SEO for small businesses: what it is and why it matters

Marketing and brand

24 May 2018

You’ve registered with Google My Business and taken your first steps towards search engine optimisation (SEO). But what’s next?

What else can small businesses do to drive traffic to your web pages and attract new customers?

To help, here’s AXA’s guide to easy, actionable and free ways to make sure your site is seen by search engines (and readers) through SEO.

Choose your keywords carefully

Keywords are the link between you and your customer: they are the words that customers type in online to search for a business like yours. When writing anything on your website or blog, choose the same words that your customers are using, and the search engines will send them your way. To get an understanding of the language your audience is using, try taking a look at your competitors, do some searches yourself to see what has higher results, or try free keyword tools which are available online – like Google's own – which can help you find what people are already searching for.

Don't overuse search terms

Some years ago, everyone was ‘keyword stuffing’, leading to awful, unnatural sentences on company websites like "for the best florist in Leeds visit our florist in Leeds for the best flowers in Leeds". Happily, this is now a search engine no-no, and ‘keyword stuffing’ is likely to have your site penalised by search engines like Google. Instead, well-written content using natural language which is useful to your audience ranks far higher, so use your keywords sparingly and naturally.

Catch more traffic with long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords break a subject down by going into more detail. Businesses with a lot of competition use them to differentiate themselves and capture niche audiences. So "reptile pet shops in Manchester” will bring more specific searches than just “pet shops”. Try the free tool on Answer the Public for long-tail suggestions.

Organise your content for more impact

Search engines like relevant and well-written content – and so do your readers. Opinions on optimum word count vary, but broadly speaking, aim for 250+ words per page. Breaking your copy up into digestible chunks is always good practice and helps make it readable on all devices.

When you’re creating your content, think about the format. Search engines look at the organisation of your page – and a good layout appeals more to readers, too. Your web designer can help you understand the standard structures.

Titles, tags and meta descriptions

There’s another piece of writing you need to get right: your website’s title tag and meta description. Your website’s title is the clickable headline you see on search engine results pages, while the meta description is the 160-character “snippet” which describes the page in a search result.

These give the visitor an insight about your business – and if the snippet doesn’t tick their boxes, they may not click on your website. Encourage visits by getting your main selling points into this mini-masterpiece. More tips on writing titles and meta descriptions can be found via

Get blogging

Blogging provides fresh content, letting customers and search engines know you’re open for business. An engaging, well-written blog could also set you up as an expert in your field. Posts from guest bloggers can cross-promote your companies to new audiences – and build links that will help you rise up the rankings.

Link up for extra attention

As well as links to other websites, have some internal links too. These establish a hierarchy on your site, highlighting the most important pages (the ones that you want the search engines to find). You can also attract backlinks (links to your site from others’ that boost your ranking) by guest blogging or getting your business reviewed.

Use social media to drive traffic

Social media is a great driver of traffic, and your blog provides unique content to for you to share. You can try the main social platforms for free: Google Analytics will tell you which are generating the most traffic, and at what times of day. You’ll already have an idea based on your business and audience: Instagram works for visually strong businesses, Facebook for wordier posts, LinkedIn for business to business.

Check out your competitors

Have a look at the competition. Do your own searches: what do the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) look like? If you’re seeing a lot of competitors, refining your search terms into long-tailed keywords can help. If high-ranking rivals are using a lot of images or videos, maybe they’re on to something?

It’s definitely worth investing your time in an SEO strategy. There are a lot of online tools to help small businesses with everything from SEO to marketing and finance – like Business Guardian Angel – and they won’t blow the budget.

And for more information on getting started on search engines, take a look at AXA’s How To Get Your Business On Google.