A comprehensive SEO guide for small businesses in 2024

19 MINS Team

Much like all brick-and-mortar stores, online stores also have a lot of competition online. It’s all about who provides excellent customer service and offers. But before that, you have to get noticed first. To get to the top of search results, you have to employ the best SEO practices and prove to search engines that you have what users need. 

To get a comprehensive understanding of SEO, we’ve compiled the following helpful pointers:

  • What is SEO?
  • Why does your small business need SEO? 
  • Additional Factors to Consider in SEO
  • How to improve your rank and convert customers
  • Your blog SEO checklist

What Is SEO? 

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a set of practices that improves a website’s organic (non-paid) search engine ranking. SEO encompasses a wide range of techniques, both on-page and off-page, to ensure that search engines understand and rank your website effectively.

On-page SEO involves optimizing individual web pages by improving your content, structure, and HTML coding. This includes keyword research and usage, creating high-quality and relevant content, optimizing meta tags and headings, improving page load speed, and ensuring mobile friendliness.

Off-page SEO refers to activities performed outside of your website to enhance its visibility and reputation. This includes building high-quality backlinks from reputable websites, social media engagement, online directory listings, guest blogging, and influencer partnerships.

By implementing effective SEO strategies, you can increase your online visibility, attract more targeted organic traffic, and compete with larger competitors in their industry. 

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6 Basic Things You Need to Know about SEO

SEO can be confusing, and not just because the rules change every so often, but it can also be really technical. Here are six basic things you need to know about SEO:

A lot of small business owners think SEO is paid search, and that’s it. When we talk about SEO, we are talking about organic search. Organic search is free and happens when you optimize your website to get more traffic. Paid search refers to the paid ads that pop up at the top of results.

2: SEO is a marathon, not a sprint

SEO is a marathon that requires keeping your website content fresh constantly or putting good shareable content on your website and having other reputable websites link to your site. It also requires continual nurturing and maintenance for it to work properly. SEO takes time.

3: SEO requires keyword research

Part of optimizing a site is optimizing for keyword phrases; what are the phrases people use to find you? If you don’t know, then you can’t optimize your website.

When a reputable company does keyword research for you, you’ll see that it’s both art and science. You might find out that a phrase you think is important is not used at all or used all the time (too much competition is not good). They can also find out what keywords your competitors are using.

4: SEO is not about keyword stuffing

By keyword stuffing, we mean using a keyword too much on a page or on your entire website. Google will penalize you for overusing keywords because it looks fishy to them. A good SEO solutions provider will tell you how often to use the keyword so you don’t get in trouble.

5: You’ll need a tool to track your website analytics

A tool like Google Analytics can do website traffic analysis, behavior tracking, audience analysis, conversion tracking, and more. This tool, among other analytics tools, helps you see how your website is performing with your current strategies. It can also help you spot which areas need improvement. With your findings, you can make adjustments to your future SEO and marketing efforts.

Another tool, Google Search Console, allows you to track your website’s performance in Google’s search results for free. You can use this if you’re putting more emphasis on your website’s performance in the Google search engine.

6: No one can guarantee you a top rank on search results

Be very wary of working with anyone who guarantees you a top ranking instantly. Companies that promise this are gaming the system somehow, and if they use Black Hat tactics, your website could get banned.

Why Does Your Small Business Need SEO?

Here are the reasons why SEO is important for your small business:

Benefit 1.  Attracts more customers to your website

About 68% of all online experiences begin with an online search. So, if your website is on the first page of search results, users will have a higher likelihood of discovering and visiting your site.

Keyword research, along with other SEO techniques, will make your website more visible and relevant to search engines, ultimately driving targeted traffic and improving your overall online presence. 

Benefit 2. Keeps your business competitive

A strong online presence helps you gain an instant competitive edge over the 30% of small businesses that don’t have a website. This increased visibility helps you stand out from the competition and establishes your brand as a prominent authority in your industry. 

Benefit 3. Builds brand awareness

Implementing a strong SEO strategy will capture the attention of customers who are actively seeking your products and services. It also positions you as an industry thought leader and conveys the unique value proposition that only your brand offers. 

Benefit 4. Enhances your in-store and online revenue

An effective SEO strategy helps customers learn quickly more about your products and services and encourages them to make a purchase. This increases your conversion rates and in-store and online revenue.

When you implement an SEO strategy as part of your approach to online marketing, you’ll find it easier to attract new customers and retain existing ones.

