Competition for those top search engine rankings is fierce. And as a small business, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Not only do you lack the big marketing budget of your larger competitors, you’re trying to juggle all the other responsibilities of running a small business, from filling orders to keeping up with payroll and more.
But you don’t have to have the digital marketing budget of Walmart to compete. The internet gives you the power to reach billions of prospective customers from a small office – or even a garage. But if you’re going to take full advantage of those opportunities and build your online presence, then you’ll want to heed these ten essential SEO tips for small businesses.
Tip 1: Do the Research
Too many small businesses rush into things without the proper planning. They pick up a social media tip here and a content marketing idea there, try it out for a week or two, watch it fail, and throw their hands into the air, saying, “Nothing works for me!”
But there’s a good chance that it could work if you’d do the proper research.
So, what’s the most important research for a small business that’s looking to make effective use of SEO?
First, you’ll want to engage in some keyword research. Use Google Ads’ keyword finder tool to search for keywords that are related to your small business. Note the amount of traffic each keyword generates as well as how competitive it is. And as you go through, take notes of any keywords that look like they might be worth pursuing.
Second, you need to know your competition. I know you may not want to check out their sites and social media accounts since they’ll make you feel the weight of the work involved in catching up. But if you fail to take a healthy account of your competitors, you’ll be destined to remain behind them.
So, find out what keywords they are ranking for. Look for topics and areas that they may be missing, find out what kind of backlinks they have, and then, use that data to begin developing a plan for your site.
This is the foundation for any successful SEO strategy. If you’re unwilling to do the necessary research on important keywords and competitors, you might as well just throw in the towel.
Until you’ve got this tip honed, don’t even bother looking at the rest of them.
Tip 2: Develop Quality Content Tailored for Your Audience
Keyword-stuffing doesn’t work anymore. Google, Bing, and Yahoo have gotten smarter. They won’t be fooled by lists of keywords hidden at the bottom of each page. And these days, they’re thinking less like search engines and more like humans.
So, what does this mean for implementing effective SEO tactics?
Once you’ve gotten a solid list of valuable keywords that are rankable, you’ll want to begin developing quality content that’s tailored for your audience. Don’t worry about filling your blogs or articles up with X number of keywords. Instead, focus on creating answers to your audience’s biggest questions (you may even want to consider checking out a site like AnswerThePublic.com).
And as you put your content together, make it engaging, entertaining, and informative. The longer you keep people’s eyes glued to your site, the better your site will rank.
And speaking of quality content…
Tip 3: Don’t Forget the Power of Video
YouTube is one of the largest, most visited sites on the web. TikTok has taken the world by storm. Livestreaming has become a regular event for individuals, organizations, and small and large businesses alike. In other words, video is one of the most powerful ways to connect to your customers.
But video isn’t just a great tool because of its incredible reach. It also offers other benefits that you should consider as you develop your larger SEO strategy.
When you upload your videos to a site like YouTube and embed them into your business’s pages, you are creating easy backlinks. And though they aren’t as effective as other kinds of backlinks (which we’ll get to shortly), they’re certainly worth something.
In addition, video keeps your visitors on your pages longer. If you’ve got a ten-minute video on your homepage and a prospective customer watches the whole thing, Google will be impressed with your ability to retain peoples’ attention. And they’ll reward you with a higher quality score.
This is why you should think about content marketing from a wider perspective than just blogs or articles. Content video marketing is the next big thing. And your small business can reap the benefits of riding the wave if you’re willing to take the dive right now.
Tip 4: Listen to Google
Although it doesn’t always feel like it, Google wants you to survive – and even thrive. After all, when you succeed, Google does too.
This is why Google has offered webmasters so many tools and guides. They don’t try to hide the things that lead to higher rankings or penalties. And though they may not give the world access to their whole algorithm, they are willing to tell us a tremendous amount about what does and doesn’t work.
So, listen to them!
Check out their Webmaster Guidelines and visit their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. They even have a series of training and help videos that are well worth checking out if you’re interested in learning how to best optimize your site for higher search rankings.
As you listen to Google, you’ll discover the things that lead to penalties (such as ad-heavy layouts, bad content, and keyword-stuffing). Avoid those things. And if your site has already fallen into any of those traps, fix it.
Don’t neglect this essential source of information. Be willing to listen to Google and adjust your site’s SEO accordingly.
