In the past few years, the amount of new businesses has skyrocketed. 2020 was a record year for new businesses. As these businesses grow, they’re looking for new ways to attract new customers without having to spend too much on ads and promotions. One way to do this at scale is through small business SEO.
SEO is the process of optimizing a website to rank higher in search engine results. This can be done through optimizing the website content, links, structure, and keywords.
If you search for the products or services your business offers, how long does it take for you to find your business? For someone who has never looked you up before, you may not be on that first page, or even the second or third. You could be showing up on page 35, but when was the last time you waded through 35 pages of results?
Your search result could be swallowed under a sea of other small businesses competing for those top spots often taken by big business. Better search results mean more traffic, and more traffic means more customers. So keep reading to learn the keys to small business SEO.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through:
- How Google and SEO work together
- SEO benefits for small business
- Small business SEO tools
- Small business Local SEO
What Is Small Business SEO?
If SEO, let alone SEO for small businesses, is a foreign concept, have no fear. It’s easier to understand than you might expect.
Search engine optimization is a way to help your business rise to the top of the list. When you publish your business website, Google and other search engines collect data from websites to show you what’s relevant. They take all that data and order results for when someone searches for something related to your site.
For example, imagine you’re selling throw pillows. Every time someone searches certain words, like “throw pillow,” “decorative pillow,” or “home decor,” you would want your business to come up in those searches so they could see your products. And by utilizing a small business SEO strategy, your business will be placed in front of more people.
How Does Google do Small Business SEO?
- Google has a program that sorts through internet data and collects all the information from a website. This is called crawling because the search engine is using web crawlers to collect the intel.
- Next, the data is sorted in a more organized and ranked fashion, called indexing. Pages that are viewed as duplicated, spam, or have other issues in these first two steps may not be indexed and moved on to the final step.
- All of the data is organized into a ranking system, which determines where it shows up on the list of search results when someone types in a certain word or phrase.
There are a different types of SEO to be aware of as you look to develop an SEO strategy for small businesses. When you learn about SEO for small business websites, you’ll usually be gaining tools for general SEO. But local SEO may be a great tool to consider.
General SEO works to raise your results on, as the name implies, more general searches. Whereas local SEO will help with location-based searches. If you want people to walk into your storefront after finding your online shop, you may want to work on your local SEO specifically.
At Slam Media Lab, we have helped small businesses, nonprofits, and tech companies grow their traffic to hundreds of thousands of people a month. If you’d like to get free SEO resources and first access to our course, sign up here.
You might be wondering if SEO can really help your small business. And the overwhelming answer is yes. It helps your business reach new audiences without paid ads popping up and getting in the way, while helping you compete with the big business that can afford all those intrusive ads.
Let’s bring back the pillow example. When searching the term “throw pillow,” Google found 508,000,000 results (all within less than a second). While not all of those are links to businesses, plenty of them are and will never see the light of a computer screen. Don’t let your business hide in the back.
SEO offers many benefits for small businesses. Here’s a few ways it can help:
- Boosting website traffic
- Converting traffic to clients or customers
- Competitive level with big business
Boosting Website Traffic
When you show up higher on search engine result pages, more people will see your site and visit it. This is useful no matter if your business is transactional or informational because, either way, you need people to know you exist and give them a way to learn more about you.
Converting Traffic to Clients or Customers
More people visiting your site means more possible clients or customers. And the SEO tips you’ll receive next aren’t only about keywords, but about how to help your site maximize and capitalize on that traffic.
Competitive Level with Big Business
The benefits of a small business are often two-sided. You may have lower costs, but also lower visibility due to smaller output. And that means smaller profits. But effective small business SEO will help put you on more even footing with those big corporations that take up most of the first page search results, so you aren’t losing out on customers who would love a more personal touch.
There has never been a more important time for a business to optimize its online presence. E-commerce sales surged during the pandemic, and those numbers aren’t going down. The convenience of online shopping is here to stay, and that means every business has to adjust and adapt to that new marketplace.
The main tip to remember when it comes to SEO for small business owners is that you have to be consistent. SEO is something you have to continuously incorporate into your website and blog.While this may sound like a lot of work, much of it can be done incrementally, the evergreen content means you can have traffic for free forever.
How to Improve SEO for Small Business
Now that you have the SEO basics for small businesses and how it can help, let’s get into the specifics about what steps you can take to get business booming.
At Slam, we’re building free tools and resources to nail SEO at a budget cost. Sign up to our newsletter to get them right away. For now, here’s a sneak peek of what we offer:
- Keyword research
- On-page SEO
- Website structure
- Alt text
- Internal links
- Creating SEO optimized content
SEO has a lot to do with keywords. These are words most relevant to your site or product that will help you show up in searches. They may feel intuitive, but it’s important to do keyword research to find out what the best words and phrases are, and how to use them on your website.
Some phrases are also more competitive, meaning you will need to use them differently in order to garner a higher ranking, since other sites often use the same ones.
Using a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or Google Keyword Research Tool will help you determine the most unique words and phrases for your brand or business, and which ones will help your site gain views.
If you’d like the step by step on keyword research, sign up to our newsletter to get first access to our tutorials.
On-page optimization is the process of making individual web pages as relevant and effective as possible for specific keywords. This process includes things like title tags, meta descriptions, and keyword-rich content.
It’s important to do on-page optimization for each page of your site, as this will help search engine crawlers understand what your page is about, and index it accordingly.
This is one of those subtle ways to help Google boost your page that many businesses don’t realize. Think about how your page is summarized in the description under the Google search. That’s a meta tag, and using keywords and phrases within that description makes for some of the most effective SEO for small business websites.
