Are you a small business who has no online presence? You know that small business SEO promises great results, but even though you have an online presence, you haven’t paid much attention to it before.
If you are overwhelmed by the task of ranking on Google and attracting new customers, search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential part of a small business’s crisis marketing strategy. Better yet, you don’t need a budget and you don’t need to pay for ads, designers or marketing consultants to help you.
These small business SEO tips are a cost-effective tactic with long-term benefits that can boost visibility, drive traffic, connect you with new audiences and ultimately, generate leads and sales.
Here’s everything you need to know about small business SEO. No jargon, no fancy software, no experience needed–just beginner-friendly tips you can implement right now to rank on Google and reach more people.
Small Business SEO Basics
“What is all this hype about SEO?” you might wonder.
Think about it: how often do you go to the second page of Google’s search results? Very rarely, I’m guessing. That’s because you get what you want on the first page.
Business SEO starts with this:
Start by making small changes to your site so your domain (or specific pages within the website, like a blog post or landing page) appears on the first page and as close to #1 as possible.
The higher your website ranks, the better your chances that people will click-through and engage with your site–whether that means signing up for your mailing list or buying your product or service. Ranking high on Google also helps with your small business branding.
There are two kinds of traffic that come from Google that are at the core of business SEO::
- Paid: Google Ads that appear on the search result pages
- Organic: people clicking through from a Google search page on non-ad results
We’ll focus on organic traffic in this post.
And no, you don’t need to pay anyone to “place” your website on Google. If you add the right keywords in your website’s content, it will appear automatically–and I’ll show you how.
Six key factors that impact your small business SEO rankings:
- Ranking for relevant keywords
- Ranking for trending keywords
- Creating engaging and relevant content that matches searchers’ needs
- Building high-quality backlinks to your website pages
- Fast loading speed
- Having a mobile-friendly site
Let’s get started.
1. How to Find and Rank for Relevant Keywords
Keyword research forms the foundation of an effective business SEO strategy.
Let’s say you’re a furniture retailer and are creating blog posts about home office furniture. In order to get the right people reading these posts, you need to ensure your website appears in the top search results whenever someone searches for “home office furniture.”
Now, how do you identify which other keywords to rank for?
The first step is to brainstorm broad topics related to your company, product, or service. Think like your customer: what would your target audience search for that relates to your business?
What To Do: Easy Version
Open a new tab in your browser and start typing in a potential keyword. You’ll get keyword suggestions of what people are searching for.
In the example above, a florist could enter “flower delivery” and you’ll get both seasonal (mother’s day), location based (NYC etc.) and general (service) keywords that you can either add to your existing pages or plan new content around.
Or, let’s take the home office furniture example.
I typed in “home office furniture” and now I have even more relevant keywords related to the topic such as “home office furniture sets” or “home office furniture ideas.”
For location, try typing in “home office furniture Toronto” (or whatever you location is) and see if it comes up.
Write down all the keyword ideas that apply to you.
What To Do: More Advanced
Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find keywords. In the search bar, enter those broad topic ideas and you’ll be met with a bunch of keywords and metrics such as search volume and competition.
Make sure you filter by location and language to narrow down your search.
Tip: the higher the search volume, the more potential the keyword has to attract traffic.
That said, you need to also consider how competitive the keyword is. Choosing keywords that are high competition will make it difficult for you to rank on the first page.
That’s why you’ll want to focus on more niche keywords or “longtail keywords” (eg. home office furniture in Canada) more than shorter ones (eg. home office furniture).
Longtail keywords are more specific and usually have less competition, which means you’re more likely to rank on the first page. Plus, the visitors who click through to your site are more likely to buy because they’re looking for the exact thing you’re selling.
Again, write down a list of useful, relevant keywords.
Need more help? Brian Dean’s guide to Keyword Research for SEO is amazing.
2. How to Find and Rank for Current Trending Keywords for Your Small Business SEO
Apart from doing traditional keyword research, it’s equally important to find keywords that reflect ongoing trends.
These can be seasonal trends or trending topics in the news. Leveraging a tool such as Google Trends for small business SEO is an effective way to stay ahead of your competition and jump on newly discovered or newly popular keywords.
What To Do
For instance, if you’re selling swimwear, this chart on Google Trends tells you when searches are at its peak (early summer in the United States, with another peak around February):
You can also click on ‘Daily Search Trends’ to browse trending topics and find ideas for your blog posts.
Another place to look into is the ‘Related topics’ and ‘Related queries’ sections to get keyword ideas to add to your old blog posts or upcoming ones.
3. Engaging Content and Your Google Rankings: How They Work Together
You have your list of target keywords. Now, you can either improve your existing blog posts, homepage or sales pages. Or you can create new posts etc. Remember when it comes to your business SEO, your content has to focus on what your customers want to see and what will help them solve their problem.
Improving Existing Content
Decide on the primary keyword for your existing content.
- Homepage: home office furniture houston
- Sales page: home office furniture delivery houston
- Blog post: home office furniture ideas
These keywords should appear in the following places to help it rank on Google:
- Any headings. This post is targeting the keyword “small business SEO” so I made sure to include it in the post’s title and subheadings.
- Search engine page title and description (see example below). Try installing the plugin Yoast if you’re using WordPress to make this easy.
