As a small business, having an optimised site to draw traffic is key. With so much competition in the online space, utilizing the right tactics can make a tremendous difference in whether your site will gain traction and get the conversions you seek.
When developing the site, it is important to consider small business SEO.
When it comes to attracting web traffic, SEO is one of the most cost-effective strategies around. Local businesses are unlikely to compete with their large competitors on PPC or other paid marketing channels. SEO is a more level playing field.
With that in mind, let’s look at how to use search engines to stay competitive and find new customers.
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What is Small Business SEO?
The obvious answer is the use of SEO strategies for small businesses.
The first thing to consider is how small business SEO differs from its traditional counterpart. It’s hard to make any big generalisations, but let’s think for a second about how small businesses operate differently.
One difference is that small businesses often operate on a shoestring budget. Where international corporations can afford to throw millions at marketing, smaller companies often have no dedicated budget.
Another key difference is how small companies find and interact with their customers. For instance, your local coffee shop probably doesn’t have a loyal international following as some big chains do.
Instead, most of its new customers will live nearby. As such, small business SEO is often local first.
With that in mind, here are some reasons you need SEO as a small business.
SEO is Effective for Small Businesses
The best reason to focus on search engine marketing as a small business is that it works. Let’s take a step back for a second. Essentially, all businesses have two ongoing goals:
- To make more money,
- To spend less money.
We’ll return to the second one in a little while. For now, let’s focus on how SEO can increase revenue. The answer is simple. SEO boosts revenue by helping you to acquire new customers.
Over 50% of businesses rate SEO as one of their top three acquisition channels:
A good SEO strategy matches your offering to what potential customers want. It’s also a great way to target users who didn’t even know they’d benefit from your product.
SEO offers Amazing ROI for Small Businesses
So SEO helps you acquire new customers. However, there are a lot of other acquisition channels out there, too. The question then becomes – why is SEO the best acquisition channel for small companies?
This comes down to return on investment.
When measuring the effectiveness of an acquisition campaign, there are a couple of different formulas you can use, depending on your sales funnel:
- Cost per acquisition (CPA) – This is the average amount you spend to acquire each new customer,
- Cost per lead (CPL) – This is the average spend required to capture a new lead, for instance, email signup,
- Cost per click (CPC) – This is how much it costs to attract a user towards your site, regardless of if they take any action while there.
Whichever you choose to focus on, SEO is pretty much always one of the cheapest ways to find new customers:
The consensus is that SEO is one of the most cost-effective lead acquisition methods. This is crucial since small businesses generally have limited cash, and they need to make the most of what they do have.
Small Business SEO: Local Searches
Local search is more important than ever, but it’s still widely misunderstood. Essentially, there are two types of local searches. Most people understand the first but fail to take into account the second;
- Locally modified searches – This is where the search query references the area the user is concerned with. For instance, ‘hot dogs in New York’ or ‘dog groomers near me’.
- Implicitly local searches – These search queries don’t include a local modifier. However, the Google algorithm infers from the context that the user is looking for something locally. For instance, if you enter ‘coffee shop’ or ‘dry cleaners’ into Google, this will essentially be treated the same as if you included a local modifier.
Okay. So what?
Local searches are great for businesses because the user is almost always seeking to buy something pretty much immediately.
Additional features like the ‘local snippet’ also make it incredibly easy for small businesses to appear on the first page of Google without spending money:
Later, we’ll look at the steps you can take to get featured in local snippets.
Small Business SEO – Competition
We’ve said already that SEO is one of the best ways for small businesses to stay on top of the competition. But what exactly does this mean? Again, let’s break this down into two streams:
- Large competitors – SEO is the only acquisition method where small businesses can compete on a level playing field. Unlike PPC or social, large competitors can’t simply throw money at SEO to squeeze the little guy.
- Small competitors – You’d be amazed at how little SEO effort it takes to leap-frog your local competitors. Since most companies fail to take SEO seriously, even a small effort can easily make you the local top performer in your niche.
Most industries are only getting more competitive – especially online. Small business SEO is one of the best ways to ensure you keep getting a slice of the pie long into the future.
Attract Mobile Traffic
Putting in some effort with SEO also helps you identify issues with your site’s performance. For example, over half of searches are carried out on mobile devices. Despite this, most small businesses lack a clear mobile SEO strategy.
Simply put, you can’t reasonably expect to perform well on mobile searches if you don’t put in the effort. For example, mobile users often have a different search intent, even when they use the same keywords as desktop users.
If someone searches for a ‘bathroom’ on their laptop, they may seek inspiration for a remodel. By contrast, a mobile search for ‘bathroom’ probably means something else entirely.
Mobile optimisation is also crucial for local SEO, as phone users are likelier to be out and about.
5 Tips to Get Started with SEO for Small Businesses
Okay, so by now, you should be convinced that SEO is worthwhile for small businesses. However, many small business owners are daunted by the task. After all, isn’t SEO for digital marketing whizzes in Silicon Valley?
That’s what they want you to think.
The truth is that making the top of search engine results is often not that hard. In fact, with a little bit of know-how, it’s easy for small business websites to rank highly on organic search.
Let’s look at some actions you can take today.
- Understand Keyword Research
Keyword research is the process of figuring out what terms people search for in your industry. This lets you decide which search queries you’d like to rank for. There are a lot of myths out there about keyword research, but it’s not really that complicated.
Essentially, you want to identify the variation of whatever phrase you’re targeting which receives the most searches to use as your primary keyword. You can then use other variations as secondary keywords.
