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16 Essential SEO Tips for Small Businesses Just Starting Out

10 Mins read

In the digital age, small businesses need to be savvy about their online presence, especially when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). We’ve gathered insights from fifteen industry experts, including Marketing Team Leads and SEO Strategists, to bring you a comprehensive guide. From focusing on local SEO to combining SEO with SEM, these professionals offer crucial tips for new businesses aiming to optimize their websites effectively.

Focus on Local SEO

Perhaps, one of the most effective strategies for small businesses trying to improve their organic visibility and search traffic is to focus on their local SEO. 

This is where you can incorporate local keywords naturally throughout your website’s content. For example, if it’s a dentistry in Denver, use phrases like “Denver dentist,” “best dentistry in Denver,” or “dentists Denver downtown” strategically in your headings, paragraphs, and meta tags.

Develop an FAQ page that addresses common questions locals might have about your medical services. Use local terminology and references where appropriate.

If you haven’t already done so, claim your Google My Business listing. This allows you to control the information that appears when people search for your dental practice on Google.

Fill out all the information on your GMB profile, including your address, phone number, hours of operation, and website URL. Add high-quality business photos and staff to give potential customers a glimpse of what to expect.

Encourage satisfied patients to leave reviews on your GMB listing. Positive reviews not only boost your credibility but also improve your visibility in local search results.

Kate Dzhevaga, Marketing Team Lead, SYMVOLT

Audit with the Lighthouse Tool

You can start by auditing your website using the free Lighthouse analysis tool offered by Chrome. It gives you a report and scores for your website based on criteria for performance, responsiveness, accessibility, best practices, and SEO. If you use Google Chrome, head over to the three dots in the upper right corner > More tools > Developer tools > Lighthouse and run a test for your website. 

Alternatively, for non-Chrome users, there is an online tool as well: https://pagespeed.web.dev/  You can see how your website performs on mobile and desktop devices, as well as for different client and network speeds. This report will give you an idea of what your real users are experiencing and help you diagnose issues that can be improved.

David Stellini, Co-Founder, All Front

Create High-Quality Content

One crucial tip I would give to small businesses trying to optimize their website for search engines is, of course, creating high-quality content that answers what potential customers are looking for. 

When a business is just starting, I would recommend thorough keyword research around related keywords, and then searching to see what content is currently ranking. The next step would be to create content similar to what is already ranking and add additional content that might be more helpful.

Kim Butler, SEO Strategist, Online Optimism

Understand Goals and Audience

The most crucial tip I can give is to deeply understand your goals, audience, and brand. On application: First, you should already know your business goals. Second, you would have to do market research on the clients you’re already getting or the prospects you’re trying to attract if you haven’t gotten any clients yet. Third, understand how you want to position your company and do some testing to see what works and what doesn’t.

SEO is more than just tinkering with your site and hoping Google notices. For a business that isn’t a household name yet, you need to understand who you are and your audience and connect that with your immediate and long-term goals. That’s how you begin building your SEO strategy.

Veniz Guzman, SEO Expert and Content Strategist, Promet Source

Target Missed Opportunities

If you’re a small business and you want to rank well online in a competitive space, I’d look for opportunities that your competitors might have missed. 

So, when writing the metadata for your website’s pages, include medium- to low-volume keywords or local keywords that your competitors aren’t targeting. (Metadata refers to the titles and descriptions of each page that appear on the search engine results pages. You can change it by uploading an SEO plugin, such as Yoast, to your website.

Hannah Millist, CEO, Twogether Digital

Use High-Quality Images

One easy and effective tip for optimizing your site for SEO is to add high-quality images near relevant text on your website. Why so? Search engines like Google not only scan your text but also your images. They use the context of the image and its proximity to relevant text to understand the content better.

From my experience, when high-resolution images that visually represent your product or service are placed near appropriate and keyword-rich text, they can significantly boost your SEO ranking. It’s not just about looking good – it’s about communicating your brand story effectively to both users and search engines.

