SEO Demystified – A step by step guide to rank your website in Google using SEO

Whether you realise it or not, most people’s buying journeys today start with SEO

That’s what makes SEO so important

In this blog, we’re diving deep into the art of ranking your small business website on Google – the world’s most widely used search engine. This is where most customers initiate their journey to explore your products and services before becoming leads and, ultimately, customers.

With over 13 years of experience and countless websites ranked, I’ve witnessed the dynamic nature of SEO. Google’s algorithms are ever-changing, keeping even SEO professionals on their toes. I’m here to share my wealth of knowledge, empowering you to get your small business website noticed by those actively searching for your offerings on Google.

In this blog, we’ll look at critical topics like keyword research, on-page optimisation, off-page optimisation, and everything in between to ensure your website takes the top spot on Google.

The Significance of SEO in the Buyer’s Journey

SEO is vital to the buyer’s journey. Customers typically fall into one of four stages. They might not be aware of the problem or are ‘problem-aware’ but not actively seeking a solution. Targeting them with search engine optimisation (SEO) can be challenging in these stages. The next phase involves customers considering available solutions.

This is where SEO  comes into play. People use search engines to define their problems and seek solutions. They search for answers to questions like, “How can I solve this problem?” or “What’s the best product for this issue?” Once they understand the problem and potential solutions, they move on to the final stage—looking for a vendor to do business with.

Whether you’re a novice entrepreneur seeking guidance or a seasoned SEO practitioner searching for improvement, I’ll simplify SEO concepts free of technical jargon – and break down what it all means for your business.

Understanding Keywords for SEO

Successfully ranking your website on Google begins with understanding what your customers are searching for. You need to grasp their needs, the problems they’re trying to solve, and why they’re turning to search engines for answers.

“Keywords are at the core of the SEO process. They are the words and phrases people type into search engines to find information.” 

Keywords can be classified into four types:

1. Informational Keywords: Queries like “What’s the weather like in Queensland?” or “How do you convert Fahrenheit to Celsius?” They’re used to seek general information.

2. Navigational Keywords: Users enter these when looking for a specific website, location, or place. For instance, searching for a company’s homepage or a nearby restaurant falls into this category.

3. Commercial Keywords: These keywords indicate commercial intent. Examples include “Plumber Sydney” or “Electrician near me.” Users are explicitly searching for businesses or services.

4. Transactional Keywords: Similar to commercial keywords, these indicate an imminent transaction. People search for products like “Moleskine diary” or “Thermos cup.”

As a small business owner, your initial focus should be on commercial and transactional keywords. These keywords target users who are further along in the buying cycle. They already understand their problem and are actively seeking solutions or local businesses to engage with.

Creating A Solid SEO Foundation 

Start your SEO strategy by conducting keyword research for commercial and transactional keywords. Identify the keywords most relevant to your business. For service-based companies, it might be keywords like “Lawyer Brisbane” or “Plumber Sydney.” For product-based companies, consider keywords related to your products, such as “Chrome taps” or “Plumbing store near me.”

To gather keyword data, you can use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs. These tools provide insights into how many people search for specific keywords each month in your target location. While the search volume data may not be 100% accurate, it’s still highly valuable for planning your SEO strategy.

SEMrush, for instance, offers a “Keyword Magic Tool” that generates related keywords, helping you expand your list. Remember, Google Ads’ Keyword Planner provides the most accurate data, but it requires significant ad spend to access.

So, start by identifying the commercial and transactional keywords relevant to your business using these tools. This will form the foundation of your SEO strategy.

Keyword Research and Optimisation

When diving into keyword research for your SEO strategy, it’s crucial to identify keywords with a substantial search volume. Ideally, you should target keywords with 10, 20, 30 – or more monthly searches. However, the more people searching for a keyword, the higher the competition.

For instance, targeting a keyword like “Plumber Sydney” would be incredibly competitive because many plumbers in Sydney are vying for that top spot.

‘Ranking for such a keyword from scratch could take years as established businesses continually invest in SEO, widening the gap between competitors.’

