SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is the fine art of getting your business to come up on the first page of search results when someone Googles your desired “keyword.”
What’s a keyword? Its what you type into Google in order to get search results. Anything from “what time is it in Beijing” to “coffee shops near me” is a keyword.
Why would you want to optimize your site for search engines like Google?
Well, have you ever noticed those ads that pop up at the top of the page after you search for something on Google? The ones that look like this.
Well, businesses pay for those ads. And, depending on the search term, they could be paying big bucks for that online real estate.
But if you can get on page one without paying for ads, you’ll be essentially driving free traffic to the website of your small business. That could free up a ton of marketing dollars to help your business grow in other ways.
But here’s the bad news. You’re not the only small business that wants to get on page one. Depending on your niche, you could be competing against dozens of local businesses. So how you do outrank them?
That’s where SEO comes into play. By knowing and following the best SEO practices such as claiming your listing, having a great website, and knowing your target keywords, you’ll give your business a better chance of being seen online.
7 Tips To Improve Your Small Business SEO
Unfortunately, a lot of the SEO advice found online is geared toward bloggers and online businesses. But, in this guide, we’re going to focus solely on SEO for small businesses.
1. Add Or Claim Your Business Listing With Google My Business
In nearly every one of the test searches that I conducted while creating this guide, a Google My Business snippet took over the vast majority of my initial results page….like what you see below.
That’s why if you’re a local business it’s absolutely essential that you add or claim your business with Google My Business.
But don’t stop with claiming your business, make sure to include as much information and photos as you can. And ask your customers to leave reviews.
My pest control guy only started his business about a year ago. But he’s been offering one-time service discounts to all his customers that leave a review on his Google My Business page. And he’s already earned over 50 5-star reviews.
Soon that could make a big difference in how high he shows up on Google’s business results. What could you offer your customers to encourage them to leave reviews?
Guide on how to list your business with Google My Business
2. List Your Small Business On Local Directories
Once you’ve finished setting up your Google My Business page, your next step is to get your business listed on all the major directories and review sites.
Sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp have huge domain authority, so they dominate the search results for things like “best hotels” or “best restaurants.” Take a look below.
See what I mean? The first four results belong to either TripAdvisor or Yelp. And that’s after the Google My Business listings!
So if you want to do well with SEO for small business, you want to make sure that you get listed on as many of these major directories as you can.
3. Choose A Clean, Well-Structured Website Design
If you were opening a physical retail store, you’d close pay attention to how your store was laid out. For one, you’d want the store to look clean and inviting. And you’d also want your layout to nudge traffic in the right direction (i.e. toward your best and/or most profitable products).
And the same principles apply to website design. When a visitor lands on your site, you don’t want them to think, “Wow, this is cluttered,” or “This website looks like it was built 20 years ago,” or “Where do I go from here?” Instead, you want to choose pleasing aesthetics and an intuitive design.
I live near Daytona Beach, so I thought I’d check to see which chiropractic clinics rank on Page one for “Daytona Beach chiropractors.” Here’s a screenshot from the clinic that ranked #1 (after Google My Business results).
And here’s a screenshot from a chiropractic clinic that was all the way down on Page five.
Notice the stark differences?
The second website looks like it hasn’t been updated in 20 years and doesn’t even fully fill my computer screen. The text looks like it was created with WordArt. And while the first clinic uses pictures of happy patients, the second one just uses a boring picture of the outside of the building.
For all that I know, the second clinic could be great. But it’s website certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.
The Importance Of An Organized Site Structure
Building a well-structured site will not only help your customers navigate your site, but will help Google understand your site better as well.
When it comes to site structure, think carefully about your menu items. Your website menu will be the first place that most visitors look. Make sure that you take full advantage of that valuable real estate. Consider how you “nest” menus underneath each other as well.
For example, when I selected “Your First Visit” on the chiropractic site that was ranked #1, I was shown four descriptive and intuitive sub-menus.
And here were the sub-menus that dropped down when I hovered over “Our Services”
These are both smart uses of sub-menus. On the other hand, look at the dropdown for “Services” on the underperforming site.
These sub-menus aren’t very helpful. They don’t really give me any more information about the services that this clinic offers. But on the first site, I could see right from the drop-menu that they offered Massage and Flexion-Distraction therapy.
Think through the kinds of questions that your site visitors will ask themselves. And do your best to draw a “path” of answers for them by the way you design your site.
How To Build And Improve Your Website
If you’d like to build your site on your own, Wordpress is a popular web builder. But it can have a bit of a learning curve.
If you’re looking for a drag-and-drop builder, Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix are a few strong options.
With each of the web builders listed above, there are lots of themes and templates that can help you get started, many of which offer mobile-responsive designs. But depending on the website builder that you choose, you may need to secure web hosting as well.
If web design isn’t really your thing, you can hire a freelance designer on Fiverr or Upwork to help you out.
4. Know Your Target Keywords
While SEO for small business is different in many ways from SEO for blogging, they share one main attribute–to thrive at either type of SEO you’ll need to produce targeted content that zeroes in on your ideal customer.
To do that, you’ll need to give your website a chance of showing up in the results pages for the things that your customers will be searching for.
To get an idea of the kinds of terms you should be optimizing for, consider using a free tool like Ubersuggest.
All you have to do is type in the website name of one of your competitors and Ubersuggest will give you a bunch of keyword ideas.
But even without using a search tool, you can come with a fairly long list of keywords on your own. Here are a few ideas for the types of keywords that you’ll want to optimize for.
Cities In Which You Do Business
If you want people in your local area to be able to find you online, you must make sure that the cities you serve are listed on your website. By just doing this one thing, you may be able to immediately outperform some of your competitors.
When I searched for “coffee shop in Daytona beach” most of the results on page one were for directories or review sites. But one individual coffee shop was able to worm its way into the mix.
Notice that this coffee shop was really smart about how it optimized for the term “Daytona Beach.” Not only did they make sure to include it on their home page, but they made sure that it was on their title and meta description as well (more on those later).
Also, if it’s possible, you may want to try including the name of the city in your site URL too. For example, Daytonapoolservice.com was even able to outperform Yelp listings for the search term “Daytona Beach pool cleaner.”
Do you know what’s really interesting? That’s not even the name that the business actually goes by in our local area.
But the business owner was smart enough to snap up that URL name because they knew that it would help with local SEO results. You may be able to do something similar with your small business.
Products And Services Offered
Take a minute to list all of your main products and services. Now ask yourself, “Are all these products and services listed somewhere on my site?”
If not, you’re wasting an opportunity to drive more traffic to your business. Just for fun, I decided to search for “Dim Sum Daytona Beach.” This mom-and-pop restaurant was able to land near the top of the search results.
But how did they rank for this term? I was curious. I clicked on their website and discovered that they listed their entire menu on their site. And guess what one of the menu items was? Dim Sum.
Now consider the fact that a similar search scenario could play out for every item on their menu. Just by adding their menu to their site, they give themselves a fighting chance to rank for a ton of long-tail keywords. And that’s smart.
Amenities And Extra Benefits
Ok, so you’ve listed all of your products and services on your site. But what are some other things that potential customers may search for?
For example, chances are high that most coffee shops offer free wi-fi today. But how many coffee shops aren’t listing that anywhere on their site?
I did a quick search for “Daytona beach coffee shop free wifi” to see. Only one non-directory site was able to make the first page.
And do you know what’s crazy? This coffee shop isn’t even open anymore! So that tells that a lot of coffee shop owners are missing out on this SEO opportunity.
When I searched for “Daytona Beach gym with childcare” the first individual gym listing was a Facebook page.
And you’ll notice that the next two gyms listed weren’t even located in Daytona Beach.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, there are several other gyms that offer childcare in our area. But they’re just not advertising that service well on their sites.
Related Article: How To Use Social Media To Grow Your Business
5. Optimize The Title And Meta Descriptions For Each Page
Ok, so we’ve talked about why it’s so important to target for the right keywords on your pages. But now we’re going to go a little deeper and talk about your title and meta descriptions.
Google pays extra close attention to both of these so they can have a big effect on your rankings. Many people spend time thinking about their page titles. But not as many people think about their meta descriptions.
If you’re not even sure what the “meta description,” is, it’s the areas boxed in red below.
Many people don’t realize that they can create a custom meta description, but you can. If you don’t provide one, Google will just populate that area with whatever content it wants to choose from your site.
Even if you do set a meta description, there’s no guarantee that Google will use it 100% of the time. But in my experience, they usually do.
From what I can tell, the only pet clinic from the list above who’s using a custom meta description is the one at the very bottom. How can I tell? Because only their meta description reads as a complete, intelligible sentence.
Creating a custom meta description will probably only take you less than one minute per page. But it gives you a chance to include your target keywords another time and could give the extra SEO juice that you need to get on page one.
6. Ask For Other Businesses To Link To Your Site
Whenever another website links to your site, that’s called a backlink. In blogging, backlinks are incredibly important.
Honestly, I don’t think backlinks are as crucial for local businesses as some of the other strategies that we’ve discussed already.
But it definitely can’t hurt to collect a few links whenever you can! One way to get a backlink is to ask businesses that you work if they’ll link to your site.
For example, if you’re a coffee shop, you could ask the manufacturer of your coffee products to list your business as one of their customers. It helps the manufacturer build credibility and it gets you a backlink to your site!
7. Create A Content Marketing Strategy
Ok, I told you that this article wasn’t going to be about blogging. But I guess I fudged the truth just a tad. The truth is that a targeted and focused blog can be a big of your overall SEO for small business strategy.
While blogging may never be a big income generator on its own, creating strong content that relates to your niche could be a great way to generate leads.
Related article: Why You Should Be Using Text and Email To Market Your Business
Interest in content marketing but don’t where to start? Check out this video with five tips to get you started.
You Can Do SEO for Small Business!
You don’t need to have a marketing degree to thrive with SEO for small business. It really all boils down to knowing what your target customer will be searching for and doing your best to provide the answers on your site.