Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website on non-paid search engine result pages. And we all know what that means, right? Yup. Making sure potential customers actually can find you online.

In fact, 97% of consumers use the internet when researching local products and services. In other words, SEO is absolutely crucial if you want people to find you on search engines like Google or Bing.

SEO is like real estate – it’s a long-term investment. It’s a source of traffic you own, not rent – unlike expensive ad-hoc advertising. We had a chat with our very own SEO expert Erwan Derlyn to pick his brain on his best tips for how small businesses can get started with SEO.

How much does SEO have to cost?

– SEO traffic is free and probably the only online marketing channel where you can compete with bigger companies by putting time and creative thinking into building a relevant website and crafting content for your audience. As a small business owner, you know your customers and your market inside-out, so you should really think twice before delegating your SEO strategy to a consultant.

Where do you start?

– Well, let’s go back to the basics for a short while. SEO is all about making sure potential customers (or diners) find you when they’re searching for something online. So, let’s say you run a burger joint in Manchester and you’re wondering which keywords to include on your brand new website. What you want to include are the most frequently used search words that are relevant to your business, such as “Best burger in Manchester”, “Burger restaurant in Manchester”, and so on.

The secret to succeed with SEO is to be as specific and relevant in your search words as possible. So in the example above you could even get even more narrow by adding “The best cheeseburger for lunch in Manchester” if you’re famous for your cheeseburger and open during lunch hours (to exclude all dinner-seeking persons).

What are the main do’s and don’ts?

Do: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes! What are they looking for online? What type of content do they seem to like the most – blog posts, videos, infographics? Use tools like buzzsumo.com or Google Trends to identify what content is popular in your industry. Find inspiration but create unique content! Think about creating content outside of your website as well. Maybe there are popular blogs or forums where you could be invited to write?

Don’t: Copy others! Duplicate content can be identified as a way to manipulate search results by Google, so just be yourself and come up with your own recipe for successful content.

How do you measure the results and see if it works?

– First of all, an important thing to keep in mind when talking about SEO results is that it takes time to see them. You won’t be able to see any results overnight, but if you don’t see any results after six months, you probably want to refine your strategy.
Also, you should make sure to set some goals with your SEO strategy before you get started. Maybe to get more people to reserve table at your restaurant on your website? Different goals calls for different strategies.

When you know what to look for, Google provides some great free tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console that are great to follow the performance of your website and to identify improvements of your SEO strategy.

Stay tuned for more Business Hacks about how to get started with SEO. The second part of my interview with Erwan Derlyn will soon be published. If you can’t handle the wait, then I’ll suggest you take a look at this video from Google on how the get started.