Leverage the power of Google Search with this DIY tutorial on some of the most important SEO tactics
Having been operating in the marketing space for over 10 years, we have noticed a few items that every business needs, yet often does not have. You may have a few of these ticked off, but a quick refresher might give you some basic optimisations. Either way, we promise that the value in these items, combined with the ease of implementation means that this might be the most important piece of content you read this year. We promise that the items can be implemented by anyone if you follow the steps.
We’re conscious that even in just these 7 items, there is a lot to consider, so we have done our best to give the info to you in bite-size chunks. Anything overly lengthy we will link to an online resource that covers it in step-by-step detail so there is no confusion.
1. Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business)
What is a Google Business Profile and Why Should You have it?
Google My Business is the original name and more commonly known, so it may or may not seem familiar to you, but everyone has seen and used the listings that it brings. It is one of the easiest Local SEO tricks you can implement and can make a huge impact for any local business. Local SEO is quite simply about attracting users within your area – in fact, a service business can actually define its service area.
If I Google “Sydney McDonalds” for example, the first thing you will see on the page is depicted in figure 1.1 on the next page.
The Google Business section gives you the largest real estate of any Google listing – which is why it’s so important that you have your business listed. It also gives options to contact or visit you directly, some info about your business and gives customers the ability to leave reviews (we talk more about this in section 7).
Additionally, if I search for a business on Google directly, or if Google believes that your business is
the closest pick for my Google search query, it will show your listing on the right as shown in figure 1.2.
The Google My Busines section gives you the largest real estate of any Google listing – which is why it’s so important that you have your business listed. It also gives options to contact or visit you directly, some info about your business and gives customers the ability to leave reviews (we talk more about this in section 7).
Google Business Profile Examples
How to setup your Google Business Profile
A. Make sure you don’t have an existing listing
First things first, check if you have an existing listing. The simplest way to do this is to Google your own business name. If nothing comes up on the right like shown in figure 1.2, then continue.
B. Use your Google account
Sign in to your Google account (or create one if you don’t have one). It’s important to use an existing account if you have one, just in case you have a listing started already and to keep everything in one place as we deal first-hand with the headaches of everything being spread over multiple accounts.
C. Follow Google’s steps
We know that it can be confusing, but Google does a great job of making it very straightforward. Follow the steps that Google gives you to get your listing set up. Try not to skip any of the fields unless you believe them to be truly irrelevant.
Further Considerations with your Google Business Profile
Optimising an existing Google Business Profile
There are plenty of things to consider to ensure your GMB is performing optimally. The short version is, essentially, to make sure you fill out every relevant section you can with accurate and consistent information. We have covered how you can set up or optimise your Google Business Profile on our blog.
What if I can’t access my Google Business Profile, or I have multiple listings?
If you can’t access your Google Business Profile you will need to do everything you can to dig up Google accounts that you, previous staff members or marketing professionals may have created for you. If you come up with nothing you will need to speak with Google about recovering access. You can request ownership of a Google Business listing, and remove duplicate Google Business listings.
One more thing to consider is if you have multiple listings for your business. This can cause problems and split the potential traffic you might see. It can be a painful process to merge the listings, and your best bet is generally to speak with an expert. If you want to give it a go yourself, you will need to reach out to Google to ask them to merge the accounts. They will give you steps to close the obsolete listing/s, which assumes you have access to all of them. One important thing to consider is if multiple listings have reviews you will want to consider how to move reviews across Google Business Profiles.
2. Mastering Google Analytics
Google Analytics doesn’t benefit your website’s ranking directly, but it is one of the most important tools for any business in tracking their website statistics. If you’re not tracking your website’s performance, how can you make decisions on how to improve it? Google Analytics tracks everything from the number of users visiting your website, where they’ve come from, what they’re doing on your site and, with further configuration, whether they convert or not. It does all of this with snapshot or granular detail, depending on how much you drill down. Don’t get us wrong, it may not be the simplest “reporting” tool to look at with the default layout – but even if you never look at Analytics, having it set up at all is an absolute must. In a couple of years’ time, the data it can provide is invaluable.
