Basics of SEO Optimization for Small Businesses

By Ruben Rogers

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Do you own a small business and you’re looking for ways to increase online visibility, brand awareness, foot traffic or sales? If you answered “Yes” to any of these, then you should perhaps investigate and spend some time learning about SEO.

In this article, you will learn what SEO is, why it’s important for small businesses and some SEO optimization basics that you can implement, starting today.

Let’s begin by first answering the question “What is SEO?”

What is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of optimizing a website in order to rank for a range of target keywords related to a business, products or services when searched for in search engines. These optimizations include both on-site and off-site improvements.

The higher a business’ website ranks in Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines, the more likely it will attract new customers and increase awareness - which are both important for small businesses.

The golden rule of getting a website to rank is to create content and/or web pages that answer a search query by providing the best possible user experience to website visitors.

 

Why is SEO important for small businesses

SEO should form part of the marketing toolbox for all small businesses. Here are a few reasons why SEO is so important for small businesses.

 

Levels the playing field

SEO levels the playing field for all businesses, whether big or small, to compete in order to gain the attention of prospective customers.

Since SEO is organic, meaning you don’t have to pay to advertise, you don’t need to have an enormous marketing budget to get your business noticed.

Imagine competing with a big conglomerate to garner attention on social media. This conglomerate probably has got a lot more money to spend on marketing than a small business does. This would make it extremely difficult and expensive to reach your target audience.

SEO eliminates this issue. With SEO, any business can get noticed on Google and other search engines by following a set of basic SEO optimization best practices.

Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy process to rank higher than big brands, SEO takes time and certain skills in order to rank for relevant keywords.

But, with the right knowledge, skills and patience, you can increase website traffic for your small business with SEO without having to spend large amounts of dollars on marketing.

 

Cheaper form of marketing

Seeing as SEO is an organic form of marketing, it’s much more cost-effective than many other digital marketing channels.

Yes, unlike social media where you’ve got to “pay to play”, SEO doesn’t require marketing dollars to get in front of your ideal audience.

Furthermore, when you produce content that is evergreen, SEO tends to be more cost-effective in the long run compared to expensive advertising costs on platforms like Facebook, YouTube, etc.

Because of this “evergreen” effect, optimizing a website’s SEO can yield better ROI for small businesses than almost any other marketing channel.

 

Results in more targeted leads and traffic

What do you do when you are looking for a specific product or service? Well, I can guarantee you that you usually turn to Google to find what you are looking for.

One of the reasons why SEO is important for small businesses is because it results in targeted leads and traffic.

SEO is an inbound marketing channel, meaning potential customers discover your brand instead of you having to find them.

According to Hubspot, 59% of marketers believe that inbound marketing practices have provided the highest quality leads to their businesses.

 

Because of the nature of SEO, it makes it easy for highly qualified traffic to find your business when they want more information on your products and services.

This results in more targeted leads and traffic to your website.

To support the effectiveness of SEO even more, WebFX indicates that search engines have a 14.6% conversion rate, much higher compared to the 1.7% close rate of outbound marketing campaigns.

 

SEO increase credibility and trust

One of the major reasons why small businesses need to take SEO seriously is that it increases credibility and trust.

By ranking on the first page of the Google search engine results page, web users think that if Google trusts your website, then you must be a legitimate business - resulting in increased trust and credibility in your business.

Local SEO can also build trust and credibility. By optimizing your business’ Google Business profile and other online listings, you’ll be able to showcase reviews from previous customers.

 

SEO Basics for Small Businesses

There are a wide variety of things you can do to optimize your website’s SEO, but we’ve selected 6 SEO basics that every small business owner should implement.

 

Conduct an SEO audit

The first thing that any small business owner should do when it comes to SEO optimization is to conduct an SEO audit.

By conducting an SEO audit, a small business owner or marketer will have a better understanding on which areas to focus on in order to improve their website’s SEO.

An SEO audit typically reveals some of the following:

  • On-page SEO issues
  • Backlink profile
  • Technical SEO problems that need to be fixed
  • Off-site SEO issues

If you want to do a more comprehensive audit of a website to find deeper issues, you could consider an SEO Crawler Tool.

On-page SEO

As mentioned above, an SEO audit will usually analyze your website’s on-page SEO to determine if there are any issues that need to be addressed.

So, what is on-page SEO?

Simply put, on-page SEO focuses on optimizing all of the content and elements that are on a website according to SEO best practices.

On-page SEO consists of some of the following factors:

  • Content optimization
  • Title and meta description optimization
  • Improving PageSpeed

Let’s discuss each one briefly.

Content optimization

Content is probably one of the most important things when it comes to on-page SEO. Without content, how will search engines know what your website is all about?

By focusing on content optimization, you will be able to create content that serves the needs of your target audience and that search engines can understand to determine what your website is about.

Keyword usage is the first aspect of content optimization that small business owners should focus on.

Before a business owner or marketer creates a piece of content, he/she must first find keywords and topics that have a high search volume, but low competition.

You can use a tool like SEOptimer to conduct this keyword research.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a plumbing business and you’re thinking about what content to create.

 

Here we can see that creating a piece of content on “how to clean the drain in the shower” or “how to clean hair out of shower drain” is not a good idea. The reason for this is that these keywords have got high search volume and high competition.

