SEO in Small Businesses

A guide for improving SEO for small businesses.

Search Engine Optimization is a complicated term with an even more complicated meaning. Called SEO for short, it refers to the processes, rules, and practices that are undertaken to improve the findability of a website through search engines.

Why do we care about SEO and why should you?

  • Because we want people to be able to find our business when they’re looking for our products or services.
  • Because we’re creating great content that we want people to read.
  • Because, while our current customer may know us by name, our future customers do not yet.
  • Because we’re paying for our website to exist and we want as many people to find it and find us as possible.
  • Because it can help us uncover technical issues with our website.
  • Because, if we do it well, more customers can find, learn about, and do business with us.
SEO makes sure customers see your business in their search results when they’re looking for what you offer. In short, it’s the practice of making sure your website is easily understood by both users and search engines.

However, SEO is also a practice with many rules, tactics, and algorithms that are constantly changing, and because of this, SEO seems intimidating for those who don’t study it daily, and even for those who do!

While SEO is an ongoing endeavor and a very deep topic, here are a few basic things that small businesses can do to ensure their website is as SEO-friendly as possible, which can help more people find your website through search engines.

Claim and set up your Google My Business (GMB) profile 

Do you ever use Google Maps or Google Search to find nearby stores? The listings that pop up when you do that are Google My Business listings. They are free for businesses to create and essential in helping customers search for, find, and access your business. First, make sure you have claimed ownership of your business profile online. Then, make sure you fill out as much information as possible about your business, including appropriate photos and your logo.

For example: at a minimum, your GMB profile should include your logo, location, phone number, website, a short description, and a business category. To make the most of your profile, be sure to add a long description, add relevant photos and videos, and add as many appropriate categories as is allowed. Learn how to set up GMB here.

Title your homepage appropriately

Many small business homepages use only the name of the business for their website’s homepage. While this is accurate and not a bad strategy, your business will only show up in search results for people who are searching for you by name.

For example: Imagine I’m planning a wedding and looking for a local wedding photographer. As a user, I’m likely to search something like “wedding photographer in Carson City.” If you are a wedding photographer, but the name of your website is only your business name, let’s say “Beautiful Elegance,” Google may not be able to pair my search with your website. A better title for your home page would be “Beautiful Elegance – Carson City Wedding Photographer.”

Title your website’s pages for search

The title of each page on your website helps both users and search engines better understand how to navigate your site, what information is contained on each page, and what will show up in search results.

Some rules of thumb: create a unique page for each unique topic on your site (don’t lump everything onto the home page) and title your pages something users would actually search for. Don’t get too creative with your page naming.

For example: If you own a local restaurant, you may have a page on your website that contains your menu offerings. Name that page something intuitive like “Menu” rather than “Good Eats.” Users are more likely to search for “Restaurant Name + Menu” than the latter. Learn about website titles here.

Pay attention to headings throughout your site

If you built your own website or spend time editing your website, you probably know that you can add headings to your pages in sizes 1-6. These headings are great for page titles, section titles, or calling our important information. What you may not know is that headings are more than a font size option.

In fact, the heading 1 (H1) is one of the most important aspects of your page and should be treated as such. Each page should ideally only have one H1 and that should be akin to the thesis statement of your page.

For example: If you are a local accounting firm, your page title might be “Accounting Services” but your H1 should be something descriptive and searchable like “Accounting Services for Small Businesses in Northern Nevada.” Learn about H1s here.

Make your structure make sense

What’s in a URL? Well, a lot. The URL structure of your sites helps both users and search engines better understand how it’s organized and what the content is about. Make use of categorization and parent pages for groups of content.

For example: If you have a blog, be sure the blogs are grouped and identified, perhaps with a /blog/ slug prepending the name of the blog in the URL. You would want instead of awesome-article-1/. Learn about URL structure here.

Improve internal and external linking

First of all, be wary of SEO agencies promising to get you any number of backlinks–it’s likely a scam. Aside from that, links are important. They help orient and associate your website and its content on the world wide web.

When appropriate, add links from content on one page to content on another to help people find related information. To get external links to your site, link your website to your social media profiles. As a next step, ask local organizations or other businesses to link to your site when appropriate. Good places to start are local business directories, but you should also reach out to companies with who you partner or work closely with.

For example: If you own an automotive shop and your business website has multiple pages for the different services you offer, you may want to mention on your “Oil Changes” page that you offer “Routine Maintenance Packages” and link to that. You’d also probably want to end each page with a “Call us for service appointments” and a link to your contact page. Learn more about internal linking here and external linking here.

Resize and name your images

Images on a website do a few main things: enhance the content, slow down the site, and aid in searchability.

Assuming your images already help enhance the content, there are a few things that can be done to improve site speed and searchability. Faster websites are preferable both to search engines and to your users, and while many factors affect your site’s speed, images are one you can fix on your own. Be sure that you upload images only as large as you need. Simply resizing the image in your content management system (CMS) is not going to reduce the image file size and can cause slow-loading problems.

Second, be sure to name your images with alt text. This makes them searchable, allows screen readers to describe the image, and helps search engines better understand what each page is about. Alt tags are usually not displayed on the page but can display when the image is hovered over.

For example: If you run a landscaping company (we’ll call it Awesome Landscaping) and have a photo of a worker standing next to one of your marked work trucks on the homepage of your website, you could add an alt tag like this to the photo: “Awesome Landscaping employee standing next to an Awesome Landscaping truck at a residence in Carson City.” Learn about alt tags here.

While this list is by no means a comprehensive guide to SEO, it should help you get started tackling some of the lower-hanging fruit and improve your website’s searchability and usability. As we mentioned before, SEO is a vast topic. However, if you can get a good grasp on who your website users are, or who you want them to be, you can start thinking of SEO in terms of optimizing your website to make it the most useful to your users. If you’re making your website experience as helpful and intuitive as possible, you’re likely to tackle your SEO checklist as well.

There are endless resources online to learn more about SEO, but if you’re unsure of where to start or would like help with the work, we’re here to help you assess and get it done.

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