Search engine optimization, or SEO, is not a one-size-fits-all solution. An SEO campaign for a small business consulting agency is going to be different than one for a company that sells durable goods around the globe. That being said, there are some generalizations that we can make.
Both small business SEO and large business SEO have the same end goal in mind – increasing business revenue. This is an important point to keep in mind as you work out the details of your small business SEO campaign. What will it take to get the new users coming to your website to become paying customers? You are attempting to solve this problem when you start an SEO campaign for your small business.
One of the big advantages of small business SEO relates to flexibility and specificity. Small businesses know their target markets rather intimately, so choosing a scope for content is much easier. The small businesses that are not yet clear on their primary target markets are probably just getting started and may still be in the process of discovery.
Capital and human resources are what set big businesses apart from their small business counterparts. So, if mistakes are made on an SEO campaign, businesses with more firepower can change course without it making much of a difference. The same cannot be said of small businesses, which is why I am writing this blog post.
If you follow the tips given in the remainder of this post, you will gain successful rankings in the search engines. It is only a matter of time and perseverance.
25 Tips for Small Business SEO
General Small Business SEO Tips
- Patience is a virtue – SEO results do not happen overnight
- Understand that your website is never finished
- Implement keyword research before you start writing
- Assign specific keywords to each page of the website
- Use long-tail, geographic keywords
- Optimize title, meta description, and h1 tags on every page
- Focus on quality content
- Publish fresh content on a consistent basis
- Link your home page to your most important pages
- Publish Client Testimonials
- Add a blog to your website
- Add an FAQ page to your website
- Include NAP on every page
- Consider a CMS, such as WordPress
- Perform URL optimization for every page
- Install Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google My Business
- Register with Bing Webmaster Tools
- Include structured data on every page
- Invest in a quality hosting provider
- Perform manual backlink outreach
- Encourage reviews from local clients
- Share the love through outbound links
- Publish website updates on social media
- Always use mobile responsive design
When it comes to most aspects of small business, tasks can be completed and projects finished in a checkmark fashion. Once one task is finished, business owners need not give it any more thought. Also, small business owners that are considering taking on a new SEO campaign need to understand the overarching nature of SEO. Much of this relates to the fact that the search engines are constantly looking for fresh, relevant, and quality content.
This tip goes in close keeping with the previous one. SEO is a rinse and repeat process. When one phase of SEO is completed, another one begins. It is important to keep this in mind as you are working on your small business SEO. The process of search engine optimizing your website is never fully completed.
Keyword Research Tips
Most web site owners trying to attract new visitors start by writing the content for a page or post. This is putting the cart before the horse when it comes to small business SEO. You want to start off doing your keyword research to see if there is an audience for the topic you are writing. If there isn’t a sufficient number of searches being run for your primary keyword on a particular page, all your efforts will be wasted.
Start by finding the keywords for which people are searching. These are the subjects that users are most interested in as it relates to your business. In essence what you are doing is finding the problems related to your business that people are searching for. Once you have that, you have the ability to create a solution. Solutions are what people want when they come to your website. Give people what they are looking for and you will be in business.
As you are working on your new or existing website, be sure to create a spreadsheet detailing each page’s assigned keyword phrase. Most web content authors skip this step and simply start writing on the industry that their business revolves around. By creating a spreadsheet you are being organized and scientific. Google will reward you for this.
In addition to your primary keywords, find your LSI, or latent semantic indexing keywords. These are the words that are related to your primary keyword assigned to the page. It helps the search engines understand what your page is about. To find your LSI keywords, I highly recommend using the LSI Graph / LSI Keyword Generator. By using this tool I can see that phrases like “top 10 SEO strategies” and “search engine ranking factors” are good content to have on my page. This tool is extremely useful.
Most people, when searching for local, small business products and services, use geographic keywords. If someone living in Denver is searching for a plumber, odds are they will type something like, “Denver plumber” or “Denver toilet repair” into the search field. Optimizing for these long-tail keywords is much easier when it comes to small business SEO than optimizing for their short-tail counterparts. Furthermore, the sum total of long tail keyword searches outnumber the total number of short tail searches. So the opportunities for conversion are very real.
After assigning a primary keyword to each page based on the keyword research you have done, now it’s time to start writing your content and optimizing your back end tags. One of the best things to keep in mind when trying to rank a page for a specific keyword phrase is to optimize your title tag, meta description tag, and h1 tag all around the specified target keyword.
