The Small Business’s

SEO Guide

[Complete Guide 2020]

Table of Contents

Feel free to skim and jump around in this guide to find the information most important to you. Or, if you are still fairly new to SEO and this is all unfamiliar, give it a read straight through!

1. WHAT IS SEO?

2. WHY DOES SEO MATTER FOR SMALL BUSINESSES?

3. KEY CONCEPTS IN SEO EXPLAINED

4. ON-PAGE SEO FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

5. TECHNICAL SEO FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

6. ON-GOING CONTENT CREATION

7. BACKLINKING & OFF-SITE SEO FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

8. SEO Conclusion

What is SEO?

Before we dive into the weeds, SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of getting your website to rank highly on Google.

How Google works is that it has a set of internal rules that it uses to decide what order the results come up in when someone searches a term in Google. These rules are, for the most part, closely guarded by Google because they do not want to make it easy to cheat the system. The goal of their algorithm is to provide Google searchers with the best possible experience using their search engine.

In order to get your website on the first page though, you need to learn as much as possible about this algorithm and what Google “likes” and “doesn’t like.” This is something that SEO specialists dedicate their careers to. Throughout this guide we are going to share exactly what we do to help our numerous small business clients’ websites rank highly. These are the exact strategies we use every day and will help you, too!

Why Does SEO Matter for Small Businesses?

Organic traffic, which is the type of website traffic you get from search engines, is absolutely essential if you want to get any sort of new business through your website. Do you really want to have to pay for an ad or refer someone to your website in person for every single bit of traffic you get? Of course not! That is not sustainable in the long run. 

What’s the best thing about organic traffic for small businesses? It’s free! Free today, free tomorrow, and free 5 years down the road. You will never have to pay for those clicks. Sure, you will pay in time spent on SEO and resources that go into working on it, but over time your returns in SEO traffic grow exponentially. One of Google’s ranking factors is actually how much traffic that page gets, so if you work hard on your SEO and start to get some traffic now, Google will only reward you with more traffic as time goes on.

For every single client we have ever had, organic traffic had the highest conversion rate.

Users that find your website from a search engine are also by far the most qualified types of leads. Rather than someone you served an ad to or that saw your social media post, we know that this person is actively interested in what you sel, because they are searching for it on Google!. If you do your keyword research and on-page optimizations strategically, the only time someone will land on your website from a search engine is if they are already somewhere in the sales funnel. They are actively researching something related to what you sell – now let’s get them to your website.

Key Concepts in SEO Explained

Organic Traffic

This is the name for traffic from a search engine results page (SERP). It is someone who naturally and “organically” found your website rather than coming to you from an ad or any other source.

SERPs

This is a common abbreviation for “search engine results pages.” These are the results pages when something is searched in Google.

Image Alt Tags

Alt tags are bits of code that you add “behind the scenes” to an image that tells Google what the image is. These are also used by Google to figure out what your web page is about.

Keywords

This is the term for words and phrases that you want to come up for in Google. These keywords often line up with what words people search for in Google, also known as queries. It’s very important to both identify what keywords you want to come up for in Google and to use those keywords strategically on your website.

Meta Information

This is the information you fill out “behind the scenes” on a website page that appears on SERPs. The main components of a page’s meta information are a title and description of your page that Google uses to gain information about your page, and then also shows to people on a results page so that they can choose to click onto your website or not.

Backlinks

Backlinks are links to your website from other places around the web (unfortunately social media doesn’t count). Backlinks from high DA websites are important for overall SEO. Google assumes that if other reputable websites like you enough to link to you, you must be a legitimate website.

Local SEO vs General SEO

For some businesses like restaurants, dentists, etc, the only SEO that really matters is local SEO. They need to come up on top for only their local service area. Other businesses like eCommerce are more concerned with general SEO which can encompass just their country or even the entire world. There are different areas of SEO to focus on based on if local, or any, traffic is the goal.

On-Page vs Off-Page SEO

These terms essentially refer to SEO that happens on your website (like blog posts, keyword optimizations, etc) vs. SEO that happens elsewhere on the web (like backlinks and Google Business listings). Both pieces are necessary to build up organic traffic and a high domain authority.

