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Small Business SEO In 9 Simple Steps

No matter what line of business you’re in, whether you’re selling landscaping services or cupcakes, your potential customers are looking for you on the web. And that makes a strong web presence with good search engine visibility an absolute necessity for small businesses.

The good news is that you don’t need to be an expert at search engine optimization (SEO) to improve your web presence and increase your website traffic.

In this article, we’ll explain the importance of SEO for small business owners and give you actionable tips for developing and implementing an SEO strategy that will yield results.

What you’ll learn

  • The basics of SEO for small businesses and why it’s important
  • 9 steps you can implement immediately to start improving your search engine rankings and organic website traffic
  • Examples of small businesses who are doing SEO right – and why what they’re doing is working
  • The cost of SEO for small businesses
  • Whether you should do SEO by yourself or hire an agency

What is small business SEO?

Small business SEO is the practice of optimizing a small business's online presence to increase its visibility in search engine results and attract more potential customers.

The higher your site ranks, the more visibility you will have. This, in turn, will lead to more web visitors and potential sales.

For example, say you’re running a driving school in Phoenix, Arizona. Outside of referrals, most of your new customers will learn about you through Google.

Successful SEO will ensure they find you when they Google things like “driving lessons, Phoenix” or “Where can I learn to drive in Phoenix?”

SEO will ensure your small business pops up high in search engines when people are looking for services or products related to it.

Is small business SEO important?

Yes, small business SEO is important as most people start their buying journey online.

The internet is the lifeblood of the global economy.

83% of people who buy from a physical store admitted to doing internet research before making a purchase.

But there’s a catch—if your small business’s website doesn’t show up at or near the top of a search engine results page, it’s basically like it doesn’t exist.

The top organic result claims the lion’s share of search traffic, with a 39.8% clickthrough rate (CTR), with each subsequent result getting an exponentially smaller number of clicks.

So, by implementing and maintaining a successful SEO campaign, you can stand out from the competition and land leads and sales in a competitive marketplace.

Perhaps the best thing about SEO is there is very little cost associated with it, aside from your own labor. So, with just an investment of time, you can significantly improve your web visibility.

Unlike paid advertising, which only works when the ads are turned on, SEO will continue to reap rewards for your business in the long run.

9 steps for small business SEO

While massive multinational corporations can afford to employ extensive web departments or pour thousands into an agency to oversee their SEO needs, small business owners don’t usually have that same luxury.  

Luckily, you don’t need a big budget to get results. With a bit of know-how and some good old-fashioned elbow grease, you can implement a small business SEO strategy that will maximize your exposure and help drive new business. 

1. Find the terms your users are searching for

Google search has one goal, to “deliver the most relevant and reliable information available.” Its algorithm parses each search query for context and meaning to find the sites that best answer what the user is looking for.

One key way it determines this is by analyzing the content of webpages for specific words and phrases related to the search. These are known as keywords.

The first step of your SEO strategy is to find relevant keywords to target in your content.

Identify your main topics

To find relevant keywords to craft your content around, the first thing you need to do is identify your main topics. Also known as seed keywords, these are the high-level topics related to your business. They will form the foundation for your keyword research.

Use your expertise and knowledge of your industry to identify some of these.

  • What are your primary products and services?
  • What problems do you solve for your customers?

There are also other ways to identify your seed keywords, one of the most common being to use Google autocomplete.

Whenever you start typing in the Google search bar, the search engine auto-fills a list of potential queries below with the goal of helping you find the results you’re searching for faster.  

Let's continue with our driving school examples. Enter your service name and start going through the letters of the alphabet to get some ideas.

From here you can already see some topics related to driving lessons, such as "driving lessons for adults,  "driving lessons for teens", and "driving lessons [location]".

Next, look at Related searches as you scroll through Google search results. There you will find other topics related to your services.

Keep note of topics that are relevant to your business.

Find related keywords

After you have identified your main topics, the next thing you need to do is find related keywords. These are the terms and phrases that are associated with your seed keywords.

For example, if "driving lessons for adults" is one of your main topics, you can go back to Google to search for keywords related to it.

From here you can see long-tail keywords related to your main topic, such as "driving lessons for adults with anxiety" and "driving lessons for adults cost".

Related searches might reveal some other keywords for you, like "private driving lessons for adults" and "affordable driving school for adults".

