Search engine optimization can seem daunting for small businesses, especially if you are a lone entrepreneur or a small organization that barely has enough people to keep customer work under control. But fortunately, learning the secrets to SEO success for small business doesn’t have to consume every hour of your business day.
In all honesty, the best SEO is done steadily and consistently, over time. If you looked at SEO in terms of fables, you wouldn’t want to be the hare. You would want to be the tortoise. Slow, but steady will win the race. As a matter of fact, Google typically encourages natural growth of both links and content, two key factors in any SEO strategy.
With those things in mind, here are the secrets to SEO success that should help any small business get better rankings in search results.
1. Start with your website’s on-site keyword optimization.
When small business owners ask me where they should start with their SEO, I typically start by going to their website where I find that their first need is basic on-site optimization. As a small business owner, you don’t even need any SEO tools to find out if you need help with your on-site optimization. Just go to your website in any browser and look at what comes up in the tab.
What comes up in the tab is your homepage’s SEO title. In this case, we have RH Homepage. Fortunately, that’s a well-known brand, so people would likely be looking for them by name, not keyword. But if we were to search for them for a keyword phrase like home furnishings, they wouldn’t appear on page 1. Their competitor, Pottery Barn, however, does. If you go to their website and hover over the tab, you can easily see why.
There, you can see a properly optimized SEO title on the homepage, which shows that they have likely done a good job with their on-site optimization. Whether you are a big brand or a small business, this is where your SEO strategy should begin.
Every important page on your website should be optimized for a specific keyword phrase. The homepage is a unique one as, for many businesses, it should be optimized for possibly two to three of your top keyword phrases. Let’s break down Pottery Barn’s website so you can see what I mean.
First, you have the homepage SEO title, which is: Home Furnishings, Home Decor, Outdoor Furniture & Modern Furniture | Pottery Barn.
Next, you have category pages like the Furniture page, with the SEO title: Furniture & Home Furniture | Pottery Barn; the Outdoor page, with the SEO title: Outdoor & Patio Furniture | Pottery Barn; and the Bedding Page, with the SEO title: Bedding & Bed Sheets | Pottery Barn.
Then you have sub-category pages, like the Quilts page, with the SEO title: Quilts, Patchwork Quilts & Quilt Sets | Pottery Barn; the Comforters page, with the SEO title: Comforters | Pottery Barn; and the Sheet Sets page, with the SEO title: Sheet Sets, Pillow Cases, Bedding Sheets & Striped Sheets | Pottery Barn.
Finally, you your product pages, like a specific sheet set, with the SEO title: Grand Embroidered 200-Thread-Count Sheet Set | Pottery Barn.
As you can see, everything starts out pretty general, and then gets more specific. While on-site optimization is no secret, the key to it is to make sure you are optimizing your pages for what people are actually searching for. That is when SEO tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Planner come in handy. Just start broad, and Google AdWords Keyword Planner will guide you along the way.
Specifically, take advantage of the option to download the 801 suggestions that Google AdWords Keyword Planner provides. This will give you plenty of keywords to choose from that will take you from broad to specific for each of your website’s pages.
Of course, you don’t want to stop with just your SEO title. For each page, you will want to make sure the main keyword phrase you want to optimize for appears in the SEO title, meta description, first paragraph, last paragraph, and in one image on the page. In that image, the keyword phrase should appear in the filename, ALT text, and caption (text beneath the image on the page).
That’s it. On-site SEO 101 for your website. Depending on the number of pages your website has, this could take a couple of hours to a couple of weeks to complete. The easiest way to get started is to simply prioritize.
- Your homepage is obviously going to be top priority.
- Your main pages (about page, top category pages, top product pages, top service pages) will be next.
- The rest of your category pages, product pages, and service pages should follow.
- Then your support pages and general content.
Think what pages on your website, if they ranked higher in search, would generate the most money for your business. Start optimizing those. Then work your way through the rest. And if you think of things that would generate revenue for your business that you don’t have pages for, create those pages and optimize them.
If you don’t do anything else with your SEO than on-site optimization as a small business, you will likely start outranking your competitors just because so many of them are not doing it. If there are still major brands that can’t be bothered with on-site optimization, then you can guarantee there are plenty of major brands that can’t be either.
2. Get the social links.
Are these links going to help you boost your keyword rankings? Probably not. But links to your website from your Facebook page, Twitter profile, LinkedIn company page, Google+ page, Pinterest profile, Instagram profile, and similar social profiles do help build your small business’s brand. And branding is good for your overall presence in search. Observe.
That’s nothing but a positive first impression when searching for a business by name. And since you control your social profiles, a click any of them means nothing but more good first impressions. Of course, that good first impression is going to be based on the activity of your social profiles, so you can’t just create them and run. You’ll have to be active upon them as well.
This means you’ll need to first do the basics. Complete each profile with profile photos, cover photos, a short description about your business, your website link, your address and phone number (if applicable), and some starter photos. From there, at least one update per day on your Facebook page as that will likely be the one to get the most attention.
