You’ve heard of SEO and have probably taken a swing at improving your own pet business’s SEO, but what do you really have to do to get your pet business seen by your target audiences, online?
SEO - which stands for ‘Search Engine Optimization’ - is the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of traffic to your digital channels (like your website) through non-paid search engine results.
But SEO is far more than that, which is why so many small businesses use it to grow their presence and awareness online. When you practice SEO, it helps you understand what people are searching for, the questions they need answered, and the type of content they’re looking for.
By practising SEO, you can collect invaluable insights, data, and analytics that help you better understand your target customer and deliver your digital content to them in the most effective way.
An important thing to keep in mind about SEO is that search engines are smart, which means using approaches like black-hat SEO (a type of SEO that violates the terms of most search engines) or click-bait content to grow your awareness online won’t serve your business in the long run!
With that being said, let’s dive into SEO fundamentals for your small business!
SEO vs. SERP
As we mentioned above, ‘SEO’ is the practice of increasing the quality and amount of traffic to your digital channels (like your website) by aligning your content with search engines standards and queries.
But another term you’ll see connected closely with SEO is ‘SERP’, otherwise known as ‘Search Engine Results Page’. This is the order in which search results are displayed to a site user after they perform their search. In other words, where content ranks in search results and on which page.
Small businesses should pay attention to SERP because it denotes how effective and relevant their content is in answering the question people search for in engines like Google or Bing.
Organic vs. Non-organic SEO Results
Organic search results are those that you get from unpaid SEO efforts. In other words, these results are earned through highly effective SEO as opposed to paid results (such as online advertising).
Organic results are the best kind to pursue because they reflect how effectively your business’s content online answered a search query that many people are searching for, based on relevance!
Non-organic search results are simply those that have been achieved through paid advertising. This means that businesses have paid to have their content or websites shown higher in search results by paying to target specific keywords.
While both are effective means of growing exposure to your business and driving traffic to your online channels (social, website, landing pages, etc) achieving organic SEO results means your content is naturally relevant and important to people searching for answers or solutions, and that’s a GOOD thing!
Where to use SEO
SEO isn’t just for advertisements or blog content, though a lot of businesses will use it this way. When practicing SEO, your goal should be to have your business always rank higher than your competitors when people search for different answers or use different keywords. That means that you never want to rely on just one source of SEO to get your business noticed in search results.
For example, most businesses today have blogs for the sole purpose of using content (like blog articles) to grow awareness of their brand online and show up more frequently in search results. But your blog or a popular blog article isn’t the only way you can use SEO.
Instead, SEO should be implemented through a strategy that’s dedicated to improving your SEO over time. That means that your website, blog articles, and even social media content all has to be optimized for search.
Keep in mind that creating just any content won’t do the trick to help you improve your SEO or SERP, nor will randomly using keywords as much as possible throughout your website or content marketing. Instead, you want to create high quality content that solves a problem your audience has, as that is really the essence of good SEO!
If you see more businesses prioritize quality content and content marketing above simply using keywords wherever they can, that’s because they know how effective good content can be in getting their keywords to rank them higher in search results.
Think of your content as a sandwich, where the keywords are the filling but the bread (what holds your content together and helps make it high quality) is the content you create or write.
SEO best practices
When we think of SEO best practices, we think of the small set of tasks you can do to help improve your business’s ranking in search and make it easier for people to find you and your content online.
While there are many ways you can rank higher in search, it’s important to get the basics down first so you build a foundation for your business online.
Use your keyword(s) early on
We mentioned earlier that you want to avoid using keywords randomly in your content, but you do need to use your keyword or your target keywords a handful of times throughout. The main point, however, is where you use them!
Google puts more weight on keywords or terms that appear near the top of content, which means you’ll want to use your keyword early on in your content. Don’t bury the lead - for example, if you can use your keyword in the first 20-30 words of your content, that can be more impactful than using it 20 times in the middle or end of your content.
Write unique titles, descriptions and content for each web page
Search engines like Google don’t actually like duplicate content, even if it’s in the meta-description or title of your web pages. So it’s doubly important that you make your content unique for each web page of your site.
In other words, if you have more than one page on your website, every page has to have content that’s unique to that page.
That means that the following elements also have to be unique:
Don’t forget about your Title Tags
Title tags are important because these are the titles of content users will see when they crawl through search results. It’s the title you see, for example, when you find a blog article on Google with a description of what the article is about.
