SEO for small businesses can significantly impact overall business performance. As small business owners, we closely watch our sales revenue and, most importantly, our net profit. For this reason, we’re constantly trying to improve our business’s visibility to increase the number of enquiries we receive.
Of course, it doesn’t mean only using one method of promotion, but various techniques and using them effectively to reduce the risk of sales drying out. One of these promotional methods is small business SEO, and this checklist tells you every step to do it yourself and do it well to improve your search engine rankings.
However, we’ve made one crucial assumption: you’re a small business owner of a local service-based business. For instance, a locksmith or solicitor that targets residences and companies nearby. So, if you operate an e-commerce website, our small business SEO checklist and tips do not fully apply to your business. Having said that, there are aspects that you will find beneficial. Without further ado, let’s begin.
Introduction to SEO for Small Businesses
What is SEO for Small Businesses?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving a website’s position on Google for words that are key to a business, such as a sole trader’s occupation like “Locksmith”, services like “Lock Repair”, and location like “Kent”.
These keywords are merged into a key phrase such as “Locksmith Kent” by prospects searching for locally relevant results. In this case, an average of 210 searches each month over the past year, according to Google Keyword Planner.
Unlike eCommerce, national and international SEO, small business SEO is primarily local SEO, which involves improving search engine rankings in the local search results, e.g. your occupation and town.
Is SEO Important for Small Businesses?
SEO is important because it’s another channel of promotion which can improve your enquiries astronomically if your business features in 1st place on the Map Pack, also known as Local Pack and 3-Pack, and in the local search results on search engines like Google and Bing.
That’s because your website will receive a combined average total of 44.7% of the clicks. Even if your website’s not in the 1st, but the 2nd or 3rd position, that’s better than not being there at all. In fact, you’ll receive more clicks than the Ads in the 2nd position, and it’ll cost you considerably less.
As a local business, your operations can include one area or multiple locations. A small business website that has considered all the local SEO factors will see not only higher rankings for each target area than other businesses but greater leads and sales due to improved website traffic without the costs endured via paid search.
Small Business SEO Planning
Research for Relevant Keywords
Typical Keywords for Local SEO
Before any optimisation is undertaken, you should research for relevant keywords your potential customers are typing into Google.
In most cases, keywords for local businesses include the occupation or service along with an area. For example, “Locksmith Kent” and “Locksmith Maidstone”.
However, there will be potential customers who type the problem and the solution. For example, people search problems like “Broken Key” and solutions like “Key Extraction” or “Key Replacement”.
Important of Keyword Research for Local SEO
Keyword research is arguably the most important aspect of SEO and local SEO, for that matter. This is because it guides the structure of your website and the content for each of your service pages and, most importantly, determines whether you’ll receive leads or not.
If you create content for your website pages without a target keyword, then there’s a high chance the content isn’t of quality or depth of a particular topic, which will be evident when it isn’t indexed highly in Google search results.
best SEO TOOLS for keyword research
Google Keyword Planner is our go-to tool for identifying search terms with volume because we can narrow the search down to an exact area, such as a town, and create a list of keywords and a dedicated keyword for all the pages on a website that require ranking.
Always make a note of the keywords with the highest search volumes nationally as well as closely related terms. Then, filter the tool to your area. Underneath the large search volume keywords, include closely related keywords with lower search volumes because you’ll find it useful when planning content.
Before using Google Keyword Planner, you may want to look at the web pages of your competitors in the same areas that you’re targeting to identify the keywords targeting by using Google Search yourself.
Knowing these keywords will enable you to determine keyword opportunities and how many pages to create to effectively compete, providing you cross-reference these with search volume data provided by Google.
Draw the Website Structure
Using your list of keywords, draw the structure of your website so that it’s simple and logical to reach every web page. Ideally, every web page should be reachable within one click, but it can be three layers deep, which I’ve illustrated in the example below for a locksmith covering multiple areas using Google Slides.
You’ll see that the blue web pages near the top of the website architecture act as the main menu, particularly Services and Areas Covered. From the Service web page, users can reach the pink pages underneath it, such as Locked Out. Likewise, users can reach Locksmith Ashford from the Areas Covered page. However, from Broken Lock, users can reach the yellow web pages: Broken Door Lock and Broken Window Lock.
