Conquer your Competition with Simple SEO for SMBs and Startups (+Infographic)

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I’ve been helping businesses as an SEO consultant for a few years now and (in some people’s dismay) have been teaching businesses how to handle SEO for SMBs and Startups without an SEO specialist, or an agency on retainer. Usually, small businesses and startups can handle quite a bit of the workload themselves.

I believe that part of SEO is a process of learning how to change some ugly habits that people develop because they are hasty when it comes to pushing stuff to their website.

During the past few years, I tried teaching those things via LinkedIn mostly but recently I decided to reach more audiences by creating a website. If you are wondering what things people can change with minimum technical knowledge without the support of a developer or the need for an agency here’s a small list of things that can really set you apart when you start your business website.

SEO for SMBs & Startups Infographic

seo infographic
seo infographic

URLs

  • Make sure that your URLs are short and user friendly. There are studies done that really prove that short URLs are not only user friendly but also most of the pages populating the top 10 within the SERPs have short URLs. 
  • Add your main keywords in the URL. People often mistake this as old SEO advice. The truth is that URLs that contain the main keyword not only rank slightly better but get a lot more attention from the users looking through the SERPs. E.g. I would prefer to click on a result that looks like this 

https://example.com/espresso-machine

instead of

https://example.com/machine-123

Titles

  • Write unique titles for every page / Try to target one main thing per page
    • Keyword Cannibalization is a huge problem. Again this is not just an SEO play. It’s a marketing issue in general. Imagine spending a marketing budget for creating a landing page for a product or a service just to only find out that half of your organic searches land on a page that is not optimized for conversions. 
  • Keep them under 60 characters 
    • Make sure that you have goals set up. In many cases, businesses rely on branding. IF that is the case put your brand name early on and sacrifice your keywords. My personal experience is that SMBs and even in some cases corporates prefer to sacrifice the branding for the ranking. That is something you’ll have to decide. Whatever you do keep them short. 
  • Add the main keyword in the title
    • Titles are an on-page ranking factor, probably the single most powerful one that you can really control easily no matter where and how your site has been built. Add the main keyword in the title to help boost your ranking for it.
  • Put the keyword closer to the start 
    • There are studies that show that putting the keyword at the start of the title has greatly improved CTR.

Meta Descriptions

  • Write unique meta description for every page
    • If you have a small website try to write unique meta descriptions for every page. It will greatly improve your CTR and it will really improve your user experience. It’s not an SEO play, your keywords won’t be positively affected (directly). 
  • Keep them under 160 characters
    • Longer than that and you risk truncating your meta descriptions and maybe creating a degrading experience for the user that tries to read it. 
  • Add main and relevant keywords
    • Add relevant keywords if they fit and read nicely. It will make your result stand out in the SERPs if someone searched using a related keyword and your title is not bolded. 

Headings

  • Write unique headings for every page
    • Headings are not so much associated with rankings anymore but greatly improve the ability of search engines to understand the context of a page. 
  • Every page should contain at least an H1
    • H1 is the only heading that might still have some value as a ranking factor. Non the less Google and other search engines use it to figure out what the main subject of the page is. 
  • H1 and title should be different 
    • As previously said Titles are ranking factors if by any slight chance H1s still hold any real value as a ranking factor it would be a waste to duplicate them. Make sure they make sense but they are at least slightly different.
  • If you have long articles add H2s and H3s when appropriate
    • A proper structure requires some sub-headings. Again no matter their ranking value, having a clear content structure (and ordering) can boost your organic visibility. Engines understand better what you want to say, so they serve your articles to the right people, at the right place, etc.

Image Alt Tags

  • All images should contain descriptive alt descriptions
    • An alt-tag or alt description is very helpful for engines to understand the image and its purpose in the content. 
  • Add your keyword but don’t over-optimize
    • Using the keyword in the alt description can help your image rank accordingly in the Google images but also boost your overall ranking of that keyword in Google Search.
  • Visually impaired people rely on these descriptions to understand the image – so do engines.
    • People with visual disabilities need those helpful descriptions in order to understand the image. 

Keyword Research

Check my article on how to do keyword research for more details.

  • Perform keyword research for every service or product you are selling 
    • Keyword research is an important part of having a business. The information that you can extract by performing keyword research goes far beyond the SEO-sphere and rankings. Even though you can get an idea of which keywords you should try and rank you also get an idea of which you should steer clear. You discover competition and you can compare strategies. 

Content Optimization

Content marketing is very important for reaching the right people for the right product. Learn how to perform content marketing.

  • Optimize the content of every page. 
    • Use your findings to create relevant, unique, and valuable content for your site.
  • Content does not equal just Blog articles. Content can be found within listing pages, item pages, search pages, tag pages, home pages, etc. Make sure you optimize them as soon as you build them. Especially when your site is young you can’t be sure when Google will give you the time of day to crawl your pages again or even more importantly when a user will give you another chance. Once you lose credibility with a user it’s very hard to win it back.

Performance

Performance might sound overly technical but you can really make a difference by taking some easy steps.

  • Optimize your images for web usage
    •  It’s not a great idea to just post any photo on your site without first optimizing it for speed. If this is something you feel not comfortable doing or not know-how, try finding a WordPress plugin if you are a WordPress user or you could use websites such as [https://squoosh.app/](https://squoosh.app/) which is a web app created by Google to help you optimize your images.
  • Use a CDN
    • CDN = Content delivery network. They can help your site load faster, improve your security, etc. If you are not sure how to use them or how to find them, one of the best CDNs out there is called Cloudflare and they offer a free service that you could easily follow some steps to set up. 
  • Don’t use Gifs use Videos. 
    • Simple advice. If you think that Gifs are fun and want to use them convert them to videos and loop them. It will make a huge difference. 
  • Limit the use of plugins if possible
    • You don’t need to have 100 plugins to have a nice looking website. If you have a lot of them installed consider which ones you need and which ones you don’t. Clean up your database. 

Security

  • Create a secure environment for your users
    • Use any measure possible to create a secure environment for your users. If you are collecting data or if you pass them to 3rd party vendors make sure you let them know. 
  • Use HTTPs instead of HTTP
    • HTTPs are not a mystery anymore and it doesn’t really require technical expertise. You can find a host that provides a free SSL certificate. If your hosting provider does not provide free SSL you can buy one or find a free external service such as [https://letsencrypt.org/](https://letsencrypt.org/) . 

Internal Links

  • Make sure you have links pointing to all of your valuable pages
    • Engines or to be honest the entire world wide web work using links. If they can’t find a link for a page then that page will never make it to the index. 
  • Try and minimize the jumps a search engine and a user has to do in order to reach to the end page.
    • The easier you make it for engines to find that link the quicker they will index it. You should try making your entire site’s pages being accessible within 3 clicks. 
  • Use friendly anchor texts
    • Anchor texts are helpful for engines and users alike. Knowing what I am going to see when I click a link makes my decision to follow it much easier. Engines consider anchor to be a ranking factor for backlinks but a great hint for internal links. 

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Conclusion

My hope is that people will figure out that SEO is not magic. It’s a tool that anyone can learn how to use with time. The biggest part of it is taking the long route instead of the ugly short trip to the end goal. No matter the size of the business the shortcut is usually the wrong road.

With the above tips I hope that even small businesses can save some money by optimizing their own websites without the need of someone like me or with an agency.

Keep up the good work!

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