“Off Site” SEO tips for Small Business

(Part 3 of 3 in our Introduction to SEO for Small Business series)

Hi there! Welcome back to our introduction to SEO for small business series. Earlier, we explored basic search engine optimization principles and covered Six Actionable “On-Site” Tips for small business SEO. Now, we will talk about what can be done online to improve a website’s Google ranking, outside a website. Let’s dive in to our third and final post in this series, “Off-Site” SEO Factors Every Small Business Owner Should Know. (Warning: all examples used in this piece will be for a small business that sells muffin pans!)

Inbound Links

As important as it is to have an up-to-date, error-free, secure and quick loading website that offers a ton of information potential customers will find relevant, it is equally important for the site to have incoming links from other authoritative websites. A link is usually the clickable text seen in a web page’s copy that takes a user from one website to another. When a well-known website links to all lesser-known website, some of that authority will rub off. Google notices when a respected website sends a link to another website. The more respected the site sending the link is, the more credibility the site receiving the link will gain with Google. This becomes factored in Google’s algorithm, therefore making it more likely for the site receiving the link to rank higher in an applicable Google search.

A measurement used in SEO for the relevance of a website is what is called, Domain Authority or DA for short. This is grade between 1 and 100 that essentially deems how important a website is from an SEO standpoint. If a muffin pan company has two links, one from The Food Network (DA 91) and another from a blog called Gimme Some Oven (DA 75), the better of the two links would be the one from The Food Network (it is world famous and has a higher DA). None-the-less, the DA 75 link from a well-followed baking blog would still be a great link. In fact, it’s safe to say that most (non-spammy) links with a DA above 20 will help the SEO of almost any small business. Getting a link is beneficial for two reasons. First, because people visiting those popular websites will be clicking them to come over to your site, which increases your web traffic. Second, because long after those respected industry publications have gone on to cover fresher baking news, the link to your website will remain. Go on and collect more links, and the popularity and relevance of your website will rise in Google’s eyes each time a high-quality link is obtained. This art of tastefully and tactfully getting other websites to link back to your website is called link building. Here are a few popular ways to do this:

• Guest post – Approach publications within your industry that allow thought leaders (such as yourself) to contribute a piece. Let’s say that an online magazine called Bake from Scratch accepted an article written by our muffin pan company on how to successfully bake muffins with gluten-free flour. The piece benefits the magazine’s readers as it explains the ins and outs of a difficult task. But guess what? Included in the guest submission is a link from a DA 37 site back to the muffin pan website. Solid win!

• Product Reviews – Find online publications that review a product like yours; send a sample and request a review. Usually the review will contain a link back to the product site. I would encourage any owner of a company that sells muffin pans to make a list of a dozen baking blogs (is that 13?) with a DA above 20 and contact them in hopes that if a free pan is sent their way, they will review it and include a link.
• Sponsorships – Does your business sponsor any organizations in the community, and if so, do the websites of those organizations link back to your site? Obviously, it is rewarding to help out a worthy cause, but let’s not forget the added benefit of a quality link!

Google My Business

All small business owners should be taking advantage of Google My Business. Its free and offers businesses a great way to improve their online presence, including bettering the chance of appearing in the coveted Google Local 3-Pack. Business owners can keep their services, products, hours, location, images, and contact information up to date. Much of the same information seen in the Google My Business “Knowledge Panel” displayed to the right of the search results on a computer appears atop a smartphone’s search results. This part of a small business’s online visibility allows users to call or get directions to a company even before visiting the website. Google My Business is also where a business owner can manage and respond to their Google reviews.

If your small business doesn’t already have a Google My Business page, set one up. But hold on! Be sure to check if there is already a page for your company that has been created by someone else or generated by Google. Duplicate pages can be confusing and should be avoided. If a page already exists for your company (always check for old addresses), claim and verify it. Check out this ”How To” guide for setting up your GMB page. To a somewhat lesser extent, but still very much worth perusing, is Bing Places (the Microsoft equivalent).

NAP Consistency in Local Business Directories

NAP or Name – Address – Phone consistency is an important element to your business’s search visibility. Very much like Google My Business or Bing Places, there are a multitude of online business listings that will display your company’s information (and link back to your site). Check out HubSpot’s “Ultimate List of 57 Local Directories” to see where to begin. The point of having your company information correct and up-to-date on these directories is not really because users are depending on them, but more so for Google to see your company’s NAP consistently displayed across other various directories and for the backlinks (w/ decent DA) to your site. One of the basic SEO principles we always talk about is the necessity to make things as easy on Google as possible. Do yourself a favor and make all of your other business listings in those various directories show the exact same information as your Google My Business listing. This allows Google to be that much more certain it is sending people to the correct place!

That’s all for now. Thank you so much for checking out our series on SEO for Small Business. We hope you learned something that will help further the success of your small business.