Your approach should involve getting specific about the keywords your potential customers are likely to search for. Avoid overly broad keywords like “plumbers” or “lawyers.” Broad terms often encompass various intents, making it challenging to cater to all of them effectively.

Instead, focus on more specific keywords that align with users looking to engage in services. For instance, consider “lawyers in [suburb]” or “divorce lawyers in [suburb].” The more precise your keywords, the better Google can understand user intent and provide relevant results.

Google does an excellent job interpreting user intent. If you search for “plumbers” and Google detects your location, it will prioritise local plumbers in your search results. That’s why you should optimise for specific areas and let Google determine the geographical relevance.

In summary, during keyword research:

1. Target keywords with sufficient search volume.

2. Avoid overly broad terms.

3. Be specific and use keywords that align with customer intent.

Once you have your list of target keywords, the next step is on-site or on-page optimisation. This involves adjusting your website to maximise its chances of ranking for those keywords.

On-Page Optimisation

Now, let’s delve into the second step of SEO: on-page optimisation. Once you’ve conducted thorough keyword research, it’s time to optimise your website to rank for those keywords. One important rule to remember is to optimise one page per keyword.

For instance, if your law firm offers various legal services like family law, commercial law, criminal law, and personal injury law, avoid trying to optimise your homepage for all these keywords. Doing so can confuse Google, making understanding your page’s focus challenging.

Instead, create individual pages dedicated to each keyword. If you want to optimise for “personal injury lawyer Brisbane,” create a page about personal injury law in Brisbane. Provide detailed information about this service, the Brisbane market, common accidents in the area, and why you excel as a personal injury lawyer in Brisbane.

When optimising a page for a keyword, ensure the keyword is present in critical elements like:

1. Title Tag: Include the keyword in your page’s title tag.

2. Meta Description: Use the keyword in the meta description.

3. Heading Tags: Utilise the keyword in the H1 tag (only one per page) and H2 tags for related keywords.

4. Content: Place the keyword in your content’s first and last sentence.

5. Images: Tag images with an alt attribute containing the keyword.

These practices help Google’s algorithm understand the page’s topic and intent. Remember not to overdo it by excessively repeating keywords, as this may look like keyword stuffing and can harm your SEO efforts. Just be natural about it, but include it in the sections I mentioned above. 

Optimising your website’s on-page elements is crucial because Google’s search engine algorithm relies on data cues to determine page relevance. Follow these on-page optimisation practices to ensure your website ranks well for your chosen keywords, follow these on-page optimisation practices.

You’ve now laid the foundation for a strong SEO strategy with keyword research and on-page optimisation. These initial steps are essential in helping your website gain visibility on Google and attract potential customers actively searching for your products or services.

Technical Optimisation and Backlinks

Now, let’s move on to the technical aspects of optimisation and building the credibility of your web page. First, let’s touch on technical optimisation. While this topic can be complex, I’ll keep it simple for small business owners.

One critical aspect is ensuring your website loads quickly. Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool can help you assess your page’s loading time. Aim to minimise loading times, as a slow website can frustrate users. Compressing images without compromising quality can significantly improve load times.

Additionally, invest in a reliable hosting service. Cheap shared servers may hinder your site’s performance. WP Engine is an excellent choice for WordPress websites, offering speed, security, and daily backups.

Another critical metric is Time to First Byte (TTFB), which measures the time it takes to receive the first server response. Keeping TTFB below 200 milliseconds is advisable. Choose a server location close to your target audience or use a content delivery network (CDN). Page speed is crucial, especially for mobile users, so ensure your site loads quickly.

Backlinks, Credibility And Authority

Now, let’s talk about building credibility for your page. Creating a new page on your website starts with zero credibility in Google’s eyes. To improve this, you need backlinks—links from other websites to yours.

However, acquiring backlinks is a challenging task. For local businesses, start by optimising your business citations. Ensure your business details (name, address, phone number) are consistent across online directories, such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Yellow Pages.

Backlinks from authoritative and relevant websites hold more value. Building relationships with other businesses or bloggers in your niche can help secure these valuable links.

Remember that building backlinks is an ongoing process. The more credible websites link to your content, the more likely your page will rank higher on Google.

