SEO for small businesses

SEO for Small Businesses

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SEO is a great way for small businesses to attract new customers and generate more revenue.


Small business owners should think of SEO as tool to utilize that will actually help now and into the future. There are various simple elements that can be done with just a few changes to a website. 


This article will guide small to medium size business owners through what they should and shouldn’t care about it when it comes to SEO.

What is SEO for Small Businesses?

SEO is one of the most important things for small businesses because it can help them get found on Google and other search engines.


SEO is important for small businesses asit helps them to get more online visibility. This in turn leads to more sales, local in-store visits, email signups, and brand awareness. It can also help generate more Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) in the B2B arena.


The importance of SEO for small businesses cannot be overstated. It is the most cost-effective way of getting your business noticed by potential customers and to generate leads.


In fact, 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby, visit the same business within a day. 


Small businesses are the backbone of the economy. They are responsible for creating jobs and providing goods and services to their communities. However, they often lack the resources to compete with larger companies in terms of marketing and advertising.


This is where SEO comes in. SEO is a powerful tool that can help small businesses get found by potential customers online. It can also help them rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) so that they can compete with larger companies when people search for products or services related to their business.

What are the top SEO priorities for Small Businesses?

SEO is a broad subject containing a multitude of techniques, however, SEO for small businesses doesn’t necessarily need to apply all of the tactics used by larger businesses. 


Surprisingly, many small to medium-sized businesses don’t apply the lowest threshold of SEO to help their business grow. A survey conducted by The Manifest found that 70% of small businesses do not have an SEO strategy. 


The crazy thing is search engines like Google publicly publish how to improve your rankings. It’s simply a matter of understanding the terminology, making the right choices, and analyzing your efforts.


The top DIY SEO priorities for Small Businesses fall under four categories:


  • Local SEO
  • Website Optimization for desktop and mobile
  • Link building
  • Keywords and Headings


We will get into each of these areas, but it’s good to keep in mind that many of these priorities require minimal effort, and in some cases would only require a short amount of time for a business owner that is somewhat savvy with their website’s backend, or in other cases, a simple few changes required of your web developer.

What is Local SEO for Small Businesses?

Local SEO for small businesses is a great way to get your business in front of potential customers. It can be done by optimizing your website for local search, optimizing your Google Business page, customer reviews, and getting links on third-party sites.


Local search refers to online users searching for products, services, directions, and updated information about local businesses in their geographic area. 


Websites and search engine profiles should work in unison – one supporting the other. 


Think about how you utilize apps on your phone to search for local businesses in your area. Here’s how the process typically works:


  1. An online user types a keyword phrase into a search bar.
  2. They receive multiple results related to their keyword on result pages and/or through a local map.
  3. The online user has the option to browse multiple vendors.
  4. The online user may read reviews, check out the website, head straight to social media to search for updates, and more.
  5. The online user then decides on their vendor and is likely to visit the physical location the same day or make a purchase online. 


Now let’s reverse engineer this process. Here is what a small business did to be found via a keyword relating to their business.


  1. They optimized their Google Business Profile.
  2. They included their contact information and address on their website.
  3. They optimized their website for SEO and user experience.
  4. They have acquired reviews that can be read by prospective customers.
Small Business SEO Checklist

Small Business SEO Checklist

  • Keywords and Headings
  • Google Business Profile
  • Website Optimized for SEO
  • Mobile-Friendly Browsing
  • Links
  • Reviews


We’re keeping this list short as it offers a number of DIY tips that small business owners can implement themselves or with the help of their web developer.


As most professional SEO service providers know, not every web developer has SEO education as it’s not required to build a functional website.

- Keywords and Headings

The first step of SEO is to find keywords that are relevant and popular in your industry. You can do this by doing a search for related keywords and seeing what pops up. Next, you need to optimize your website for those keywords.


Part of this process is very simple as it directly relates to what you’re actually selling. The other element is understanding what your customers are actively searching for. 


Keyword research can be done using several SEO software tools such as SEMrush and Moz, but as it relates to DIY SEO tips, the ‘people also ask” is a great free tool to utilize for research. 


Let’s use an example of a car detailer in Calgary. A keyword search for “car detailing” will provide a broad list, where the most SEO-friendly sites rank in the top positions on page 1 of search results. 


