Small businesses have some tough shoes to fill when it comes to promotional efforts. They have to run a tight operation with fewer hands to do the heavy lifting on a smaller budget. This often means certain things like proper online marketing can fall through the cracks. In a heavily online world, this can be a major crutch, as popping up in searches is the best way to reach customers. Luckily, there are some really crucial low-cost, easy solutions to most small business SEO problems.

While more robust SEO practices can be great for getting better recognition and online presence, they have other benefits as well.

  • Aside from more presence, they demonstrably improve a business’ marketing ROI
  • Following SEO recommendations often leads to a more streamlined and better user experience
  • They make you more readily available to potential clients than your competition

Reaping all these benefits can be expensive in many cases, but on a basic level there are many things small businesses can do. Here are just a few that you can do to kick off your website and achieve better growth. We’re handing out some very practical and cheap advice.

But first…

Prerequisites

Obviously, you need to have a website, but you also need to have your business listed by Google. Without this you really aren’t ready to get started, so do that. You’d be surprised how many companies don’t realise the absolute necessity of completing their business listing. We’ve talked about how to do that before in other articles, so please read those if you’re not sure how to or why it’s important.

One of the main purposes this serves is that of allowing small businesses to pop up in the places that matter most: local markets. Google’s business listings often direct traffic using location and proximity as a primary feature. As expressed previously in other articles, local searches for goods and services are overwhelmingly followed up with purchases and visits by customers. Missing out on this level of operations is a bad idea.

Another thing to look out for when fixing your SEO is knowing what you want to improve. Knowing your product, who is searching for it, and how is the first thing. Are they mostly local? What do they enter to find your business? Most importantly, what device are they using to search for products in the same category? If you’re evaluating your standing on search engines but aren’t making your website mobile friendly, you’ll run into a major roadblock. Over half of Google’s searches come from phones (Google, 2015), so this is absolutely crucial. One thing you might want to look into is Google’s own mobile-friendly test tool, which can tell you just how your site performs in this regard.

Here’s a handy video that’ll teach you everything you need to know about using the test tool (courtesy of WebXly):

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Small Business & Local SEO

Small Business SEO Tips

Ranking locally, as mentioned earlier, is a big deal. There are three things you need to keep in your eyeliner if you want to up your game. Proximity, prominence and relevance. These are the main factors that make your business appear at the top of the local SERPs for a specific search term. Here’s how the algorithm determines these factors:

  • Proximity: search engines have different means to find out exactly where the searcher is located. This often means cross-referencing zip codes and/or geo-coordinates.
  • Prominence: This is when the search engine tries to determine how well-known your business is. They do this by looking  at a variety of sources, so build a portfolio of links, reviews, and citations. Get customers to fill them out at check-out if possible.
  • Relevance: Another major factor. The search engine will look into whether the local company matches what a user is looking for.

Proximity can be helped with Google My Business, while relevance, and to some degree prominence, can be helped along with Schemas. We’ve covered what they are and what they do in previous articles, so go visit those if you need to. Schemas can really boost your relevance in the eyes of Google. They also make your pages and the info on them stand out for consumers, making them easier to access.

Tools like the Yoast local SEO tool can help get your pages a lot more of the little details that can boost their standings. The SEO for local business listings is a crucial battleground, so shilling out some extra money for the plug-in is a worthwhile investment.

Website Structure & Formatting

It’s pretty obvious that your site needs to be user-friendly and easy to navigate, however there’s some very specific things many a business misses out on in their SEO endeavours. Some basic criteria to look out for include having homepages link to other important pages (the about page, content page, services etc.), or how a services page should list and link to pages describing individual services. Google takes these into account.

Another major misstep is leaving irrelevant links or ones that read as “spam-like” for Google. This can be some anchor text that is far too common on multiple pages. These can set off alarm bells for the search engine and leave your website lagging in SEO. Similarly, also be on the look-out for broken links and pages for the same reason.

In terms of content, it’s best to have a fair bit of informational materials as content marketing. This can help draw in potential customers and get your pages linked by others. Content like pictures or articles isn’t always enough on its own. Make sure that ever page has metadata and meta-descriptions to go with it.

As mentioned earlier, cellphones are also a consideration one has to make. A lot of things need to be kept in mind to improve the user experience, but here are the most crucial:

  • Does the width of your website automatically adjust to the screen size (“viewport”) of the visitor’s device?
  • Does text automatically resize for mobile visitors, so that they don’t have to pinch-and-scroll to read it?
  • Are your calls to action and other buttons large enough for people to click with their fingers and thumbs?

Keywords vs. Queries

Long tail keywords

The old style of doing SEO is still relevant, but far less potent because of the reliance on keywords which has saturated searches. While keywords are still a major factor, queries can be better at directing users and building relevance. More specifically, long-tail queries are what drive more relevant customers to your company’s domain. Since they are often more specific in nature than plain keywords, this also means that they are more likely to target people with higher purchase intention.

The difference between these two, and how Google processes both, can be a worth understanding, so here goes:

  • Keywords are just targeted phrases. These can be simple words that you aim to rank higher for on Google. Example: Designer sneakers
  • Queries are a bit different as they often carry an intent with them. Using the previous example keyword, a related query would be “best designer sneakers under $200”

The difference here is subtle, but can be a crucial one. One is more specific and implies an action behind it. Small businesses that can harness this can manage a fair deal better than just showing up under one word and can better leverage the benefits of SEO. Google is much more invested in intent than in generic keywords nowadays, so it plays better with the algorithm. There is still a lot of long-tail traffic that redirects to blogs and articles as opposed to businesses, which can really open up the playing field for emerging players.