Once you have a list, you’ll want to decide which ones you want to target. There are four things to consider when selecting keywords:

  1. Monthly search volume – How many times per month users are searching for a keyword.
  2. Keyword difficulty – This is a metric that indicates how difficult it is to rank high for a specific word.
  3. Search intent – This refers to the goal behind the query and what the user is specifically looking for.
  4. Business potential – How much can a particular keyword impact your business.

To determine the above, you'll have to use a keyword research tool like Surfer.

Surfer will show you keywords related to your main topic, as well as their metrics.

For instance, you can see that a keyword like "driving practice" has an informational intent, relatively high monthly search volume, and moderate difficulty.

Meanwhile, "adult driving classes" has a much higher search volume and is easier to rank for.

While keywords with a higher search volume are typically more difficult to rank for, a keyword research tool like Surfer can help you discover these lucrative keywords.

Both these keywords have an informational search intent, meaning users are typically looking to learn more rather than make an immediate purchase.

We can see that from the search engine results pages (SERPs) that are dominated by informational content.

To rank for such a keyword, you would also need to create informational content.

When it comes to gauging the business potential of a keyword, it's crucial to analyze not only the search volume and difficulty but also the relevance to your specific market and the likelihood that it will lead to conversions.

For instance, if you're not offering online driving lessons, then you shouldn't focus on that keyword.

2. Write About Your Main Topics

Now that you have your keyword list, you should have a good idea what your targets are searching for. The next step is to use your target keywords to create content to address it.

Remember that Google’s ranking system is designed with humans in mind, not only search spiders.

It values pages that provide original, accurate, useful information that answers search queries.

That's why matching the keyword search intent is crucial.

But before you start writing, you need to also think about how to organize your content. This is where content hubs, also known as topic clusters, come in.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a group of closely related web pages built around different aspects of one central topic. In many cases, this comes in the form of a centralized page linking to numerous subpages that provide in-depth information about a topic.

For instance, if your main topic is driving lessons, you can create supporting pages that focus on the related keywords you identified in the previous step, such as driving lessons for adults and driving lessons for beginners.

You should start with writing content on your main topic and then the supporting pages.

Content writing takes a lot of time, so you might want to leverage AI writing tools to help you streamline the process.

Scale content with AI

Search engines like Google won't penalize you for using AI content —as long as your content is useful to searchers. This means you need to use AI tools in tandem with your human expertise.

So first, use an AI writing tool to create a content draft, and then edit it by adding your tone of voice and personal insights.

With an AI writing tool like Surfer AI, you can create an article in less than 20 minutes.

AI prompt-based tools like ChatGPT may require some back and forth until you get to that final draft.

However, with Surfer AI, you follow the tool's instructions, and you will have a fully optimized article draft ready in a few simple steps.

3. Use on-page SEO

On-page, or on-site SEO, is the process of adjusting your webpages to rank as highly as possible in search engine results.

Once you have created your content, it's time to optimize it.

Here are some of the more important elements you need to consider when performing on-page SEO:

URLs—Keep your website addresses short and include each page’s target keyword.

Page titles – A good title tag that includes your target keywords gives search crawlers a high-level understanding of your page’s content and encourages searchers to click on your link.

Header tags – The main, H1 tag is your article title. It doesn't have to be the same as your meta title but they should be similar and contain your primary keyword. The rest of your heading tags, H2-H6 should contain variations of the primary keyword and secondary keywords. They guide searchers and bots through your page.

Body content – Your body content should include variations of your primary keyword as well as other related keywords.

4. Include relevant keywords in your body

In the early days of SEO, one of the more common ways to improve a page’s search engine ranking was to include keywords anywhere they would fit. Google has long since ended this practice, but keywords in the body content remain an important part of SEO.

By including target terms and phrases in your content, you’re helping search engines understand the intent and content of your page.

As was mentioned above, keywords should be included in structured headings, including your H1 and subheads (H2, H3, etc.). Your primary keyword should be present in the first 80-200 words of your introduction and in the conclusion.

Whenever possible, include related keywords, which are secondary words and phrases related to the page’s main focus. For example, if you have a page on your bakery’s website focused on the word “birthday cupcakes,” try to include related words like “gluten free,” “sprinkles” and “birthday party.”

