Small Business SEO: Ranking Your Business on Top of Google
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Let’s say it straight: Small business SEO is hard in 2023.
And frankly, it was never easy. Maybe back in 2010, when marketers could trick Google with keyword stuffing, PBNs, and various other methods like message board posts used for backlinks. There was also a lot less competition.
These days, basically all keyword clusters and niches are taken by well-known sites and are hard to outrank. However, small businesses have endless opportunities to rank in their niches for the right keywords.
In this article, we’ll discuss how you, as a small business, can boost your SEO and gain organic traffic.
What Is Small Business SEO?
SEO (search engine optimization) for small businesses is a combination of strategies that make your page on Google get traffic, clicks, and conversions. In other words, it makes your website appear higher in search results to make your business more discoverable, surpassing the competition’s rankings.
If your online and local SEO strategy is effective, your website should show up on the first page of the search results like the links below.
Did you know that according to Search Engine Journal, 25% of people click on the first page of the search results? Apart from that, the first page in the search results gets an average CTR of 31.7%, according to Backlinko. These statistics are powerful reminders that SEO is crucial for organic traffic.
Is it 100% necessary to do SEO?
Well, let’s put it this way: if you don’t have an elaborate SEO strategy, you’re at a serious disadvantage with your competition. Their SEO efforts will keep them climbing up the ladder while your page sits at the bottom and never goes up.
Not to mention, your organic traffic will suffer, and if your business depends heavily on online marketing, this could mean some serious consequences for your business.
How SEO Benefits Small Businesses
As mentioned above, SEO is crucial for your business’s success. But let’s dive into that deeper.
What benefits does SEO specifically have?
Boost Organic Traffic from Search Engines
The most significant benefit of SEO for small businesses is the organic traffic it brings. Organic traffic doesn’t only help you save money on things like paid advertising, but it generally brings in prospects that are further along in the buying journey.
Your organic traffic leads will more likely end up buying your products since they’re searching for specific queries.
Ranking on the first page of the search engines is necessary to be seen by most customers. And if you’re in the first position, it can double your click-through rate over the number two result, according to Smart Insights.
Even better, claiming the featured snippet can help you jump over the number one spot and give you a double chance at gaining more organic traffic.
Replace Expensive Paid Ads
Now, you might be wondering if paid advertising is an alternative to investing in SEO. Let’s look at a cat sitting example where the first three links are advertisements.
Paid ads allow you to “artificially” have your links show up first in Google.
It can be a good idea in many instances, leading to quicker results. The real question is whether those results are sustainable for your business or will be short-lived.
Paid advertising can cost a lot of money, especially if you’re using it constantly to substitute SEO. Another downside is that clicks never guarantee sales. It’s one thing to get people to click your ad, but you must convince them your product is worth buying.
So, paid advertising does have its benefits like amplified reach and enhanced targeting and should be used as part of a marketing strategy. But it’s not a valid replacement for SEO entirely.
Increase the Number of New Leads
Each new lead presents a unique opportunity. New leads can become long-term clients, recommend your services/products to their networks, and leave persuasive reviews on your website.
It’s essential for a small business to constantly search for new leads to increase the customer database.
SEO Tips for Small Businesses
Now that we’ve gone over the importance and benefits of SEO for small businesses, let’s dive into the tips.
Keyword Research and Competitor Analysis
Keyword research is the backbone of SEO. Basically, if nobody searches for the product you offer or your content topics, you won’t get promising traffic results.
You need to know your keywords to avoid being in the 90.63% of pages that don’t get any organic traffic from Google, as per a study by Ahrefs. You read that right; keyword research is THAT important.
Aside from helping your pages gain traffic, keyword research helps to:
- See how much traffic you can get for specific keywords
- Know how hard it is to rank for certain keywords
- Create content plans for keywords
- Understand the likeness of searchers becoming customers
Keyword research starts with a list of topic ideas that your potential customers may be searching for. Let’s say you own a gardening store. You’ll look for “seed” keywords (no pun intended). Your seed keywords could be:
Seed keywords are meant to be vague, and you won’t use these as are to create content. They’re meant to be general topic ideas that you’ll narrow down on later.
Once you’ve developed a list of seed keywords, you can quickly check to see what keywords your competitors are using. Take one of your seed keywords and search it on Google.
You need to use your best judgment when determining competing websites. If huge brands like Home Depot and Amazon appear, you shouldn’t necessarily treat them as competitors. Instead, look for websites like your own or ones that you’re trying to be like.
Once you find your main competitors, you can see which keywords bring them the most traffic. Tools like Ahrefs have an excellent feature for this.
A successful business can rank for dozens of top keywords. Does that mean you need to try to rank for the same ones? Not always, as large companies generally have more budgets to ensure they’re constantly ranking for the top keywords.
In this case, consider which keywords will bring more leads to your specific products or product line.
For example, if your audience is looking for succulents, you can use a keyword related to the most popular, cheap, longest-living succulent. The more specific you get, the more leads it will bring you.
Overall, a successful competitor analysis involves finding gaps or disconnects between the competition and the audience, then finding ways to fill those gaps.
But competition research isn’t all. In fact, there are usually a ton of potential keywords your competition may not be targeting. To find them, you’ll need to use keyword research tools like Moz, Semrush, Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, Keyword Surfer, etc.
Whichever you plan to work with, they generally all work the same. You plug in a seedword, and the keyword tool pulls keywords from its database based on that keyword.
Google Keyword Planner is easily the most talked about since it’s effective and free.