Get a free SEO analysis for your website

Additional Factors to Consider in SEO

Good SEO requires attention to more than just your business website. Other digital marketing elements, such as online reviews and social media, also come into play. In addition, the basics of SEO are changing rapidly that’s why you need to consider the following:

  • Online reviews of products and services have become the de facto gold standard for millions of online buyers. According to Luisa Zhou, 95% of visitors read product reviews before making a purchase. About 58% of these visitors also stated that they’re willing to spend more on products with positive reviews.
  • Search is changing from keyword-focused search to intent-based, more personalized search. AI tools like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and others are already leading to an increase in spoken searches at the expense of typed searches.
  • Mobile optimization, which is already extremely important in SEO strategies (since most searches take place on mobile devices), will become even more vital. It’s important to have a mobile-first approach wherein website designers focus on developing and designing the website for mobile devices.
  • Local search optimization is becoming more relevant as searches on mobile devices proliferate.
  • Google is presenting “snippets” of information (also called rich answers or direct answers) on the first search engine results page. Most of the time, this wouldn’t require consumers anymore to visit the website to get answers to their questions. 

How to Improve Your Rank and Convert Customers

For a small business, SEO can be a game-changer. By optimizing your website and promoting your content the right way, you can generate a steady stream of organic traffic from Google.

People turn to Google and other search engines to find products and services that will solve their problems. Someone looking to repair their bike, for example, might type “bike repair,” and Google will automatically suggest relevant search queries.

Ultimately, the key to a successful SEO strategy is to provide quality content that makes it to the first page of Google. 

Let customer concerns drive your SEO strategy

To understand SEO, we’ll start by looking at a brief history of Google. Google ranks websites for certain search phrases or keywords. In the old days, marketers could oversaturate their website with keywords, a practice known as keyword stuffing, to quickly rank for those terms in the search results. 

Google has since stamped out this practice by creating a sophisticated algorithm that identifies the most relevant and authoritative content based on a variety of factors. In other words, gaming the system has become pretty much impossible.

The best way for small, local businesses to approach SEO is to identify the primary concerns of their customers and translate those concerns into high-volume target keywords. Start by asking yourself: What are the most common problems that my products solve? What unique services am I offering to my target market? What kind of help are potential customers looking for?

Then, look for search terms that address customer pain points and convey your value proposition

When it comes to SEO for small businesses, specificity is key. There’s a huge amount of competition for certain keywords, so it’s essential to find a way to stand out. The last thing that you want is to be buried on page 2 of the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Luckily, you can use your location as part of the search to narrow your competition. For example, if you are a dog groomer based in Brooklyn who is hoping to attract new customers, you can optimize for the keyword “dog grooming brooklyn.”

For small business owners that sell products online, dive into all the different ways that your products solve problems for people. By creating content and positioning yourself as an expert in your field, you can win over new customers.

Get your on-page SEO in order

On-page SEO refers to the practice of optimizing individual pages in order to improve your overall rank and win more relevant search engine traffic. Every page that you write should have unique and short title tags, unique meta descriptions, and internal links.

Write clear, concise title tags 

These are very powerful when it comes to search engine ranking. If you want your pages to rank, you need to have unique and descriptive meta titles that include targeted keywords.

The length of a title tag is important. Shorter meta titles perform better, as the longer ones can get cut off and searchers may not get the full context. 

Another thing you’ll want to consider is the order in which they appear. Large eCommerce sites tend to list categories and subcategories. Too many categories can dilute the SEO.

The first few words in a title or headline are the most important, so update your titles to include the keywords in the first few words. This practice can also help to increase your click-through rate (CTR).

Write enticing meta descriptions

This is a short text that summarizes the content of a webpage. It doesn’t have a direct impact on the ranking, but they have two other important roles: 

  • This description determines your search snippet or the short text that appears below the title tag in search results. Because this gives users context to what the article is about, it can impact your CTR. 
  • They also make your site look unique and more valuable.  

You can use this description to share product descriptions or other helpful information about your business. Try to make this text meaningful to your target keyword and unique enough to spark curiosity.

If you’re selling hundreds of products, you’ll need to take a hierarchical approach to organizing your website. It would be impossible to effectively feature hundreds of individual products on one home page. Categorizing your products will make them easier for customers to find, but it can also result in some crucial pages ranking lower in the search results.

One solution to this issue is to try featuring your best-selling products (with direct product links) at the top of the home page. This practice helps boost the rank of products that are selling. Just don’t go overboard. Feature no more than 10 bestsellers at a time or you’ll end up overwhelming your visitors.

Match internal anchor text to keywords

Many people get internal linking text wrong. If you are trying to rank your category page for something like “children’s clothes,” don’t label the link “Apparel (K-12).” This is confusing to search engines and it may not even make sense to your visitors.

