Top 13 Small Business Search Engine Optimization Tips For 2018
As a business owner, you know that that the top SEO tips can greatly impact your search rankings, but more importantly, your overall business in 2018 and beyond!
You begin to ask yourself, “Where do I start, who do I believe, and where will I find the time to learn this ‘wizardry?’”
You’re right to give SEO attention because it can increase your business, help to create a brand, and help take in warm leads who are 13% more likely to close than cold leads.
Now that you’re giving it attention and doing research, you might be overwhelmed with technical jargon and conflicting strategies.
On one end of the spectrum, you’ve heard that content is king, and that once you start making a lot of content the backlinks will start rolling in like thrifty shoppers to a Black Friday sale.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve likely read that content doesn’t matter and that you should focus on getting backlinks by any means necessary.
The two statements above are not wrong… but they’re also not completely accurate.
There’s a lot to explore in between those two ends of the spectrum; strategies that are pretty easy to implement and don’t require you to have hacker-like coding skills.
All the while this is happening, you have the added pressure of your competition outranking you in all the search terms you want to rank for.
This adds to the frustration because you can’t put your finger on what they’re doing differently from you and how they are getting the results.
You know they’re successful because of their SEO edge. Your business would progress to the next level if you could achieve their rankings.
First, relax. When you started your business, you didn’t do so in order to become an SEO expert.
You focused on perfecting your craft or creating a smooth operating business that helps those it serves but also adds to the bottom line.
What we are going to do today is go through the top 13 small business SEO tips that I have used for local clients, software clients, and mobile app companies.
We’ve spent years practicing, trialing, and tweaking our SEO practices so that you can get the success without the heartache or the tears.
After implementing these you’re going to start getting more traffic, warm leads, and more importantly, more paying customers from your higher rankings.
These tips are useful whether your industry is competitive or easy to compete in.
1. Start using Google Analytics
Let’s go driving with a blindfold on. Sound like a good idea?
You wouldn’t agree to do that, but if you’re not using analytics you’re driving your business with a blindfold.
There’s a reason why 6 million websites use it.
Analytics will help you determine if the efforts you make based on this post help your business or not. You wouldn’t know otherwise.
Analytics can provide a bunch of great insights to your business, like what’s working on your site and which pages are the worst-performing.
You can get this info pretty effortlessly in analytics by going to behavior in the left-hand menu, then content, and finally select exit pages.
2. Set Up Google Search Console
Google Search Console is like the heart monitor of your website’s health in the eyes of Google.
First, when you sign up, it will ask you to claim your website by placing HTML code on to your site or by logging into your hosting account.
You can gain a lot of information on your website… info that isn’t available on Analytics or anywhere else.
For example, you can check your site’s HTML to figure out what is slowing things down on your site.
Backlinko found that the faster your site, the more successful it is.
Another great feature of Google Search Console is the rich snippet tool.
We will discuss this more later, but in a nutshell, it helps search engines understand the information your website is presenting.
Lastly, you can figure out what users are searching the most in order to land on your website.
You’re not going to get this information anywhere else in the world and this data is worth gold to you.
Now you know exactly what kind of content to produce to bring in new traffic. Or if you’re not getting leads, you know what topics are not converting.
3. Run An On-Site SEO Audit
It’s embarrassing when you’re out and you have a piece of food in your teeth or you’re caught with your fly open.
Aside from the momentary blushing caused by the person helping you, overall you’re happy they decided to say something instead of allowing you to walk around like that.
An onsite SEO audit is a bit like that, except this time you and most of the people on the internet are walking around with their metaphorical fly open or food in their teeth.
We’ve seen plenty and carried out plenty of onsite SEO audits, and trust us when we say you’re not the only person with this problem.
We could talk about this more in-depth (and we probably will in a later post) but we will give you three of the basics right now.
Make sure you only have only one H1 or title tag per page.
The title tag tells Google what the page they’re crawling is about, so having more than one would likely confuse them.
Spend time on your meta tags title and description to encourage clicks!
When you take the time and put thought into your metas, you reap a lot of benefits.
The main benefit is you can signal to the searcher that you understand what they’re looking for because of the words in bold in the description, and which encourage clicks.
Lastly, check for broken links.
If your site was a railroad, and Google spiders (also known as crawlers) were the train, then a link on your site represents a connection to a new track.
If you have a broken link on your site, the crawler stops in its tracks because it does not know where to go from there.
This is especially bad if the link is an internal link.
4. Set-up your Google My Business account (GMB)
If you run a local business or service that is area-specific, this tip is non-negotiable.
Moz asked 113 expert SEOs what ranking factor was most important for local businesses, and 19.01% ranked Google My Business (GMB) as the most important factor for local business.