So don’t underestimate the power of a well-placed, high-quality image. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s a step in the right direction for better SEO and greater online visibility.

Tim Hanson, Chief Creative Officer, PenFriend

Utilize Local SEO Tactics

In my experience, a key tactic for small businesses aiming to boost website visibility is prioritizing local SEO. By registering on platforms like Google My Business and relevant directories, you enhance your presence in local searches. 

Personally, I’ve found success by regularly updating my Google My Business profile with accurate details and encouraging satisfied customers to share their experiences through reviews. This localized approach has helped my business connect with nearby customers and establish a stronger foothold in the community.

Rahul Anand, Digital Marketing Manager, GMR Web Team

Research Audience Search Habits

If you’re a brand-new business looking to get into SEO, the first thing I’d recommend is researching your audience’s search habits using a keyword planning tool. That way, you’ll gain an understanding of how the people you want to reach are searching for the products or services in your industry.

Then, by using this keyword knowledge, you’ll be able to write content for your site that matches search queries for your core services or products. You can then build out your content strategy to cover different types of audience engagement, for example, those at the top of the conversion funnel looking for information, right through to those looking to make a purchase or decision more immediately.

If you’re a new player in a super-competitive market, consider going after ‘long-tail’ queries first. They tend to have lower search volume but are based around more specific needs or products that could tie into your USPs.

Paul Friend, Head of SEO, The SEO Works

Ensure Mobile Responsiveness

A crucial tip for small businesses looking to optimize their website for search engines is to prioritize mobile responsiveness and usability.

With the increasing prevalence of mobile devices for internet browsing, search engines like Google prioritize mobile-friendly websites in their search results. Therefore, ensuring that your website is optimized for mobile devices is essential for improving your search engine rankings and providing a positive user experience for mobile users.

Small businesses can start by using responsive web design techniques to ensure that their website adapts seamlessly to various screen sizes and devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Additionally, businesses should pay attention to mobile usability factors such as page loading speed, navigation, and readability. Optimizing images and multimedia content for fast loading on mobile devices, simplifying navigation menus for easy thumb tapping, and using legible fonts and appropriate font sizes are all important considerations for improving mobile usability.

Furthermore, businesses can utilize tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to assess the mobile-friendliness of their website and identify any issues that need to be addressed.

By prioritizing mobile responsiveness and usability, small businesses can not only improve their search engine rankings but also enhance user satisfaction and engagement, ultimately driving more traffic and conversions on their website.

Rahul Bohra, SEO Specialist, WrittenlyHub

Choose Trending Topics

Your content will rank higher if you choose trending topics that people are more likely to search for, read, and share. This is one of the best ranking tips to consider if you want to optimize your website for search engines. To find trending queries, you can use Google Trends. 

It can help you pick your target audience based on their preferred phrases and geolocation. Creating high-quality and relevant content specifically for the intended user increases the likelihood of visitors liking, sharing, and bookmarking it. When your content matches the questions that people are currently searching for, search engines will automatically rank your website higher.

Miranda Bence, CEO and CMO, Chery Picks Reviews

Select Different Keyword Phrases

If I could give one crucial piece of SEO advice for small businesses, it would be this: Every page of your website and blog should target a different keyword phrase. When working on your SEO setup, this concept strongly influences the Page Title of every page within your website.

Your main target keyword (the service/product that you want to be found for online) should only be used for one page of your site. Depending on your business model and website setup, this page is either your Home Page or the dedicated Service/Product Page for that offering. As an SEO specialist, this is a problem that I commonly see when performing audits of my clients’ websites. This over-optimization can ultimately hinder your ability to rank well and lower your chances of being found online.

You should not use that main keyword phrase in the title of every single page and post on your website. At face value, this approach makes sense. If there’s one particular keyword phrase you want to be found for in search, why not use it in the titles of all your website pages? 

Unfortunately, doing this can not only appear spammy to search engines, but it can also confuse them, making it unclear which page should be shown in the search results for that query.