By far, the easiest way to do this is using Google’s free Keyword Planner tool:
Once you’ve decided which keywords to target, the last part of your research is to figure out what their search intent is. This is what the user is hoping to achieve when they enter a search term.
Broadly speaking, there are four kinds of search intent:
- Transactional – When a user wants to buy a particular product or service,
- Informational – Searches where the user is looking for a piece of information,
- Navigational – Where the user wants to find a specific website,
- Commercial research – When a user is considering a purchase but wants to conduct more research about their options.
The simplest way to figure out this is to look at what’s already ranking highly for a given search term.
- Google My Business for Local SEO
We’ve noted that small businesses are more likely to benefit from local searches. As such, it’s important to consider the different local SEO ranking factors. Local SEO utilises the same ranking factors as a general search, with a few additions.
The most important of these is Google My Business:
Now, you might think additional ranking factors mean additional work. However, in some ways, Google My Business’ importance for local SEO is an absolute gift.
The bottom line is that filling in your Google My Business profile is incredibly easy, but most competitors don’t do it properly. Because of this, creating a proper Google My Business presence will help you outrank your competitors in less than 10 minutes. This applies wherever you’re based in the country, so whether you want to work with experts to enhance your online presence in Charlotte or handle your web-based visibility in-house in NYC, it’s a must.
- Use Google Analytics and Search Console
Google provides a free suite of tools for optimising your site on search engines. We’ve already talked about Keyword Planner. Beyond this, there are two tools you should get to grips with:
- Analytics – This helps you track when and where people access your site, where you acquire them, which pages they visit, and how they behave.
- Search Console – This is aimed at understanding how your site performs on Google from a technical point of view, as well as which search terms your site is performing best for.
Many small business owners aren’t the most tech-savvy people around. All the same, it’s worth spending an afternoon with Google’s SEO tools, if only to help you understand what SEO specialists are talking about if you decide to outsource.
- Build Domain Authority as a Small Business
For both local and general searches, a key ranking factor is what’s known as domain authority (DA). In short, this is how credible the Google algorithms think your site is within your niche.
This is generally something that companies fail to account for. That is, lots of companies spend big on technical SEO and content marketing but fail to make an effort to improve their domain authority.
This is your opportunity to get ahead of the pack.
Domain authority is largely based on the respective DAs of the sites which link to yours. Increasing your DA requires you to gain more links from high-authority sites.
To do this, you have two options:
- Create high-quality, unique content that other sites can refer to.
- Reach out to high authority sites and write a free blog post for them, in which you link your content.
This kind of link-building campaign will also add other value, for example, referral traffic and partnership opportunities.
- Maximise Value from Organic Traffic
Before we finish, let’s circle back to the ultimate goal of small business SEO. That is to make money by attracting people from Google searches, to get them to spend money. There are several ways to do this once you’ve got your site ranking well.
The first challenge is to get them to click through from the results page to your desired landing page. Do this; you have a handful of tools at your disposal:
- Title tags – This is the name of the page as it appears on the SERPs,
- Meta description – This is the page’s description as it appears under the title.
- Markup schema – These are additional features which appear on the SERPs, for instance, shortcuts to particular pages or an average star review of your business or product.
Once you’ve got a user on your site, your goal is to provide them with the best possible user experience to make a conversion. Since most users won’t make a purchase the first time they visit a site, you should gather leads through social media or email.
You can then use lead nurturing techniques to lead them towards a purchase, for instance, by sending targeted discounts or customer success case studies. We list the most important articles on small business or local SEO from our website here:
- Local SEO Audit: How To Perform One and What To Look Out For
- Local SEO: How to Make the Local Pack + 3 Tips
- SEO Guide: The Google RankBrain Update
- SEO Guide: The Google Hummingbird Update
- SEO for Car Dealerships: A Complete Guide
- Voice Search SEO: Is It Different from Traditional SEO?
- SEO Basics: How to Dominate the SERP Competition
- SEO Hosting: The Good and Bad
- SEO Agency: Building Your Presence Online with SEO
- Semrush Alternatives: What Else Is Out There? – Measure your small business SEO impact
- Grow Your Traffic with Free Business Listing Sites
- Digital Marketing for Travel Agencies
- 5 Local SEO Trends
- Guide to Hotel Marketing
Small Business SEO: FAQs
Q: What are the most important areas of SEO for small businesses?
A: Technical SEO, on-page optimization, content creation, link building, local SEO, and analytics/tracking. Focus on high-impact activities.
Q: What are some easy technical SEO improvements?
A: Optimizing site speed, enabling HTTPS security, ensuring mobile responsiveness, creating XML sitemaps, and adding schema markup.
Q: How can I track my SEO efforts?
A: Use Google Search Console to monitor crawl stats, clicks, and queries. Add Google Analytics to understand visitor behaviour and track conversions.
Q: What are link-building best practices?
A: Build local citations on directories. Guest posts on relevant sites. Promote content on social media. Focus on earned links from authority sites.
Q: What are common SEO mistakes small businesses make?
A: Overstuffing keywords, duplicating content, shady link-building tactics, not tracking data. Focus on user experience and organic growth.
Small Business SEO: Conclusion
With the proper execution of core SEO activities, small businesses can drive significant search traffic and conversions. Stay up to date on Google algorithm changes. Focus on useful content, technical optimization, and thoughtful link building. Track analytics to refine efforts over time. SEO success requires consistency but delivers tremendous organic growth. By following this guide’s tips and best practices, you can build lasting search visibility.