Google also confirms this expert opinion by letting us in on the fact that 76% of local searches via mobile visit the business within a day.
When a searcher is nearby, looking for a solution or a business that fits their needs, the map listings will be the first screen you see.
You may need to create or claim your listing in Google My Business, but that’s a straightforward guided process.
What is worth noting is that you do not want to rush through the process.
Take the time to use the 750 characters allotted to describe your business and why it’s different.
This is not a place to keyword stuff, to be spammy, or abuse with the caps lock on.
Make sure that the category you pick is not misleading, and be honest about the area you cover, because it may create leads you have no intention of serving or paying a visit to.
Lastly, you need to make sure you…
5. Have A Consistent Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP)
Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) consistency is tedious but important.
“Why is it tedious, Joe?” you might ask.
Well, I’m glad you asked me that. It’s tedious because you need to make sure that wherever your website is listed, it is listed consistently, right down to the punctuation.
It won’t kill you but would be considered inconsistent if you listed your address three different ways:
- 123 fake st.
- 123 fake st
- 123 fake street
Google won’t know if you have three different addresses or if it’s three different businesses; it could impact your rankings.
Pretty petty, I know…
If you’re not using a service like BrightLocal or Moz to push your address out to other directories, your best bet is to use a template to capture how you want your address to look.
Then you can go to each directory to copy and paste the identical business name, address, and phone number.
It’s important because it will help send signals to Google about your location, and help you capture the 76% of people who are searching for businesses like yours in the area.
A best practice would be to do your GMB Name, Address and Phone number first.
Before you submit, copy it and paste into a spreadsheet like this one, so when you go to create other listings you can easily copy and paste.
6. Utilize Schema On Your Website
Schema (semantic vocabulary), also known as rich snippets, takes what you are saying and gives it meaning for search engines.
Without getting too technical, what you’re really doing is adding microdata to the HTML of your website.
Here’s an example in action for the search “steps to starting a business.”
Here’s what happens, any time you include the words steps, top, list, or any other synonym that signals to Google you’re looking for a list.
Google then attempts to make the user experience better by showing you the answer without leaving the search.
Now that you’re an expert, here’s the simplest way to capitalize on schema as a small business.
First, locate that template you created when making your GMB profile.
Now you can copy and paste your NAP into your footer and in various places on your website.
Then follow these steps through Google Search Console and add the code to your site.
An alternative way to create structured data is to use a tool that creates the schema code for you to paste into your site’s code also.
Whatever route you choose, always be sure to test it with the structured data test tool.
7. Submit Your Listing To Other Directories
You’ve got your GMB set up and have copied all the NAP from it.
You’ve listed your business address using schema on your website using the identical NAP.
Now it’s time to go out onto the internet and spread your NAP like Johnny Appleseed.
You don’t have to look for every directory known to man, but according to Moz there are a few that apply to pretty much every business:
- Apple Maps
- Yellow Pages
Just remember that you have to keep up with these accounts to ensure they’re accurate and to respond to reviews.
8. Spy On Your Competition
Want to run the competition out of town?
Great! All you have to do is play their game… but better.
They both have limited free use, but for your purposes you should be able to get enough information out of them to figure out:
who’s linking to them the most—if someone is linking to your competitor, they’re likely to link to you, and;
what kind of content they’re producing and which is getting the most traffic.
You’ll know the hot topics to write about and you can go to your competitor’s linkers to show them the better content you made that is more in-depth and personal.
Lastly, you can see what Adwords your competition is running so you can create content around those words to show up organically under their paid ad.
It may take a little time to get indexed but when you do, searchers will trust your listing more than a paid ad.
The logic behind this is that you didn’t have to pay Google to get listed, and Google has a good track record of listing the best resources, so searchers trust your organic listing more.
9. Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly
You’re on vacation and start to feel the precursors of being hangry (hungry + angry). What do you do?
Go back to your hotel room to turn on a desktop to search for a restaurant? Or do you take out your smartphone to do a quick search of the area?
If you’re anyone who isn’t stuck in 2006, you’re pulling out your phone and doing a quick search for “tacos near me”.
You’re not the only person who would have chose the smartphone route, either.
In 2016, mobile traffic outpaced desktop traffic 53% to 47%, a fair split.
In 2017 the scales tipped more towards mobile traffic, showing a 10% swing with a split of 63% to desktop’s 37% share.
You have to promise yourself not to make the common mistake of focusing only on your desktop version of your website, but also to make sure your website is responsive for mobile devices.
Since mobile devices are often running on 3‒4g broadband, it’s more important than ever to optimize your load speeds by:
- managing your code for efficiency
- reducing your image file sizes
- using plugins in WordPress to cache your site.
10. Get Reviews To Your Google My Business Page
We millennials have a saying: “Pics, or it didn’t happen.”