Christy Hunter, SEO Coach and Educator for Creative Small Businesses, SEO Coaching for Creatives

Create Location-Specific Pages

If you provide a service, you will need one website page per service, per area. For instance, if you install epoxy on garage floors in the Columbus, OH area, you should have unique pages for epoxy installation in Columbus, Westerville, Newark, Dublin, Lewis Center, and other population centers within your travel radius. Then add those location pages to a menu drop-down entitled “Areas Served.”

If you want to figure out which pages you need, simply open a private browsing window and perform Google searches like “epoxy installation Westerville, OH.” Does Google return locally-focused results for that search? If so, you need a page if you want to compete for organic leads.

Adam Gingery, Owner, Adam Gingery Consulting

Answer Common Search Queries

As the owner of a digital marketing agency, I am keenly aware of how important it is for my clients—big brands and small business owners alike—to have their websites perform well in search. There are a lot of companies that will happily sell you thousands of dollars’ worth of SEO services, but before you do that, here’s one tip to optimize your website for search that you can do yourself.

Open up a web browser in private or incognito mode, and start searching for services or products that are relevant to yours. If you sell flowers, try to be more specific, such as “dozen red roses” or “anniversary flowers for your wife.” As you scroll down the page, you may see a section on Google called “People also ask.” This will give you some free insight as to what questions people are commonly asking when they search for your products.

Now think of your own website. Do you have content on your site that addresses and answers any of these questions? If not, write it and post it on your individual services pages or in your blog. But I can’t stress this part enough: don’t have AI write the content for you. AI is fine for some things, but the content you get will be generic and won’t perform well in search. Instead, use the expertise you’ve built from your experience doing what you do, and write that. Your content will be more interesting and more helpful to potential customers, and the search engines will reward you for it.

Phillip Mandel, Owner, Mandel Marketing

Network for Local Links

Make relations with your local Chamber of Commerce and local business networking groups. In addition to making real-life connections, go in with the goal of exchanging handshakes, business cards, and links.

Getting local businesses to refer to your website via their website is a powerful way to take over in local or “near me” searches. Additionally, some of these.gov Chamber of Commerce websites have high domain ratings, so if you can get a do-follow referring link on a directory page, it can increase the domain rating on your own website.

Joshua Varner, Owner, Varner Roofing

Prioritize User Experience

When it comes to navigating the maze of search engine optimization (SEO) for your website, one golden rule stands tall—prioritize user experience (UX). Think about it: when users land on your site, they want to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, right? Well, search engines like Google value that too! So, ensure your website is easy to navigate, loads quickly, and looks great across different devices.

For a fledgling business dipping its toes into the digital realm, focusing on UX can be a game-changer. Start by streamlining your website’s layout and navigation—make it intuitive for visitors to find what they need. 

Invest in responsive design to ensure your site looks splendid whether it’s viewed on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Oh, and don’t forget about mobile optimization—with more people browsing on their phones these days, it’s a must! By prioritizing UX from the get-go, you’ll not only improve your search engine rankings but also leave a lasting impression on your visitors.

Mimi Nguyen, Founder, Cafely

Combine SEO with SEM

SEO is achieved through techniques like keyword research and link-building to organically drive traffic and enhance a website’s authority, while SEM involves running paid campaigns like Google Ads. Both are vital for improving a website’s visibility and driving traffic, but each has distinct advantages and best use cases.

With both SEM and SEO, focusing on local search terms or the small niche that your business most closely serves is the best place to start. Then, once those efforts are successful, you can start to broaden the search terms that you are optimizing for and advertising against.

SEO is more cost-effective and beneficial for long-term organic growth, especially for small businesses with limited budgets. 

On the other hand, SEM is ideal for those seeking immediate visibility and sales since ads can appear at the top of search results almost instantly after launching a campaign. Data from SEM campaigns can also help inform future SEO efforts, so this is a great place for a business to invest initial resources if their budget allows for it.

Nicole Gabrail, Marketing Coordinator, Achievable

Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Featured, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.

SEO stock image by Peshkova/Shutterstock

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