You should naturally add related keywords into the content, with an emphasis on naturally.

Don’t force keywords to try to game the search algorithm, or you risk being penalized for keyword stuffing.

Surfer's Content Editor can be a handy tool to determine the appropriate keywords and their optimal usage frequency in your content.

There, you can also pay attention to other relevant metrics such as wordcount and number of paragraphs and images to ensure your article is comprehensive and well-structured.

5. Create local listings

Local listings refer to online mentions of your business's Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP), usually found on business directories.

These citations are crucial for local SEO as they help search engines verify the accuracy of your business's information, enhancing your visibility and credibility in local search results.

Submit your business information to popular directories in your local area, as well as major platforms like Apple Maps, Yelp, Bing Places, and Facebook.

This increases your business's online presence and provides more avenues for potential customers to find you.

Discovering these online directories, is as simple as conducting a Google search with your location and relevant phrases such as "business directory" or specific to your industry and location, like "lawyer directory ontario".

This is what a directory listing can look like.

Alternatively, you can refine your search with specific search operators. For instance, the inurl: operator helps filter search results to only display URLs that contain certain keywords.

  • inurl:directory followed by your keyword

You can perform a similar action using the intitle: operator, which narrows down search results to include only those pages whose meta titles contain specific keywords.

  • intitle:directory followed by your keyword

Ensure your NAP information is consistent across all online platforms, including social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Inconsistencies in your name, address or phone number can confuse searchers and search engines, harming your rankings and potentially costing you business. 

6. Optimize your Google Business profile

Formerly known as Google My Business, a Google Business profile helps you manage your business's online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. It allows users in your local area to easily discover and engage with your business.

This is important because it ensures you appear in location-based searches, whether that means “muffler shops in Canton, OH” or “auto repair near me.”

A good Google Business profile is comprehensive and up-to-date, featuring accurate business details such as name, address, phone number, and hours of operation.

It also includes high-quality images of the business, products, or services and has a collection of positive customer reviews.

Additionally, you can provide relevant and engaging posts about promotions, events, or new offerings to keep the profile active and informative for potential customers.

 7. Ask for reviews

According to Power Reviews, 99.9% of consumers read online reviews, with 57% of people checking reviews while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. 

Seen as a crucial marker of your business’ credibility and legitimacy, customers value them as much as personal recommendations from friends and family members. And that makes them incredibly important for small businesses like yours. 

But how do you get them? There’s a very simple, yet extremely effective strategy: ask for them. 

Put up a sign in your location, post on your social media platforms, or mention to satisfied customers that you’re seeking reviews on your Google Business profile and other review sites like Yelp, Angi, or TripAdvisor.

If you have disgruntled customers who post about a bad experience, the best thing you can do is respond in a timely manner while staying professional and courteous.

Develop an understanding of where you failed and apologize when necessary, but don’t take responsibility for things that aren’t your fault. Then, ask what you can do to try to make it right. 

Responding in this manner not only shows your brand’s authenticity, but it demonstrates that you care about your customers’ happiness. 

8. Demonstrate E-E-A-T

E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, and it's a set of criteria used by Google to assess the quality of content on web pages.

This concept originates from Google's Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which guide human evaluators in rating the relevance and usefulness of web pages in relation to search queries.

Here are some tips for showcasing your small business E-E-A-T:

Demonstrate your credentials and expertise via an “about us” page and in author bylines.

Highlight your professional background, qualifications, and achievements to establish credibility with your audience.

Feature testimonials and reviews from past customers and companies with which you’re associated or have done business in the past.

Instead of tooting your own horn about how great you are, let your satisfied customers and clients do it for you.

Write case studies with original research.

Creating and showcasing original content on your website establishes your site as an authority within your field. It’s also much more likely to generate social shares and backlinks, which transfer authority to your pages.

9. Simplify your site’s navigation

No one likes a website that’s difficult to navigate – including search engine crawlers.

A clear and logical site structure makes it easy for both humans and search bots to understand your website and travel from page to page. 

For humans, this leads to a lower bounce rate and higher conversions. For search engine bots, it allows them to find, explore and index your site more easily, which ensures all your pages are being discovered and showing up in search rankings.

Some of the elements to consider when evaluating your site’s navigation structure are:

Site architecture and content hierarchy—A clean URL structure is a fundamental part of site navigation. To ensure you’re reaping the full benefits, make sure you use URLs that clearly reflect your site’s hierarchy. Consider using categories to divide your offerings into logical segments. 

