While search engine optimization isn’t the only marketing tool for small businesses, it is a key one. Today, a huge percentage of consumers are using Google to search for a business that meets their needs and to check reviews. Even if you’re a local business that gets some of its traffic through word of mouth, you can’t afford to ignore the power of Google.
On the positive side, improving your SEO is one of the most cost-effective strategies for increasing your visibility. Most small business SEO strategies are free, and we’ve focused on tips that should be easy to implement. We know that most small businesses don’t have their own online marketing staff. These small business SEO tips are simple and mostly things you can work on between your many other responsibilities.
Need an introduction to SEO before diving in? We recommend this beginners’ guide on Moz.
SEO Tips for Your Website
The best place to start for SEO is your website. Your website content is the primary way Google and other search engines decide where to place you in search results.
- Make sure your website is fast. Online consumers have very limited patience, and many will abandon a site if it takes more than a few seconds to load. Google knows this, so they appear to penalize sites that have slow loading times. To impress both Google and your site visitors, you should make loading speed a priority, especially for mobile. If possible, you want to keep your page loading time under 3 seconds. If your site is slower than that, you’ll need to take steps such as optimizing your images and reorganizing your page scripts.
- Keep your content strong. While reading about SEO (and maybe even while reading this list), it can be easy to get caught up in all the “tips and tricks.” Just remember that at the end of the day, your website should be easy and enjoyable to read, or you risk losing the customers you worked so hard to get there. So do use keywords and other SEO tools, but make sure you balance that with high-quality, readable content.
- Choose a simple URL. Your local business URL should be short (ideally under 70 characters) and easy to remember. Use full words and avoid strings of numbers, and try to include one or two keywords. These will make your URL more memorable for customers and help to boost your SEO.
- Include your basic information, most importantly your business name, address, and phone number, on every single page – make it part of your website template. This not only makes it easier for customers to find and contact you, it uses your name and town and crucial keywords.
- Reference your local area. As a local business, one of your selling points is your connections to the community, so include references to your local area within your website content. This could mean referencing a local landmark you’re down the street from, a high school sports team you sponsor, or even local celebrities. This can help to boost your search rankings and will also help local customers to feel connected to you when they read your site.
- Pay attention to page titles and meta descriptions. Google will use the page titles and descriptions that you provide. Your title should fit within 50-60 characters and directly state what customers will find on that page. Try to avoid unnecessary words like “home” and “page.” Do include keywords linked to your location.
Take It to Google
Google itself offers a range of tools that can help you to boost your local SEO, so take advantage of them!
- Create a Google My Business account. If you don’t have one already, set up a “Google My Business Account” with all of your information and some photos. If someone searches for your business or even enters a more general search, they’re likely to see a box featuring your business including reviews, contact information, and popular times. It’s a prominent way to feature your business within search results for free.
- Claim your address. Google Maps will let you claim your address. That way, when customers are browsing the map, they’ll see the name of your business pop up and can easily check out your reviews or website.
- Keep an eye on things using Google Search Console (previously called Google Webmaster). This is a great (and free!) one-stop shop to check on how your website is performing for SEO. You can see your site’s crawl rate, any broken pages or links, keyword searches that led to your site, click through rates, and a lot more.
- Encourage reviews. Potential customers searching for your business will care a lot about reviews. You can boost your conversion rate by encouraging your customers to leave you a review on Google. You might choose to include a link in your thank you email, post flyers within your business, or simply ask customers in person.
Keywords are still a huge part of SEO. Here are some tips you can use to up your keyword game.
- Outsource the keyword generation. If you’re wondering how to come up with good keywords, don’t worry: there are more efficient methods than guessing and checking. Luckily, there are many online tools (some free and some paid) that will suggest keyword ideas for small businesses and help you analyze the keywords you have in mind. Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner is a popular choice, but it’s geared towards PPC ads. Other helpful tools include SEMrush, Ahrefs, and KW Finder.
- Keep it local. Consumers around you will be looking for businesses in their area, so make sure you include local terms in your website. For example, if you’re a construction company in Hartford, Connecticut, two important key phrases would be “Hartford construction company” and “Connecticut construction company.”
- Look for gaps. You don’t want to be competing with huge businesses within search page results. So try using a keyword research tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner to look for gaps in the keywords competitors are already using. These can help you find niches with low competition.
Need some more tips or ideas? Check out the references below!
Agrawal, Harsh. “How to Use Google Keyword Planner Tool for Keyword Research.” Shout Me Loud. June 16, 2017. https://www.shoutmeloud.com/keyword-research-for-dummies-using-google-keyword-tool.html
Bonelli, Sherry. “Local SEO in 2017: 5 Simple Ways to Dominate Local Search.” Search Engine Land. February 9, 2017. http://searchengineland.com/local-seo-2017-5-simple-ways-dominate-local-search-268412
Charlton, Graham. “30 Quick and Easy SEO Tips for Small Businesses.” Search Engine Watch. April 13, 2016. https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/04/13/30-quick-and-easy-seo-tips-for-small-businesses/
“Create Good Titles and Snippets in Search Results.” Search Console Help. 2017. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35624?hl=en
Fishkin, Rand. “The Beginners’ Guide to SEO.” Moz. December 18, 2015. https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo
“Get Reviews on Google.” Google My Business Help. 2017. https://support.google.com/business/answer/3474122?hl=en
“How to Use the Keyword Planner Tool Effectively.” Google Adwords. https://adwords.google.com/home/resources/using-google-adwords-keyword-planner.html
Jacob, Sherice. “Speed Is a Killer – Why Decreasing Page Load Time Can Drastically Increase Conversions.” Kissmetrics. https://blog.kissmetrics.com/speed-is-a-killer/
Meraz, Casey. “Local SEO & Beyond: Ranking Your Local Business in 2017.” Moz. February 23, 2017. https://moz.com/blog/local-seo-ranking-your-local-business-in-2017
Williams, Charlie. “10 Free Google SEO Tools Everyone Should Use.” White. March 18, 2014. http://white.net/10-free-google-tools-everyone-use/
Young, Wesley. “6 Local Tips for Small Business and SEO Success.” Search Engine Land. February 3, 2014. http://searchengineland.com/6-local-seo-tips-small-business-183066