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A Solid SEO Strategy for Almost Every Small Business

Keyword Research for Small Business

Every business’s SEO strategy needs to be attuned to its industry, competitors and location, but this guide provides a starting point and core outline that every small business can build upon for their SEO strategy.

There are over 200 factors that can impact your SEO, many of them minute and seemingly insignificant. Given how many there are, even global enterprises with huge budgets for SEO let optimizations fall through the cracks. For a small business, covering every little factor that can affect SEO is impossible.

However, small businesses can still have a robust SEO strategy if they know how to prioritize. No SEO strategy is the exact same, but in this article, I have laid out a solid core strategy for nearly every type of small business. If you follow this guide – whether by giving it to an agency you hired or implementing the optimizations yourself – you will put your small business website’s SEO on solid footing.

Step 1: Fix Egregious Technical Errors on Your Website

Keyword Research for Small Business

You can use a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs to run an audit on your website, and it will find the most egregious technical issues. It will also find a bunch of other problems, but you only need to attend to the most serious problems to start. The most serious problems are:

  • 500 errors – a 500 error happens when a page on your site can’t be accessed due to an issue with the server. There are a handful of different 500 errors, but the bottom line is that if one or many are happening on your site, it means search engines can’t crawl those pages. Rectify 500 errors immediately so crawlers can access the site.

  • 400 errors – a 400 error happens when a page on your site can’t be accessed due to issues on the website itself. There are many different types of 400 errors, but the most common is the 404, or broken page. Whenever these occur, investigate the issue and see if there’s a way to fix the broken page or redirect it to an appropriate replacement page.

  • Indexing issues caused by a “noindex” directive or a disallow in the robots.txt file – a directive on your website that explicitly tells search engines not to index or crawl your site will have a very bad effect on your search rankings. Sometimes a “noindex” directive on certain pages, or a disallow request in your robots.txt file, makes sense (for instance, “Thank You” pages that the user lands on after they have completed an action on your website). But if you see noindexing or disallow requests impacting pages you want people to find, then this needs to be rectified immediately.

  • Broken internal links – if links from one page on your site lead to a broken page on your site, this is considered a broken internal link. Because search engines crawl websites using links, if they discover a broken one, it sends a bad message to the search engine.

  • Broken external links – broken external links are links on your website that lead to a broken page on another website. The same principle as the one with broken internal links applies here.

  • Redirect Chains or Redirect Loops – a redirect chain occurs when you have a redirect in place, but instead of taking users directly to their destination, it takes them on a convoluted path. So instead of the user going from Page A to Page B, they hit Page A, then Page C, then Page B.

    A redirect loop occurs when a person hits Page A, then is sent to Page B, but then back to Page A, and the cycle continues until the page request times out.

    Redirect chains and redirect loops are both the results of poor redirects configuration and will hurt your SEO if left unfixed.

There are many other technical issues that can affect your website, but the ones listed here are the most serious. If these are occurring, fix them before moving on to step 2.

Step 2: Create and Optimize Your Google Business Profile

Keyword Research for Small Business

Many small businesses rely on local search to help people find them. Because Google Business Profiles are so important to local search, it’s important to make sure your small business has one.

According to Saga Pixel, Google’s local map pack appears in 93% of searches with local intent. If your business is targeting a local market and you don’t have a Google Business Profile, you have zero chance of showing up on Google Maps and the local map pack. This is what I mean by the local map pack:

SEO audit checklist

Google’s Local Map Pack

If you don’t have a Google Business Profile, you are missing out on 93% of local search traffic. Even if you aren’t trying to reach a local market, a Google Business Profile is crucial for your brand SERP (the Google results page that shows when people search your business name).

But most of you reading this probably have a Google Business Profile. So now what you need to do is build it out and make sure it is fully optimized. To fully optimize your Google Business Profile, you need to add:

  • All your basic business info, like name, address and phone number, website, hours, and a business description, and make sure it’s all ACCURATE

  • Photos of the interior, exterior, products, and staff

  • Your services and/or products, with descriptions and pricing

  • Attributes of the business, like if you are woman-owned, black-owned, LGBTQ+ friendly, if the location is wheelchair accessible, and COVID protocols

  • Questions and answers to the Q&A area

  • Posts that share an update from the business

And of course, reviews. Reviews are an important part of ranking and user engagement. Conduct outreach with customers and try to get a variety of reviews that talk about your products, services and customer service (reviews that only say “This is a great business!” are not ideal reviews).