For instance, I am trying to rank this web page for the keyword phrase “small business SEO.” I did the research and found that there are a substantial number of searches for that keyword phrase. I have written my quality content that benefits the end user and now it’s time to include the target keyword in the back end tags. By doing so I am telling Google what this web page is about – small business SEO.
Simply having the targeted keyword in the title and h1 tags earns SEO points. Having it appear in the meta description will not earn any ranking points, but it does tell the user that the page is about the subject they are searching for, which will compel them to click through to the page when it appears in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Having your keyword in these three strategic places is going to help you rank.
When it comes to real estate, the three most important things are location, location, and location. When it comes to web content for small business SEO, the three most important factors are quality, quality, and quality. Creating content that benefits the end user is quintessential to having your pages rank well in the search engines. Without this, you are attempting to build a house on a foundation of sand.
User experience (UX) metrics do not lie. Without quality content you are not going to hold users on the page for very long. And if you are not keeping visitors on your pages, your UX metrics will be in the toilet.
The operative word in this tip is consistent. The goal is not to put out as much content as possible, as was once thought to be true. This would be placing the onus on quantity rather than quality. If you are publishing quality content on a consistent basis, Google is going to take notice and reward you with higher rankings. Depending on the resources you have at your disposal as a small business, consistent content publication can be done on a weekly or monthly basis.
The bottom line is this: produce high quality, long-form content with less frequency. Do not produce low quality, short-form content with more frequency. Rather than posting new content daily and spending one hour a day producing posts of mediocre quality, post new content semi-monthly and spend ten hours producing posts of high quality. High quality posts with low frequency will beat low quality posts with high frequency.
The home page is the number one landing page of your website. Great small business websites give users an overview of the services they provide from the home page with internal links. In this way, the home page can be thought of as a table of contents for the end user. If someone wants more information on one particular aspect of your business, they can follow the internal links to the more detailed pages of the site.
Client testimonials go a long way in the eyes of end users looking for small businesses online. It could very easily be the difference between a user contacting you via a form on your web site or not contacting you at all. You have a limited window of time to establish your credibility to the point where users are confident enough to hit the “send” button on the contact form. You can read more about this on my user experience blog post. Client testimonials inspire confidence, so include them on your website whenever possible.
If you are you looking for ways to rank for keywords on an ongoing basis, add a blog to your site. This provides you, as a small business owner, with a vehicle for fresh content. This fresh, quality content can then be indexed by the search engines and you can begin to rank for the keywords you have researched related to your business.
Adding a blog to your website is a means to an end. After adding a blog to your website you will be able to add quality content to your website on a regular basis. If you are not updating your blog on a regular basis it is best not to have one. Only add a blog to your website after you have written at least three quality posts, then publish those posts on the blog page.
A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is another great tactic for small business SEO. By answering your clients’ most frequently asked questions, you are lowering their inhibitions for contacting you. Furthermore, by providing your uses with answers to the questions many of them have, you are being proactive. Again, Google likes this.
You also have the ability to rank your FAQ page based on the keywords contained within the text. The FAQ page is giving Google and the search engines a better idea of what your website is about. By doing so the search engines will be better able to rank the pages of your site and deliver it to users looking for the solutions your small business provides.
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone. Having your NAP on every page is another way Google and the search engines are able to identify and reward quality websites. The logic behind it is simple. Anyone can publish content on the web. However, publishing content as a business with a specific contact information makes the publisher more accountable for his pages’ content. If the author of the published content is being held accountable, she is going to be more careful.
We do SEO for small businesses at Northern Colorado SEO. Contact us for more information.
Content Management Systems (CMS) have been on the scene for a while now and are becoming more and more popular. What this means is that web sites are being created in the cloud more and more frequently. This is a distinct advantage for small businesses publishing well-optimized pages. Generally speaking, the larger a website becomes, the more difficult it is to manage via a CMS. For good small business SEO you are able to use the CMS to your advantage.
Technical Tips for Small Business SEO
A quality URL structure throughout your website will pay dividends in terms of search engine rankings and user experience. Try to keep your URLs as shallow as possible, without a whole bunch of slashes for nested subdirectories. Google likes a shallow, logical, and easy to understand URL structure.
If you are using a WordPress, implement this through your global settings.
Google Analytics can give you tremendous insight into which pages of your site are performing and which are not. If certain pages are not performing, it may be in your best interest to remove them from the Google index. Remember, Google wants content that benefits the end user. Google Analytics will show you which pages need attention and which are performing optimally.
