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As a small business owner, you probably know that it’s important to be searchable and accessible online. Search engine optimisation (SEO) for your website and digital assets – including social media profiles – is a powerful tool to help you grow online.
SEO for small businesses can be a little confusing if you aren’t well-versed in digital marketing. But don’t worry – there are actionable steps any small business owner can take to boost their presence online and generate additional traffic. Here, we’ll cover what you need to know about SEO as a small business owner and give you the info you need to start optimising your online presence.
What is SEO?
Let’s start with the basics – simply put, SEO is the process of improving and increasing traffic to your website. Optimisation increases the number of overall website visitors, how often your business appears in search for a given keyword and it also boosts the quality of those visitors.
In the most general sense, SEO is an organic, unpaid strategy. The primary focus is a combination of keyword research, content strategy and understanding how to ensure your business shows up in local search.
At the root of any SEO plan is keyword strategy. Knowing what words people use to search for your products and services can help you understand how to formulate a plan.
Solid content in combination with a robust SEO strategy can help you appear closer to the top of search rankings. As a small business owner, being on the first page of a Google search generates more traffic and conversions… and, ideally, new customers. Rankings on subsequent pages provide much less of a boost, since many searchers will enter a new query rather than read on past the first page of results.
SEO is an inbound marketing strategy, which means that people will see your business results when they are actively looking. This is different from outbound strategies that disrupt the audience, such as a television commercial.
Why is SEO so important for small businesses?
Search optimisation is important for small businesses for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it can help the right people find your business at the right time… when they’re looking for it!
SEO is rooted in keywords and search terms that users type into search engines (like Google) or ask virtual assistants about, such as Siri or Alexa. As a small business owner, your ultimate goal is to appear on the first page of results for any given keyword. This will lead to more:
Website traffic: More traffic for certain keywords tells search algorithms that your content is valuable and important and, as a result, your website will rank higher in search over time.
Leads: One of the best small business SEO tips around is to use your website to generate business leads. Even if you don’t sell anything online, you can use a form to collect emails and provide information to web visitors. Offer a voucher for your physical location or email content from your blog. Everyone who signs up becomes a direct marketing lead with a deeper connection to your business.
Conversions: It’s a well-documented fact that most people who search will click on some of the first results they see. These clicks can lead to sales, form completions or other conversions on your websites.
What’s the difference between regular SEO and local SEO?
There are two types of SEO for small business that you should differentiate between: regular SEO and local SEO.
Regular SEO helps you rank in search queries regardless of user location. It’s a general search strategy that helps attract website interactions solely based on keywords and topics. This could be great for small business owners who operate online and post items worldwide, or entrepreneurs who offer virtual-only services.
Local SEO for small business is a strategy that increases foot traffic and drives people to your business. This practice helps people near your location find you in search queries. People who search using their mobile phones, for example, are often looking for business locations in close proximity.
Local search terms include a keyword plus area-specific words like:
- ‘Near me’
- A specific city name, such as ‘Manchester’
- A city and area designation, such as ‘Manchester, Fallowfield’
A local search query may look something like this:
- Vet near me
- ‘Veterinarian in Manchester’
- ‘Vet office in Manchester, Fallowfield’
So, if you’re targeting the keywords that potential customers are searching for, you’ll have a better chance of showing up in their search results. Consider this: according to HubSpot, 72% of consumers who did a local search went to a shop within 5 miles – and 92% of those searchers will choose businesses that appear on the first page of their search.
How to set up Google My Business and Bing Places
The two primary sources to consider when it comes to local SEO are Google My Business and Bing Places because they are linked to the two most-used search engines.
Most small business owners can set up these pages on their own. If you want help or don’t have a lot of time, Vistaprint’s Search Engine Listings Manager can do the work for you – setup takes just 5 minutes.
How to set up Google My Business:
- Visit the Google My Business website and sign in (or sign up) using your email address.
- Enter your business information, such as name, location and contact details. You may also be asked to pin your address on a map.
- Add a business category.
- Enter your website URL.
- Verify your business account and information. This proves that you are authorised to manage the account on behalf of your business.