Tip 5: Effectively Utilize Metadata
Although keywords are less important than they once were in the content of your pages, they are still important. They’re just playing a larger role in metadata.
In other words, your site’s metadata matters. Every one of your pages should have simple and descriptive titles, meta descriptions, headers, and image alt tags. In addition, your URL should make the page’s content clear. All of this is incredibly simple and yet it’s so easy to neglect. Don’t get everything else right and lose points by forgetting to put quality metadata in place.
Along with effective metadata, you should also look at the structure of your site’s pages and make sure they make sense. A confusing or inappropriate structure can leave your site struggling to make it to the first page of the search rankings.
Tip 6: Build On-Site & Off-Site SEO
Targeting the right keywords, building great content, developing an effective structure, and implementing quality meta data… These are all vital things to do when developing an effective SEO strategy for your small business.
But they aren’t enough.
In addition to your on-site SEO efforts, you need a plan for off-site SEO. Whereas on-site SEO is focused wholly on building the best site you can, off-site SEO seeks to develop connections that will draw more people to your site and give it a sense of credibility and authority.
This is largely done through backlinks. But you may be wondering, “How do I get other sites to link to my business’s page?”
There are a variety of different methods, but these are the most popular:
Writing guest blogs for sites that serve a similar niche as you is a great way to develop quality backlinks. Normally, you can include a bio with your blog as well as a link to your site. And the more guest blogs that you’re able to create, the more backlinks you’ll receive.
When influencers, whether through social media or their website, mention your brand, products, or services, it builds off-site momentum for you. And if they link to your site, it’s even better since it also leaves you with another backlink.
If you offer customers the ability to leave reviews, whether through Facebook, Google, or some other platform, you’ll be developing a stronger SEO game. But be warned, if you don’t maintain high standards when it comes to your product or service, you may end up with negative reviews. And that can be very bad indeed. So, always offer top-quality service along with that invitation to leave a review.
We’ll discuss this further below. Needless to say, social media is yet another easy way to develop backlinks and greater authority.
Tip 7: Be Willing to Experiment with PPC
Pay per click (PPC) advertising is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to reach new customers. And though it’s more expensive than pulling in organic traffic, it can help jumpstart your efforts if you’ve got the money to spend.
In addition to being incredibly easy to set up, PPC advertising is also one of the most reasonably priced ways to drive lots of traffic to your site, quickly.
Once your larger SEO strategy is on point and running smoothly, PPC advertising can be just the thing to get noticed and build momentum so that you move up the search rankings faster and get to a place where you don’t really need it anymore.
Tip 8: Go Local
As a small business, there’s a good chance you have a local presence in your community. If you have a physical location that customer’s can visit, you need to spend time honing your local SEO strategy.
You should setup a ‘Google My Business’ profile, ensure your address and phone number are on every one of your site’s pages, and contact local directories to have your site listed. All of these things will help you develop a stronger local footprint and make it more likely that Google will rank you when someone in your town searches for “…businesses near me.”
Tip 9: Don’t Neglect Social Media
As you’re likely aware, social media is an absolute behemoth. It has the power to take your small business to the next level of success and to connect with customers (and prospective customers) more quickly and easily than ever before.
So, are you taking advantage of it?
Every small business should, at the least, have a Facebook page setup. Depending on the demographics of your target audience, you might want to consider an Instagram or Twitter account as well (and if you’re targeting Gen-Z, you may want to look into TikTok).
Include social sharing buttons on all of your pages so that it’s easy for customers to engage with you and share your content with family and friends.
You can also interact with other businesses (and through groups) using your brand’s account. So, like, share, and comment on content that’s coming from others in your niche. Develop relationships and discover opportunities to build greater credibility, authority, and backlinks.
And all of this is on top of the more basic features of social media – being able to share content from your site with millions of people, generating new leads.
Tip 10: Be Consistent – And Patient
When it comes to SEO strategy, one of the number-one keys to success is consistency. If you try something new out for a week and find that it does little to increase traffic or sales, don’t give up. SEO is a long game. It’s a process of relationship building. And like any relationship, it won’t bear good fruit until a little time has passed.
So, be willing to create a sustainable content schedule (of written and video content) and consistently release it. Share what you’ve created with your social media audience and interact with others every week. And keep doing it until you see results.
There may be moments when you need to refine things. If that’s the case, do so and keep going. But whatever you do, don’t give up. Instead, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither will your small business’s online marketing strategy.