When operating a home-based business, one of your biggest hurdles is awareness; that is, getting your products or services in front of the right people. With over 4.2 billion people online and almost no barriers to entry, the internet is often the best place to start and grow your business. The question is, how do you compete with the almost 2 billion other websites out there?
If you don’t have the budget to flood the internet with ads or the expertise to know how to do this effectively, SEO is a safe bet. These days, whether you’re running ads or not, it’s extremely important to rank highly on search engines. And with Google owning over 70% of market share, a relevant and high first page ranking on Google alone could make your business a success.
Let’s start with a thorough explanation of what we mean when we refer to SEO.
As you may already know, SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and is a method of increasing your website’s visibility in search engines like Google or Bing, based on factors like the speed, content, structure, and backlinks — essentially the ecosystem around, and the structure of, your website.
SEO is how you communicate to search engines what your website is about, so they recognize when and where to show it.
Below are a few tips on maximizing SEO for your home business’s website.
There’s a fair chance someone out there is also providing the service you’re providing or offering the product you’re selling in one form or another, but this is a major benefit when it comes to SEO. In the world of SEO, you can dissect what your main competitors are doing to identify what works and what doesn’t. This is known as competitor research.
You can figure out what searches they’re ranking top-ten for, what type of content they’re producing, and what types of links they have from other websites back to their website (known as backlinks). If you don’t have a direct competitor, you can instead look at businesses whose goods or services overlap with yours and still get an idea of what more you could be doing.
Pay close attention to whether they have Google search ads running, and what searches they are running ads on. These searches are known as “keywords” or “search terms”, and running ads on a particular keyword can be indicative of high value.
This brings us to a major cornerstone of SEO: keyword research!
SEO often comes down to what keywords you’re targeting with your website and how, so keyword research can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.
Whether you’re starting your home business or attempting to grow it, it is always worth brainstorming initially what words and phrases are related to your business and/or your competitor’s business.
You can then make use of any competitor research you’ve done to add the list of keywords they are currently targeting too.
Once you have a list, you can identify which of these words and phrases could mean that someone intends to make a purchase. An example of this could be someone searching for handmade cards. A phrase like “handmade card ideas” is significantly different than “handmade cards for sale”. The first indicates someone looking for a how-to guide, whereas the second would appear to be someone who wants to buy a handmade card. This is called purchase intent.
Knowing the difference between keywords that indicate purchase intent and those that don’t can help you prioritize which words you focus on first.
There are two main areas on each webpage to focus on; first, the content on the page and how you’re structuring it. Second, the efficiency (how quickly the page itself loads), which is affected by factors like the size of the images, but more on this later.
First, let’s think about the content on the page, as it is the easier of the two.
Ensuring the content on each page of your website is fully optimized will make a significant difference in your search engine rankings. The structure of the content combined with other factors like keyword placement could boost your traffic.
A well-organized site with easy navigation helps Google index your pages. The fewer number of clicks needed to reach a product or service page, the better. Depending on the nature of your business and the type of products you sell, you may require multiple categories, with several subcategories under each. Make this clear and logical.
Using the main keywords in the page title, headings, and subheadings makes it easy for search engines to understand what your content is all about. Longer keyword phrases can be ideal subheadings.
Product descriptions should always include the main keyword, and don’t forget to use alt tags in all product images that include the keywords and key information. Over 20% of searches in the US alone are done on Google Images, and both Google and Bing check alt text in their algorithms. This is particularly important if your home business sells a physical product.
Cross linking is another effective SEO technique. Cross link pages with similar content as well as related products or services. Visitors will stay on your site longer and you’ll be sending a clear signal to search engines that they are relevant.
Fresh content that’s useful and engaging will also keep visitors on your site, so you should update content as often as possible. This can be done with a “Blog” section.
A bonus tip is to update any content you have on your website that specifies a date, e.g. “Best … 2020” to “Best…2021”.
Page Efficiency and Site Speed
The speed of your website is how long it takes for a chosen page on your site to load up completely once clicked on. This includes images, text, and any other resources you may have on the page. Google uses site speed in its ranking algorithm, and a website that loads faster will outrank those that are slower.
You’ll need to use images in optimized formats and avoid using overly large images where possible. But don’t forget that depending on what content management system you’re using (for example, WordPress or Squarespace), there may be plugins that slow down your website and additional pieces of code. This can all sound complex, but luckily Google has a tool to help you determine how well any page on your site is performing. The tool, PageSpeed Insights, grades your website speed on a scale of one (bad) to a hundred (excellent). Google PageSpeed Insights clearly shows you which parts of your website may be costing you points and what you need to do to improve.
It’s worth mentioning that you will more than likely get different results for your performance on mobile devices compared to desktop devices. You should generally focus on your mobile performance, since over 50% of traffic online is mobile and this continues to trend upwards. In addition, improving your mobile performance generally improves your desktop performance simultaneously.
SEO When You’re Rebranding
When you’re rebranding, it’s important to avoid losing ground.
- You can check your website’s SEO positioning with tools like Majestic.com or Semrush.com. This will tell you how many links you currently have to your site and your actual website ranking. Although each of them has their own metrics for ranking, generally speaking, this is based on the quality of the sites linking to you (quality meaning how trusted or well recognized they are), the quantity of links pointing to your website (which usually indicates importance), and the relevance of the links pointing to your website based on the content of your site and the content of the site linking to you.
- When you’re rebranding, you’ll likely have a new domain. The absolute best thing to do is to retain ownership of your former domain, as this will stop others from being able to purchase it and benefit from all the work you’ve done in the past. Holding on to your former domain also allows you to keep your customers in the loop and control what happens when they go to your former domain instead of the new one.
- Remember to let your customers know that you’re rebranding. I’d suggest having a “splash page” on your previous website to let people know that you’ve moved over to the new one.
- For the new domain, the ideal thing to do, if you can, would be to move over (or “migrate”) all the content from your previous site to the new one and use a 301 redirect on your former content to let search engines know that the same content is available on this new site — you can request this from your web developer. If you redirect in the correct way, you won’t lose any of your domain (or page) authority, as all the links that pointed to your previous domain will now be treated as pointing to your new one; provided you don’t make any major structural changes, everything else should remain the same.
- You’ll also want to keep search engines in the loop by sending clear signals of your association with your former website. Try doing this with your page title and homepage first, for example, by adding “formerly” and your previous brand name after your new brand name whenever possible. To go further with this, you could crawl the content you moved over from your former website to find any mention of your former brand name, adding this same phrasing there as well.
- Finally, if your business has been mentioned anywhere online with the former branding, it’s worth reaching out to find out if they’d be willing to update this. Keep in mind that not everyone will be willing or able to do this, but this can be a significant win if they do.