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Small business SEO: Is it worth it? Ft. Rhiannon Carnohan

Welcome to the blog, Rhiannon Carnohan! For any readers that haven’t had the pleasure of making your acquaintance, could you tell us a lil about yourself and what you do?

Oh heyy! I’m Rhiannon, an SEO expert helping small businesses supercharge their success through the power of Google.

Being a small biz owner myself, I know how overwhelming and noisy the digital marketing space can be – and SEO is no exception. But I’m on a mission to show small businesses that it doesn’t have to be complex or confusing. SEO is a lot easier than you think, and it can have a big impact on your biz. You just need to know how to get started.

What attracted you to work on SEO for small businesses? How did you get into search engine optimisation? 

I’ve been in the SEO game for about 8 years now (showing my age a bit aren’t I?), but I have to admit it was a total accident that I ended up here.

Growing up I always wanted to work in the fashion industry, and so that’s what I did when I finished school. ⁠I spent 4 years learning about sales and marketing (and everything there is to know about denim) but after a while I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I had dreams of running an online business one day, so I quit the world of fashion to start my digital marketing career.

With no experience, I applied for any job I could find and finally I got an interview for an SEO assistant at a large media agency in Sydney.⁠ I literally had to Google “what is SEO” before the interview (LOL), but I got the job and quickly became intrigued by the subtle art of search engine optimisation.

I’ve always found SEO fascinating because it can have such a huge impact on business growth but it’s so misunderstood, especially by small businesses. Over the years I had the opportunity to work with some big global brands in Australia and the UK, but in 2019 I decided to leave agency-land and turn my focus to helping small businesses.

I love sharing my knowledge with small business owners and letting them in on the secret: SEO doesn’t have to be scary, techy, confusing, or full of jargon. Today I’ve worked with over 80 small biz’s who have experienced first-hand just how effective SEO can be for them. And that’s why I love what I do!

Spill the beans — with so many marketing channels out there, is investing in your SEO really worth it for small business? 

A big heck YES! You might think I’m biased, being an SEO expert, but I’ve worked with other marketing channels over the years and SEO really is one of the cheapest, most sustainable ways to grow your business.

Bottom line: if your business has a website, you should be investing in SEO. 

Your website presents the #1 opportunity for you to connect with customers who are ready to buy from you. But so many small businesses are missing out by ignoring their SEO.

Whether you’re selling a product or a service, stats show that your customers are using Google to make a purchase decision. In fact, 89% of consumers start their buying process by using a search engine. And SEO helps make sure your website is front and centre in those moments.

The best part about SEO? Once you’ve got the foundations in place, it continues to work for you over time.

Unlike social media content which tends to have an expiry date (as the algorithms favour fresh content) your website content is evergreen, meaning it will continue to live on your website and be relevant for years to come.⁠ One piece of great SEO content can continue to rank in Google and drive traffic to your site. And that traffic can snowball over time. ⁠

⁠As long as people are searching for that topic, then your well-researched, relevant and useful content will continue to bring people to your website. And with an average conversion rate of 14.6%, as your SEO traffic increases, so will your leads, bookings and sales!

What are the first steps a small business owner should take in getting started with SEO? 

SEO is all about showing up in Google when a potential customer is searching for the solutions you provide. So, the first step is always finding out what and how your customers are searching. This is where keyword research comes in.

Have a think about how your customers would search for your business, products or services. Plug those keywords into a keyword research tool – my go to’s are KWFinderKeywords Everywhere and Ubersuggest – and see how many average monthly searches there are for those words. You might be surprised to find related topics, questions or pain points that you hadn’t thought of before!

My top tips for choosing your keywords:

  • Select only the ones that are highly relevant to your business. 
  • Go for keywords with a higher search volume (>50 searches/month)
  • Go for keywords with a lower keyword difficulty – there’s no magic number here but the lower the difficulty, the easier it will be for you to rank on page one of Google.
  • Do a quick Google search of your keywords to see what type of content comes up. You might think you know what someone is looking for, but Google search results will give you an insight into the meaning behind a search.