If we enter our seed keywords from above, we get the following results:
Google Keyword Planner takes your seed keywords and generates ideas from them, avoiding overlapping the keywords you enter.
Now, if you want to level up your keyword research and access more data, you’ll need a paid tool like Semrush or Moz. These tools generally give you more diverse and higher-quality keywords.
Add Your Location In Your Google Business Profile
Today, businesses with a physical location need a local SEO strategy so customers can find them. Local SEO is so powerful that consumers’ use of Google to evaluate local businesses has leaped from 63% in 2020 to 81% in 2021, according to BrightLocal.
By skipping local SEO, you miss out on the primary channel of how consumers discover local businesses.
Did you know you can have your website show up in the map and in the search results below? That means you have a double chance of getting clicks on your website and gaining customers.
You can set up your location on your Google Business Profile ( GBP ). Google will need to verify some information with you like opening and closing hours, type of business, proof of location, etc.
The process is relatively simple and well worth it.
Enable Reviews From Your Google Business Profile
Google Maps results are best accompanied by customer reviews. According to Dimensional Research, as many as 90% of prospects are influenced by online reviews when considering an online purchase.
Having said that, ensure the star ratings are visible from the first search page.
Then when the user clicks on your link, they should be directed to the written reviews.
Your reviews can tell prospects a lot about the services or products you offer, how many people recommend you, the use cases, etc.
You should always include reviews on your website, even if you have an online store. People are consistently searching for product reviews, so you could also have a chance at gaining organic traffic just by having product review pages.
Build links to your site
To make your content rank, you need backlinks. Backlinks from authoritative sites signal to search engines like Google that others vouch for your content and are worth surfacing in rankings.
Some of the most common ways to get backlinks include:
- Guest posting (publishing content on reputable blogs or podcasts)
- PR campaigns (an SEO or marketing campaign)
- SEO outreach (sending emails asking for backlinks)
- Links from customers (links in reviews)
- Forums and comments (Quora, product reviews, TripAdvisor)
Remember to always look for trustworthy, authoritative, popular, and quality blogs when getting backlinks.
On the other hand, avoid getting links from poor quality guest posts, private blog networks, duplicate content, and foreign language websites, as Google may see them as spam. Even worse, your rankings can actually suffer because of this.
Did you know that the links you accept on your website also differ in value and affect SEO? When spreading link love, the websites you choose to link out to, even the anchor text you use, whether you choose the follow or nofollow link, and any meta tags you associate with the linking page can heavily impact your site’s value.
If you’re doing link outreach and aren’t able to find an email or name of a specific person in the company, you can use Hunter.io.
It’s a great tool to include in your small business SEO strategy.
Rich Results with Structured Data
In 2009, Google introduced Rich Results to create a better user experience and help searchers find their queries easier.
Some common types of rich results include:
Breadcrumbs enable Google to indicate your webpage’s position within the website’s hierarchy.
It helps users understand the relationship between the pages and navigate your site easier.
Frequently Asked Questions
Another common rich result is the FAQ on the search results.
This section helps users know more about your product or service and can encourage clicks.
Star ratings in snippets make the search results more appealing to the eye.
It also tells users that other people found this recipe worth trying.
The most practical way of enabling rich results is by adding structured data to your website’s coding. For instance, the title, author of the post, featured image, time and date of the post, etc., can all be formatted to help classify your webpage and help search engines understand the web page.
You can use the three formats (JSON-D, RDFa, and Microdata) supported by Google when structuring your data.
You can refer to Google’s official reference or find codes from schema.org to find the right structured data code. Many content management systems also provide plugins that allow web builders to insert several codes into their web pages.
It’s always important to test your page’s structured data. Tools like Google’s structured data testing tool or Google’s rich results test make it easy to check if the coding of your pages is correct.
Choose a Great Hosting Provider
Last, but not least, choosing a multifunctional hosting provider that gives you a competitive edge is another critical factor in your SEO rankings.
The most important things to look for when choosing a provider include:
Ensuring you have a fast-loading website will help users perform all the actions they want, making it easier for Google to understand that users find your website valuable and giving it higher chances of ranking.
Server Reliability and Uptime Scores
In 2013, Amazon went down for 30 minutes, costing them $66,240 in revenue every minute, according to the Service Health Dashboard.
Having said that, staying online is important, and having a reliable host is a key part of this.
Today’s industry standard is 99.95% uptime. Any hosting provider that has an uptime below 99% should be avoided.
Choosing a hosting provider with ample plugins will help your site maintain healthy growth and keep its rankings high. For example, SiteGround Optimizer includes caching controls, speed tests, multisite options, and environment, frontend, and media optimizations.
A security plugin, for example, is essential as cyber security threats are higher than ever before. As a website owner, look for plugins like SiteGround Security to protect your WordPress site from threats like brute-force attacks, data leaks, compromised logins, and more.
While you can download SiteGround plugins without having the hosting, it’s nice to have hosting and strong plugins in one place for a streamlined process.
In a nutshell, choosing a hosting provider like SiteGround that offers fast loading, is reliable, and includes features and plugins to help your site rank, plays a huge part in helping your website. Of course, you can rely on your keyword research and other important SEO practices, but your hosting provider will work in the background to help you achieve your SEO goals.
SEO for small businesses is a long journey that is key to receiving organic traffic and creating sustainable leads. Although the information in this article may seem overwhelming, you can work on developing and executing your SEO strategy step by step.
Remember to be patient and persistent when waiting for your SEO effort results to come in, as SEO in all cases takes time.