7 Must-Do SEO Steps for Small Businesses
What kind of small business doesn’t want to make big money? The one that doesn’t exist. Nay, even a business that only exists in someone’s imagination has a spark of ambition. In small companies that hope to make it big, that spark probably burns the brightest.
Running a small, cozy business isn’t without its pitfalls. Being constantly overshadowed by bigger brands is one of them. Even when competition is bearable, you have to worry about obscurity – and pulling yourself out of it. Fortunately, there’s no greater place for spreading the word than the Internet (bless the digital era!), and anything becomes possible when you have a website.
Of course, throwing yourself into the World Wide Web means fighting for customers on a whole new level. 91.5% of all organic traffic goes to websites on the first page of Google; your site needs to be there in order to make your online presence worth something. To this day, search engine optimization keeps its status as the best way to drive traffic to your site.
The benefits of SEO steps for small businesses are as follows:
- It improves your site’s quality. People like sites that look nice and are easy to use, and Google favors sites that provide a good user experience.
- It strengthens your site’s position with time. PPC campaigns run for a set amount of time, and then you have to start a new one. SEO works in the opposite way: it lasts indefinitely and makes your site age like a fine wine as time passes.
- It helps you build a strong online reputation. Using SEO to promote your brand makes it a well-known authority in your niche and builds a relationship with clients based on trust.
Now let’s go into detail about how to conduct SEO for a small business. It helps a lot to use an SEO tool that automates the process. As an example, we used WebCEO, a whole package of 15 SEO tools.
Choose descriptive, specific keywords
How will a prospective customer find you? By crossing the bridge that connects their needs to your site. That bridge is known as keywords.
It’s recommended to go with specific, or long-tail keywords instead of short ones (which are the traffic magnet for much bigger sites, anyway). First, you can manage to make them include the short version that you’ll hopefully rank for someday. Second and more importantly, people who use long-tail requests are already one or two steps into the sales funnel, making it much easier to convert them into clients. Think about it: when someone is searching for “grey tango training pants”, trivia is probably the last thing on their mind, right? When they are ready to buy, it’s only a matter of whether or not you’ll appear in search results so they would buy from you.
A long tail catches customers who are already aware and interested.
In order to find long-tail keywords for your site, you can use WebCEO’s Get Suggestions tool. The number of a keyword’s global searches will tell you if it’s short-tail (a high number, in thousands) or long-tail (a low number, in hundreds and dozens).
It’s important not to overstuff your pages with keywords: Google penalizes sites for that. With that said, where can you put your keywords?
- URL addresses of your site’s pages
- Page titles (title tag)
- meta description tags
- H1-H4 tags
- Image file names and alt tags
- And, of course, in the text.
If any pages on your site host user-generated content (like reviews and testimonials), it can be an additional source of keywords. Ask your customers to mention your brand and product when they share their good impressions of you!
Be sure to keep track of how keywords are used on your site. WebCEO’s Landing Page SEO tool is like an extra pair of eyes.
Might want to do something about that redirect.
Optimize your site for local search
If your way of doing business is interacting with people face to face, you have to make sure your base of operations is easy to find. That’s what local SEO is for. Here are the simplest things you can do:
- Create a listing at Google My Business. This will put on the map your office’s location and address, as well as other useful information like your company’s telephone number and opening times.
- Use location-related keywords on your landing pages. It’s no different from using your any other keywords, except for including your city or region.
- Use schema markup on your site. Filling out a schema will tell Google additional information that will be displayed in search results together with your site – provided it appears on the first page.
- Claim your business at local directories. Who hasn’t heard about Yelp, one of the most well-known business directories? Submit a listing there and on other local directories that are relevant to your niche. It earns your business exposure, citations and inbound links.
Scan your site for errors
It goes without saying that errors on your website are bad. Minor errors may cause little more than discomfort in using a site, while big ones can crash it and make it completely inoperable. But all of them result in at least one displeased client turning away from your service, and where there’s one, there will always be two and more. Imagine what they’ll write in their testimonials on your site if you just let it unfold.
Deal with technical errors as soon as you spot them! In fact, why don’t you perform a technical audit on your site right now?
Still a few 404 errors left.
Produce your own, original content
“Content is king” has been the golden rule of SEO for years. Some argue content isn’t the king anymore, as there are other elements of SEO that are just as critical. Still, it remains one of those fields where messing up can have drastic consequences, all the way down to your site getting removed from Google’s index.