While it’s important to include primary keywords such as this on your site, the people also ask feature on Google search results can offer a variety of other keyword phrases to include on your website pages and/or blog. Examples below using the keyword “car wash”.

people also ask

Now that you have a list of keywords you know your customers are actively searching for, best practices include the placement of those keywords in headings throughout your website.


For those who are familiar with heading tags, most website builders will offer a choice of heading tags to choose from. H1 is the primary heading to use only once per web page. This H1 heading should include the primary keywords you want to rank for. 


Additional headings providing information should have a H2 heading, and subsequent list sections should have a H3 heading for subsections. 

Clearly explained in Hubspot’s header tag guide below.

Header tags

Correct use of heading tags is important as they satisfy search engine guidelines for page formatting, allowing their algorithms to better understand the content on the page and show it to users based on the intent of their search.

- Google Business Profile

A Google Business Profile is a must for all local businesses. It offers online users a wide variety of information about a business without having to leave Google search results. Other search engines have similar business profiles packs, such as Bing and Yahoo, and serve a similar information model to users. 


Setting up a Google Business Profile is a simple process that most business owners can fulfill themselves. The process includes providing key information about your business, what it sells, where its located, opening hours, and other relevant information that users care about.  

Google business profile

Recently Google added a video validation step to ensure their business listings are credible. The process requires one continuous recording of:


  • Your current location
    • Verification of your location includes capturing outside signage, street names, nearby business, and/or proof of the area around your business.
  • Business or equipment
    • Verification that your business is actually at the reported location. This includes capturing your equipment, in-store imagery, products for sale, marketing materials, and other tools you use to serve your customers.
  • Proof of Management
    • Verification that you have authority in your business. This includes showing employee-only areas within your business location, storage rooms, or simply opening the front door to your business with keys. 


Once you have the video captured, you upload it through the Google Business Profile dashboard you received access to after signing up. 


Then you have to wait for it to be reviewed by Google staff, which can take up to 5 working days. 


Once your Google Business Profile has been verified, complete all of the required sections. This includes adding a business description, categories, photos, products, updates, announcements, promotions, and social media profiles. 


The information you add in the dashboard will be visible to an online user both through Google search results and Google Maps. The more relevant information you can offer to a prospective customers the better. 

Lastly, once you’re up and running with your Google Business Profile, it is very beneficial to SEO to encourage and respond to all reviews – even the negative ones. As you can see from doing your own research, the top three local results that are served to an online user tend to have the most five-star reviews, and the business is actively responding.

Website optimized for seo

- Website Optimized for SEO

Optimizing a website for search engines is a complex task. SEO professionals such as Scott McGinn SEO Services have spent years learning techniques to offer their clients a competitive advantage in their markets. 


While SEO is a complex process that includes technical configuration and content marketing, for the purposes of this guide, let’s focus on SEO DIY tips.


There are a variety of tools that are available to anyone in relation SEO and website optimization. 


Here are the most important elements of website optimization that should be considered a priority for small to medium businesses:


  • Ensure your website is safe to browse
    • Adding an SSL certificate is a low-cost security element to add to your website. It offers a high security level to reduce any risk of being hacked, but is crucial for websites that offer online purchasing.


  • Ensure primary keywords relating to your business are used in heading tags and body text.
    • Adding primary keywords to headings allow search engines to understand the content under each heading.


  • Add internal links throughout your website
    • Internal links are placing text links from one page of your website to another. This helps improve user experience and helps search engines understand the primary pages on your website.


  • Use correct sizing for images.
    • Incorrect image sizes can break the formatting your website design. Search engines also consider this to be a factor in providing a great user experience. 


  • Add SEO plugins to your website.
    • If your website was built with a plugin-friendly content management system (CMS), there are a variety of SEO plugins to help accelerate loading times, add key phrases to pages and posts, and add structured data to inform engines about the structure of your website.


  • Register for Google Search Console and Google Analytics
    • Google search console allows your to ask Google to index your website through an xml sitemap file, in other words, its like giving Google a map of your website so that it has the information it needs from your business to show it to online users.
    • Google Analytics is another free tool to monitor, manage, and analyze important audience data about the users coming to your website. It can help a business owner determine its most visited pages, where there may be gaps in customer resources, and whether or not online users are finding what they’re looking for.