Based on this data, you could create a piece of content about “how to clean shower drain with baking soda and vinegar” specifically.


Image source: SEOptimer

Another thing you want to consider when optimizing content is to use your target keyword early on in the text or on the page.

According to Backlinko, you should aim to use your target keyword within the first 100 words on the page.

Title and Meta Description Optimization

The next part of on-page SEO that you should pay attention to is title and meta description optimization.

So then, how do you create good titles and meta descriptions?

The first thing that you need to remember is to always avoid keyword stuffing titles and meta descriptions.

Remember, you want to avoid creating a bad user experience. By overstuffing titles and meta descriptions with your target keyword(s), you end up sounding unnatural and like a robot.

Here are a few things you should remember when creating titles:

  • Add your target keyword as close as possible to the beginning of the title tag.
  • Keep title tags short and easy to understand. The ideal title length is between 60 and 70 characters, anything more than that will get truncated in the search results page.
  • Don’t use the same title tag in more than one place.
  • Add title tag modifiers like “best”, “free”, “2021”, etc.

 

 

Another important aspect of on-page SEO optimization is creating keyword-optimized meta descriptions.

Meta descriptions are the small pieces of text below the title on the search engine results page. Meta descriptions basically give the reader a short summary of what they can expect to find when they click on the result.

Here are some best practices for creating meta descriptions:

  • Don’t ever use the same meta description in more than one place on your website.
  • Try to write eye-catching meta descriptions that prompt users to click through to your website.
  • Create meta descriptions that are a maximum length of 166 characters long. Anything more than that may get cut off in the search results page.

Improving PageSpeed

Google has recently announced that a site’s loading speed will have an impact on it’s rankings. And according to Google, the ideal loading time should be anything under 3 seconds.

 

Here are a few things you can do to improve your website’s loading speed:

 

  • Switch to a faster host or upgrade to a better hosting package.
  • Compress and minify HTML, CSS and Javascript files.
  • Compress image files.
  • Utilize browser caching to store web elements temporarily.
  • Use a CDN to cache your files on a global network of servers.

Indexing

Another vital part of SEO optimization is ensuring that your site and content can actually be discovered by Google.

This is done by making sure that your site is indexed by Google.

To check if your website is indexed, simply type in the following in Google: site:yourdomain.com.

If you see a list of results similar to the above screenshot, then it means that your site is indexed and that Google can discover new content and pages.

If you see the following message and don’t get any results at all, then Google probably hasn’t indexed your site yet:

 

If this happens to be the case then you need to request that Google adds your site to its list of indexed websites in your Google Search Console dashboard.

Link-building

After creating high-quality content, the next most important ranking factor is backlinks. Google has confirmed that backlinks are one of the 3 most important ranking factors.

Link-building is the process of creating backlinks from other websites to your website.

 

Why are backlinks important?

 

Well, Google sees backlinks as a “vote” from another webmaster that your web page or content is valuable and useful.

So then, how do you go about building links to your website?

The first step is to create a page or piece of content that is worth linking to. Just think, if your content isn’t great, why would someone else link to you?

These “linkable assets” can come in the form of blog posts, surveys, videos, reports, quizzes and anything else that someone else may find useful.

In most cases, blog posts are probably the best types of linkable assets since they go hand-in-hand with content marketing.

 

Next, you’ve got to promote your content far and wide. You can do this by syndicating your content on sites like Medium.com and LinkedIn.

 

Small business owners can build links by sponsoring local events or charities. Now that’s not to say that you’ll be getting a backlink from each event that you sponsor, but this is a good way to start building links.

 

 

Another way that small business owners can create backlinks is by collaborating with local bloggers.

By building a relationship with local bloggers, you can suggest content ideas to them that mention your business.

If you’ve got a local gym, collaborate with a local fitness blogger to create some content on things like fitness tips, nutrition, exercise plans, etc.

 

Local SEO

Local SEO is the process of increasing the online visibility of local businesses.

The difference between local SEO and traditional SEO is that local SEO focuses on ranking a website or web page for searches that have local intent. Whereas traditional SEO focuses on ranking a website for search queries that don’t have local intent.

 

Optimizing for local SEO includes many of the same factors as with traditional SEO, but with some additional aspects that go along with it.

Optimizing for local SEO includes the following activities:

  • Claiming and regularly updating a Google Business, formerly known as Google My Business, profile.
  • Creating business listing pages on other online directories such as Yelp, Bing Places, Yellow Pages, etc.
  • Getting more online reviews and showcasing these reviews.

 

Measuring Results

Lastly, it’s important for small business owners to measure their results to determine if what they’re doing is improving their search rankings.

One of the best ways to measure if your SEO results are paying off is to set up keyword tracking for target keywords. Seeing as the ultimate goal of Search Engine Optimization is to rank for target keywords, this is probably the ultimate metric to determine your success.

By setting up keyword tracking, you’ll be able to monitor keyword rankings over a specific time period for a specific region.

 

Conclusion

As a small business owner, you need to do everything in your power to increase revenues and online visibility.

One of the best ways to do this is through the use of Search Engine Optimization.

By following these basics of SEO optimization, you’ll be able to increase your website’s rankings and hopefully, sales as well.

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