Think about the types of phrases someone will be searching to find your business, and use those in that description. Not only will it help Google place your business near the top, but it will help consumers see that your site is relevant to their search.
The way your website is set up can determine a level of optimization when Google collects and sorts that into data to list. You can add code to your site so there is more information available about what your business is. This is called schema markup. This, along with structured data, can help web crawlers better identify and understand what your business is offering.
This code is placed in the back end of your website, and it’s not something that the average person can do themselves. You will need to hire someone to help with this, but it’s worth it to invest in this optimization, since it will make the site load faster. The long-term effects can really help you climb to the top of Google searches.
Images make your content more interesting to read. Most Google searchers would prefer to read an article punctuated by images, graphics, and bullet points, rather than one long block of text. That’s why Google prioritizes this type of comprehensive content.
And images give you space to add more keywords. How? Through alt text.
Because Google only reads text, alt text exists to show the description of an image. This is the text that appears if the image doesn’t load, and it also allows Google to “read” what the image is about. So if you want to include more keywords, be strategic about how you name your images and fill in that alt text.
Adding alt text also helps with accessibility.
When creating your site or adding to it, don’t forget to include internal links. This means when you mention something you have to offer, you link to that in the content. These not only help your customers more easily navigate your site, but it helps Google find its way around too.
At Slam, we include internal links by:
- Linking blogs on the homepage
- Including breadcrumbs
- Including a table of contents
- Showing recommended content
- Hyperlinking relevant content in blogs
On the opposite side, don’t overdo the external links. External links are (describe)…. We recommend only using external links to:
- Quote sources
- Include statistics
- Reference a report
You don’t want to be linking to someone competitive to you on Google and in real life.
A backlink is a link from one website to another. Backlinks are also called "inbound links" or "incoming links." Backlinks are important to SEO (search engine optimization) because they are a signal to search engines that a website is popular and relevant.
A web crawler and Google will gather a lot of small details to determine if your site is valid and worth boosting in the rankings. When you can get backlinks from other connected sites, it shows that yours can be trusted. You can get a higher domain rating, and more people will find your page.
When you look for sites to list yours on, don’t go for any you find. More isn’t always better when it comes to SEO marketing for small businesses. If you end up with your website connected to spam sites or those spreading viruses, Google may avoid indexing your site. Don’t buy backlinks.
Here are a few good options for possible business directories:
- Google My Business
- Apple Maps
- Instagram for Business
Adding your website to directories and building pages for it will help more people find your site, showing Google that your site is legit and is credible. Some sites will add only a link, and others will require an entire profile.
Building a social media presence can add an additional boost to your SEO. And if you already have a few social media pages up, make sure your website link is featured right at the top so anyone can find it. This provides another backlink to help with indexing and helps customers easily make their way to your main page.
Creating SEO Optimized Content
To write SEO optimized content, you will need to do your research and target keywords that are relevant to your topic. Once you have your keywords, you will need to integrate them into your content in a way that is natural and flows well.
For articles, Google gives preference to longer articles, so if you can write a comprehensive piece, that’s ideal. But you also need to make sure it’s interesting, uncluttered, and easy to follow. You need to make it:
- 2,500 words
- Include 5 internal links
- Include 3 external links
- Include bullets, lists, tables
- Headers: H1, H2, H3s
- Images, videos
- Keywords in title, headers and metas
For on-page optimization, include:
- Keywords throughout the headers and paragraphs
- Links to other parts of the website
- Reviews and testimonials
- Images and videos
- Keywords in title, headers and metas
Slam SEO and Small Business
Like your business, Slam Media Lab is a company built on the belief that small businesses and entrepreneurs can make an impact. We want you to reach the people you need to as quickly as possible, without sacrificing quality in the marketing.
We have partnered with big and small companies to help them reach the top on search pages. Having worked with so many different types of organizations, you know the work you receive is customized for your needs specifically.
Our client list includes:
- Universities like Northwestern and the University of Chicago
- Tech companies like Loop, Elemental Excelerator, and Kai XR
- Media companies like LTX Connect
- Nonprofits like Peer Health Exchange
The personal touch you offer as a small business is what you get when working with Slam on projects. We can design a website from scratch or work with you to update an existing page so that it is hitting the goals you want and need for your business.
There are some great free tools like Google Search Console that can help get you get started on your SEO journey, but there is still a lot of background work that goes into boosting your website ranking. Seeking small business SEO help allows your business to rise to the top (both literally and figuratively).
Keep Up With Small Business SEO
If you’re still wondering whether all this SEO stuff can really help your small business, try this exercise: Ask a friend or acquaintance who has never googled your business to look up one of your services or products on Google.
How long did it take them to find your site among all those results, and how many other options did they see before reaching yours?
The internet is evolving, and the small businesses who are taking advantage of this growth are the ones benefiting the most. But don’t worry. We got you!
If you’d like to take your website and small business to the next level without sacrificing the quality of content or products, welcome aboard! We’re building free resources and a course you can use to take your SEO to the next level. In the last few weeks, we've released:
- SEO Terms: Explained — our guide to help you understand key SEO terms and how to optimize your site and content
- Airtable Content Calendar — an all-in-one content planning solution
And there's even more where that came from! Sign up to our newsletter to be one of the first to receive:
- Free SEO keyword template
- SEO ROI calculator template
- SEO Presentation template
- Tutorials on how to do all the SEO processes
- Examples of small businesses rocking SEO
Liked this? Check out these resources