Sam Costanzo
DARCI Creative
Digital Marketing Manager

SEO and website design for small business portsmouth nh

Six Actionable “On-Site” SEO Tips for Small Business Websites

(Part 2 of 3 in our Introduction to SEO for Small Business series)

Welcome back! It’s time for part two of a three-part series on SEO for small business. In the first post of this series, we introduced some basic SEO concepts and how they apply to a small business website. We touched on the relevance of keywords and how their placement within a site can help Google to better understand a business. We mentioned the benefits if amplifying a website’s presence with links from other sites. Also, we talked about how there’s no quick trick in SEO, making attention to detail so important. In this follow-up post we go over specific actionable tips that can be done to improve your small business’s SEO.

Google has been evolving its algorithm (in secret) since the company was founded twenty years ago. Although no one outside the Google headquarters can say for sure, we do have plenty of insight on what gets factored in as pages are ranked. There’s so much to get right, it would be impossible to mention everything in one post, but you’ve got to start somewhere, so let’s begin with these tips for “On-Site” SEO:

#1 Site Speed

Like any business, Google wants to please its customers. Google knows its users prefer sites that load quickly. No one wants to sit around waiting for a website to load, so check your site speed. A couple good speed graders are WebPageTest, Pingdom and Google’s own PageSpeed Insights. Not only will you get page load time (hopefully under 4 seconds), but also recommendations for improvement. Often slow load times are seen with pages that have images containing overly large file sizes. Did you compress your high-resolution images? Next time try before you upload. Another common site speed issue can happen with websites that do not have “static caching” (Brand Muffin sites use a WordPress plugin to solve for this). By the way, don’t forget to update your plugins!

#2 Site Security

Another SEO factor is security and Google has publicly stated that it was giving a slight rankings boost to websites that have increased security by adding an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate. Chrome, Google’s browser, even marks all sites that haven’t adopted SSL as “not secure.” So, having an SSL certificate is not only important for that algorithm rankings boost, but also for brand credibility. A site has SSL if the URL begins with https (not http) and you see a padlock near the URL. If you find this confusing, learn more in this recent Forbes article.

#3 Check for Broken Links

A “404 Error” message is often seen as a result of a broken link. For example, say a business no longer sells a product that it once had a page on its website for. When the product was retired, the page was removed. However, somewhere on the website, maybe in an old blog post, there is still a reference to that product and a link to that (no longer existing) page. If someone were to click that link they’d see a “404 Error” message. Google frowns on these. You can correct 404 errors by updating or removing the broken link and potentially creating a permanent redirect to a similar product that has an active page. The free webmaster tools Google Search Console and Screaming Frog are great assets for uncovering all types of page issues including 404 errors.

Remember from our first post, your keywords are the words and phrases that a potential customer might enter into a Google search when they are looking for information related to your business. They need to be planned for and placed within a webpage, both where users will see them and in where applicable in the page’s code. To better explain how this is done, let’s imagine we have a small business that sells kitchen supplies online. We have a new muffin pan coming out and we are making a new page for the product. We’ve decided that our best choice for this page’s primary keyword is “ceramic muffin pan.” If we want our new muffin pan to be ranked highly on Google, we can follow these best practices….

#4 Keyword in the page title

Let’s say that the new ceramic muffin pan is called “The Bake 8 Supreme” and our website’s preliminary title for the new page is, “You’ll Love the Bake 8 Supreme – On Sale Now!” At first this page title seems eye-catching enough, but we need to remember what word or phrase a potential muffin pan buyer may be entering into Google. They are only beginning their pan buying journey and would not yet be Googling the specific brand name of the product, right? Instead we decide to call the page… “Looking for a Ceramic Muffin Pan? You’ll Love the Bake 8 Supreme!” This way the keyword is in the page title. When a Googlebot indexes our new page, it will see our keyword, “ceramic muffin pan” right there in the page title. This increases the likelihood of Google showing our page when someone searches for “ceramic muffin pan.” It sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often keywords are not used in page titles.

#5 Keywords within the page copy

We tastefully use the keyword and variations of the keyword throughout the page copy. Along with “ceramic muffin pan,” we will work “muffin pan with ceramic coating,” and “non-stick muffin and cupcake pan” into the webpage. In doing so making sure not to “keyword stuff,” a now forbidden old SEO practice where the same keyword was used over and over again on a page. It is spammy and earns negative points with Google.

#6 Keywords as names of the images

The new product page for the muffin pan will have images and they should contain the keyword in the image name. This is a great opportunity to incorporate a keyword into a page’s code. So frequently this is missed and you’ll see a photo named image_003.jpg or tom_eating.jpg that should have been named ceramic_muffin_pan.jpg. Adding keywords to the image’s ALT tag is important as well.

Have you noticed that everything we’ve gone over here takes place on the website itself? Adding keyword, fixing 404 errors, improving site speed and security are all done within your website itself. We call this “On-Site” SEO. In the third and final installment of our intro to SEO series, we talk about using other websites to amplify yours, and cover “Off-Site” techniques absolutely crucial for SEO.