Building Citations and Backlinks

Building citations and backlinks is essential for SEO success.

First, let’s focus on getting citations. Create a Google Business Profile and a Bing Business Profile for your business. Ensure your business details, such as name, address, and phone number, are consistent across all online directories. SEMrush offers a helpful tool to automate this process, saving you time and ensuring accuracy.

Then, start getting backlinks. These are links from other websites back to your site, and they play a pivotal role in building your website’s credibility. However, acquiring high-quality backlinks can be challenging. My advice? Consider outsourcing this task to specialists who understand the intricacies of link building.

Don’t cut corners when investing in backlinks; cheap, low-quality links won’t benefit your SEO efforts. Find a reputable provider to perform outreach, create valuable content, and build high-quality links. The number of backlinks you need depends on your competition and target keyword.

Ultimately, your competitive advantage will come from the number and quality of backlinks, the quality of your content and how users engage with it. If your site ranks well but provides a poor user experience, Google may demote it.

“In summary, here’s the formula for SEO success – keyword research, well-optimised pages, and a robust backlink strategy. Consistently improving these aspects will lead to higher rankings over time.”

Remember that SEO is an ongoing process, and competition is fierce. Stay informed about SEO trends and be willing to adapt your strategy to stay ahead.

Compelling Copy, Valuable Content & User Friendliness 

Keep in mind that Google values user experience. A technically sound website is essential but only one of the factors that lead to ranking success. Google wants to send users to websites that offer great content and a positive user experience. Keep your website layout simple and user-friendly. Avoid complex designs meant to manipulate search engines. Focus on providing the best user experience.

Remember, if you’re a service-based business, people rarely make instant purchases on your website. They usually engage in a consultation or quote process. On the other hand, product-based businesses need well-optimised pages with persuasive copy to entice users to buy.

To succeed in SEO, consider the strategy behind it. Why did you bring people to your website? What’s the next logical step in the customer’s journey? Ensure your website layout facilitates this journey.

Many sites lack effective calls to action (CTAs). Avoid passive CTAs like “get started” or “learn more.” Instead, be explicit with CTAs like “find out,” “schedule a call,” or “book a session.” Each page should have a clear CTA to guide users.

Let’s look at some client examples. Take a law firm in Melbourne we worked with. Their initial website was problematic, not even built on WordPress, making updates challenging. We rebuilt their site, set up tracking, and created valuable content. Over two years, we elevated their ranking from position 65 to number one.

SEO is a long game, and a big part of it involves attracting visitors and compelling them to take action through well-crafted copy and clear calls to action. 

“Successful SEO can lead to an influx of high-quality leads, transforming your business. You need to make sure that you optimise your website and present an irresistible offer to achieve conversions.”

Russell Brunson’s “hook, story, offer” philosophy is invaluable in this context. These three elements are crucial for capturing users’ attention – engaging them with a compelling narrative and enticing them with a fantastic offer.

The “hook” is what grabs a user’s attention. It doesn’t have to be directly related to your product or service. It could be as attention-grabbing as a pink rhinoceros appearing in a Facebook newsfeed. The key is to stop users in their tracks.

In SEO, the hook is typically the title displayed in blue text on search engine result pages. It should contain your target keyword but needs additional words that stand out from the competition. If everyone else says, “Plumber Sydney,” you need something that disrupts the pattern.

Your “story” is the description in black text under the title. Here, you aim to sell users by clicking your link instead of others. Avoid the common pitfall of trying to sell your services directly, as everyone else is doing the same. Instead, create a description that sparks curiosity and convinces users to click.

The real magic happens with your “offer.” This is where you provide something of value to users, enticing them to take the next step. It could be a discount, a free eBook, a consultation, or anything that makes them want to engage further.

Incorporating a fantastic offer into your SEO strategy can work wonders. For instance, a law firm’s website became incredibly successful because of the outstanding offer they provided. They dominated their competitors by incorporating this offer into their “hook, story, offer” strategy.

“Another case study involves a Sydney-based company, Stevens and Associates. With our SEO campaign, they quickly climbed the rankings for “employment lawyers Sydney” and now enjoy a top-three position. Their previous campaign generated just one call a month, but with our SEO efforts and a compelling offer, they now receive around 50 calls monthly.”