- After the business is verified, you can add additional information to your page such as photos, business hours, events and special posts.
How to set up Bing Places:
- Claim your business on Bing. Most places already exist in the Bing database.
- Fill out the fields to complete your listing, including services offered, opening hours and location information.
- Verify your listing using one of the methods available.
How to conduct keyword research to determine what to rank for
Keyword research is the most important process when planning and developing an SEO strategy for a small business. Effective keyword research will help you understand what visitors are looking for when they land on your website and what search terms they used to find you. Keyword research can even involve excluding words or terms if you are generating some of the wrong kinds of traffic and it can help target visitors in the right locations.
Conducting keyword research can be a little intimidating at first, but there are tools to help. Google has a keyword planner tool for ads users and includes keyword information for websites linked to its Search Console. There are also a variety of paid keyword research tools on the market that can be beneficial depending on your business size, number of competitors and budget.
How to perfect on-page optimisation
Every page of your website offers local SEO opportunities for small businesses. On-page SEO includes the keywords and written content on each page, as well as other search signals like meta tag and page architecture.
Including relevant keywords and using natural language on every page of your website is important in overall search engine rankings. Make sure keywords are included in the content on each page:
- Title tag: This main description of a page should clearly explain to users what the page is about, using the main page keyword. Structure the title tag so that it’s written for the average person – think of it as a short headline that includes one keyword.
- Meta description: This secondary information appears below the headline in search queries. You have about 155 to 160 characters to explain the content, so make sure to include the keyword again and encourage searchers to click the link.
- Alt information: Descriptions of photo and video content should describe the image as well as use a keyword.
- URL: What is your page about? The URL should provide that information. Seeing a descriptive URL reinforces to visitors that they’re looking at the right content in the right place and that it’s relevant to their keyword search.
- Body copy: Finally, keywords related to the topic of your page, based on research, should be scattered throughout the copy in a natural and conversational manner. If the headline tells users the page is about “veterinarian costs,” that information should actually be what’s on the page, including use of that specific keyword. Use the keyword, and other secondary keywords, in the body copy and for at least one header or subheading in the content of the page.
Let’s put it all together in an example for a veterinary clinic – the meta information for their ‘Pricing’ page should target the keyword ‘veterinarian costs’ and look something like this:
Title tag: Veterinarian Costs: Clinic Pricing in Manchester, Fallowfield
Meta description: Our veterinarian costs are among the most competitive in your area. Routine checkups, vaccinations, teeth cleaning, spaying and neutering services for cats and dogs start at £45.
Alt information: If you decide to use an image of a dog on that page, your alt information could be: “Veterinarian costs for a barking dog with a wagging tail.”
URL: The URL should be short and sweet and also include your keyword. In this case, it would be the URL of your domain, separated by a forward slash or hyphen for your keyword: abcveterinaryclinic.com/veterinariancosts.
Include NAP data
The final, and perhaps most important, element of local search is NAP data. NAP stands for name, address and phone number.
To maximise your NAP data, always refer to your business in the same way. ‘Dog Shop LLC’ might be ‘Dog Shop’ in the footer of your website, in the URL and on Google My Business and Bing Places listings. That’s okay, because it’s the same everywhere. Don’t flip between Dog Shop LLC, Dog Shop and Dog Shop Inc. because search engines will think they are three different businesses.
Hot small business SEO tip: To make the most of NAP data, you must use a consistent name, address and phone number everywhere.
The same is true of your phone number and physical address (use the Google-verified map address everywhere). A common mistake is to switch between different variations of a business line – instead, use the same phone number across all of your digital assets.
Reviews are also an increasingly important part of NAP data. You’ve probably noticed that many small business search engine results show reviews. More reviews and better ratings can help you appear more prominently in local searches. Using NAP consistently makes it easy for your fans and customers to find your business online and leave a review.
On Google, for example, those reviews are directly tied to your Google My Business page. You can link them to your website to establish a connection between the two.
Every small business should use SEO to help drive website and physical traffic to their location. With a solid strategy, keyword research and optimised content for the right type of customer, you can boost your search rankings over time.