A Small Business Guide to SEO

Author Bio: Danielle Canstello is party of the content marketing team at Pyramid Analytics. They provide enterprise level analytics and data analytics software. In her spare time, she writes around the web to spread her knowledge of the marketing, business intelligence and analytics industries.

Whatever type of business you run, if you have an online presence, you need to get customers to your site in order to make money.

One way to do that is to show up in the results when a potential customer does an online search. Being near the top in those search results is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and it helps drive traffic to your site.

For the small business owner, it’s one more item in a long list of critical tasks to ensure viability. SEO is just as important for small businesses as it is for big corporations. Part of your SEO strategy includes local SEO, in which you optimize your page for local searches.

With SEO, you are basically implementing strategies that will drive organic traffic to your site. By organic, we mean that people are not finding your website by clicking on an advertisement. It means they did a search, your site showed up, and they clicked on your link.

If you own a shoe store in Ajax, for instance, you want to be at the top when people search “shoe store Ajax.” Users find organic search to be more credible than advertisements.

If you do it right, you can boost your business up to the top of the search results for your industry, allowing you to benefit from what is essentially free advertising. But it can also seem complex and confusing.

This doesn’t have to be a daunting task, however. We’re here to help with our small business guide to SEO.

Establish Your Focus

To have success in your business, you need to focus on what makes your products or services special. Having your niche established will help you when it comes time to making your products or services stand out in your online presence.

In other words, how would you describe your product? How would customers describe your product?

We’ve all heard about the importance of keywords. But it’s more than simply adding a bunch of words to your webpage.

By understanding your niche, knowing your products, and describing them as your customers would, your keywords will be relevant and your content will be useful. If you emphasize what makes your products unique, your chances of ranking high when customers are searching will increase.

Using our example, perhaps quality shoe brands and excellent customer service are the focus of your business. That helps you determine content centered on your mission. You’re not just using “shoe store Ajax” again and again on your site.

Think Like A User

Before you jump right into adding content that reflects your focus, think about your users, or your potential customers.

It’s not enough for you to determine whether content is good. Your content is simply the means to get a searcher to land on your site. Therefore, think about user intent before developing a content strategy.

How will people search for shoes and find your store? Consider the different ways they will make queries, and your content can address those searches. There are endless ways to search for a shoe store.

Queries could be as diverse as:

  • “What is the best quality shoe?”
  • “What kind of shoe is best for walking?”
  • “How much should I spend on shoes?”
  • “Where can I get shoes repaired?”
  • “Where is the best walking path in Ajax?”

You get the idea. You’re not just addressing people who type in “shoe store Ajax?” Searches are much more diverse than that.

A site that succeeds in fulfilling the intent of more searches will have a better chance of ranking higher, because Google will have more confidence that user intent will be met.

Even if people are not initially interested in buying shoes, if your content addresses the searcher’s intent, they may end up on your site and make a purchase. After all, why repair a shoe when you offer quality shoe brands and excellent customer service!

Quality Content Is King

There’s an old marketing saying that “content is king.” This is deceptive, because it should be “quality content is king.”

Not all content will help SEO. In fact, bad content could hurt your rankings and prevent potential customers from clicking through to your site. Content needs to be focused and well written.

It’s better to concentrate on quality content, rather than quantity. Your website needs to be useful to your potential customers. A high volume of content won’t necessarily help.

Here are some ideas to get you started on quality content:

  • Obviously, you want product information and contact details.
  • Share your business goals, customer service rankings, and information “about” your business vision or goal.
  • Consider customer reviews or stories about your customers.
  • Share market developments or events that are related to your industry or your business specifically.
  • Write about topics that people want to talk about that are related to your business in a positive way. For instance, your shoe store could have articles about the best local walking paths, or tracking the number of steps taken in a day, and relate it back to quality shoes.
  • Use “local” headlines so the snippet that shows in search results will be optimized for local SEO. Google will identify you as being a local business, and so will customers.
  • Be sure to include words that identify your business and your location and target area.

Make Your Website User-Friendly

SEO doesn’t just mean getting people to click to your site. It’s also about the user experience when they land on your website.

After all, those who stay longer on your site are more likely to become customers. And, the time spent looking at your website can impact your search ranking. A high bounce rate results in lower rankings.

Therefore, pay attention to factors such as load time, ensuring your pages don’t take too long to load.

It’s also important that your page is optimized for mobile. The number of smartphone users will only continue to increase, and more and more business - including searches and purchases - is conducted on mobile devices.

This is where you come back to your focus. Be decisive. Be clear. Don’t fill your pages with many large images, or make it difficult for users to find the information they need.

Social Media

Just as with content, quality is more important than quantity when it comes to a social media presence for your business.

You can sell your products on social media platforms, but you can also use it effectively for brand awareness, and to bring customers to your site to make a purchase. Establishing an image for your business will help get traffic to your website.

That doesn’t mean you have to be on every platform. Choose carefully and do it well. Post regularly, create a conversation with your audience, respond to comments, and share updates that are useful. Just as with your content, you need to provide value to your audience.

Let’s take Facebook, for example. People will connect and interact with “friends” everywhere, but they are especially prone to connect to local people. A local business can benefit from this tendency. Just be sure you have your settings on "Enable Public Search" so that your Facebook business profile show up in Google search results.

If your business lends itself well to images, Instagram is another good choice.

Whatever you choose, focus on quality.

Location Specific Strategies

Finally, your local rankings will be enhanced by several tactics.

For one, be sure to have your name, address and phone number in all your listings – website and social media. It helps to include your city and state/province as well.

You can also add a Google My Business listing, and be sure to include the exact same details as you have on your website. Include a link to your website on the Google listing. And, include an embedded Google map of your Google My Business listing on the contact page of your website.

By ensuring the details are all identical, Google will understand the relationship between them. This will help you get ranked in your specific geographic area.

Other tactics to support local search include having ratings on your site, and including links from other small businesses related to your company.

Final thoughts

It does take some effort to optimize your business for search, including local search. But the time spent on building a strategy and executing on the strategy will be well worth it when you see your business climb up the rankings in search engine results.

Be realistic about your strategy as well. If you’re in a very competitive market, you may not get all the way to number one. But by managing your expectations and continuing to monitor and revise as necessary, your small business can make big gains in SEO.