3. Get the local links.
If you have a small, local business, then there are some easy and authoritative links you can get right away without worrying about any problems from Google. Those are the ones from local business directories, local review sites, niche business directories, and niche review sites.
Google typically doesn’t bat an eye at most types of networks because they are trusted by people due to the consumer review and user generated content factor. Hence, it makes sense that your local business is getting listed on these types of networks.
The key is to find the right networks. The goal isn’t to get a listing with your website link on every network out there. The goal is to get a listing with your website link on every network that is going to give you some SEO value and some traffic from your local customer base.
So how do you find out which networks will give you traffic from your local customer base? Here are the steps. First, take all of the keywords that people would search to find local businesses like yours and search for them in Google. Make a list of the networks that appear in the first two pages of search results, along with the relevant categories.
For example, you searched for furniture stores in Phoenix, you would come up with Yelp’s Best 10 Furniture Stores in Phoenix page and Yellow Page’s Furniture Stores in Phoenix page. Now since these both come up on the first page of search results, you definitely want a listing on both networks in those categories.
And if you really want to step it up, you might want to get advertising in both of those categories to ensure you come up at the top of those pages once you build up your reviews on those networks. Because even with an ad at the top of the category, you’d still be competing with the best in your category.
From there, you have a couple of options. You can start by taking your top competitors and seeing what networks they have active listings upon. When I say active, I mean listings that they have completed and receive reviews upon. Just do a Google search for their business name and they’ll be easy to spot.
Be sure to go a couple of pages deep into search results for each of your competitors on this one to get on all of the best networks.
One thing to note is that the best listings aren’t always going to be free. In some industries, the best listings are going to be an investment. For example, small businesses in the wedding industry will find the best networks are sites like TheKnot and Wedding Wire. Both will drive great local customers to their business, but both will cost them in advertising costs as free listings go virtually unnoticed.
The most important thing – the secret – to local networks – is to complete your listings thoroughly. Answer every question. Fill out every detail. Take advantage of every option to add photos, videos, hours, parking details, etc. The more you can complete on your listing, the higher the network is going to put your listing above others. Plus, the more complete your listing, the higher it will rank on Google in general.
Also, when it comes to local links, think beyond the directories, review sites, and advertising networks. Consider partnerships with local businesses in the same industry where you could refer each other business through your website, such as wedding venues recommending wedding photographers. Look at local newspaper and magazine sites to see if they have business directories of their own. Think outside the box!
4. Build up your content.
It’s no secret that content is important to SEO. The secret is the type of content that is important to SEO. It’s not fluff content that creates additional pages for Google to index. It’s quality content that creates additional pages for Google to index and serve to searchers who are in need of answers to questions. Questions that preferably can lead to interest in your products or services.
That’s the kind of content you want to start creating. Content that is quality, content that is keyword-optimized, and content that your customers would find of interest. Every business can come up with some sort of content that fits this mold.
- A pest control company can come up with a library of detailed posts about how to identify specific types of spiders in their area and how to know which ones are dangerous for pets and children. Ultimately, that kind of content will get someone to sign up for pest control services.
- A wedding photographer can come up with a downloadable checklist of the 50 must-have shots for every bride to give to their photographer. A percentage of the brides downloading that list will likely hire that photographer.
- A furniture store can sell guides on how to keep specific types of wood finished furniture clean and polished for generations. Chances are, someone with a worn out old chair will find that guide, realize their furniture has no hope, and go buy a new piece of furniture with that care guide in hand for future reference.
That’s the kind of content you want to create. If you can combined keyword-optimized for searchers + valuable for your ideal customer, you will have a winning SEO strategy. The other secret to this kind of strategy is that it is one that takes time. You are not going to pop out 100 amazing pieces of content a month. You’re more likely to put out one amazing piece of content per month. But the ROI of that content to your SEO will make it worth the investment.
5. Promote your business and your content.
The final secret to a successful SEO strategy for small business is promotion. Most SEO agencies like to call it link building, but if you think about it more as promotion, you’ll be more likely to succeed. Here’s why.
First, you have to believe that your business, your products, your services, and your content are valuable. Hopefully, that will be easy.
Once you believe that, it will be easy to find opportunities to promote it. You don’t want to look for link building opportunities, but rather business promotion opportunities, product promotion opportunities, service promotion opportunities, and content promotion opportunities.
You’ll find those opportunities all over the web just by finding communities where your ideal customers talk amongst themselves. Blogs, social media, forums, Q&A networks, etc. Chances are, when you find these places and follow the conversations, you’ll find the above-mentioned promotion opportunities, all of which will naturally involve dropping a link to your business, products, services, or content.
All of which, ultimately, will build links to your website. Promotion = link building.
Best of all, the more you promote a valuable business, product, service, or piece of content, the more others will start to promote it as well. That’s how even more links start to get built. It’s like a snowball going down a hill. It just keeps growing larger and larger.
So the secrets to SEO success for small business starts with great on-site optimization on your own website. From there, get the easy links on social media, local directories, and local review sites. Then invest in on-going content creation and full-on promotion. Do it as much as you can a day. Even 15 minutes a day devoted to these activities is better than none, and more than many of your competitors are likely doing.