You’ve spent countless hours designing the best website for your business. You’ve agonized over every choice from the font type to the color scheme. It’s perfect. Then you launch and it’s just… *crickets* Wait, where are all the people? Has some apocalyptic event taken down the internet? What else could explain your immaculate site’s lack of visitors? One word: SEO. Okay, technically it’s an acronym for three words: Search Engine Optimization. Don’t worry, our SEO expert, Laura Johansen, is here to explain what it is and give her best advice for generating traffic with local SEO tips for small businesses.
SEO Tip Index:
What Is SEO
Why Care About Local SEO Tips?
How Does SEO Work?
Keywords: Focus Is Key
Local SEO Tips for Keyword Research
Building Better Content: Why Content is King
Local SEO Tips for Ranking with Content
Linking: The Importance of Connecting the Dots
Local SEO Tips: Getting Local Backlinks
Seems like the only time you won’t hit traffic is when you actually want to. Consider SEO the map that will lead the good kind of traffic right to your business’ online front door. Predictably, search engine optimization is all about enhancing the amount of traffic that comes to your site from search engines like Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.
Whenever a customer types in a search related to your business, you want your website to show up in the top results. But without SEO, that’s not likely to happen. That’s what makes SEO such an important part of your website’s success.
Search engines have algorithms that look for specific signals to rank the relevancy and credibility of websites. Small business search engine optimization is all about building up the importance and validity around your focus of business.
It’s especially important for small businesses to define their SEO efforts even further using local SEO. That’s why, in addition to giving you basic SEO pointers, we’ll be adding local SEO tips to each section. We curated these SEO tips for small businesses to help you get noticed online and locally—because you likely need both to grow!
Local SEO refers to people in the immediate area of a business, and their searches related to both the business and location.
Basically, local SEO focuses on attracting traffic from people in your area. By thinking about what locals might be searching for, you can work on targeting that demographic.
As we’ve discussed, search engines use an algorithm to judge the best answers to a user’s question (i.e. whatever they typed into the search bar). This algorithm then ranks sites in order of perceived authority on the subject. By improving your SEO, you hope to snag one of those coveted top spots.
As these top ranking spots are the first options that a user will see, they’ll get more clicks. The more clicks you get, the more transactions you’ll have. That’s why these top ranking spots are so competitive. Getting them can mean big money for your business. Keywords play a huge key role in that effort.
In business, you don’t want to waste your time doing something if it won’t pay off. Your time’s too valuable! Keywords ensure you won’t waste time writing something that no one is searching for.
Keyword research shows you two key factors:
If a keyword has a high search volume, you know it’s getting searched a lot. But if it’s also high in competition, it could be hard to rank for. So it’s important to vary your keywords. More specific keywords that have slightly less search volume, but also less competition could be the sweet spot for your small business.
Identify the most important keywords for your business. Then decide which page on your site makes the most sense to host content related to these keywords. You may find that you have to create new pages.
If you’re a dentist, you’ll likely have keywords like “teeth whitening” and “oral exams.” Each of these should have their own dedicated landing page on your site that focuses on including that keyword.
There are three important places to make sure you include your keyword. Whether you’re creating a new landing page or blog, your main keyword should appear in the:
Take the example of the dentist office who is trying to rank for “teeth whitening” in their area. Chances are, there’s going to be a lot of competition for that term. Most will likely have to do with sites explaining what teeth whitening is, or the pros and cons of teeth whitening. Businesses are not likely to rank high for this term.
Instead, try making the term more localized with something like “best teeth whitening [insert name of your city]”. This will help everyone looking for teeth whitening in your area to find your site.
To learn more about free keyword research tools, check out this article on the 15 Best Keyword Research Tools for SEO.
Content is how you attract customers, demonstrate expertise in your field, convey why customers need what you’re selling, and why you’re the business to buy it from. In sum, content matters to your customers. And since Google is said to reward quality content by giving it visibility in the search results, content matters to your ranking as well.