Setting up your Google Analytics account is super straightforward; it’s embedding the code on your website that some may find a little tricky. With countless, unique website setups out there, general advice wouldn’t be overly helpful, so we’ve spent the time to create an article that goes through setting up Google Analytics tracking code on some of the most common website platforms. If you get stuck, we recommend a quick call to your website support or marketing professional.
3. Keyword Research
This is another of those sections that is less about doing and more about knowing. Most people by now have heard the term “keyword”, but most simply a keyword can be a word or phrase that people use to search for something on Google. If I search for “marketing agency Sydney” in Google then, quite simply, that is the keyword. This is also referred to as the search term. Now that we’re all on the same page about what it is, here is why they’re important.
SEO and keywords are inseparable. Whilst keyword-first SEO methods aren’t as critical as they once were, understanding the searcher’s intent is extremely important to both Google, the user and your business. Knowing how people find your business gives you insight into the market and how your users search. Additionally, finding what search terms people use gives you an idea on how to target new keywords, or improve your Google ranking for those you already rank for. Finding out how your website currently performs on the keyword front is easy, thanks to the renowned marketing personality Neil Patel and his free tool, Ubersuggest.
It is so easy to use, and the results it gives are reasonably comparable to premium tools like those we use ourselves for clients (SEMRush, SE Ranking and Ahrefs). Just plug in in your website address, choose the country and hit search:
To see your keyword rankings, click the section at the top left titled “ORGANIC KEYWORDS”:
Each of the columns has tooltips (the question mark in the grey circle) that explain what they mean. The most important, and easiest to understand are VOL (volume), which is the number of monthly searches for that keyword, and POSITION (which is an average), which is where you sit on the Google result for the keyword (lower is better, position 1 being the best). If you can identify any that seem relevant and decent volume, but you are not on page 1 for (Position < 10), then these might be some potential targets. How competitive the keyword is, which is determined by how many competitors are trying to rank for it, is a big factor, so sometimes the highest volume is not always the best choice to invest all your resources into. This is where a professional eye is helpful, but having a basic understanding will help immensely if you want to tackle SEO yourself. Once you have a list of your keywords, you are equipped to move on to sections 4 and 5.
The tool provides more than just keyword info, so we encourage you to go exploring to see what else you can discover about your website and SEO performance.
4. Website Optimisation
There are plenty of items to cover when it comes to website optimisation for SEO. Here we will cover the concepts and some of the most basic, yet effective, tasks without getting bogged down on technical implementations. For the most part, Google is getting consistently better at rewarding websites that consider user experience, and so a lot of these optimisations have the added benefit of improvements to your website’s usability. The following items provide a brief insight into the basic optimisations that you can perform:
Improve your website’s loading speed
Website loading speed is an often overlooked yet very important one. So many people opt for cheap overseas website hosts that, even if they were operating good infrastructure, are slow simply for the distance they are from your visitors. Studies have shown that a slow website has a substantial opportunity cost associated with it. Another consideration is in minimising the resources that load on your website. Here is a quick list of tips to improve your website loading speed:
- Migrate your website to an Australian based and/or higher performance website host
- Reduce the physical size of, and compress images and videos before uploading. You will need to reduce the dimensions of images prior to uploading using Photo editing software or an image resizing tool. You can use image compression tools to reduce the file size of your images (losslessly or otherwise – meaning a reduction to the quality). Use JPEG files for photos, and reserve PNGs for logos and icons (or SVGs, even better!). As a rule of thumb, no image should be wider than 1920px, but they should be even smaller than this if they aren’t full width on your website.
- Reduce the amount of plugins that you install, and custom code that is used on your site
- Install caching systems. For WordPress a popular free plugin is https://wordpress.org/plugins/comet-cache/ or a premium caching plugin like WP Rocket. Note that moving forward, you may need to clear the cache after making changes for the changes to be reflected on the live site.