Main menus, headers, and footers—These elements play an important part in how people navigate your site. So make it easy for them to find the most important pages without too much hassle,

Internal linking—Placing hyperlinks on your pages that direct to other pages on your site is a great way to help users quickly find the information they want. They’re also effective at preventing search robots from getting stuck in an internal loop while giving them a clear path from one page to the next. 

CTA (call to action) buttons—Your CTA links should clearly convey the action you’re asking users to perform. They should be strategically placed not to hinder the natural flow and in locations where they maximize the chance of conversion. Don’t overdo it with CTAs – too many can make it unclear to users what you’re hoping to accomplish from their visit.  

3 example of good small business SEO

While it’s important to understand the theory and strategy behind small business SEO, many people find it easier to understand when seeing a real-world example. With this in mind, here are three examples of small businesses that are doing a great job at search engine optimization:

Temple Coffee Roasters

Temple Coffee Roasters is a small coffee chain focused on sustainable coffee growing and custom roasts. 

What they’re doing right:

  • Clean and elegant site structure. Pages are grouped by topic for easy navigation.
  • Excellent use of main and secondary keywords.
  • URLs are short and to-the-point, utilizing each page’s primary focus word.
  • "About us” page establishes the business’ authority on coffee, tea and related products.
  • Product pages for online shopping are clean and consistent, with actionable steps for shoppers. 
  • Authority and authenticity are built through extensive customer reviews (914 at time of this writing), many of which feature responses from the owner.

Capital Books

An independent bookstore in Sacramento, Capital Books offers online shopping, as well as in-person shopping and author events.

What they’re doing right:

  • A regularly updated online catalog that provides buyers will all the information they need when deciding upon a purchase, including reviews, descriptions and an author bio.
  • A clear site structure that simplifies navigation within the site and helps visitors discover other works in their choice of genres.
  • Transferred authority from a link exchange with Libro.fm, an audiobooks company dedicated to supporting local bookstores.
  • Clear links to social media accounts in the footer so fans can find and follow them on Facebook, X, Instagram, and Threads.

The Space Social Wellness Studio

A Sacramento-based wellness studio, The Space offers yoga, breath and meditation, sound experiences, infrared sauna, cold plunges, massage therapy, stretch therapy and retreats, among other things.  

What they’re doing right:

  • Establishes expertise and authority with extensive information about teachers, assistants and management that highlights experience and qualifications.
  • Great use of keywords and clear CTAs, where visitors are given high-quality information about offerings, including pricing, and then can purchase at the bottom of the page.
  • Easy navigation for humans and search crawlers with a top menu and dropdowns making it easy to find pages.
  • An active and effective Google Business profile including all relevant NAP information, reviews and photos.

How long do SEO results take for small businesses?

Generally speaking, it will take around three months to start seeing traction from your SEO efforts, but it could take six months or more to see tangible results. 

Search engine optimization is a marathon, not a sprint.

This is because there are a lot of factors that go into your ranking, and some of them, like your backlinks profile can take months to start showing results. Building your reputation as a trusted resource will not happen overnight. 

Additionally, while you’re making changes to optimize your own site, your competition is likely doing the same thing. 

But there is good news: while SEO generally takes longer to show results, it offers several advantages over paid advertising in the long run.

Whereas a paid campaign stops reaping the rewards the moment it’s deactivated, good SEO can continue to drive organic traffic to your site for a long time with little to no input. 

How much does small business SEO cost?

SEO pricing ranges from $75-150 an hour, depending on your needs. Monthly pricing ranges anywhere from $300 to more than $4000.

A lot of this depends on the scope of work, the provider’s location and the experience of the professional or agency. 

SEO is usually sold in various packages, ranging from basics that only include keyword research and local listings to advanced full-service packages that include content creation and advanced reporting.  

Do small businesses need to hire an SEO agency?

Whether your small business should hire an outside SEO agency will depend on your unique needs and resources. 

Hiring an SEO agency is a good idea when you lack the time to learn and implement SEO strategies, or when your efforts are not yielding the desired results. An agency brings expertise and resources that can accelerate performance and drive significant improvements in your web presence.