Sam Costanzo
DARCI Creative
Digital Marketing Manager

Introduction to SEO for Small Business

An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization for Small Business Owners (Part 1 of 3)

In this first post we introduce basic SEO principles and how they apply to a typical small business website. Then, the second and third posts will go into detail about specific techniques that can increase traffic to a website. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of posts similar to this one that comprehensively cover SEO in great technical detail. This series is bit different, as the aim here is to explain the concepts in a simple manner. If you were going to write your college thesis on SEO, I’d check out Moz, Ahrefs or Search Engine Land for tips. If running your small business is hard enough and you just want a simple explanation of the basics, this post is right for you. The following are four SEO concepts to start thinking about.

#1. It isn’t about doing SEO. It’s about doing everything right as you make your website.

We aren’t making a website and then sprinkling some SEO onto it at the end. We are baking the SEO right into the muffin (I mean website). Having a quality site that is useful to visitors, really is a great big step in the right direction for SEO. Google wants to do the best job it can to please its users. It will send its users to the websites that will best satisfy their search query. Be one of the best sites (in your specific niche) and Google will send you the traffic.

A common misconception about SEO dates back a few years to a time when it may have been possible to be sneaky with a few techniques that could trick a search engine into giving a page an artificially high ranking. That is not happening in 2018. Google is smarter than us and is looking out for its users. The better we make a website, the better experience the user will have. The more Google notices users having a good (optimal) experience on a website, the more people Google will send to the website. Build the pages on the website that matter most to your goals into excellent resources for someone who is a potential customer. Make the site secure, fast to load, and relevant to those who are shopping for your product …and don’t miss an opportunity to tell Google about it!

#2. Keywords are important!

We will get right back to making the site relevant and telling Google about it, but let’s change gears for a second and talk about keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases that searchers (potential customers) enter to find a website (business like yours) that will answer their question. This is great for you as a small business owner because you know your business better than anyone and have a head start on those words and phrases. They may describe product sold, service provided, or whatever would make people want to go to your website.

Let’s take an example of a business that sells kitchen supplies and they have a product they want to be found on Google. Guess what it is? It’s a muffin pan! And not just any muffin pan, an aluminized steel ceramic coated muffin pan. There is a page on their website for this muffin pan. An important SEO concept is to assign that page a focus keyword. The keyword chosen for that page is “ceramic muffin pan.” This would be a great place to go off on a long SEO nerd tangent about the ins and outs of keyword research. However, for our purposes, let’s just say they didn’t choose “muffin pan” because it was too general. The big brands already rank 1 – 10 for “muffin pan” on Google and a small business isn’t going to be up for the ridiculous amount of work required to compete there. They also considered a less competitive keyword for their product’s page, “commercial grade aluminized steel ceramic coated muffin pan.” They could surely get their website’s page to rank for this phrase, but in reality, no one is actually typing that in to Google. So, they decided on “ceramic muffin pan.” Determining the practical keywords to be known for helps the cause.

#3. Make the website easy for Google to understand

Remember back in #1 where we said to make a relevant site …and don’t miss an opportunity to tell Google about it. How do we do that? …With the Keywords! Just as you or I will read a website, so will Google. …well almost. You’ve heard of Googlebots, right? In case you haven’t, Google is using automated software (aka webcrawlers, aka spiders, aka Googlebots) to browse the internet, reading websites to collect information about them for their index. Websites are made up of code and they read it. It is our job to not miss an opportunity to help the Googlebot collect important data about a site by putting the keywords in the code for it to read. (Digest that concept and you’ve got a good handle on the next post.) The need for attention to detail is found here and Yoast SEO plugin is a great tool for WordPress sites in this regard. We call this “On-Site” SEO and cover it in further detail in the next post.

#4. Amplify a website using other websites

Acquire links to your website from other, more well-known websites. A link is that clickable text that is sometimes underlined and blue. When a user clicks it, they leave one website and go to another. Google is aware of this. When a respected, authoritative website has a link to your website, some of that authority rubs off on your site. This is an example of “Off-Site” SEO (the topic of the third post).

Back to our muffin pan example. Let’s say that ceramic muffin pan page did a wonderful job of explaining in great detail how aluminized steel spread the heat to the muffins for even baking and how the ceramic coating allowed for easy release of the muffins from the pan. The way the technology was described was so well done that when Bobby Flay wrote a blog post on bakeware, he linked his post to that small business’s page! Big win! It is great because not only does the ceramic muffin pan page get more referral web traffic from all of Bobby Flay’s fans clicking the link. But also, Google is paying attention to what an authoritative publication (like a celebrity chef’s blog) thinks is worthy to link to. This reflects nicely on the muffin pan page in Google’s eyes and they will now be that much more likely to send anyone typing in “ceramic muffin pan” to the ceramic muffin pan page from now on. Side note (it isn’t easy to get a link from Bobby), but the same principle applies with other less famous but still authoritative websites, for example or Those are solid industry publications and their links will absolutely help. Long story short, this is where a good amount of the magic happens.

OK, this SEO thing isn’t so bad. Make a quality website that is secure, fast to load, and a relevant resource for users. Know the phrases that potential customers are entering in to Google when they shop for a product and incorporate them strategically into the website. And then enhance the websites notoriety with incoming links. We are off to a great start! We’ll go over all this in greater detail in our following posts.

Sam Costanzo
DARCI Creative
Digital Marketing Manager