Internal anchor text links should reflect your keyword strategy. Link to pages using the keywords that you want your website to rank for in search. These internal links should reflect common usage and labels that people understand.

As your website grows, make sure you direct people to the most important content. This includes content that targets competitive keywords, service pages, and your best-selling products.

Your internal link structure may stop serving you over time. As your website grows and you add more products and content, prioritize your most important pages. Look at what these pages are linking to and remove those that no longer serve your purpose.

Increase your site speed

If your webpage takes too long to load, potential customers may become impatient and abandon your site for a competitor. 

Research from Google found that 53% of mobile users will leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Slow website speed can also negatively affect sales. And nearly 70% of consumers say page speed influences their decision to buy from an online retailer.

What can you do to ensure good website speed? There are two easy things you can do to shorten load times:

  • Monitor your website speed with Google PageSpeed. It automatically applies best practices to your pages and assets without requiring you to modify the content. It will improve both web page latency and bandwidth usage by changing the resources on that page.
  • Stop uploading enormous images to your website. Large images lead to slow loading. If you’re using WordPress, there are plugins that will optimize your images by reducing the file size as you upload them so that you can increase your site speed. Otherwise, use image compressors like tinyPNG.

Research your competition

Some people often skip the competitive research step, but it’s vital. You need to see what other businesses are doing so you can set yourself apart from your competitors. What products or services are difficult to find in your area? How do your prices compare? If you discover what is already out there, you’ll be able to come up with unique products or services to offer.

Yes, millions of people make purchases on Amazon, but there are still online businesses that succeed by providing something extra, like superior customer experience, personalized services, and/or helpful content. People will seek out quality small, local businesses who offer excellent customer service and become loyal customers regardless of price.

Select Your target keywords

Brainstorm specific questions and concerns that your ideal customer would search on Google. You’ll want to relate the keyword to a product or service you offer.

Not everyone searches the same way, so follow up with some research. To research keywords, head to Google’s Keyword Planner. You’ll need a Google Ads account for this, so if you haven’t signed up for one yet, now’s the time. Don’t worry, you don’t need to set up a campaign or spend money on ads to use the Keyword Planner.

On your Google Ads dashboard: 

  • Click Tools and Settings on the upper right section. 
  • On the left side, click Keyword Planner. 
  • Select Discover new keywords. 
  • In the prompt, enter some keywords relevant to your business. For example, if you’re a barber in the Brooklyn area, you could enter the following:
  • barber Brooklyn
  • haircut Brooklyn
  • best barber in Brooklyn

You can also set the language and the location that you’re targeting.

Click Get Results and you’ll be presented with a list of suggested keyword ideas.

Optimize your title and description

The best place to look for title and description inspiration is the SERPs. Simply search for your competitors and look at what they’re already doing.

If these businesses are ranking, it’s because Google has determined they are the best fit for that search. Take inspiration and find gaps you can fill. What makes you different, and why do your customers love doing business with you? Make these features evident in your metadata.

Create great content

Your small business SEO is likely to receive a huge boost from excellent content. Many small-time business owners simply publish their products or services and contact details on their website. What they might not realize is that they can win more customers over by also sharing tips and expertise.

Engage your customers and prospects with useful, entertaining content. This will increase your authority in the market and expand your audience.

Add your small business to local directories

Incoming links, called backlinks, tell search engines that your site is relevant and trustworthy. Adding your company to local online directories can help you generate more backlinks, which will help with your SEO and hopefully also increase traffic to your website. Make sure that you are using reputable directories. 

Here are a few to get you started:

  • Yelp
  • Google My Business
  • Bing Places
  • Yahoo! Local
  • Foursquare

Promote your website on social media

Search engines prioritize providing users with the most relevant and helpful content. Interestingly, when content is shared on social media platforms, it often receives increased visibility in search engine results.

Dedicate some time building your social media following so that you have an audience for your latest posts, promos, and news. Here are some great ideas to grow a following with your local community: 

  • Share and engage with local small business and community events
  • Congratulate your local teams on their wins
  • Participate in community service and share pictures
  • Encourage reviews and thank customers when they do review (and respond professionally when you get negative reviews)
  • Share special discounts or sales on social media 

Ask customers for reviews

As previously mentioned in this article, a lot of online shoppers read the reviews first before making a purchase. Hence, encourage customers to leave reviews after a purchase by offering discounts on their next purchase. 

Getting positive reviews and feedback from customers can help you improve conversions. Ask current happy customers to leave a review on local listings, social media, or on your website.

Use niche, long-tail keywords

When small businesses get started with SEO, they often focus on keywords that have too much competition. They are hoping to attract many different types of customers rather than one very specific type. For example, take the keyword “plumber.” It has a whopping 301,000 monthly searches. That is a lot of competition!