Remember, the “hook, story, offer” framework is a powerful tool in SEO. Craft an attention-grabbing hook, tell a compelling story in your description, and provide an offer that users can’t resist. This approach can significantly boost your SEO success.

Common SEO Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

In the world of SEO, it’s essential to assess your competitors, their rankings, and optimisation strategies. Analysing their backlinks, page structure, and messaging provides valuable insights. You need a distinct approach, more backlinks, compelling content, and effective website updates to stand out.

It’s easy to get it wrong, and there are a lot of factors you need to work on to create a successful SEO strategy.

With that in mind, let’s address common SEO mistakes made by small businesses based on my experience:

Over-optimisation: 

Many businesses attempt to stuff keywords throughout their websites excessively. This often occurs when businesses don’t grasp the core leverage points for effective SEO. This usually ends with multiple content pages that convey the same message.

Without a clear strategy, it’s like a content mishmash, hoping something will rank. A crucial tip is to use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to see your current keyword rankings. This will help you understand what you’re ranking for, the competition, and where improvements are needed.

Poor-quality backlinks:

Some websites hire low-cost link builders to acquire low-quality links. While Google doesn’t penalise websites for these links, they also don’t provide any value. In essence, they are ignored by search engines. It’s crucial to avoid buying links, as this can lead to penalties. Instead, focus on obtaining high-quality, relevant backlinks that genuinely contribute to your site’s authority and trustworthiness in the eyes of search engines.

Content without strategy: 

A prevalent mistake is creating heaps of content without a clear strategy. Simply churning content because “content is king” won’t cut it. Google needs to comprehend what your website is about and which page should appear for each keyword. 

Without a strategy, you’ll likely not rank for anything. A typical scenario is discovering that most blog posts on a website have had little to no traffic or backlinks over the past year. Deleting or revamping such content can significantly impact your site’s performance.

Ownership of multiple websites on different domains:

 Many businesses purchase several domains, hoping to leverage them for SEO. However, simply owning domain names doesn’t inherently boost your online presence. The real value comes from building a fully optimised website on each domain, creating quality backlinks, and achieving high rankings for valuable keywords. Even then, the primary benefit may come from linking these satellite sites to your main website.

In practice, this approach often proves less effective than optimising your existing website, which already has credibility and some momentum. So, think twice before acquiring multiple domains. If you do, ensure you have a clear plan and resources to build high-quality websites on them.

Syndicated blog posts

Avoid them where possible. Why? Because syndicated blog posts use content already published by numerous other businesses in your industry. While it may save time, it’s likely to add little value. If you choose to use syndicated content, consider making substantial modifications to make it unique or flag it as “no index” so that Google doesn’t include it in its index.

Lack of keyword strategy: 

Another common SEO mistake. Your efforts may be too broad or unfocused without a clear plan for your target keywords. Broad keywords are challenging to rank for, and understanding keyword intent is crucial. Make sure you research well before formulating a keyword strategy and monitor it over time to ensure it’s still relevant.

Lack of monitoring:

Tracking progress is vital. Set up analytics correctly and establish conversion goals to measure website performance effectively. Consider tools like CallRail or Delicon for monitoring phone calls and HubSpot for capturing data on form submissions to get valuable insights into your leads.

Local SEO strategies:

Another common mistake in small business SEO concerns local SEO strategies. Many businesses aim to rank for multiple suburbs within their service area, such as Norman Park, Ashgrove, Chawong, and Indrapilly in Brisbane. In the past, creating standalone pages for each suburb was possible, essentially duplicating content with only the suburb name changed. This practice is known as boilerplate content.

While boilerplate content might still work for less competitive keywords, it’s not considered best practice. The preferred approach is to create unique content for each targeted suburb. This content can focus on specific aspects of the suburb, embed Google Maps, and provide genuinely helpful information. Making each page as unique as possible compared to others in your optimisation strategy is essential.