Headers

Headers are features of a webpage that break up copy and sections with a larger text header. Headers are also a feature that search engines look at to figure out what the important parts of your web page are.

Domain Authority

Often called “DA,” domain authority is essentially a score that Google gives your website of how good it thinks your domain/website is overall. You can build DA by practicing good SEO and it can take time for your DA to grow as Google trusts your website more and more. Once you have a high DA, it is easier to get new pages to rank because Google already knows you as a good provider of information. A low DA from either a new, poorly made website, or a spammy website will make it difficult to rank any pages in Google.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO encompasses the website development side of things. It includes how quickly your website loads, if your page’s meta information is coded correctly, if it works well on mobile, if you have duplicate content, etc. It is a very wide category that is thankfully not as difficult as it once was, thanks to the help of WordPress, Squarespace, and other helpful website builders. But there are many components you do still need to pay attention to despite the help of modern technology.

User Experience

One thing that Google uses to gauge the quality of your website is how visitors act once Google sends traffic there. Do they leave immediately, or do they stay on a page for a long time? Do they visit multiple pages and even fill out a contact form? A good quality user experience can be measured by Google using metrics like bounce rates, average time spent on a page, pages per visit, and more. 

Page Length

As a general rule, the longer a page’s text is, the better. Google likes lots of words on a page. For example, the average search result on the first page of Google has over 1,400 words. The minimum amount of acceptable words on a page is generally 300.

On-Page SEO for Small Businesses

1

Identify a target keyword for each unique website page you have

2

Use that target keyword on your web page strategically

3

Use your target keyword in your meta information

4

Make sure your page is at least 300 words long and up to 1,500+ words

5

Make your page engaging and high quality enough that people will stay on your website for a while

6

Use headers and mixed media like photos and videos

1. Identify a target keyword for each unique website page you have

In order to give your website the best chance at ranking well, each unique page should have its own target keyword. The more specific your pages are, the better. Every topic on your website that you want to show up for in a Google search should have its own page. For example, if you want to come up for both “shoe repair” and “suit tailoring,” each of those topics should be on their own page and unique target keyword.

So, how do you pick a target keyword? Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer. What are they typing into Google right now to find you? Start with your idea of what they might Google and do some research to find the very best possible way to phrase it for the search engines. This can involve using an SEO tool like SEMrush or MOZ, but you can also type it into Google and look at the suggested phrases to see if other people word it differently. You can even see what terms your competitors use on their web pages for ideas as well. Your goal is to phrase it the most commonly Googled way.

2. Use that target keyword on your website’s pages strategically

Now that you have your target keyword, we need to add it to your web page. So let’s say you are a financial advisor. To make sure your website comes up when someone searches “financial advisor,” you will need to put that keyword on your website several times in order to alert Google of what your website is about. If all you do is financial planning, then having that be the focus keyword of your homepage will work great. If you offer multiple services though, create a unique page for each service with its own target keyword. 

In order to optimize your page for your target keyword, you will want to use that keyword about once per every 100 words. You will also want to make sure you use that keyword in your page’s title, your H1, and several other headers if possible. You also want to use this keyword in your image alt tags and in your meta information, more on that below.

Using a target keyword in these ways will signal Google as to what sort of Google searches they should match your website to.

3. Use your target keyword in your meta information

The most important features of your meta information is your page’s meta title and meta description. This is the title of a page and informational snippet that you see on a SERP, or search engine results page.

This information is not only very important because it is one of the first things Google reads about your page, but it also needs to be compelling enough to get people to click on your link. Your meta information should match up with the content of your page but also be interesting and eye-catching. 

4. Make sure your page is at least 300 words long and up to 1,500+ words

Did you know that the average first page Google result is a page with over 1,300 words? While the bare minimum to rank well is 300 words on a page, more is almost always better.

As long as your page will not lose its quality, aim for around 1,500 words per page. 

