What Is SEO? — Improving SEO for Small Businesses

When beginning building a business website, you will most likely run into the terms "search engine optimization" and "SEO." However, if you are still wondering “What is SEO?” and “Why do I need SEO for my website?”, we’re here to help. 

This article covers these questions and more to help you understand search engine optimization as it pertains to your business marketing strategy.

Want to learn more about the basics of search engine optimization? Check out our SEO 101 article for more.

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves editing various aspects of your website so that they are better understood by search engines like Google and Bing. By optimizing your website’s pages, images, products, and more, search engines will know when to show your website in search results

Having a well-optimized website leads to more traffic, more leads, and ultimately, more customers or clients. Best of all, SEO doesn’t need to cost anything. If you are willing to put in the work yourself, SEO becomes an affordable way to drive more traffic to your business website

To learn more about SEO and what every business website needs, use these helpful articles:

Why Do I Need SEO for My Business?

When a visitor begins a search on Google, the search engine tries to show them the best possible results for the keyword or phrase they have entered. But how does Google know which web pages are relevant to this particular search? This is where SEO comes in. Google analyzes your website’s content, images, and metadata to determine what your page is about and if it is a good fit for what visitors are searching for. 

While there are many ways to drive traffic to your business website, such as paid advertising and social media marketing, SEO is one of the easiest ways to increase website traffic without a hefty marketing budget.

On the other hand, missing or incorrect information could result in loss of website traffic and missed opportunities for leads and sales. There are lots of ways to improve your business website’s SEO strategy. We’ve narrowed it down to these four types of SEO that are easy to update with very little technical knowledge.

Keyword Research

One of the most important steps in any SEO strategy is performing keyword research for your business. This task involves using different tools, some of which are free, to analyze which search terms are being used most by your target customers. 

Having a list of frequently searched keywords handy can help you optimize your website’s content, titles, images, products, and more to better represent what potential customers are looking for. One of the best options is to use the keyword research tools offered by search engines for free including Google Search Console, Google Ads Keyword Planner, and Bing Webmaster Tools

These free tools will give you pertinent details about your targeted keywords, like monthly search volume and competition density, and will also give you other ideas for keywords and phrases you may not have thought of. 

There are other paid tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Moz that offer a more robust set of features at a much higher price point. However, if you’re just looking to improve SEO for one business website, sticking to the free tools 

Types of SEO

While this is not an exhaustive list, here are four different types of SEO that most business owners find to be both cost-effective and beneficial.

On-Page SEO

Updating your website for on-page SEO might be the easiest place to start. On-page SEO refers to using keyword research to fine-tune the content on each of your website’s pages. 

Search engines will always scan a page’s content to determine its relevance to a visitor’s search, so it’s important that your pages include relevant search terms and valuable information. Updating your website’s on-page SEO can involve a variety of tasks including updating headings and paragraphs, meta titles, descriptions, and formatting on-page text properly.

One common mistake to avoid is keyword-stuffing. For example, let’s say you have a dog grooming business and you want your website to show up whenever someone in your area searches for dog groomers. It is not a good idea to add the keyword “dog groomer” to every other sentence in hopes that Google sees your website as a viable result for searches. Nowadays, search engine algorithms are wired to recognize keyword-stuffing and will penalize a website if a keyword is considered “too dense”.

It is good practice to focus on creating web pages that are useful, informative, and captivating. Remember to sprinkle those keywords into the content as opposed to centering your content around a single word or phrase.

Off-Page SEO

Another type of SEO that may be easy to account for is off-page SEO. This area involves all of the external mentions your website gets from various sources like social media, features on other websites, and pages that link back to your website. 

If you’ve ever searched for a business online, you’re likely to find social media links for that business somewhere on that first page of results. This helps visitors find other ways to contact or learn more about your business. If you don’t already have a social media presence or if your social media accounts could use a little love, try updating your profile and posting more frequently to aid in your overall SEO strategy.

Backlinks refer to any link on another webpage that links back to your website. This area of SEO can be a little harder to manage for some business owners as it involves a lot of outreach and monitoring. If you can find a reputable source to review or feature your business and include a link back to your website within the article, that backlink can do wonders for strengthening your website’s position. On the other hand, if spam websites are found linking back to your website, it could hurt your website’s position. This can get a bit technical, so if you’re unsure of whether you want to dive deeper and take this on yourself, it may be a good idea to hire an SEO expert for this task. 

Image SEO

Another way to improve SEO for your business is to update your website’s images with all relevant keyword information. Two places that search engines look for keywords in regards to images in the image title and image alt–text. When you save an image you want to use on your website, try to save it using a keyword in the name of the file. This is a quick and easy way to let search engines know more about your webpage’s content. 

Alt text is the underlying text attached to an image from accessibility screen readers. Alt text should technically be a description of the image so that screen readers can describe the image in context. However, if it makes sense to add a keyword from your research into the alt text description, it may help your business’s SEO strategy.

Technical SEO

Before you panic and disregard technical SEO altogether, it’s important to note that not all “technical SEO” is very technical. Technical SEO is a term that refers to the underlying bits of code and features that help search engine bots crawl your website. Ways to improve technical SEO can include adding a sitemap to your website, monitoring 404 errors and missing pages, adding redirections where needed, and using structured data features on your website’s pages. 

A sitemap is exactly what it sounds like: a map of your business website. Your business website sitemap will include the entire hierarchy of your site. Most website builders come with built-in sitemaps, so it’s not something that the average business owner has to undertake themselves. One exception is for business owners using WordPress, in which case there are always free plugins like Yoast SEO or Rank Math to create sitemaps for you. 

Depending on your builder, a lot of features like structured data and redirections may also be included right inside the platform.

Hiring an SEO Expert

Running a business is already a time-consuming endeavor and running your business website can sometimes be overwhelming. If you don’t feel as if you have the time or energy to manage your website or keep up with your SEO, it may be a good idea to hire an SEO expert to handle these tasks for you. 

SEO is a living, breathing mechanism that needs to be regularly updated. As you can imagine, search engine ranking and results are constantly changing, and doing these tasks once or infrequently may not be enough to keep up with the competition. It may be helpful to hire a reputable SEO agency or even an SEO freelancer to monitor your website’s performance in search results and update your SEO strategy regularly.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve answered the question “What is SEO?’” and reviewed the four main types of SEO that may be beneficial to your business, you can begin to strategize to improve your website’s ranking in search engine results.

Getting your website to the top of search results is no small task, but it can be rewarding as it puts your business website in front of potential customers that are looking for exactly what you have to offer. 

For other ways to improve your website’s standing, read our other helpful articles: