As a small business, having an optimised site that will draw traffic is key. With so much competition in the online space, utilizing the right tactics can make a tremendous difference whether or not your site will gain traction and get the conversions you are seeking.
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 you can you can use search engines to stay competitive and find new customers
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 at all.
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, like 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 why 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:
This is because a good SEO strategy is the ideal way to match your offering to what potential customers actually want from you. 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 an 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:
In fact, the consensus is clear that SEO is one of the most cost-effective lead acquisition methods available. This is crucial, since small businesses generally have limited cash, and they need to make the most of what they do have.
Local search is more important than ever, but it’s still pretty widely misunderstood. Essentially, there are two types of local searches. Most people understand the first, but fail to take account of the second;
- Locally modified searches – This is where the search query contains a reference to 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 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.
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 basically the only acquisition method where small businesses can compete on a level playing field. Unlike PPC, or even social, large competitors can’t simply throw money at SEO to squeeze the little guy.
- Small competitors – You’d be amazed how little SEO effort it takes to leap-frog your local competitors. Since most small companies fail to take SEO seriously, even a small effort can easily make you the top performer in your niche locally.
Most industries are only getting more competitive – especially online. Small business SEO is one of the best ways to make sure you keep getting a slice of the pie long into the future.
Attract Mobile Traffic
Putting in some effort with SEO also helps you to identify issues with how your site is performing. 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 a desktop user.
If someone searches for ‘bathroom’ on their laptop, they may be looking for 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 users on their phones are more likely 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 the 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:
- 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 they want to conduct more research about their options.
Google My Business for Local SEO
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 of your 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.
Use Google Analytics and Search Console
Google provides a free suite of tools for optimising your site to perform 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, as well as 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 which other sites can refer to.
- Reach out to high authority sites and write a free blog post for them, in which you link your own 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 search, with a view to getting them to spend money. There are a number of 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 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 description of the page, as it appears under the title.
- Markup schema – These are additional features which appear on the SERPs, for instance shortcut 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.