If you are having trouble creating a long but interesting page, one trick is to make the first half of the page beautiful and engaging, but then include extra information down below. That way, if someone is not really interested in doing a lot of reading, you can still make the page skimmable for them but get up to 1,500 words down below that.

5. Make your page engaging and high quality enough that people will stay on your website for a while

One other trigger that Google looks at for on-page SEO is how long a user stays on that page and on your website overall.

Google assumes that the longer someone stays, the higher quality the page must be.

One way to get people to stay on your page for a while is to write a lot of content, but another trick people sometimes use is to include videos on their pages. When a user stops to watch a video it can keep them occupied for 30 seconds to a minute plus, thus increasing their time spent on your website!

It is also great to get users to view multiple pages and even take an action like filling out a form. Be sure to make your website and your pages browsable by including links to relevant pages and embedding forms for submitting inquiries.

6. Use headers and mixed media like photos and videos

HEADERS

VIDEOS

PHOTOS

The last tip for on-page SEO for small businesses is to make sure you use appropriate headers and mixed media like photos and videos on your website. Both website users and Google like to see a variety of forms of information. Some people will only skim and look at images while others like to read and watch videos. Give users the experience of their preference by including different forms of content.

You will also always need to always use H1 and H2 headers if applicable. Break up topics, and topics within topics, by adding headers with what the paragraph is about when you change topics throughout a page. There are also sub-headers like H3s and H4s that can be used for topics within topics. You will want your page to be skimmable (if someone only read your headers, would they still be able to tell what the page was about?) and Google reads headers before paragraph text so use your target keywords.

Technical SEO for Small Businesses

With modern website builders like WordPress and Squarespace, good technical SEO has never been easier. You no longer need to be an experienced website developer to practice good technical SEO. The topics below though are the most commonly neglected areas of technical SEO, even with the help of a website builder.

1

Make sure the meta information, title, and description, is filled out for every page

2

Do not use duplicate content on your website

3

Have at least 300 words on every page

4

Make sure your website’s load speed is not overly slow

5

Optimize your website for mobile devices

6

Fix any dead links and redirect 4XX error pages

1. Make sure the meta information, title, and description, is filled out for every page

Meta information is the very first and most important thing that Google looks at for SEO. If it is not filled out and optimized, you are missing out on a big opportunity. It can even lead Google to see your website as poor quality. Use your focus keyword for that page in the title, and write a brief but precise description also using your target keyword if possible.

Even simple pages still need to have their meta-information filled out. Some of your pages might just be a contact form or contain your address, but you still need to fill out the meta-information on these pages.

2. Do not use duplicate content on your website

It happens time and time again; you are writing a new page and want to include some information that is already on another page that you created. Why not just copy and paste it in? SEO is why!

Google will penalize you for duplicate content. If you are writing on the same subject over and over, you will need to re-phrase and write in a slightly different way every time. This understandably can be frustrating, but if SEO was easy, everyone would be a pro at it!

If you are writing on the same subject over and over, you will need to re-phrase and write in a slightly different way every time.

3. Have at least 300 words on every page

While 300 is an estimated minimum amount of words, Google will penalize you for having “thin content” on your pages. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a minimum of 300 words but up to 1,500. 500-700 is often a popular amount to aim for. Google uses page length as one of its many signals to gauge the quality of your pages and website.

4. Make sure your website’s load speed is not overly slow

Slow load speeds can lead to higher bounce rates, especially for those using mobile devices. There are tools to check your load speeds like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and avoid using very large images and outdated code like javascript. It can be a balancing act between great design and fast load speeds. When in doubt, compare your bounce rates between pages to see if the slower loading pages are losing more users than speedier pages.

For websites that get a majority mobile traffic like eCommerce or heavily researched industries, a fast page load speed is imperative.

5. Optimize your website for mobile devices

Mobile internet usage is the way of the future. While in some industries it is more important than for others, it is very important across the board that your website works well on mobile devices.

Some industries that it is absolutely crucial to have a great mobile website are eCommerce, any consumer goods business, and any purchase that is often heavily researched. Data shows that huge percentages of people use their mobile devices for both shopping and research. It is also a little more heavily used in B2C than in B2B.

6. Fix any dead links and redirect 4XX error pages

Your website should never have any 4XX error pages or have any dead links. By using an SEO tool like SEMrush you can get weekly reports on your website’s health, along with a list of any of these problems. In any case though, only change URLs when absolutely necessary, always redirect any URLs you change to the next most relevant page, and check your outside links often to make sure the content they link to still exists.

On-Going Content Creation for SEO

Strategies for on-going content creation for SEO:

One ranking signal that Google uses to decide how highly to rank your website is how often your website is updated. Show Google that you are an active website by publishing new content and new pages on a regular basis. This is also a great opportunity to attract your target audience through the type of content you create.

1

Identify your target audience and what content they want

2

Create new content and new website pages regularly

3

Optimize all new content for SEO

1. Identify your target audience and what content they want

Your website should never have any 4XX error pages or have any dead links. By using an SEO tool like SEMrush you can get weekly reports on your website’s health, along with a list of any of these problems. In any case though, only change URLs when absolutely necessary, always redirect any URLs you change to the next most relevant page, and check your outside links often to make sure the content they link to still exists.

To avoid this problem, identify your target audience and what type of content they would be interested in before you ever start writing.

After you have identified your target customer (age, interests, gender, etc.) you need to strategize how to gain their attention through a search engine. You will do this by creating content designed to be interesting to website users that could potentially buy from.

There is nothing worse than spending hours creating a piece of content, months promoting it, only to realize that the people reading this content will never be paying customers.

So say you sell gourmet cooking supplies. Your target customer might be between the ages of 35-55 with a disposable income. These types of customers might be likely to read blog posts about proper work care, or the benefits of sous-vide cooking. Maybe they’re also interested in the pros and cons of cast iron cooking. After you write some great content on these topics, you can also include links of where to buy the items you mention on your website. Voilà! You’ve attracted your target customer and made a sale.

2. Create new content and new website pages regularly

There are two effective and easy ways to keep a steady stream of new pages coming to your website: blog posts and landing pages.

A great goal is to put out one piece of new content per week!

Post either a blog post or landing page but even once a month is still better than performing no ongoing work.

Blog posts should consist of 500-700 word posts on topics relevant to your target audience. Blog topics can range from commonly asked questions in your industry to human interest pieces that your target audience might find interesting, to topics designed to reach people in the research stage of a purchase. Create your blog posts around what you think someone considering your product or service might Google – like “how much are homes in Gilbert?” for realtors, or “benefits of using a CRM” if you sell a CRM software.

Landing pages, on the other hand, are designed to be more product/service based while still providing valuable information, but they are just much more focused on what you sell than interesting information. These pages are designed to not necessarily be accessible in your website’s menu but are more so designed to be entered directly from a search engine. So here’s an example: If you sell flashlights, your main categories might be camping flashlights, everyday carry flashlights, and tactical flashlights. Perhaps you want to rank higher for the term “LED rechargeable flashlights” though. A landing page that is that specific isn’t really needed in your main menu’s categories, and maybe even all of your flashlights already are LED rechargeable flashlights. But if you create a landing page tailor-made to that keyword with shoppable products and 500+ words of text all about “LED rechargeable flashlights,” you are much more likely to rank highly with that page than if you simply mention this term randomly on various pages.

3. Optimize all new content for SEO

With all of this new content you are going to create, the same basic rules for on-page optimizations we discussed earlier will apply. Each new blog post or landing page will need: a focus keyword, should be 300 words at a minimum, should have headers, mixed media, and your focus keyword should be used strategically. 

There really isn’t a point of creating new content if it is not optimized for search engines.

Otherwise, you will have to rely on ads or social media marketing in order to get traffic. While those strategies will take work on your part to earn every view, a well-optimized piece of content will earn its own traffic from Google!

Backlinking & Off-Site SEO for Small Businesses

How to do Backlinking & Off-Site SEO for Small Businesses:

While the bread and butter of SEO lies on your website, off-page SEO is also a vital piece of the puzzle. Google does track how many other sites out there on the internet  link to your website and uses that as a signal that your website must be high quality. And the higher the quality of the website that links to you, the more valuable the link is. Off-site SEO can also be important for local SEO and to make sure that Google knows where your business is physically located.