Keeping SEO in-house is beneficial if you have the time and willingness to learn about SEO best practices and stay updated with the constantly changing landscape. It's also cost-effective, as it eliminates the need to invest in external agencies, and it allows for a more hands-on approach to directly align SEO efforts with the company's unique goals and culture.

As you saw throughout this article, SEO tools like Surfer can help you manage your entire SEO strategy in-house, from performing keyword research and identifying backlinking opportunities to creating SEO content that ranks.

So, if you decide to keep your SEO in-house, you'll need to build an effective SEO toolkit, which takes us to the next section.

5 SEO tools for small businesses

SEO tools can help you simplify and amplify the effectiveness of search engine optimization for your small business website. They automate complex tasks, provide valuable insights, and help craft strategies that enhance a website's visibility and ranking on search engines.

1. Google Search Console 

Google’s own free tool for SEO, Search Console shows how the search engine crawls, indexes, and serves your website.

You’ll also be able to view how people find your webpages, who links to your site, and track which queries and pages bring the most traffic. 

This is also where you can review issues with your site, including issues with structured data or manual actions taken against you. From within the platform, you can run a number of reports to identify and fix issues and bugs.  

2. Surfer

Surfer is an all-encompassing SEO toolkit that simplifies the complexity of SEO tactics for your business. It's a powerful ally whether you're conducting keyword research, running content audits, or crafting articles poised to rank highly.

With Surfer at your side, guesswork becomes a thing of the past. It offers a wealth of keyword data for informed decision-making, and its Content Editor provides clear instructions for optimizing your content.

And if you need help with content writing, Surfer AI steps in. In a matter of minutes, it delivers content that's primed for SEO success, allowing you to swiftly ascend the search engine rankings.

3. Localo

Built specifically for local SEO, Localo gives you instructions on enhancing your search local ranking, soliciting reviews, and promoting your small business. 

It also includes functionality for quickly creating and scheduling posts, checking your current visibility, and auditing your site for issues and opportunities. 

Localo includes a built-in task manager, an automated review response, and performance reporting tools. 

4. Brightlocal

Another SEO platform designed to help local businesses scale and grow their organic traffic, Brightlocal offers site auditing tools to help you find new opportunities and climb higher in search rankings.

It includes functionality to track local listings and find citation opportunities, optimize your business profile, and find ways to continually improve your site’s performance within your city, state, and/or region. 

Brightlocal also includes tools for collecting, monitoring, and responding to reviews. It’s also useful for managing multiple locations from a single platform. 

5. Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog audits websites for common SEO issues. It finds broken links, unoptimized page titles and metadata, auto-redirects, and duplicate content. 

It also includes tools for quickly generating XML sitemaps and integrates directly with GSC, Google Analytics, and PageSpeed Insights APIs.

A free version allows you to crawl up to 500 URLs, while a licensed version removes that limit and provides access to advanced features and functionality, including custom robots.txt, JavaScript rendering, scheduling, and structured data validation.  

Key Takeaways

  • Small business SEO increases your website visibility and helps you stand out from the competition.
  • Finding and using the keywords your targets are searching for will help your site show up at the top of Google search results.
  • Use on-page SEO to help search engines understand your content. Include keywords in page titles, meta descriptions, and headers to tell both search spiders and human visitors what the page is about.
  • Employ local SEO tactics and list your business in applicable directories to help your customers find you on the web and in the physical world. Ensure you accurately represent your business information across platforms to avoid confusion.
  • Your Google Business profile is a powerful tool for improving visibility and interacting with your target audience. 
  • Google evaluates your website for E-E-A-T. To improve your score, create original content and establish your role as a trusted authority in your field.
  • Websites that are complicated to use drive away visitors and confuse search engine crawlers. Simplify your site’s navigation so everything has a natural, logical flow. This will ensure Google finds and indexes your pages and improve users' dwell time.
  • SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. You won’t see results overnight. But with a little dedication and willingness to work, your SEO will pay dividends much higher than paid advertising.

Conclusion

Search engine optimization isn’t just for large corporations – it’s for every business, regardless of type, size, or location.  

Your customers are on the web, which means you must be too.

If you follow the steps in this article, you should see your site attracting more organic traffic and climbing up search rankings. But it’s not a “set it and forget it” field. SEO is a process that requires consistent work, new content, and experimentation. 

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics