10 Actionable SEO Tips for Small Businesses

The major search engines, Google, Yahoo and Bing, are a main source of the traffic driven to businesses online today.

According to a report by parse.ly, Google own 65 – 70% of the shares of U.S. searches to date and consistently outpaces the other search engines when it comes to the traffic the service is referring to other websites.

When a small business optimizes its website for the search engines, keep in mind what’s important for Google’s search algorithm since these same tactics work for both Yahoo and Bing as well.

Search engine optimization or SEO is of value to a small business because it is often the difference between a potential customer finding your business or not. Organic traffic, traffic to your website from the search engines, is often the top referral source for most websites next to direct traffic, traffic to your website from someone typing in the exact URL or clicking on a bookmark of your site. Not to mention, direct traffic is often fuelled by the search engines since the exact URL for a website is often misspelled and the search engines can help a searcher find exactly what they are looking for.

Whether a search is conducted on a desktop computer or a mobile phone, your website should be highly ranked for the right set of keywords related to your business. Here are ten actionable tips for small businesses to make the most of their search engine optimization efforts:

1. Focus on Title Tags & Meta Descriptions

On-page optimization consists of any tactics used on your website to help optimize for the search engines. One of the most important aspects of on-page SEO is to ensure every page of your website has a unique and descriptive title tag and meta description. The title tag is 65 characters or less and is used to identify the over all subject of a web page on your website. Title tags are indicated as blue text in the search engine results for a particular page.

It also appears at the top of the browser to help title a page. The search engines take the title tag into consideration when ranking your page to best match it with the correct search criteria. This title should be unique to the page it’s labeling, while also including your company’s name at the end of the title tag if room permits.

The meta description is the one to two sentences of black text that appears below the title tag on the search engine result for a web page. It describes the content of the page and is meant to encourage a searcher to click the link in the search engine results. The meta description isn’t taken into consideration by the search engine in terms of ranking, but is displayed for searchers to view and therefore, this factor affects click thru rates.

2. Setup a Google+ Page and/or a Google+ Local Page

Google+ is yet another factor taken into consideration by Google’s search algorithm, which could help bring your website better rankings for the right keywords your customers are using. If your business has physical stores that customers visit, then begin setting up a Google+ Local Page for each location.

Fill out all the information in your profile and upload engaging photos to share insights into what your business offers customers. If your business isn’t consumer facing with physical locations, then setup a Google+ Page to represent your company as a whole. After filling out the profile completely with all the necessary information, confirm your email address and URL by confirming an email sent to that email account and adding a snippet of code to your website to confirm your ownership of the URL.

Once you’ve completed your profile, update your pages consistently with engaging content about your business, its offerings and the industry as a whole using text, photos and video. The pages your business setup, as well as the consistent content posted to those pages will help Google better associate the right keywords with your company and therefore, help you rank more effectively.

3. Blog Frequently About Your Business & Industry

Many companies cite not having enough time to blog for their business, but it doesn’t have to be as big of a commitment as most business owners think. Blogging once or twice a week will help your business stand out from competitors as long as you aren’t blogging for the sake of blogging, but actually providing value to your audience.

Sharing industry news, updates about your business, how to articles, announcements of new products, behind the scenes photos and more will help your audience become more familiar with your business and help drive much needed SEO value at the same time. Creating content on behalf of your company is fuel for social media like Google+ and other channels your business should be active on, as well as information for Google’s search engine to index about your business and its offerings.

Blog posts are an effective method of keeping your website fresh with new, interesting content, getting keywords related to your offerings on the website that don’t fit elsewhere, a way of continually communicating with your customer base and a method of attracting links to your website, all of which Google favors when ranking a website.

4. Build Links From Local Organizations

Links are the lifeblood of a website’s SEO since they indicate when another website favors your own and therefore, the greater the variety of links to your website the more likely it is a quality site and valuable to its audience, according to Google’s search algorithm. At all levels of your business, your team should be aware of opportunities to get links to your website.

Any partnership or interaction with other organizations presents an opportunity for a link to your website, which may seem like a small gesture but overtime can be a huge driver of traffic for your business online.

When sponsoring an organization in your area, donating to a charity or non-profit, becoming a member of a chamber of commerce or any other similar activity, be sure to request that a link to your website be added as a part of the partnership. Links from local sources will help your business become competitive for search terms related to your expertise in your area.

5. Link Internally Across Your Website

Internal links aren’t as valuable to your SEO as external links, but they are still important to your overall optimization. To best utilize internal linking, simply link to two to three pieces of related content on your website to build a sophisticated structure of links across your website.

The goal isn’t to link every piece of content back to your homepage, but instead to create a hierarchy of pages that link to one another in different levels as seen below.