Users can reach any of the blue pages anywhere on the website with just one click, the pink pages in two clicks, and the yellow pages in three. As you can see, it already takes a long time, so creating a dropdown menu where the pink pages show when users hover over Services and Areas Covered will drastically improve the user’s experience.
Plan Web Page Content
Content is one of the most important elements of SEO, but it can be quite difficult for many small business owners. In most cases, small business owners write a few sentences for each page with either too little or too much consideration of their keywords. In other words, they either don’t have a target keyword, or they do, and they stuff the page with it.
Every time you write content, it should have a target keyword in mind, and the content should be related to it. For example, the target keyword of this article is “SEO for Small Businesses”, so the content is very much related to it.
In addition, I use the target keyword throughout the text along with all the other keywords I’m targeting in an easy-to-read fashion, and I’ll avoid using these keywords for future articles.
Before drafting the content for each web page, it’s best to read the web page of competitors that are targeting the same keyword.
You want to make a note of what they wrote, how many words were on the page, how many paragraphs they had, the types of images they displayed, how many images they displayed, and any local relevant content.
For instance, they may have referred to the local crime rates connected to properties. This is particularly helpful in writing unique content for local SEO purposes for each target location.
Once you’ve made a note of the top competitors’ pages, it’s time to begin writing your version, but a much better version.
Create engaging heading tags with keywords within them, break paragraphs into smaller, more readable passages of text, write short sentences and ensure the flow of the page is logical. Not only is this beneficial for search engine ranking, but your users experience reading the content on your website.
Small Business SEO On-Page SEO Implementation
Adding Web Pages
Using your website architecture plan, add each web page using the target keyword as the name of the page and the permalink (part of the URL).
At this point, each web page is a blank canvas unless you’ve chosen a website theme.
If the latter applies to you, then ensure you copy the template for the service pages and location pages for theme consistency. It would confuse your users if they saw an “About Us” style web page used for “Services” and vice versa.
I suggest adding all web pages rather than creating them one by one because it will enable you to improve internal linking beyond the navigation menu efficiently.
In other words, as you start adding content to your pages, you’ll find it easier to link a piece of text to another one of your pages rather than have to create the other page, and then go back and add the link.
Add Textual Content to Each Web Page
Using the content plan, begin writing or copying and pasting content for each web page.
If you’re using Yoast SEO, Rank Math or All-in-One SEO plugins with WordPress, it’s a whole lot easier to ensure your textual content is optimised for your keywords. At this point, your objective is to get the green light for readability and on-page elements for your main keyword.
According to Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO suggests a minimum of 300 words, while Rank Math suggests 600 words. It’s important to remember quality over quantity.
These plugins offer a general guide, so it’s worth finding the word range by noting the number of words every small business on the first page for each keyword is using. Then, write within the range.
Contextual Internal Linking
Within the content of each of your web pages, you may have made a reference to another service or area.
Using the locksmith example, on the “Locksmith Maidstone” web page, I may make a reference to the fact they cover the whole of Kent, and so where I’ve mentioned “Locksmith in Kent” or something similar, I’ll link it to the homepage.
Linking back to the homepage for a high-volume search term is a technique often overlooked by local businesses and SEO companies, but it’s one of the easiest to get the homepage to perform highly in the local search results.
On the same page, I may have mentioned a list and brief overview of each of the services, such as “Locked Out”, so I’ll link to that web page. The idea is to make it super easy for your users to get a web page that expands upon the phrase you used as the link.
At the same time, it’s super easy for Google to crawl these web pages too. Therefore, increasing the likelihood of them being indexed for the target keywords.
Power of the Homepage for Internal Linking
eCommerce websites often show their most popular products on the homepage because it can contribute to increasing sales.
Local businesses can adapt it by creating a heading such as “Popular Services” and “Popular Areas”. These services or areas can be the most searched terms, which would indicate popularity, rather than the most popular that you provide your services at the moment.
Once you’ve got the top three services and areas, you can split them into three columns with an appropriate image, heading, brief description, and a button with the keyword as the anchor text to the relevant page.