  • Regularly check that your website works on smartphones
    • Mobile-friendly browsing is a critical component of how search engines rank websites. Over 50% of searches on Google are done via a smartphone, search engines want to show websites that offer its users a great user experience, satisfying this will greatly benefit how you rank on search engines. This may require some additional support from an SEO professional or web developer if your website is not functioning correctly on smartphones.
mobile-friendly browsing

- Mobile-Friendy Browsing

Mobile-friendly browsing is crucial, and should not be ignored by businesses in competitive markets. SEO professionals know this is a primary ranking factor for search engines, and will only continue to be a critical factor in optimizing a website for search engines. 


If you’re not sure whether your website does function well on smartphones, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to gather insight into any possible errors. In cases where you don’t fully understand the reasons why your website is not mobile-friendly, it can beneficial to reach out to an SEO professional to help you with your website. 


If you have registered your website with Google Search Console, there are a number of metrics and reports that can offer insight into why your website is not functioning correctly on smartphones.


User experience is the primary component of a mobile-friendly design. User experience includes the efficiency of page formatting, page loading times, and clean navigation.


There are dozens of SEO tactics that can be used, to keep things simple, let’s focus on the key areas that arise when a website is determined to not be mobile-friendly. This list will prioritize areas that business owners can do themselves.


  • Boost website speed by reducing the number of visual elements on-page.
  • Ensure your website’s navigation is clear and easy to use.
  • Ensure clickable elements are large enough.
  • Ensure text is readable and clear from its background.
  • Optimize images by reducing their file size and/or serving them as WebP files.
  • Keep your forms as short as possible.
  • Use a table of contents for long-form blog posts.

- Links

Links play a big role in how well a website gets ranked on search engine result pages. 


There are three link factors to consider:

  • Internal links
  • External links
  • Backlinks

What are internal links?

Internal links are links from one page of your website to another. How they are configured should indicate the most important pages on your website. An example could include placing a link to your services page in a variety of blog posts. This provides search engines with more insight into where you want your website visitors to spend the most time.

What are external links?

External links are links from one page of your website to a third-party website. Typically done when quoting or citing factual data from another website. It’s beneficial to ensure your external links are connected to high-quality websites, as they will play a role in search engines deciphering whether or not your content is credible and offers actual expertise.

What are backlinks?

Backlinks are a link from a third-party website directed to a page on your website. These types of links can have a significant impact on how well you rank on search engine result pages, depending on the quality of that third-party websites. 


While all of the links mentioned are important, acquiring backlinks from authoritative third-party websites will offer the most SEO benefit. These are usually acquired through guest posting, speaking events, directories, sponsored articles, and much more.

Google reviews

- Reviews

Reviews play a major role in buying behavior of a potential customer as well as benefitting SEO. As with most people, reviews offer a way to mitigate any risk in pursuing a purchase with a business. 


One of the top places for customers to read reviews is Google Reviews. These reviews can be accessed through your Google Business Profile, and play a role in how well your website is ranked in the Google Maps listings.


While there’s no perfect way to get all five-star reviews other than providing immaculate service to every customer, it can be beneficial to respond to both positive and negative reviews directly through your Google Business Profile. 


Part of Google’s algorithms it to scan for fresh content, which can include actively responding to Google reviews. Previous customers can upload their own imagery of their experience with your business, as well as provide prospective customers with their experience. 


Authentic reviews from customers play in role in determining whether your website and business is trustworthy, the more authentic reviews, the more insight search engines have about how well you serve your customers. 


It is important to stay clear of buying reviews, as Google’s algorithms are well equipped to identify bots and other fake reviews. 


Good customer reviews drive traffic to your website, which in turn helps the broader goals of SEO. There are a number of ways to simply ask for reviews, such as including a call to action on checkout pages, thank you emails, and more. 

Additionally, a local consumer review survey conducted by Brightlocal found 87% of customers read online reviews about a business during a local search. Reviews help drive traffic to your website, increase the level of trust in your business, and help search engines determine whether your actively engaging with your customers.


The article has covered a variety of techniques that a business owner could utilize to improve their presence on search engine result pages. While there are over 200 ranking factors that SEO professionals are aware of, as noted there are many DIY tactics anyone can utilize to support their business now and into the future. 


The most notable takeaways for small and medium business owners is to ensure your website is optimzed for search engine algorithms, ensure your website functions correctly on mobile, and fulfilling all areas of your Google Business Profile. 


If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Scott to book a time to chat.