- Copy text from other websites. Google doesn’t approve of plagiarism. If you absolutely have to include a large chunk of somebody else’s text on one of your pages, use rel=”canonical” tag in the HTML code of that page. Example: <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://anothersite.com/original/”>
- Use the same text on multiple pages of your own site. Sharing the text means sharing the same set of keywords. It makes it difficult for search engines to determine which page should rank higher for those keywords (something called “keyword cannibalizing”). If you need to reuse the same text on multiple pages, rel=”canonical” solves this problem, too.
- Misuse keywords. An example of using keywords wrong is keyword stuffing, where you repeat the same keywords again and again (in the same sentence or a paragraph) in an attempt to rank higher. Another is using irrelevant keywords on a page where they don’t belong. Both are penalized by Google.
- Write original content. Google recognizes and values original work. Should someone copy your content in the future, your site will rank higher than the plagiarist’s (provided Google indexes your web page before theirs).
- Write helpful, valuable content. Doing so will make your site an authority on the subject, which is the key to dominating any niche.
- Write content that converts. Your goal is to turn readers into customers. Write convincing texts and prepare eye-catching images that will do exactly that.
Optimize your site for mobile devices
Mobile Internet already has more users than its good old desktop brother. How do sensible webmasters respond to this? By optimizing their sites both for desktop and mobile devices, of course. Who’d want to miss out on the massive number of mobile-using customers?
I can hear you saying “not me”. I’m glad you are sensible, too. In that case, what can you do to make your website mobile-friendly and make sure it stays that way?
First, minimize page loading time. This is the most important part: mobile users are an impatient bunch; they tend to close the tab if it takes longer than a second to load. There are several factors that affect a web page’s loading speed, and you can test your site for them all in WebCEO (as well as its mobile-friendliness in general).
- Images’ file size. Find the best combination of their dimensions and format to shave off those extra kilobytes. Most graphics editors allow you to tweak the image quality, too, further reducing the size.
- AMP versions of pages. Accelerated mobile pages load faster than most thanks to being light on code, keeping only the most essential elements of the page.
- Page redirects. Better don’t use those. They only make the wait longer, and users don’t like to wait.
Next, take into account the small screens of mobile devices and start using large fonts on your website. Since the top portion of web pages is the one users see first (before they start scrolling), that’s where the text should be the biggest and most eye-catching. Smaller text below the fold is okay.
This site is poorly optimized for mobile.
Earn backlinks from relevant sites
This is the biggest part of SEO – and the most difficult. It also directly affects how high your website ranks in Google. Website gain authority in Google’s eyes when they gain backlinks from other sites. More authority means a higher position in search results.
There are many ways to gain backlinks (like guest blogging), but the most important thing about link building is to know when Google will penalize you for accepting a link from a particular site. If the linking domain isn’t relevant to your niche, or if its own authority is too low, or if it’s a link farm, better refuse the gift before you repeat the Trojans’ mistake.
It’s like an antivirus, but for links.
You can bring up your full backlink profile in WebCEO, find the links marked as “suspected toxic” and decide for yourself if it’s worth it to get rid of them – by asking the sources to remove them or, should that fail, by disavowing them in Google Search Console.
You can also bring up your competitors’ backlink profiles and see if you can make any of their sources link back to you, too. Use the WebCEO Competitor Backlink Spy for that.
Be active in social networks
It’s highly recommended to have a page for your company on every major social network. Some examples are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – each of them has plenty of fertile ground for nurturing your online presence.
A quick summary of your own social activity.
What makes your social pages useful:
- They drive additional traffic to your website through all the links you leave there.
- They promote your brand: social networks are immensely popular, after all.
- They let you interact with your target audience more directly than on your own site.
- They help you build a trusting relationship with your audience.
That’s, of course, if you update them regularly with fresh, engaging posts. It’s a bit different from managing your actual site which you can stop updating for awhile and focus on building links instead. Social media activity needs consistency to bring results.
Content posted by your business competitors on their own social pages can be a fine source of inspiration.
The rival seems to have the upper hand on Pinterest.
What’s still unclear is if it helps your website rank higher in search engines. Google has been ambiguous about whether or not all those likes, shares and comments act as ranking factors. Then there’s Bing whose stance on it was “they do”, and if it has changed since, they haven’t let the public know.
About Brian Gareth:
Brian Gareth is a blogger with a passion for writing. Drawing his inspiration from the fluid world of SEO, he strives to fill his every post with content that is engaging, informative and leaves the reader in anticipation for more.