There are two crucial factors to keep in mind when it comes to creating good content:
When we talk about the quality of your content, we’re referring to whether or not it grabs and satisfies a reader’s attention. You can do that with solid writing, and by providing fitting pictures or infographics. Truly compelling content is more likely to get linked to and shared. These are great for your SEO and business in general.
One thing to remember about the images on your site is that they should always contain descriptive alt text. Alt text is necessary for two reasons. On one hand, these describe what is in the picture for users who may be visually impaired and require screen readers. On the other hand, alt text is used by search engines as a way to understand the image.
Search engines will also look for structure in your content. They check to see if you have sectioned out your content into easy-to-read, informative categories with headings. These make it possible to grab the highest rank on the search engine results page, called “rank zero”.
Have you ever typed a query into Google, and received answers directly on the search page? That’s because Google pulled those answers from a site that had highly relevant content and headings that provide the answer to your search. It’s called a “featured snippet” and it can bring major exposure for your site.
So the next time you’re writing content, ask yourself how you can develop structure with headings to let customers know what you’ll be discussing in the next section. Then provide informative subdivisions to answer every question they might have (or search) about the topic.
Before writing a blog or creating a landing page about something, do a simple Google search using the keyword you have in mind.
It’s a good idea to try and copy the structure of the current high ranking snippet, if there is one. If it’s a bulleted list, you might want to use a bulleted list in your copy since that’s what Google is pulling for.
Then be sure to include keywords and content specific to your area. Depending on your industry, you may have local insights on weather or culture that you can speak to. If you own a hardware store in Cincinnati, you can post a blog on the top 5 snow scrapers. Then research keywords to include, such as “snow scrapers Cincinnati.”
It’s important to keep your content natural sounding and easy for users to read. So use keywords, but don’t jam pack your content with keywords to the point where it’s not readable.
Sure, your content is great, but are there other articles that can substantiate and build upon your point? Do you have other blogs that might intrigue the reader based upon their interest in the blog they’re reading? Providing links to other pages both on your own website as well as links to other relevant (non-competitor) websites can all boost your content’s credibility and SEO.
When you link to another blog, product page, or landing page on your site, it’s called an “internal link”. These links are important because they expose the reader to other areas of your site they might be interested in. This sustains the amount of time they are on your site, and hopefully guides them toward becoming a customer.
Additionally, internal links reinforce to search engines what the destination page is about. It can be beneficial if you link to a page with appropriate keywords for that topic.
Linking to other sites is beneficial in its own way because it improves your trustworthiness in the reader’s eyes. This practice is called “external linking”. Offering customers a spectrum of information, even if it’s outside of your site, can actually add to your expertise.
Search engines generally like to see when you have both internal and external links, if possible. Where appropriate, try to add them. Just make sure that any external links open in a separate tab or window so that customers aren’t taken away from your site.
It’s not just important to link to other sites. You also need other sites to link to you. But, how? For small business SEO, Laura recommends using tools like BrightLocal that will optimize local citations or links to your site.
BrightLocal is a popular tool for local SEO. It can monitor local keyword rankings for specific cities you’re trying to have visibility in. The rankings even include map results, like Google Maps, that will appear in local organic search results.
She also suggests taking measures to ensure that your NAP (name, address, and phone number) is consistent across the various citations of your business. Your NAP is crucial to your small business search engine optimization. You want to make sure that your contact information is the same wherever it appears, both on and off your site.
Managing your Google My Business listing is a great way to do that. Your listing includes information like your address, phone number, website, hours, photos, products, and services. You can also create Google Posts to promote offers, events, and new products.
Scheme markup for local business is another significant element for local SEO. This is essentially code on your homepage that provides your business information to search engines (and is not visible to users on your site). While this is more on the technical side, there are plugins and tools that can assist with implementing schema markup. You can read more details on Search Engine Journal.
Wow, that was a lot of information. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember to take these local SEO tips one at a time. You don’t have to optimize every page perfectly right off the bat. Start by working hard to get your homepage optimized, as it’s the most crucial, and then build out from there. Many of these tips play into each other, and even simply adding more structure to your content or focus to your small business SEO keywords will benefit your site tremendously.
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