your GB page you can copy the link and send it to your customer to encourage them to leave a review. Google will take notice of the star rating of your reviews as well as the number of reviews received. It’s good practise to respond to each review whether positive or negative.

Business Website

You will have numerous tasks to complete as a small business owner, it can feel like setting up or running a business is like trying to get to the end of a continuous to do list. There are only a certain
amount of hours in the day and you need to decide what your priorities are in order to decide the best way for you to use them.

It is quite possible for you to design your own website using a company such as Wix, Square Space, Go Daddy or my personal favourite No Hassle, but you need to decide if this is something you feel capable of doing and if you have the time to do it.

The pros and cons of each approach are detailed below

Designing Your Own Website: Pros and Cons

Pros:

1. Cost-Effective: Designing your own website can be budget-friendly, as you eliminate the cost of hiring a professional designer.
2. Full Creative Control: You have complete creative freedom to design your website exactly as you envision it, without having to convey your ideas to a third party.
3. Immediate Updates: You can make instant changes and updates to your website without relying on external help, ensuring your content is always up-to-date.
4. Learning Opportunity: The process of designing your website can provide valuable insights into
web development and design, which can be beneficial for future projects.

Cons:

1. Limited Expertise: Unless you’re already skilled in web design, your website might lack the polish and functionality that professional designers can deliver.
2. Time-Consuming: Designing a website requires learning the necessary tools and technologies, which can take time away from your core business activities.
3. Design Quality: Inexperienced design might lead to an unprofessional-looking website that fails
to engage visitors or reflect your brand effectively.
4. Lack of Optimisation: DIY websites might not be optimised for various devices and browsers,
potentially resulting in a poor user experience.

Professional Web Design: Pros and Cons

Pros:

1. Expertise and Experience: Professional designers bring years of experience, ensuring your website is visually appealing, functional, and optimized for performance.
2. Customisation: Designers tailor the website to your brand, incorporating elements that resonate with your target audience and convey your unique identity.
3. Time-Efficient: Hiring a professional frees up your time to focus on your business, while they handle the intricacies of website design and development.
4. Optimised User Experience: A professional designer ensures your website is responsive, user-friendly, and accessible across various devices and browsers.

Cons:

1. Higher Cost: Professional web design comes at a price, which might be a significant factor for smaller businesses or start ups with limited budgets.
2. Communication Challenges: Translating your vision to a designer requires effective communication and a clear understanding of your brand identity.
3. Dependency: You’ll need to rely on the designer for updates and changes, potentially causing delays if their availability is limited.
4. Longer Turnaround: The design process can take time, especially if the designer has other ongoing projects.

Designing Your Own Website: Pros and Cons

Pros:

1. Cost-Effective: Designing your own website can be budget-friendly, as you eliminate the cost of hiring a professional designer.
2. Full Creative Control: You have complete creative freedom to design your website exactly as you envision it, without having to convey your ideas to a third party.
3. Immediate Updates: You can make instant changes and updates to your website without relying on external help, ensuring your content is always up-to-date.
4. Learning Opportunity: The process of designing your website can provide valuable insights into web development and design, which can be beneficial for future projects.

Cons:

1. Limited Expertise: Unless you’re already skilled in web design, your website might lack the polish and functionality that professional designers can deliver.
2. Time-Consuming: Designing a website requires learning the necessary tools and technologies, which can take time away from your core business activities.
3. Design Quality: Inexperienced design might lead to an unprofessional-looking website that fails
to engage visitors or reflect your brand effectively.
4. Lack of Optimisation: DIY websites might not be optimised for various devices and browsers, potentially resulting in a poor user experience.

Professional Web Design: Pros and Cons

Pros:

1. Expertise and Experience: Professional designers bring years of experience, ensuring your website is visually appealing, functional, and optimised for performance.
2. Customisation: Designers tailor the website to your brand, incorporating elements that resonate with your target audience and convey your unique identity.
3. Time-Efficient: Hiring a professional frees up your time to focus on your business, while they handle the intricacies of website design and development.
4. Optimised User Experience: A professional designer ensures your website is responsive, user-friendly, and accessible across various devices and browsers.

Cons:

1. Higher Cost: Professional web design comes at a price, which might be a significant factor for smaller businesses or start ups with limited budgets.
2. Communication Challenges: Translating your vision to a designer requires effective communication and a clear understanding of your brand identity.
3. Dependency: You’ll need to rely on the designer for updates and changes, potentially causing delays if their availability is limited.
4. Longer Turnaround: The design process can take time, especially if the designer has other ongoing projects.

