SEO or search engine optimisation is a powerful marketing tool for businesses of all sizes because when executed successfully it leads to free, high quality website traffic.
However succeeding at SEO, especially in competitive industries, is becoming far harder than it once was. As big companies realise the huge opportunity SEO presents they're increasingly prepared to sink hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds into their SEO campaigns, either through an SEO agency or by building an in-house SEO team.
So can you still succeed at SEO on a tighter budget? Yes you can- but you need to play to your strengths and pick the tactics you're going to employ wisely.
Most SEO campaigns start by selecting a number of keywords or keyphrases which will be targeted for optimisation. The keywords you choose to optimise for are going to have a huge bearing on how difficult your campaign will be and your chances of success. Choose keywords which are too difficult like 'holidays' and you'll neve get anywhere unless you have a big budget for SEO. You need to select keywords which people are searching for but which are less competitive and which are absolutely fundamental to your business. Don't choose a keyword which is loosely related to your business just because it has a lot of traffic or it looks easy to optimise for. The most important thing is to pick keywords which are going to send customers to your site who are likely to buy stuff- not just useless traffic.
For most small websites you don't need a professional SEO to optimise your web pages for you. Learn the basics and do it yourself. There's really only 4 things you need to worry about on a webpage to optimise it successfully. There's a lot of other stuff you can do but for most small sites the following will suffice.
Page titles - make sure you use the keywords you want to optimise a page for in the page title of that page. For example if you wanted your homepage to rank in search results when people searched for 'plumber in brighton' you should make sure the words 'plumber in brighton' are in the page title.
Meta description - this is the bit of text which google displays about your web pages in their search results pages so you want to make sure they contain a coherent description of your page which will make people want to click on your site rather than anyone elses. Try to use your keywords again in the meta description. It won't help you to rank any higher for the keyword but it will increase the liklihood of Google displaying your meta description, rather than displaying a random chunk of text from somewhere else on the page.
Visible text - just like you've done in your page title and meta description you need to make sure your main keywords are used within the text of your page- at least once and ideally a few times with slight variations. If you can also use the keywords in your headings even better. So your homepage heading should be 'the best plumber in Brighton' rather than 'Welcome to our website' or something similar.
Links and link text - Google uses the links on your pages, particularly your homepage, to discover other pages on your site and work out what they're about. Therefore you should ensure every page on your site can be reached via links which you can click on. With small sites make sure every page is linked from the homepage. You should also try to make sure when you link to another page on your site you use a descriptive bit of text for the link. So if you want your plumbing services page to rank for the keyword 'plumbing services in brighton' try to include a link to that page on your homepage using the keyphrases as the clickable text link. Don't use something like 'click here' for the link as that tells the search engine nothing about the page you're linking to.
Building links to your website
Once Google has decided all the pages which appear to be about your keyword it uses a scoring system based on the links which point to each site to decide what order to return results in. As such link building is the most important part of the SEO process. It's also where big companies spend most of their SEO budget- either hiring an SEO agency or in house team to spend hours trying to find links or by paying a lot of other websites to link to them. Neither is an option with a tight budget but you can still build links on the cheap. If you've got your keyword strategy right and picked relatively uncompetitive keywords you shouldn't need many links to rank well.
Start by looking for free directories which list businesses in your area with links to their websites and submit your site to these. Similarly you can look for directories in your service or product area. So Brighton plumbers could submit to directories of Brighton businesses in the plumbing section or plumbing directories in the brighton section.
Next you can write a number of articles on your area of expertise. So for plumbers write 10 short how to articles for the most common problems you fix like 'how to fix a leaking tap'. Either send these articles to bloggers who write about your subject or post them on article sites like this one who accept submissions. Wherever you publish your articles make sure you include a link back to your website and make sure the link uses one of your keywords as the link text.
Lastly you can exchange links with other local businesses. For example contact builders, electricians and gardeners in Brighton and ask them to link to your site and in exchange link back to theirs. Alternatively contact other plumbers in different areas and exchange links with them. Just make sure you don't link to any sites which aren't related to your own in some way. Also don't do hundreds of these link exchanges, only do as many exchanges as you have one way links from places like your articles or directories.