The Beginner’s Guide to Small Business SEO

If you own a small business in today’s world, it’s vital that you’ve got some familiarity with the best practice of small business SEO, or search engine optimization.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than three-quarters of people in the United States carry a smartphone on them. Think about it: all of those people carry a connection to the internet in their pocket nearly all the time. Proper SEO strategy makes sure that when those people are in need of a product or service, you’ve maximized the chances that they’ll find you.

What is SEO?

Put simply, SEO is the act or process of making sure everything you and your company puts online is likely to be shown as a top result in a search engine, and SEO couldn’t be more important for a small business. When was the last time you or anyone you know went to the second page of Google?

The front page of a search engine is where your business and content will get the most eyes, the most clicks, the most purchases, and the most engagement. Making sure you’re doing everything in your power to put your content on that page is the essence of SEO, particularly for a small business. And SEO is a skill – it’s a skill that will continue to be vital in the world of small business marketing, so you need to create an online presence that drives search engine traffic.

And how do you do that? Let’s imagine you own a restaurant that specializes in high-quality, chef-driven, grass-fed beef cheeseburgers. How can you use SEO to drive traffic to your restaurant?

Drive traffic with keywords.

Keywords are important to understand for both customers and small business owners.

For customers, readers, or users, keywords are the words or phrases they enter into a search engine.

If you’re the burger joint owner, you might think that “cheeseburger” would be an appropriate keyword. After all, that’s what you sell. But strong small business SEO means understanding your niche and having a strong grasp of your small business’s mission and story.

Searching for “cheeseburger” in a search engine will bring up the history of the sandwich, recipes, and links to national restaurant chains (the ones you’re trying to draw customers from). That keyword won’t bring up the results you want – they won’t lead customers to your pages. Building your content around the same keywords as larger, more famous brands will result in your content being effectively invisible to internet researchers.

So ask yourself why your restaurant is different. What do you want your ideal customer to be looking for when they get online?

Do research before you choose your keywords.

There are dozens of sources available online to help you choose keywords, from basics like Google Trends to a more holistic SEO tool like SEMrush. These resources will help you choose which keywords are most likely to drive traffic to your pages and can help you differentiate your page from similar ones.

If you’re the cheeseburger restaurant owner, your town might have a few other restaurants specializing in cheeseburgers. Doing some research into keywords might show you that people in your town search for “gourmet cheeseburgers” more than they search for “cheap” or “fast” cheeseburgers. That bit of knowledge shows you that your content should emphasize the chef-driven gourmet aspects of your business.

Create great content.

Once you know what users are searching for, it’s important to create relevant, useful content that users can find. Content encompasses everything you create and put online: landing pages on your website, Facebook posts, tweets, blog posts, and more.

Imagine you’re the cheeseburger restaurant owner. Because you’ve done research into which keywords are sought-after in your area, you know that customers are searching for high-end cheeseburgers. How can you use this knowledge to create smart, relevant content?

Maybe you create Facebook posts about your kitchen staff’s qualifications and histories as cooks, or you write a blog post about your burger of the month and how it was inspired by a particular world cuisine. You could have a page on your website all about the inspiration behind the restaurant’s creation.

Every piece of content marketing you create could be built around “gourmet cheeseburgers” as a keyword phrase, meaning that when someone in your area searches for that phrase, they’ll see your Facebook, your menu, your blog. According to the search engine’s results, you’re the local expert on the topic.

Use Google My Business.

Google My Business is another crucial path to getting your business in front of potential customers. Using Google My Business can ensure that your business shows up on Google Maps or at the top of the front page when a search is local.

You’ve got great content. You’re using your research and your keywords to ensure that you’re showing up in searches. Establishing and verifying the information in Google My Business is the next step in getting people to your business.

GMB allows owners to upload photos, list a addresses, enter phone numbers, and list hours of operations, all of which will show up on the Google page without needing customers to click.

Imagine you’re hungry for that cheeseburger. You go to Google and search for “gourmet cheeseburger near me”. If you’re the owner of the imaginary business and have followed these steps, customers are likely to find your blog posts, website, and menus at the top of the first page right next to a block of text showing a picture of a burger, your address, hours of operation, and even a phone number to make a reservation.

Remember that the entire system is built around being helpful.

If you remember that tip, everything makes absolute sense.

It benefits Google, and other search engines, if users who search on their platforms find what they’re looking for quickly and effectively. Small business SEO is, at its core, the practice of designing content around being maximally helpful to your customers. You’re doing everything possible to make sure that search engines know your website is what customers really need.
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Sam Osterling
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Sam Osterling

Sam Osterling is a freelance writer whose work has been published in The Oklahoman, American Way, Renovator Magazine, and Hook & Barrel. Sam writes on small business management, marketing and technology. He’s based on Long Island, New York.