This passes “link juice”, in other words, authority from your homepage to these pages, which can improve the speed and ability of the selected popular services and areas to perform in Google search results.
However, the more internal links from the homepage to internal pages decrease the value, and therefore, less authority is passed, and it can take longer to perform. So, use it sparingly.
Add Image Content to Each Web Page
Following the content, add relevant images to each of the web pages.
I highly recommend that you use your own images that relate to each page because it not only improves trust between you and your potential customers but helps you stand apart from those who use boring stock images.
For example, most local businesses providing a service have some kind of vehicle-related to the service, equipment, or before and after results. A locksmith could stand outside his/her branded van, take pictures of him/her while on the job, and show before and after pictures.
Before uploading your images, be sure to name the file with a short description of the image and run it through GeoImgr to add your coordinates. Then, when you upload it, copy the file name for the Alt Text.
Add Other Multimedia
If you’ve identified that your competitors are using other forms of multimedia beyond images such as videos or documents, it’s a good idea to create your own, but better and upload them to the relevant web pages too. Again, like images, depending on the multimedia, it’s optimised differently, and therefore, falls beyond the scope of this checklist.
Meta Title and Description
The meta title and meta description are shown in the search results.
In the past, Google would primarily display the meta title and meta description that you typed, but now their algorithm tends to adjust it, which can have either a positive or negative effect on your Click-Through-Rate (CTR).
Despite the fact that Google changes it to their liking, you still need to add it to increase the chances of the web page indexing for your target keywords.
It’s important to note that it should contain your keywords in a human-friendly format without stuffing, for instance. The meta title should be no longer than 60 characters, while the meta description should be under 160 characters.
The purpose of the meta titles and meta descriptions is not only to boost search engine visibility but improve your CTR. The best meta descriptions provide a brief page description and a call to action. Pages that receive a high CTR from organic search are seen as a positive signal by Google, and therefore, help with ranking in the search results.
Small Business SEO Technical SEO Implementation
Improving your site speed is one of the most important aspects of technical SEO. Today, searchers won’t spend any more than 3-seconds waiting for your website to load, but most expect an instant response as soon they click on a link.
If your website is performing slowly, then Google tends to index it in a lower position. The good news is that it’s quite easy to improve web page load speed.
If you’re using WIX, well, they’ve done most of the work for you.
However, it’s important that you upload images of the right size despite the significantly improved automatic image optimisation feature.
For example, don’t upload a 5000x5000px .png if the image is not transparent and is only being used in a space that’s 300x300px.
Instead, it would be better to use a .jpg image file that you’ve converted to .jpg as it’s a lighter and smaller file, which requires less effort to display.
If you’re using WordPress, providing you’re using a well-developed theme, installing a plugin like WP Rocket (my preferred paid plugin) or Total Cache (my preferred free plugin) will drastically help load speeds.
It’s still important to optimise your images in terms of dimension and file type before uploading, but still important to further optimise them by installing a plugin like Smush or Imagify.
Once you’ve done the above, if your website isn’t performing significantly better, in other words, loading in less than a second, it could be the server that it’s hosted on.
In this case, you’ll want to either change the hosting provider or upgrade to a dedicated server.
Most small businesses use shared hosting, which in effect, means fighting for space with other small businesses, which impacts load times.
A dedicated server solves this problem with a set amount of space for only your website files but will come at a higher price.
Your website needs to be crawled by search engines in order to show up in the search results.
To best understand crawling, think of it as Google dipping a bucket into the water and collecting lots of web pages.
The web pages that stay in the bucket have done everything to allow search engines to crawl them, whereas those that slip out are blocking the crawlers.
Your web pages should be in the bucket.
In most cases, your web pages will automatically allow search engines to crawl them.
Taking Yoast SEO as an example, there’s an advanced setting where you can select “Yes (current default for all pages” in answer to “Allow search engines to show this page in search results”. If it’s selected to “No”, then it’s unlikely to be indexed.
LocalBusiness Schema Markup
Schema markup is an effective way to clearly provide information to search engines about a web page.
There are many types of schemas, but the most popular one for small businesses is “LocalBusiness”.
This includes information such as the business name, address, telephone number, logo, rating, geo coordinates, opening hours and more.