The easiest way to optimize your title tags? Front-load them.
Front-loading your title tags just means putting your target keyword at the beginning of the title, as opposed to the middle or the end!
Because search engines pay close attention to that keyword and where it’s placed, front-loading your title tags is a very easy tactic that you can do for any page and blog article on your site.
If it doesn’t make sense to use your keyword at the very beginning of your title tag, no biggie! Simply try to use it as early on in the title tag as you can.
Oh, and using multiple keywords in one title tag? It may seem like a good idea, but Google doesn’t like this, and it can actually harm your content’s ranking in search. It’s known as ‘keyword stuffing’ and you’re better off avoiding it!
Optimize your website’s loading speed
One of the rare ranking factors that search engines like Google don’t always talk about is loading time or loading speed.
But Google has made it pretty clear that the loading speed of your website (especially on mobile) can impact your ranking in search results, so always taking load time or load speed into account is crucial.
Before you make any moves in creating a better load time/speed for your site, first consider your sight’s current loading speed, using a tool like PageSpeed Insights tool.
Once you understand your current loading speed or time, you can then move onto improving your site’s loading speed using tactics like the following:
Compress larger image files
Use a theme or template already optimized for speed and mobile
Limit the amount of video on your site to only those videos that effectively tell your brand’s story
If using GIFs or animations, use the same tip above
Use your images for SEO
Would you be surprised to learn that your images could be optimized to help your SEO?
Google reported in 2019 that properly-optimized images can help your pages rank higher in search results, and that’s good news for small businesses (especially if you have product pages with images!).
Fortunately, optimizing your images is SUPER easy to do, even if you use a CMS like Wordpress, Shopify or Squarespace!
Here are a few tips:
Change image file names to descriptive lines of text that incorporate your keyword
Use descriptive alt-text on all images (which Google also uses to understand images!)
If you can use captions on photos, optimize those with descriptions and your keyword(s), too
Take advantage of your existing content with internal linking
One of the simplest ways you can boost your SEO efforts is by using internal linking.
This concept is an easy one: all you need to do is link from one page in your site to another page in your website, but you want to ensure that any internal linking you use makes sense.
For example, if you’re writing a blog post on SEO but also mention content marketing throughout the article, linking to a previous blog post you have on content marketing (like we did above) is an example of using internal linking in a natural way.
Internal linking is a great way of boosting the searchability and awareness of content in your website through search engine results. This can be useful for boosting content that may not have performed well in the past and could use a ‘pick me up’ in search results!
Use social media as an SEO tool
Social media isn’t just for brand awareness anymore.
In fact, your business’s social media accounts (like Instagram or Facebook) can show up in search results just as a blog article or website could.
That’s because people now use social media platforms as search engines to find businesses, content, and products just like they do Google and other search engines.
So optimizing all aspects of your social platforms is important so that search engines can find those platforms.
Here are a few ways you can optimize your social media platforms:
Edit your bios or ‘About’ pages on social platforms to include relevant hashtags and keywords
Share content consistently and update your platforms regularly
Make sure your platforms are accessible (such as Public profiles on Instagram)
Use geo-tagging, account tagging, and hashtags on all posts
Regularly share quality content
Many businesses today practice content marketing because they realize the value of reaching audiences full of customers by providing value through content.
The key to being successful with content marketing isn’t just creating quality content but creating and sharing it regularly. For example, if you’re going to create a blog for your business, it’s more effective for you to regularly and consistently post content than it is to post one article per month and forget about putting out any other content.
When creating content for your business, it’s important to keep in mind that any content you create should revolve around the knowledge and expertise you have as a business and how it can help or benefit your customer.
Here are a few tenets of content marketing to consider before you dive in!
Post regularly - don’t worry so much about creating magazine-quality content and focus more on creating consistent content you can post regularly
Focus on solutions - make your content solution-focused for your customer and not all about your business
Drive value - whether you use listicles or long-form content, make sure there’s a point of value in your content that your customers can see, feel, or use
Use your brand voice - every business has a brand voice, and it’s important that the voice resonates through your content so all content is consistent (this can help build brand recognition, too!)
Keep at it!
At the end of the day, the only way to improve your SEO and see what works (and what doesn’t) for your business is to start! That means that, regardless of where your SEO initiatives are right now, there is always room to improve your SEO. And while it can seem overwhelming, having a solid foundation on which you can build your SEO is the most important part of getting started. So go forth and try these simple tips today to start improving your small business SEO!