Linking to other pages across your website should always be natural and never forced. Link to other pieces of content across your website that relate to the original page and add more value to the coverage of a specific topic. When writing a blog post for instance, link to a previously written article that adds more insights into the subject by linking to a relevant phrase within the new article to the old article.

Internal linking will help Google better understand the hierarchy of your website and the topics your company typically addresses online, which helps its algorithm better rank your website accordingly.

6. Create a List of Keywords

Create a list of keywords that you believe your company should be ranking for to help address what your business should focus on when optimizing for SEO. As a small business, focus on trying to rank for long-tail keywords, which means keyword phrases made up of two to four words. For example, if you’re a clothing boutique in Brooklyn, you want to try to rank for keywords like: women’s clothing boutique, Brooklyn clothing boutique or women’s clothing store.

Establishing a list of about thirty keyword phrases that accurately describe your business and could be naturally added throughout the content of your website as it is developed will help organize the SEO efforts of each member of your team.

The best approach to naturally including similar keyword phrases throughout your website is by covering these topics on your blog as discussed in the previous section on blogging. It’s really important to include similar keywords throughout your website, but even more important that it is done so in a natural way. If done incorrectly, this tactic could get your website penalized by Google and do more harm then good.

7. Label All Photos On Your Website

When adding photos to your website on its various pages or in blog posts, label all of your images to take advantage of image based search traffic as well as regular search traffic. Before uploading your photos to your website, define the file name as what the photo actually is. This system of labeling photos was originally designed to help the blind understand what images they were looking at, but now is also how Google decides to rank an image based around a set of keywords.

When selecting an image file name, keep it simple and accurate to what the photo is depicting. Don’t add more than 5 words to the name of the photo because there’s no need to get that descriptive, always keep it simple. Also be sure to define the Alt Text of the image as well as a similar name to the file name by keeping the same rules in mind. The words in the file name or Alt Text can be separated with spaces or underscores. Don’t keyword stuff when it comes to naming images, but instead naturally define what a person would see when looking at the photo to help your company rank for its image as well as written content.

8. Quality Over Quantity is Key

As mentioned multiple times throughout this eBook, quality is always more important than quantity when it comes to your efforts with SEO as a small business. Quality work across your title tags, meta descriptions, blogging efforts, image naming etc. will reap more worthwhile benefits for your business in the long-term.

There is certainly an opportunity to reach a level of proficient quantity and quality; it just depends on how much time and work you’re willing and able to put into your SEO work.

Google values the quality of a website when it comes to its decision to rank one web page over another. Take your time optimizing your website for the search engines to ensure that your efforts are both natural and accurate. If the quality of your content suffers due to your attempt to force keywords or topics that aren’t a match for your website, then Google could potentially penalize your website.

9. Use Social Media Thoughtfully

Many business owners get overwhelmed with social media, especially since there are so many different channels to be active on with their own unique cadence. The best approach to tackling social media, which has become another factor taken into consideration by Google’s search engine algorithm, is focusing on a few channels that match the goals of your business to achieve measurable results.

Pick three to four social networks, in conjunction with Google+, where your customers are active or groups similar to your customers are active like Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Pheed, Vine, Instagram or elsewhere.

Once you’ve identified where your company should be active, fill out the profiles on these channels to the fullest and regularly post from these accounts a few times a week. Use one of the free social media scheduling tools like HootSuite or Buffer to help schedule three to four updates a week from each channel and actively engage your audience, while making sure to slowly build your credibility in the search engines.

Share news about your offerings as well as your original perspective on related industry news. Use a variety of text, photos and videos to help document your unique story as a company across social media and make an impact in the search engine results in the long-term.

10. Dare To Be Different

One of the best ways to gain traction from the search engines is by creating original content that drives links, traffic and notoriety to your website. Anyone can develop a beautiful infographic that generates links to their website, but not everyone can approach storytelling from the same exact perspective and that’s where your small business has the opportunity to stand out and achieve great success with content that does well for your company in the search engines.

Think about the different stories that surround your company everyday, regardless if your industry is “sexy” or not, and identify which of these stories can be shared and expanded upon with others. This story should help represent what your company stands for and to take it a step further, should be presented in a unique way through text, photos or video.

Chipotle’s recent sustainable eating YouTube PSA is the perfect example of a piece of content created with a unique spin that also represented what the company truly believes in. The video was viewed over 11 million times and with level of success there’s no doubt that the content will continue to gain traction in the search engines and be a major link driver for the Chipotle brand. Your business doesn’t need a big budget like Chipotle to achieve this level of success, just the right attitude and the willingness to experiment and see what works. Creativity is critical to create and articulate a unique story for your audience.

By Brian Honigman

Image courtesy of buyolympia.com and Facebook.

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