To create your schema, install this Chrome extension: Schema Builder. Select “Local Business” and begin filling in the template. Once complete, “View Markup” and add it to the header of your homepage, about us page, and contact page
by using the Header Footer Code Manager plugin.
Small Business SEO Off-Page SEO Implementation
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are links from other websites pointing to your website; the name is derived from reciprocal link building. For instance, I link to you, you link to me.
This particular idea of a backlink is against Google’s guidelines unless it offers value to readers of both websites.
I mentioned earlier about using the power of the homepage, and that’s because backlinks from other websites typically point to your homepage.
You want to pass authority that was passed from another website, yours to your most important internal web pages to support their search engine visibility.
There are various ways to obtain local backlinks, and some of which are free, but time-consuming. Others are quick but costly.
Build Local Backlinks
The top small business SEO tip regarding link building is to build links that add value beyond SEO to your business. In many cases, these links are local links. In other words, links from local businesses, community sites, local suppliers, local sports clubs, you name it.
These types of links not only drastically improve your position in the organic search results, they help you gain more brand recognition locally and more customers as a result.
Although these local links are not strictly relevant sites in terms of content, they are very much local to your business’s operations, and that’s hugely valuable. In fact, they are more valuable than links from relevant blogs.
Business directories are an absolute must when it comes to link building because your business name, address and phone number are shared across the web. This not only helps Google to determine if your business is genuine, but it also helps potential customers contact you easily.
Having said that, it’s important that the information on these directories is kept up to date, most importantly, your business’s name, address and phone number. If it’s inconsistent, rankings can decline.
The average business in the top position in Google search results has 86 citations, which is 86 business listings on 86 different websites. These sites include Yell, Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, Apple Maps and more.
Google My Business (Google Business Profile)
Google My Business is the most important business directory you could be on in 2022 because it can drive extra traffic to your website from the local search results.
It’s therefore essential that you complete this business listing fully in terms of all the information about the business, services and all the photo categories too.
In order to significantly boost your website traffic with this business listing, you need to gain more reviews than your competitors. If your reviews contain keywords, your Google My Business listing will perform incredibly well. I wrote a separate article for businesses that are not ranking in Google Maps here.
Be Active Social Media
Social media is a great way for small businesses to prove their genuine in the eyes of future customers and search engines. Links from social media platforms are often no-follow but instil trust, which is a critical ranking factor.
If you’re active on social media and your posts receive high levels of engagement, it has a positive impact on your rankings as well as your Google Business Profile.
Create Skyscraper Content
Blogging is important to demonstrate knowledge and expertise in your field, but 97% of blog posts are never read. These blog posts will also struggle to build any backlinks to your website, which brings us to skyscraper content.
Skyscraper content is exceptional content that forms a mini eBook but is published as a blog post. This free content that offers great value to readers encourages other websites to link to it for their readers to absorb.
Over time, your skyscraper content will have a sufficient number of links that will pass significant authority to your internal pages, perhaps a service page, when you perform internal link building.
Join Specific and General Review Sites
Review sites are essential for building trust amongst prospective customers, but they’re also important for gaining Google’s trust too!
You should join a number of review sites, such as TrustPilot, and Review.io, as well as more industry-specific review sites. For example, if you’re a solicitor, join ReviewSolicitors, and if you’re a locksmith, perhaps join Checkatrade or Trustatrader.
Keen To Do Your Own Local SEO, But Need Tailored Support?
At DigiVisi, our SEO services go beyond doing it on your behalf. We support many clients on an ongoing basis with SEO consultations.
These are often hourly sessions where we discuss SEO strategy and share SEO tips to help you learn how to do SEO the right way.
We guide you throughout the session and watch your screen as you perform the optimisation. In addition, we discuss the performance reported in Google Search Console and Google Analytics to better understand which pages to improve in the search engine results.
Ultimately, our consulting SEO services focus on coaching you for SEO success.
Feeling Confident, Just Want A Free SEO Audit?
We’ll run an audit of your website and share it with you free of charge. It’s a great guide to start tackling technical issues.
If you’d like additional support working through the audit, feel free to give us a call, or request one of our SEO services to take some of the load. Whether it be analysing performance in Google Analytics or creating fresh content, we’re here to help you succeed online.