Your customers have a similar standpoint: reviews, or you don’t have any happy customers.
They’re not literally saying that, but before a visit to a business, 90% of searchers read reviews first.
There’s also the psychology of having your star rating next to your business name, along with real reviews.
Studies have shown that customers are willing to spend 31% more money at businesses which have stellar reviews.
Here’s the best way to a lot of honest reviews from past customers.
First, create a review URL by doing the following steps:
- Go to Google Places API
- Enter the name of your business
- Give your business name a click
- Your Google Business ID is underneath your name
Now take this URL and add your place ID:
This causes the page to open like this:
[Optional Step] If you want to track what mediums are getting you the most leads, use a service like Bitly to track clicks.
Armed with this URL, you can now email customers asking for reviews. Make it part of the checkout process, or place it in your social media profiles.
11. Secure Your website—Correctly
I’ve covered this already in pretty good detail: why you should have a secure website.
Having a secure certificate is now a ranking factor that Google openly admitted to.
Instead of going into depth again about this topic, let’s go over the most common mistake (other than not having it)..
If done improperly, your whole site won’t have the SSL certificate. That can create a situation where you appear to have duplicate content, which will hurt your rankings.
There are a lot of other accidental duplicate content scenarios, but the easiest fix of them all is the SSL certificate.
If you have just implemented an SSL certificate and you’re using WordPress, it could be as easy as installing the Easy HTTPS Redirect WordPress plugin.
12. Clean Your URLs
You’re casually searching the web and you come across a web URL that looks like this:
Are you able to guess what the topic of that page is?
Neither can Google, and that will impact your rankings on search engines in general.
The general rule of thumb is that a user (and Google) should be able to guess what your page is about based on the URL.
Matt Cutts, former head of the web spam team at Google, suggests that your URL tail be 3‒5 words or you risk losing weight to those words.
The title of this post is “13 Small Business Search Engine Optimization Tips For 2018”.
By default, WordPress will generate the URL:
But I modified it to read like this
Here’s how to change this default option on your site if you’re running WordPress.
When you log into your backend, hover your mouse over the settings tab on the left and click on permalinks on the menu that appears.
On the next page I like to select the post name option because if I forget to change the URL, the title of the post will have me covered, with a URL the represents what’s on the page.
Now when you’re posting a new blog post, click the edit button and change the post URL to whatever you want.
Just don’t use any special characters or underscores.
13. Use Internal Linking
Internal links are the links you use to get users from one place on your website to another.
If you go to tip 11, you notice me referencing one of my old blog posts that connects the user (and Google) to that post.
Why is this important?
It’s important because you’re helping Google to learn the structure of your website, and you’re also passing value from one post to another.
Let’s say you’re in the dental industry. You write a great how-to, step by step guide on how to take care of your teeth after cosmetic dentistry work.
The page gets wildly popular and tons of people link to it.
You’ve linked to your cosmetic dentistry sales page from your post with the anchor text “cosmetic dentistry”.
Here are some of the amazing things that are happening in the background.
The post is getting linked to a lot of backlinks, which communicates to Google “I’m an awesome page”.
While that is being communicated, that “awesome” page is linking to your sales page on your site passing along the “link juice”.
Link juice is an old SEO term that means it would pass some of the page’s value to the pages it linked to internally.
This allows Google to easily crawl your site and easily determine what the page is about, using the anchor text.
- Go to each step and implement one at a time
- Measure the results they drove on a weekly/monthly basis
- Adjust and tweak because SEO is an ongoing process of learning
There are a lot of facets to SEO to wrap your head around.
With algorithm changes happening daily, new approaches, conflicting data and tools being created, it’s easy to see why you probably don’t know where to get started.
Just thinking about it makes me go a little cross-eyed.
A good start is to go over what we covered:
- Start by using Google Analytics to make sure your efforts are positively impacting your site.
- Get set up in Google Search Console to get the data you can’t get anywhere else.
- Run an onsite SEO audit to see where your metaphorical fly is open.
- Set up your Google My Business account to get into the local map pack in searches.
- Have a consistent NAP based on your Google My Business profile.
- Use schema on your website to tell search engines what your information means.
- Submit your NAP to the core directory listings on the internet.
- Spy on your competition using ahrefs and/or SEMRush.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly and loads fast for mobile devices.
- Drive reviews to your Google My Business profile to increase the amount people are willing to spend at your business.
- Get an SSL certificate for your website and make sure it’s implemented properly to avoid duplicate content.
- Clean up your URLs so that they are clear and concise.
- Use internal links for your website to pass “link juice” to your other pages and help Google crawl your website.
These may seem simple, but the tips will have a cumulative effect and lead to great rankings and more traffic.
What SEO tips have you used to increase the rankings of a smaller businesses?