Ensure your website is 100% mobile responsive and performant on mobile
Mobile devices are used to access websites 51% of the time, on average. This is huge, and only increasing, so it’s absolutely essential that your website works well on the multitude of device options, phones and tablets. Check your website on mobile. Does it display correctly? Is it easy to use? Does it have the phone number visible and clickable straight away when loaded? These are the big questions to ask. Unfortunately, if your website is not optimised for mobile devices, it usually requires a redesign or switching themes to fix it. Most website builders allow you to switch themes with relative ease, but it may break some functionalities or pages.
Clear, relevant headings, page titles and page URLs
Since the dawn of search engines, most providers dictate that a page should have only one h1 heading, which is the most important heading on the page. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, or can’t see the ability to highlight and change a heading, then it’s likely that it defaults to the page title. When creating a new page, don’t call it “page 1”, give it a simple name that’s relevant to what it is. You can be a little more creative with the headings, but don’t overthink them. Use subheadings through the page where appropriate to categorise the sections, just like we have done in this very article.
Correctly naming and tagging your images
We covered image sizing and compression, but one other recommendation is to name your images appropriately and include ALT tags on your images. Give your image ad descriptive name, using the same for the ALT text to keep it simple. Most website builders will have the option to include ALT tags after you upload an image. The original intent for this field was for website browsers that can’t display images, which instead show the text in this field. Some might offer to “imagine you were describing the image to a person with their eyes closed”, but we think something more basic is fine. For example, if you operate a dog grooming business, and you had an image of a man grooming a dog, you might use “man grooming dog” as the ALT text. For the file name, the best naming convention would be to use “man-grooming-dog.jpg” – so that’s no spaces, no capitals, no other symbols. You might be tempted to input keywords in your image names and your ALT tags, such as using “dog grooming services Sydney”, which is known as “keyword stuffing” and was once an effective SEO hack. Note that inappropriately doing this is now perceived by Google as unnatural and spammy, and you will likely be penalised for keyword stuffing your image names and ALT tags. If in doubt, don’t do it. Google makes it pretty clear here:
Avoid filling alt attributes with keywords (keyword stuffing) as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam.Google Developers Site
The important part is that it’s there and that it’s natural, short and unique for each unique image.
Last but not least on our non-exhaustive website SEO optimisation list is something a little more mysterious and technical in nature. Metadata is basically extra data that you attach to a page to tell Search Engines extra or specific information. DIY website builders like Squarespace and Wix, give you the ability to add this by default within a page’s advanced or SEO settings. WordPress needs a plugin. For that we recommend Yoast or Rank Math. This information is actually what dictates how your search engine result appears when someone searches for your site. The meta title and meta description display as follows, with the title in blue and the description underneath:
This is often where your keywords from section 3 might come in – if it is appropriate and natural to do so you should think about how you can include your targetted keyword, or at least the intent behind them in these sections. An important note is that metadata does not directly impact your website’s SEO, and as above, keyword stuffing will provide no advantage. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that Click Through Rate (CTR) is an organic ranking factor. What this means is that if your website appears on a Google results page (called a SERP) and is clicked, this is a positive signal to Google to rank your website better. So, an engaging meta title and description should improve your ranking potential.
5. Write more content
Content has been a key area in Google’s algorithm changes over the recent years, where they are looking to reward quality, relevant and useful content above trashy or scarce content. It’s quite simple really – create more quality pages, manage a blog and rework your existing content. A good rule of thumb (we love those) is to try and get a page to at least 300 – 600 words, where it’s natural to do so. Again, circling back to section 3, writing content surrounding a keyword or “intent” is generally good practice. So ensure you have at least a page for all your major service/product offerings, and you can also think about additional relevant content that your users might find helpful where it relates to these keywords. As a small business, if you were able to put out a blog article once a week it would really add fuel to the fire that is your DIY SEO strategy. We recommend that you don’t get caught up on the frequency and just start somewhere.
