Struggling with SEO for small businesses? You’re not alone. Launching a small business is an exciting, but challenging experience. Even when you’ve come up with an amazing idea, built a wonderful website, and raised some capital to get your venture going – you’re still not done. Your business isn’t going to be successful until you’re attracting customers, and that’s something you need to be doing constantly. Fortunately, in the digital world, there are plenty of ways to keep clients coming back to your website. However, a big part of your ability to thrive and be seen online is making sure that your site speaks not just to your clients, but to the search engines too. Welcome to your beginners guide to SEO.
SEO for Small Businesses: An Introduction
Search Engine Optimization is a multi-layered discipline. It involves everything from technical optimization on your site’s back-end, to keyword research, link building, and content marketing. A helpful way to think of it is that the search engines are digital referral engines. For your company to succeed online, you need to convince Google to refer your customers to you before your competitors. That’s easier said than done. SEO is complicated for any company. Google is constantly changing the way that it ranks brands with new rules and algorithms. Plus, you’re fighting for attention among millions of other companies. However, SEO can be particularly complicated for small businesses, as your time, resources, and money are often very limited.
SEO for Small Businesses Needs to be Smart
While all SEO strategies need to be carefully tailored, small businesses need to work particularly hard on their campaigns. After all, you won’t have the money to spend on the latest tools for tracking ranks and building authority. Additionally, you’re not going to have the legacy of standing online that bigger brands have spent years building. The good news? Just because building your presence online as a small business is hard, doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Here are some of the things that you can do to master SEO for small businesses.
1. Find a Niche
As a small business, you can’t afford to try being everything to everyone. The broader you go with your SEO strategy, the more competition you’ll have. For instance, consider the difference between trying to rank for a term like “digital marketing,” and ranking for something like “digital marketing tips for educational brands.” Determining the niche audiences that you want to reach with your small business will help you to find your place online. It will also mean that you have a higher chance of attracting the right customers to your business. That’s because you won’t just be reaching people who are pointlessly browsing online, you’ll be connecting to individuals who want exactly what you have to offer. Start looking for your niche by building out some user personas. Think about who your ideal customers are. What kind of things are they interested in? What pain points do they need to address? Tools like Ahrefs can give you an insight into what kind of questions customers are asking about your industry too, and you can use those to target a more specific audience.
2. Research your Competitors
While you’re building a better knowledge of your customers and what they need from you, don’t forget to consider your competitors. You need to be careful when evaluating your competition online. Some companies will have slightly different goals and budgets to you, which means that you can’t just copy-paste their strategies. However, you can track down the websites that are performing well in your niche, and find out:
- What those sites are ranking for
- How many pages they have indexed
- The quality of their link structure
You’ll also have some excellent opportunities to track down things that those companies are missing that you can do better. For instance, they might be missing keywords that you can target. Alternatively, you might find that there’s a section of the market that just isn’t being served by the competitors in your niche. This gives you an easy way to start differentiating yourself in the search results.
3. Fix Your Technical Issues
Though it might be tempting to start creating content and targeting keywords straight away, the first thing you need to do is ensure that your website is working properly. Though your site might look good from the outside, if there are issues happening “under the hood,” this could impact your traffic and rankings. Go into your website back-end and look for:
- Broken links that are damaging your link authority
- Duplicate content
- Lack of meta descriptions and titles
- Problems with canonical link elements
One particularly important thing to focus on is speed. In the age of mobile browsing, Google says that 53% of visitors will abandon a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load. However, everything from bloated plugins to large images can make your website slow. Check your performance on Google PageSpeed Insights to ensure you have what it takes to keep people on your site.
4. Produce Excellent Content
The next step in managing SEO for small businesses is ensuring that you have the right content to attract your readers. Too many small companies still think that placing their product information and contact details on their website is enough. However, you need to focus on defining yourself as an authority in your niche. Take a look at the kind of content that’s trending in your industry using a tool like BuzzSumo and see if you can put your own unique spin on it. Make sure that you’re targeting the right keywords in your content too. Building your blogs around the things that your audience is actually searching for will tell the search engines that you have what your customers need. Once your content is ready, make sure each page is optimized. That means:
- Using keywords in your titles and making sure they’re clickable.
- Writing short and clear meta descriptions with keyword mentions.
- Making the content clear, easy to read, and scannable.
- Using internal links to help Google understand your website.
- Using keywords in your alt tags and compressing your images.
5. Be Prepared for Local Search
Since small businesses don’t have as much budget or clout as larger companies, they’ll often have an easier time ranking in the local searches. That’s great news when you consider how valuable local search is for attracting customers further down the buying funnel. Additionally, with local search, you can appeal to customers in the new voice search space, looking for things “near me.” The first step in optimizing for local search is simply claiming your Google my Business Listing and filling out as much of your profile as possible. Once you’ve got your Google My Business strategy sorted, you can work on ensuring that your name, address, and phone number or “NAP” information is consistent elsewhere on the web. Check that any reference to your business online is factual and accurate, then start working on your keyword strategy to include local terms such as:
- Digital marketing in [Town]
- [City] Digital marketing company
- Marketing agency near me
6. Strengthen Your Reputation
Finally, one of the most important steps that any company can take in SEO for small businesses, is working on its reputation. These days, virtually everyone will look up a review of a company before they even consider buying something. Reviews became one of the leading local search factors in 2017, and they’ve remained essential ever since. Ask your customers to leave reviews and ratings on your website that will put the minds of other customers at rest when they’re considering buying from you. You might even offer freebies, like a discount code or shipping when a client leaves a review. Additionally, make sure that those ratings are backed up with citations from local directories like Yelp, SuperPages, and so on. Earning a listing on those websites will help to enhance your reputation and build more links for your website. Together, those two factors will significantly strengthen your SEO.
Ready to Nail SEO for Small Businesses?
Mastering SEO for small businesses isn’t easy. However, even if you don’t have the biggest budget or the wideset selection of resources to work with, you can still establish a powerful presence online. With a few tweaks to your website back-end, the right content, and a strategy for enhancing your online authority, you’ll begin building new ranking opportunities in no time. Remember, it’s also important as a small business to keep your finger on the pulse of any changes that might be happening in the search engines. Your company is likely to be particularly susceptible to any algorithm changes that Google implements, so it’s important to always be one step ahead of the curve. Set a date in your calendar to regularly audit, update, and improve your website.
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