If you fully optimize your Google Business Profile, you increase your chances of ranking in the local map pack and enticing users to click on your page. So make sure this is priority #2 for your small business’s SEO strategy.

Step 3: Create Valuable Content That’s Optimized

Keyword Research for Small Business

Now that the bones of your website are healthy and you have begun fully optimizing your Google Business Profile, it’s time to create content. Content is the lifeblood of SEO, and you absolutely need some form of ongoing content publishing if you want robust search rankings. The content can take different forms – it could be opinion articles, or case studies, or resource collateral – but it needs to be well-written, offer value to users, and be optimized to target keywords.

Update and optimize the content for the core pages of your site, then create 2-3 supporting pieces of content and publish them on your website. This will be the beginning of your ongoing content publishing, and when you’ve added a few of these content pieces to your website, you’ll be ready to move to step 4.

Update and optimize the content for the core pages of your site, then create 2-3 supporting pieces of content and publish them on your website. This will be the beginning of your ongoing content publishing, and when you’ve added a few of these content pieces to your website, you’ll be ready to move to step 4.

Step 4: Fix Your UX

Keyword Research for Small Business

By UX I mean “user experience.” And the #1 thing that will impact a website’s user experience is whether it works well on mobile.

Responsiveness (mobile-friendliness) was actually a factor I considered putting in step 1, but you can still rank a non-responsive website if the site itself is healthy and you have killer content.

That said, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice by not having a mobile-friendly website. It’s like trying to shovel your driveway with a rake when you have a snowblower in the garage. It’s fairly easy and affordable to convert your website to be mobile-friendly, and if SEO is important to your marketing efforts, then you should make your site work well on mobile.

To make a site work well on mobile means that on screen sizes below 1280px:

  • All text should be easy to read with the naked eye (recommended size: 16px or higher)

  • Content shouldn’t be wider than the screen

  • Clickable elements should be easy to tap, so they should be large enough for the average finger to interact with, and they shouldn’t be spaced too close together

You can use a tool like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Tester to see if your site is designed well for mobile.

In addition to making your small business website mobile-friendly, all other UX elements should be user-friendly if you want good SEO. Fix wonky elements or anything on the site that adversely impacts how the user engages with it. Some examples of this include:

  • Pop-ups that take up too much of the screen or can’t be closed out of easily

  • A poor navigation that impedes the user from finding their way around the site

  • Anything that doesn’t work as it should – buttons that aren’t clickable, videos that don’t play, forms that can’t be submitted are a few examples

The best way to know if your small business website’s UX is user-friendly is by asking an unbiased person who has never seen your website to complete a few key tasks on your site.

Ask them to complete five or six actions on your site, like visiting your service page, downloading a file, or submitting a form – any action that would be meaningful to your business – and see how long it takes them to do each. If it takes them longer than 5 seconds to complete an action, then there’s an issue you need to address. This is called Usability Testing, and it can be beneficial in helping you create a website experience that pleases users and increases conversions.

Step 5: Internal Linking & Link Building

Keyword Research for Small Business

Links. I mentioned earlier that links are the vehicle search engines use to get from one page to another, and to get from one website to another.

Internal linking is necessary for helping crawlers find all the pages on your website, and for sending a signal to crawlers what the page is about.

Use internal links by linking to orphaned pages (a page that has no incoming links) on your website, and link relevant content to relevant service or product pages. For example, I have linked this article about small business SEO strategy to Digital Dynamo’s product page for SEO services for small business. Get 2-3 links per article going to other pages on your website.

After you’ve implemented your internal links, it’s time to turn to link building – that is, getting backlinks from other websites.

Link building is an intense process that deserves its own post, so I will not go into it here – just know that it should be a lower priority for your website, but still something to work on after you’ve taken care of steps 1-4.

The main takeaway from this article is that the best SEO strategy for small business is one that makes sure the bones of your website and local SEO are healthy first. Make sure your website is functional, get your Google Business Page built like a Cadillac, and publish stellar, valuable content before you worry about building backlinks or doing anything fancy with your social media. Every business’s SEO strategy needs to be attuned to its industry, competitors, and location, but if you build your strategy around this outline, in 6 months to a year, you’ll have a solid SEO campaign.

If you are interested in learning more about how Digital Dynamo can help you with your small business’s SEO strategy, please contact us.