Form over function: 

Many businesses focus solely on aesthetics when designing their websites, creating visually pleasing but non-functional sites. Websites should prioritise functionality and value for users over aesthetics. Additionally, optimising images for speed is often overlooked; compressing images and ensuring quick loading times is crucial. 

Neglecting mobile-friendliness:

Neglecting mobile optimisation is a significant mistake, as most traffic comes from mobile devices. Google’s mobile-first algorithm prioritises the mobile version of a site, affecting desktop rankings as well. Mobile performance should be a top consideration.

These mistakes emphasise the importance of a well-thought-out SEO strategy. It’s not just about keywords; it’s about optimising strategically, having a clear content plan, and making data-driven decisions to achieve the best results.

Focusing on specific keywords, monitoring keyword intent, and setting up proper analytics and tracking tools are essential steps to enhance your SEO strategy and improve your website’s performance.

So, How Long Does SEO Take To Get Results?

How long it takes to see SEO results is one of the most common questions I get asked as an agency owner. There is no simple answer, as the answer varies on many factors, including keyword competitiveness, who your competitors are and what your investment in SEO is.

“The timeframe to see results can range from three months to two years to reach the top three positions on Google’s search results page, with the top three rankings being the most lucrative. Around 60% of users click on the top three results, emphasising the importance of securing those positions.”

Keywords with high competition, such as “Plumber Sydney,” will take much longer to rank for and require a concerted, layered SEO effort compared to less competitive keywords. Analysing your competitors and the gap between your website and theirs is crucial. A bigger budget can speed up the process because more work can be done.

Emerging SEO Trends That Are Reshaping Strategy

New SEO trends to keep in mind include AI-generated copy, which has gained incredible momentum since its public release over the last year. While AI can help generate content ideas quickly, be cautious not to rely too heavily on it, as Google can detect AI-generated content. 

It’s essential to add your unique voice and perspective to maintain authenticity. AI can accelerate content creation but should be a tool to enhance, not replace your content efforts.

Voice search is becoming significant, too, particularly for information-based queries, although it may be less relevant for small businesses’ commercial or transactional intent. Most people use voice search for informational questions, but the landscape may evolve.

Mobile SEO remains crucial with Google’s mobile-first algorithm. Optimising for mobile is essential, given that a significant portion of traffic comes from mobile devices. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly and performs well on smartphones.

SEO Challenges & Best Practices for Small Businesses

Some of the most common challenges that small businesses face with SEO include:

  • Dealing with unreliable SEO companies that offer unrealistically low prices. It’s essential to be cautious when selecting an SEO partner. 
  • Time constraints. SEO takes time, and it’s necessary to consider the time commitment required for effective SEO results to happen before you start out.
  • The technical complexity and steep learning curves involved with implementing SEO changes on your own websites. It is possible to learn these techniques, but even industry experts are constantly learning and evolving their strategies based on search marketing shifts.
  • Competition from businesses and dedicated SEO companies. If someone else is going after the same keywords as you, with a substantial budget or a lot of expertise, it will mean you need an excellent strategy to compete.
  • Algorithm updates that require staying up-to-date and shifting keyword intent. It can be overwhelming, so it’s essential to consider hiring experts who specialise in SEO.

As a business owner, you are likely not handling your taxes, legal contracts, or medical procedures yourself. It’s always worth hiring experts – but just ensure you understand what to look for in an SEO company. Make sure they’re reporting back to you on what they’re doing, and you’ve got visibility 24/7 into the keywords that you’re ranking for.

Best practices for ranking a small business website include:

  • Creating a Google Business Profile for local businesses
  • Strategic keyword selection
  • Clear calls to action
  • Content-rich websites
  • Creating user-friendly sites
  • Tracking leads and conversion rates. 

I’d also personally highly recommend books and resources by Donald Miller, such as “Marketing Made Simple” and “Building a StoryBrand”. Both can provide extremely valuable insights for simplifying and clarifying your marketing strategies.

If you have any questions or need further clarification, feel free to reach out via social media, email, or other channels. I’m here to help and can address additional topics or questions in future podcasts or blogs.

Recent Articles

Download The Ultimate Law Firm Marketing Guide

Download The Ultimate MSP Marketing Guide