6. Local Directories and Social Media
Registering for and optimising local directory listings
Local Directories, also known as online business directories or citation listings, are one of the simplest ways to plant your business on the map (both literally and figuratively) in Google search. A directory is an aggregated database of businesses around your country or region, with the intent of providing contact details and basic information to users. One of the most commonly known here in Australia is the [now] online Yellow Pages. The more quality listings you have, the more “ranking juice” you get. Here are some of the benefits offered:
- Easy SEO benefits
- Cheap, often free exposure
- Validates your contact information
- Strengthening your business reputation and online presence
- Builds trust and loyalty, as many have reviewing capabilities
- Builds brand awareness
- Provides access to targeted audiences through industry-specific directories
- Attracts new customers
Ensuring your contact details (Name, Address, Phone or NAP are 100% consistent across the listings is crucial. We’ve made a list of the most common mistakes, as well as the top 50 Australian business listings to sign up for on our blog. We recommend checking it out to save your time in mopping up errors later, not to mention having to find the right directories.
How Social Media impacts SEO
Lastly, social media. Everyone knows about it, but did you know that Social Media can actually help bolster your SEO presence? For one, Facebook pages are indexed by Google. At the very least, even if you’re not ready to build a strong social media presence we still recommend that you treat the social media platforms like you would the local directories above. We recommend signing up for business accounts and populating with basic business information on the following social networks:
Even better if you can actually make the time to use them! Combining marketing channels, called multi-channel marketing, lends to a much more effective strategy overall.
7. Get Reviews
Everyone knows that good reviews work, but we’re here to tell you that they also require hard work to get. If you’ve been in business for any significant amount of time, you will realise that there is a perception when it comes to reviews in the digital world, that good reviews are hard to come by, and bad reviews seem to be the easiest to get. Even though we all know that bad reviews are not necessarily indicative of your service/product quality (unless there is a pattern, of course, then you should pay particular attention them and solve some larger problems), yet people are often afraid to put a review strategy in place because of the fear of attracting bad or mediocre reviews. It doesn’t have to be like this.
Have a look at our How to Leave a Review article, which is something we encourage you to paraphrase and send to your clients as part of the post-sale process to gather reviews for your own business. It’s staggering to see the statistics when it comes to reviews. Check out the quick stats of BrightLocal’s 2022 Local Consumer Review Survey:
77% of customers “always” or “regularly” read online reviews for local businesses
67% will consider leaving a review for a positive experience, while 40% will consider leaving a review for a negative experience. Notice that people are more likely to leave a positive review than a negative
More consumers use Google to evaluate local businesses than ever before. In 2021, 81% did, but the year before that, just 63% did
In 2021, just 3% said they would consider using a business with an average star rating of two or fewer stars. That’s down from 14% in 2020. Eeek, so bad reviews do matter
57% say they would be ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ likely to use a business that doesn’t respond to reviews at allBrightlocal’s 2022 Local Consumer Review
It’s important to remember that you must request reviews ethically, that is, by following Google’s guidelines for Google reviews (when it comes to Google reviews). To play it safe, don’t offer any incentive for leaving a positive review – such as “leave us a 5-star review and you’ll receive X”. You can incentivise reviews (although Google states that these incentives can not be financial) across the board, but you’re not meant to pick and choose who to offer the incentives to.
It’s also very important to respond to your reviews, both good and bad. This shows the reviewer that you appreciate them and their feedback, and also shows onlookers that you care about your customers. If you receive a negative review, don’t fret! It is crucial that you respond in a calm and diffusing manner. This has the potential to alleviate the current situation, but more importantly, it shows other people your professionalism. In most cases people recognise that there are potential trolls and problematic customers everywhere. Ensure that you look like the good person, and you are doing everything you can to take constructive feedback into consideration.
If you managed to go through all of these tips and are now reading this, you’ve just taken some pretty big steps to growing your business. Why don’t you reward yourself – do something that you’ve been wanting to do for a while but haven’t had the time. It’s going to take time to see the fruits of what you’ve now done here, but we promise it will be valuable to your business. It may feel like you’ve done a lot, but you’ve only just scratched the surface of what is possible with SEO. In fact, all of the tips should be revisited after some time to ensure nothing is broken and that your online presence remains optimal. If you’ve skimmed over or skipped the above tips because you’re strapped for time or it’s too complicated, don’t stress – each little bit counts for something. Bookmark or save this article if you need.