- URL. ex: diymarketers.com/small-business-SEO
- Image alt text. Open the image details in your publishing platform, such as WordPress, and make sure the alt text is the keyword for ALL your images. Here’s how to do it on WordPress, Squarespace and Shopify.
- In the actual content itself. Add it in naturally or you’ll annoy your customers.
Here’s an example of optimizing the Google search result title and description for the keyword “YouTube banner template” for this post. The keyword appears in both the title and description.
Are these tactics enough to rank at #1? Not quite, sorry.
Algorithms aside, let’s not forget that you’re creating content for your target audience which means they need to derive value from it and find it worth their time.
Delivering a good content experience plays a huge role in keeping website visitors from leaving your page immediately (the “bounce rate”), keeping them on your page longer (“average session duration”), and having them return to your website, thereby boosting your search engine rankings.
Writing engaging, business SEO-friendly content starts with a captivating headline that draws attention. You need to write content that tells a story, evokes emotions, and is in line with your audience’s needs.
Let’s use this copywriting guide from Backlinko as an example. It positions itself as “the definitive guide” (authoritative) for “2020” (timely) and it lists specific pain points that will resonate with the reader.
Apart from the writing aspect, it’s also essential to structure your content in a manner that makes people want to read it.
Use visuals such as data visualizations, videos and charts among others to break the monotony of text and communicate more effectively. Try an infographic maker to sum up your posts or sales content and keep people on the page longer.
When you create content that engages, people tend to spend more time on your page while decreasing the bounce rate, thereby improving your search engine ranking.
Nextiva, a phone system company, uses this business seo strategy in its company blog. Its post on customer service tips makes use of illustrations, charts, videos and screenshots to break up its content and keep things engaging. You don’t even need to create your own content–just be sure to link out to the original source.
What To Do to Improve Your Small Business SEO
Building SEO-optimized content takes practice. Here are some further resources to help you:
- How to optimize images for SEO
- A guide to copywriting that converts
- Backlinko has the definitive guide to on-page SEO
- How to use infographics as a local SEO strategy
- 6 ways to quickly improve your local SEO
- 22 Best eCommerce website designs to help you retain visitors
4. Building High-Quality Backlinks to Your Website
Backlinks are links to your website on other websites. They’re important for business SEO because they signal to Google that your page is authoritative and should rank higher.
Links from popular, trusted websites are more valuable than links from low-quality, spammy websites.
I could get into “domain authority” and all that jazz, but the jist of it is that if the article is about the exact thing you’re writing about and it’s decently written and helpful, you probably want it to link to your site. Moz has the ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Link Building if you need more help.
What To Do
Open your browser and search for people who write about your product. If you’re an office furniture company, try searching “list of home organization bloggers.”
Open up one of the pages with the list, then use a tool like Scraper, a Google Chrome plugin, to scrape all the URLS into a spreadsheet. Go through the sites, see which ones are useful and research email addresses on the sites.
Add them to the spreadsheet and then use a tool like Mailshake to help automate your outreach. Or email people individually.
Explain how your blog post on “home office furniture ideas” is relevant to their post on “home office organization” and ask if they want to link to you. You’ll be surprised how often people say yes.
And if they can link to you on your keyword, like “home office furniture,” even better.
5. Fast Loading Speed
It seems logical: a website that loads quickly will rank well on Google. If visitors are quickly leaving a site that takes too long to load, then the bounce rate is going to climb. And Google’s not going to want to put a post with a high bounce rate on the first page–when they did their “Speed Update” in 2018, Google said so themselves.
And yet, marketing guru Brian Dean recently did a study that discovered that there was no relationship between page loading speed and first page Google rankings.
That said, sites with extremely slow loading times are still going to be downranked by Google. And first page results have an average page loading speed of 1.65 seconds (very fast!).
So, you’ll want to know your site loading speed and make sure it’s as fast as possible.
What To Do
- Enter your website’s URL in Google’s PageSpeed tool. Or a more beginner-friendly tool is the Pingdom Website Speed Test.
- The average load time is 10 seconds on a desktop computer, so if your site takes longer to load you’ll want to look at optimization. The speed test tools will give you pointers as to where to begin, but they can be quite technical.
- One easier win is to optimize the images hosted on your site. Make sure all images are JPEGS (not PNGs), which tend to be smaller. Keep image sizes under 500mb, as long as quality isn’t drastically affected. ImageOptim is a simple, free tool that will compress your images for you.
6. Having a Mobile-Friendly Site
Have you checked how your website looks on a cell phone lately? Go ahead. Does it load quickly? Is it easy to navigate?
Now, enter your site URL in Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to get their opinion.
Your site doesn’t need to be fancy to be mobile-friendy. G-Feed, a blog about the environment, is using a classic Blogspot theme that’s decidedly no-frills. And yet, it’s easy to navigate on mobile and Google’s tool backs that up:
Small Business SEO: The Takeaway
Ranking well on Google is a combination of knowing what your audience wants and giving it to them through quality content while delivering smooth user experience.
If you had never considered SEO for your small business seriously before, now’s the time to change your perspective and make it part of your marketing plan. In addition to following the above tips, you can also use SEO tools to improve your strategy.
Yes, times are difficult but in order to survive, small businesses need to adapt. As the saying goes, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity”. So, look at this challenging phase as a way to learn, grow your business, and emerge stronger.