1

Great content leads to great links

2

Outreach strategies

3

Guest posting for backlinks

4

Google my business

5

Directory links (Local SEO)

6

Do not buy links

1. Great content leads to great links

Step one of a backlinking SEO strategy is to make sure that you have great content and a great website that people would want to link to. The first thing websites will ask themselves when considering linking to you, is, does this link add value to my readers? If the answer is no, they will not link to you. Be sure that your website and blog content is well written and informative.

By creating high-quality content and great graphics, you can actually earn backlinks with no effort at all. Blogs, news articles, and content writers are always looking for quality sources and information for their websites. If you create awesome enough content, over time the links will come on their own. Be the type of website you would want to link to in your own blog!

2. Outreach strategies

While getting links with no effort does happen, and is great when it does, you do often have to do some outreach as well. This is a necessary strategy for both new websites and brand new content that doesn’t rank in search engines at all yet.

Some of the most common outreach strategies include looking up similar content to your piece of content and then reaching out to those article writers and asking them to include a link to you. They will only do this if they think linking to you can add value for their readers. This is time-consuming and can take a lot of research, but make sure you always explain exactly why they should link to your article in your outreach email. Maybe you will offer them a link in return, or maybe they can include your infographic in their blog post if they will credit you.

Another popular tactic for backlink outreach is to find blogs with dead links and to email them to suggest that they change the link over to your link instead. This is mutually beneficial in that they will fix a dead link on their page, and you get a new backlink to your website in return. This dead backlink technique does require the use of an SEO tool though, otherwise it is nearly impossible to find these dead links.

3. Guest posting for backlinks

Another technique for building backlinks is to guest post on other blogs. These blogs will get free content, and in return, you will be able to get a link back to your website. Finding the right blog to guest post on can take time and effort, but once you establish a relationship with a particular blog, it can be much easier to continually guest post with them in the future.

Most blogs will have information about guest posting on their contact page. If they accept guest post submissions there will often be instructions on how to submit a guest post and any other requirements they might have. You will often need to create original content for guest posts and they will need to make sense with whatever niche you and the guest blog are in.

4. Google My Business

Every business should have a Google My Business (GMB) listing, and it is especially vital for businesses that target a local audience. A Google My Business listing will vastly increase your search engine visibility. This type of listing will appear in map searches and the large GMB box that appears on certain search result pages are very large and noticeable to the user. Increasing the number of ways that visitors can get to your website from Google is always a good thing.

There are several additional features to GMB that can help businesses gain visibility as well. You can post photos related to your business, you can include site links such as how to schedule an appointment, you can even create “posts” in GMB about sales or promotions. All of these things expand the space that you can take up in a Google search results page.

5. Directory links (local SEO)

Another way to increase your local visibility, if that is a priority for you, is to create listings for your business on local directories. This helps increase your visibility as websites like Yelp or Yellow Pages have pretty high visibility, so your listing on these directories can increase your exposure to search engine users. These directories will also allow you to include a link to your website, so they act as backlinks and also can generate traffic to your website directly from them. These are not the highest quality links available as they are fairly easy to get, but it is still an important part of a backlink portfolio.

In addition to common directories, research some niche directories too that are curated to your industry. These are not too difficult to find and backlinks from your industry are more valuable than links from a completely different niche.

6. Do not buy links

Lastly, it is not recommended that you buy links. Google will, in fact, penalize you for having low-quality backlinks from spammy or poorly created websites. Most links that are for sale are from sites that prey on inexperienced business owners looking for shortcuts. While tempting, purchased links more often than not end up doing more damage than good.

In Conclusion

SEO is a crazy world and its our job as a marketing agency to try to make sense of it. This guide thoroughly outlined the real steps we take to help our clients knock it out of the park with SEO every day. Using these tested strategies will not only help you get more traffic to your website, but will help you grow your business overall in a sustainable way.

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