Then once you know which keywords your audience are using, you want to make sure you’ve included them on your website. This is where we get into the optimisation part of SEO.

My top tips for creating and optimising your content:

  • Try to keep each of your web pages about one topic, and use your target keyword or keywords throughout your copy.
  • Add your target keyword to your page title. This is the clickable headline that displays in search results when your web page appears in Google.
  • Add your target keyword to your H1 header tag. This is the main heading on your page and is used by Google to understand what your web page is about.
  • Add your target keyword to your URL. Make sure if you’re changing your URL that you 301 redirect your old URL to your new one so you don’t create a broken page.
  • Add your target and related keywords to your image alt text. This text provides a description of each image on your website and is used by Google to understand your visual content.

My final tip for getting started with SEO? Remember who you’re serving. Yes, it’s important to optimise your content so Google can find your web pages, but ultimately you should be providing content that your audience finds relevant and useful. That’s how you get to page one of Google. 

Can you DIY your own SEO to keep things affordable? What if you don’t have any technical skills or know-how? 

Love this question! The biggest misconception about SEO is that it’s way too hard and only available to businesses who can afford to outsource. A rumour that is perpetuated by the SEO industry with agencies and experts claiming you need to spend big bucks on a monthly retainer to see any results. 

The truth is, SEO is a skill that can be easily learned by anyone – just like learning how to make an engaging Reel *without* pointing and dancing (anyone else feel me?). You don’t need to be techy. You just need to understand the basics and how to get started. 

But I’ve spoken to so many small businesses who struggle with the learning curve because most of the resources out there are hard to understand and full of jargon. That’s why I’ve created The SEO Starter Pack for small biz owners who are looking to DIY their SEO. Designed for SEO-newbies, it’s an easy-to-follow system to help you optimise your website and start showing up in Google – no experience required! 

What are the biggest SEO mistakes small business owners need to avoid? Do you have any SEO horror stories you can share?

Ooh OK, a few things come to mind that small biz owners should avoid:

1. Targeting very broad keywords that are hard to rank for. It might be tempting to go after a keyword with 5,000 monthly searches, but it’s a lot harder to create relevant, useful content for a keyword like “web design” than it is for “web design packages for small business”

2. Not considering search intent i.e. the WHY behind a keyword. Why is the person making this search? What are they looking for? Eg. Someone searching for “how to do a tax return” is looking for an in-depth guide to DIY their tax, while someone searching for “tax accountant” is looking for a done-for-you service. By understanding search intent, you’re better able to provide relevant, useful content for the searcher. 

3. Making big website changes without considering the SEO implications. I’ve seen clients remove web pages, update their website menu or change their domain name and their SEO traffic takes a HUGE dive because Google can no longer find or understand their content. Before you make any big changes, have a look at which pages are receiving a good amount of SEO traffic and reach out to an SEO expert for some help.

On the flip side, what are some of the biggest small business success stories you’ve seen on the SEO front?

I’ve seen a small plumbing business in Sydney go from getting zero traffic and leads from SEO, to ranking #1 for super competitive local searches like plumbing + suburb and getting multiple leads a week. This was in the space of about 6 months and all by adding fresh, SEO-optimised content to their website. We also optimised their Google My Business listing, with a focus on increasing their Google reviews.

Another one of my clients created a 1,000 word blog post in June 2021. Fast forward eight months and that blog is the most visited page on their site (ahead of their home page) and had 893 visits from SEO just last month. Like I always say, SEO is a long-term strategy but when it works, it pays off! So be patient and stay consistent – you’ll get there.

Did you know blogging is a fantastic way to increase traffic to your website? Good thing we know someone *cough* us *cough* who specialises in writing SEO-optimised blog content for small businesses

The fun doesn’t have to stop here, folks! Pop on over to Rhiannon’s handy-dandy blog page to learn more SEO tips & tricks! 

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