Due to the competitive nature of SEO, it is much easier to rank for niche long-tail keywords. In the example above, other keyword options have a more reasonable search volume for a small business. If you are a commercial plumbing contractor, it might make sense to target that keyword. Or use the keyword “replace bathroom sink faucet” to create a helpful how-to blog to attract new customers and build trust with your audience.

When you are creating content for your niche, you want to make it very specific and targeted. You may find that there are fewer searches, but the people who do find your website will be much closer to conversion.

Use a lead magnet to convert your visitors 

Search engines provide a unique way to connect with your target market. By providing the information that they want, you can build a relationship of trust that will convert visitors into customers. 

As you present your target market with the answers to their problems, you’ll also want to include a call-to-action (CTA) that they can take. Ideally, this CTA will also capture their contact information so you can connect with them in the future. 

Here are some great CTAs that will help you convert visitors:

  • Sign Up Now
  • Get Your Free eBook
  • Subscribe to Our Newsletter
  • Get a Free Consultation

Offering a lead magnet or incentive to share information can encourage prospective clients to share their information. Common lead magnets are downloadable guides, consultations, or free newsletters.

When you create an incentive, make sure that it’s useful to your audience and highly relevant to the keywords that you are targeting. 

Once you have contact information, you can easily notify prospects about promotions, fresh content, or new products and services. An ongoing interaction will lead customers to build a relationship with your brand.

As you provide helpful content on a consistent basis, more customers will begin to discover you online and they’ll share your information with friends and family. 

Take it one task at a time

There are many tasks involved in optimizing your website for search and it can feel overwhelming. If you do a little bit each day, people will be finding you through organic search before you know it.

Here are three ideas to get you started:

  • Create a content calendar: If you try to think up something to write every day, you’ll give up when you develop writer’s block. Having all of your long-tail keywords organized in a content calendar with a publishing schedule helps you stay on track. Get inspired by upcoming events, national days, and other creative concepts that make sense for your business.
  • Promote, promote, promote: Search engine optimized content is evergreen content. People can discover it through their Google searches long after you’ve published and it remains relevant. When you’re getting started, be sure to share your content on social media. Ask friends and customers alike to check out your content, share on social media and even link to your website.
  • Set aside time to improve your website: Take time every week to update your website. Make sure that your website is loading quickly, that images are optimized with alt tags, and that your content has descriptive and compelling descriptions. 

Your Blog SEO Checklist

Focus on one keyword per blog

Only one, not one hundred! The reason will become apparent when you read the next point, but before you skip down, here’s a secret: you will probably need to play around with your keyword or phrase until you hit on the right combination of words. Plug what you want to use into Google Search and see what suggestions the autofill feature starts offering (it uses the most common search terms). 

Use the keyword in several places

You can’t use the keyword once; you have to use it in several critical areas:

  • The title and page URL (in WordPress, the page URL appears right below the title)
  • First paragraph and at least one more time in the body of the blog
  • Meta description (more on that below)
  • Alt text of the image

No keyword stuffing, by the way. Use your keyword too often in the body of the blog, and you’ll be dinged.

Include an image

Because humans like images, so do search engines. Subscribe to a stock photo site and add one image to each blog. (No stealing whatever you find on the internet. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it’s free for the taking!)

Write a winning meta description

This is what shows up in search results; it explains what kind of information people can expect to find in your blog. You want people to read your description and think, “Wow, I’ve got to read this!”

Pick one category

Think of blog categories, like food categories: you have fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, cereal, bread. Just as milk will only fall into the dairy category, each blog can only fall into one category. Oh, and you only need a handful of categories.

Use tags that make sense

So, think of tags like the milk in the dairy category; they are more specific, and you can use a bunch of tags for each blog. To ensure you are using tags that make sense, think about the words or terms someone would use in search to find that blog.

Install the Yoast SEO plugin

We recommend that you install the Yoast SEO plugin on your WordPress site. It rates all blog posts (and web pages) for SEO. A green SEO light is great, orange is okay, and red is not. Therefore, make it easy for you to see if your blog is SEO-friendly or not as you make changes to it.

Get Tailored SEO Services for Your Website

SEO doesn’t only involve the use of keywords in your website and content. Rather, it’s a set of best practices that, when done right, can do wonders for your website.

The points previously mentioned were tough to follow and adopt, but you don’t have to remember them all right away. Instead, you can avail of the SEO services of where you’ll get tailored SEO services for your website. What it does for you is conduct on-page and off-page SEO to improve your online visibility and exposure.

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