If you’d prefer to look for a marketing agency to manage your SEO for you, a few tips
If you’d rather not have to deal with it yourself, then we recommend handing it over to the experts. Whether we are your experts of choice is your call, we’d love to help you out, but at the very least you need to make sure your marketing provider of choice adheres to, and you understand, the following concepts:
No dodgy practices
If an SEO agency package seems too good to be true, like most things in life it usually is. We have been in this space for over 10 years and have seen what really goes on behind closed doors. When the focus is on unbeatably cheap prices and high volume, quality is left behind and an agency can only afford to take shortcuts. Some examples are black-hat SEO, PBNs and keyword stuffing (As we’ve mentioned a few times above). Whilst is may provide small boosts initially, eventually the behaviour is penalised and you’re in a worse position than when you started.
That it’s important to choose someone who understands and ideally operates within the local region, in our case: Australia
Maybe you’re not worried about this, and don’t get us wrong, we have nothing against providers overseas. However, there are some problems that arise with marketing companies who operate or outsource too heavily overseas:
- Problems arise around communication. We know too well that communication is key. Where communication is problematic, mistakes happen, time is wasted, or milestones are forgotten.
- Delays. Not even due to the sheer time difference, but the marketing provider is operating on their own terms, with their own deadlines and clients in most cases
- Inability to have direct, or at least close, communication to the actual implementors
- Low-quality or outright unacceptable copywriting. With marketing, copywriting to some degree is inevitable. If someone who’s primary language isn’t in yours/your audience’s language, it is always noticeable. This can really cheapen your brand.
There are actually two sides to this. The point is that expectations and what you get should match up. There are plenty of circumstances where a client has the expectation to make $1mil in a year whilst only investing a few hundred per month into SEO, for example. This investment to return expectation ratio is a problem and no one ends up happy in the long run. This could be that the agency has overpromised just to get you to sign up or maybe a conversation was just never had about expectations. You are not comparing apples with apples between a $50 marketing gig on Fiverr and a $2000 monthly marketing scheme. The problem is, most business owners don’t have the technical understanding to be able to effectively compare the two. We mean this in the nicest way possible, but it’s true that you generally get what you pay for.
On the other side of the coin, there is the potential issue where you are literally not getting what you paid for and the agency is under-delivering. Where you are paying, hypothetically $1000 per month for SEO, and the agency is only giving you “$200” of value. We are not saying that an agency does this intentionally (although some do), but it often comes about due to a service quality issue, neglect or disorganisation on the agency’s part. The value of SEO is unfortunately not straightforward to quantify, and we don’t recommend you drilling the agency every month as that also sets the relationship off on the wrong foot.
Marketing (or any service for that matter) needs to be a win for you and a win for the agency, this is the core of good business.
Either way, we believe that it is up to both parties to put all cards on the table. The agency needs to spend the time educating you, the client, on what is reasonably achievable with your investment. As the client, it’s important to understand that, generally, a small investment should see a small return, and a large investment should deliver a large return.
One of the most common complaints we hear about other agencies usually boils down to communication, either poor or simply non-existant. The client didn’t know what the agency had done for the past 3 months, or the agency bludgeons the client with technical jargon leaving them confused. If you’re finding difficulties communicating with an agency initially then it’s better to flag it early, and amicably cut ties if it’s not improving.
Last but certainly not least, how skilled is the agency? Of course, at the end of the day the results you get are the most important part, and the sole reason for you undertaking marketing. If you’ve had a good read through this article, try asking about a few of the items to test the waters and see if they can talk the talk. Then test if they can walk it by asking about who they have worked with in the past. Yes, this information can all be fabricated, but most agencies who are “full of it” are not ones to take the time to make up case studies and ask for real reviews.
The most important thing to consider before working with an agency is choosing a provider you can trust, in both their level of care and competency.
We truly empathise with nightmarish agency stories and just want what’s best for our readers and our clients, and so we hope we’ve equipped you with some quality control methods so that you aren’t burned or outright robbed by too-good-to-be-true prices and promises. Go with your gut (it’s the age-old BS detector) and pay attention to red flags.
We’d absolutely love it if you were to book a free, no-obligation discovery call to see if we might be the right people to help you out. The worst that will happen is you’ll get some clarity and free value; we promise we don’t bite!