When it comes to SEO for small businesses, Google is the 800 pound gorilla of search. But that’s not to say that you should ignore all the others. In the old days, SEO companies used to tout their ability to submit clients’ pages to hundreds of search engines. Today, the two that matter most are Google and Bing.
Structured data helps the search engines understand what your web page is about. It has been around for a long time and is often forgotten as a small business SEO technique. Even though it has existed for quite a while now, it is not understood by most people.
Contrary to popular belief, adding structured data to your pages is rather simple and can give you an edge over your competition. Schema is a type of structured data that I use and recommend most for small business websites. You can add schema to the mark up of your web pages that relate to people, events, organizations, reviews, products, and small businesses.
I will be doing a blog post in the future going into more depth on the subject of schema and structured data. For now, if you wish to learn more, I recommend you go to Schema.org.
Do not overlook the power of a good hosting provider when creating a website for your small business. Page load speed is a Google ranking factor and could be the difference between ranking a page at number one versus number two or three. This very simply translates into new clients and additional revenue. Upgrading to a faster host will, in the vast majority of cases, pay for itself in the long run.
Sharing Tips for Small Business SEO
Small businesses have an opportunity to obtain quality backlinks from related websites through a technique called “manual outreach.” This entails finding website owners who can benefit from your web content and encouraging them to link to your pages.
When it comes to backlinking, many small business owners do not understand why another website owner would want to link to their web content. However, the logic behind obtaining backlinks is very simple. The site linking to your web content is using the resources your page provides to benefit his or her own users. By providing additional resources, the website owner stands to gain respect and notoriety. With this in mind, the secret to obtaining good, quality backlinks is creating good, quality content.
Google likes it when people review your business, especially through Google My Business. The reasoning here is obvious. Anyone can say they provide a great product or service, but consumers are wary of being burned. And Google does not want to be the source of that burn.
By providing reviews from clients you have served you are pleasing both Google and the new clients visiting your web page. This gives them the confidence to contact you via the website and earn higher rankings in the process. This is a win-win.
The easiest way to encourage people to review your business is through a custom form on your website.
Are you providing your users with the resources they need to make an informed decision regarding your products and services? If so, you need to include outbound links to web pages with additional information related to your page’s content.
A recent study by Reboot found that web pages with quality outbound links rank above those without them. What we can glean from this study is that Google likes web pages that contain backlinks to relevant and related content.
Gone are the days when linking to outside websites is avoided in an attempt to contain PageRank within your own website. Google encourages outbound linking. The bottom line is this: outbound links will increase your SEO success rate.
One word of caution – while hyperlinks can be great, you do not want a user to leave your website when he clicks on an outbound link. For this reason, I encourage you to use the “target=_blank” attribute on the anchor tag of an outgoing link. Instead of taking the user away from your web page, this will open the link in a new tab of the user’s browser. When the user is finished, he or she can simply close the tab and return to your web page.
Another way to get the word out about your small business is through social media. After you publish fresh, quality content, put a link to the new page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social media websites. Along with the link, post a small teaser on the benefit that the content will provide. This encourages social media users to click through to your website, which is something else that Google likes to see.
The people following your small business on social media are interested in what you do. If they were not, they would not be following you. Social media is a great source for reaching people within your primary target market.
Within your blog posts, create cross-linking to other pages that are related to the subject of your current landing page. Also be sure to post social media icons for sharing at the end of each post and page.
All of your efforts to encourage people to share the content of your website are in vain if you do not have a mobile responsive website. Always make sure before you being to search engine optimize your website that you are using mobile responsive design that can be viewed on a number of different screen sizes and devices. If you are not currently using a mobile responsive theme for your website, you need to make this a top priority.
If you follow the tips I have provided above, your pages are going to rank. It is not a question of if they will rank, it is only a question of when.
Many people ask me why I publish the experiential SEO knowledge that I have gleaned over the years. You are giving your trade secrets away, they reason. The truth is, I do it because I know it works. By publishing quality, practical SEO tips that people can use on their own, I stand to rank higher in the search engines. This is what Google wants. And this is what the blog post I have just written is all about.
Are you giving Google what it wants?
My name is Scott Allen and I live in Fort Collins, Colorado. I have been doing SEO and web development for over 20 years and I love helping people achieve their dreams. If you are interested in undertaking a web development and/or SEO campaign for your small business, I would love to help you. Please contact me at your convenience and let’s make something great together!