Making the Right Choice

Choosing between designing your own website and hiring a professional ultimately depends on your budget, time constraints, technical skills, and desired level of quality. If you have the resources and want a polished, effective online presence, a professional organisation such as Go Big Digital can deliver a website that truly reflects your brand.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to invest time and effort to learn and experiment, designing your own website can be a satisfying learning experience.

In the end, both approaches have their merits, and the decision should be based on what aligns best with your business goals and resources.


Website evolution

Once you have your website designed then it’s important to keep adding content to it. It shouldn’t be the case that you create a website and then never touch it again. Google will favour websites that have fresh content added to them on a regular basis and as a result will push them up the search
rankings.

One of the best ways of adding content to your website is by blogging. This is essentially where you write about a particular topic that is relevant to your business or industry. To get the greatest benefit from blogging, its essential that you write on a topic that people have an interest in. In other
words, you must include relevant keywords in your blog that people are searching for.

For most small businesses, the ultimate aim of a blog is to inform potential customers of a product or service so that they make a purchase. If you write a blog on a topic that is not relevant to your business or that include keywords that no one is searching for them its benefits are going to be
extremely limited.

You can find out what search terms your customers are looking for by using a number of free resources including; Googles Keyword Planner Tool, Semrush or Arefs.

Once you’ve identified your keywords it’s important that your blog is written in such a way that it has the best chance of appearing high up in the search results.

The basics of how to write a blog

Your chosen keywords should naturally integrate into your blog’s title, headings, and throughout the content. However, avoid over using your keyword, as it can negatively impact the readability and
authenticity of your writing.

Crafting high-quality and engaging content remains paramount. Not only does it satisfy the needs of your readers, but it also enhances your blog’s SEO. Focus on creating well-structured content with informative subheadings that accurately reflect the content beneath them. Alongside text, include multimedia elements like images, videos, and infographics to enhance the visual appeal of your blog.
Compress images to ensure fast loading times, a factor that search engines consider when ranking content.

Incorporate internal and external links strategically. Internal links guide readers to related content within your own blog, increasing their time on your site and improving its overall SEO. External links to authoritative sources demonstrate credibility and offer additional value to readers.

By following these SEO techniques, you can write a blog that not only appeals to readers but also performs well in search engine rankings, driving organic traffic to your content. 

Many more in depth articles have been written on the topic of blog writing. If you want to carry out more research in this area, then this article by Yoast will be an excellent start. https://yoast.com/seo-friendly-blog-post/

Call in the experts!

The fact that there is a wealth of freely available information on how to write blog posts means that just following the correct process isn’t enough.

You need to stand out from the crowd. If several hundreds of people have written a blog post on the same topic, using the same keywords, then you need to make sure that your blog out ranks them. Remember that 70% of all website traffic will go to the webpages, articles or blogs on page 1 of google. Most people don’t visit even the second page.

Just writing a well-structured blog, adding the keywords in the right places won’t be enough for google to rank you high in the search results. For this you need to call in the experts and in the murky field of SEO in my opinion there is no one better than Matt Trussell at Go Big Digital.

Before meeting Matt, I had previously used another SEO company for over 6 months. I found them to be uncommunicative and they just didn’t deliver the results they said they would. Unfortunately, these are all too common complaints with numerous SEO companies.

Working with Matt has been a revelation, not only has he over delivered on the results we set out to achieve, he keeps me informed of the progress he is making by issuing a monthly report.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so if you google the search terms Zoom Hypnotherapy,
Hypnotherapy for driving anxiety, Hypnosis for driving anxiety, Hypnotherapy for fear of flying, Hypnotherapy Hitchin, Hypnotherapy Letchworth or Hypnotherapy Stevenage you will find Ian Murton hypnotherapy nestled at the top of page 1 of the search results.

This has had meant that I get hundreds of visitors to my website each month and a steady stream of new enquiries every week.

Conclusion

It’s hard not to be bamboozled when you first look into SEO but in its basic level there are things that you can do to improve your business visibility on line.

I found the most beneficial thing I could do myself was to create a fully optimised Google Business Page. I now try to keep adding photos and posts to it to make sure it remains relevant in the eyes of google.

If you have the time and if your finances are tight, then it’s perfectly possible to create your own website and there are many benefits in doing so. If you don’t have the time to dedicate, then you can have a website made for you by using a company such as Go Big Digital.

To keep your website current and to attract new customers it’s important to keep regularly adding content. You can write well-structured blogs and pages but this is unlikely to be enough to rank highly in the search results.

At the end of the day SEO is an art that is learnt with years of experience. While of course there is a financial outlay to using GoBig Digital’s SEO services in my experience these costs have been recouped many, many times over by the extra business I have secured.

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