As a small business owner, you are incredibly familiar with your particular niche, whether you are a mechanic, own a gym, or sell antiques. But you may not be familiar enough with various marketing methods, such as SEO. Given the importance of SEO for local businesses, it’s not something you can ignore. Remember that SEO not only helps you attract customers but also talent.
Still, there’s no need for you to be overwhelmed with learning SEO. Start small with the following three tips, and then grow your efforts from there.
1. Understand How to Optimize Keywords
One of the most basic parts of SEO is keyword optimization. This involves researching the keywords to optimize and the optimization process itself.
Choosing the Right Keywords
When deciding which keywords to use, think about what people search for when looking for your business or the services and products you provide. A simple way to get inspiration is to choose one keyword and let Google suggest others. Google autofill will give you some ideas, and so will the related searches at the bottom of the page.
Another option is to head to forums for your industry and see what keywords tend to appear in conversations.
There are also numerous keyword research tools available, whether paid or free. Some tools worth considering include Google Keyword Planner, Semrush, and Moz, but those are far from the only options.
When choosing keywords, you want to strike a balance between relevance and competition. As a small business, you may find it a challenge to compete with marketing teams of major companies, even with the best talent. So, optimize for the most popular keywords, but focus your efforts on those that are a little less competitive.
Long-tail keywords can be especially useful for this. This is also where keyword research tools come in handy, as they will tell you how competitive a given keyword is.
Where to Use Keywords
Once you decide on the keywords you want to use, it’s time to start optimizing for them. Content on your website is an important place to start, from landing pages to your home page to blog posts.
Try to include keywords in the following:
- Title tags
- Alt image tags
- Description tags
- H1 tags
- Near the front of sentences or paragraphs
You should also include keywords on social media. Doing so is one of the most important ways of using social media to reach your local market, in addition to creating great content and being engaged in the community.
Where can you include keywords on social media? You can work them into the content you post. Use them in alt tags for images and hashtags.
Other Keyword Tips
When using keywords, keep a few other important things in mind.
- Include variations of the keyword.
- Don’t go overboard with using keywords. Stick to one or two for each page.
- Don’t overstuff the keywords. Make their inclusion feel natural.
- Try to stick to long-form content of about 1,000 to 1,500 words.
2. Have a Solid Backlinking Strategy
Backlinks are one of the major factors affecting your search engine rankings and can also bring people to your website organically.
How important are backlinks for your SEO strategy? Consider that about 75% of SEO occurs off of your website. This includes backlinks, directories (which we will cover in the next tip), social media, and more.
Why Backlinks Matter
You may wonder why backlinks account for a large part of your search engine ranking. This is because backlinks show that other websites trust yours, giving you a type of vote of confidence. Having more backlinks shows Google and other search engines that you are a reputable source and have content worth linking to.
If your content is worth linking to, it is natural to assume that it is also worth listing in search results. So, the more backlinks you have, the higher your SEO ranking will be.
This ties into domain authority, one of the factors affecting SEO. The number of backlinks you have has a major effect on your domain authority. It also ties into page authority, which looks at the page level instead of the domain level. So, domain authority would be for everything at www.company.com, while page authority would be for specific pages like www.company.com/products and www.company.com/about.
Backlinks Also Boost Brand Awareness
We already mentioned that gaining backlinks will boost your search engine ranking and lead to more clicks to your website. But they will also boost your brand awareness. After all, each backlink will include a mention of your company, and every time someone sees your brand’s name, they get one step closer to converting or at least becoming more aware of your business.
Quality Not Quantity
Remember that you don’t want to get backlinks merely for the sake of backlinks – they need to be high quality. If you have numerous low-quality or irrelevant backlinks, Google will penalize you in the search results. So, focus on getting as many backlinks as possible, but if they aren’t high-quality, you can skip them.
Ideally, you want your backlinks to be from high-authority sites that are popular and trustworthy. These websites don’t necessarily have to be in your niche. For example, you can get backlinks from news websites by participating in local events or backlinks from charities by making a donation.
Consider Competitive Backlink Research
If you aren’t sure where to start with your backlink efforts, consider competitive backlink research. This involves looking at the backlinks your competitors have, with a focus on competitors that rank highly. This will give you an idea of the types of websites you can get backlinks from, specifically focusing on those that will positively impact your search engine ranking.
3. Keep Your Business Listings Up to Date
Business listings, company profiles, and local citations are another crucial part of off-page SEO. A local citation is simply your business information listed online.
Building these listings is crucial for your SEO strategy, allowing customers to find you via methods other than a Google search. Think of citations as a way to boost your authority and visibility.
What Is in a Citation?
Citations and business listings typically have your NAP (business name, address, and phone number). Most listings will also include a link to your website, giving you an organic, high-quality backlink.
Depending on the listing, you can add other relevant information, such as your hours, email address, and products or services. They can also include images and links to your social media.
Structured Vs. Unstructured Citations
It’s worth noting that citations can be structured or unstructured. Structured citations are more common, with directories as an example. These are the databases, directories, or third-party websites that list businesses. Importantly, these websites are already trusted by Google.
Unstructured citations more commonly occur if your company is mentioned in a blog post or news article. The important difference is that all your business information is there, but it is spread out. For example, your business name may be mentioned throughout an article and in a heading, and your phone number and address would be at the end.
The most valuable unstructured citations are those on pages connected to your local area, relevant to your industry, and with a high domain authority score.
Citations Add Backlinks
By their nature, citations are a simple yet effective way of gaining backlinks. And, as established, backlinks boost your SEO rankings.
Citations Make You Easier to Find
In addition to boosting your SEO, citations also make your business easier to find in other ways. For example, claiming your Yelp listing means you show up if someone decides to open the Yelp app on their phone. If they head straight to Yelp to look for your products or services, you are also visible to them.
Where to Get Local Citations
When building your local citations, start with the basics, like claiming your Google Business Profile. Then, claim your listing on other major websites like Yelp and Bing. But directory listings are far from the only places you can build local citations. You should look into business listings on:
- Social media profiles
- Event listings
- Review profiles
- Booking websites
When it comes to directories, claim every relevant, high-quality spot you can. Many people stick to the main listings, like Google, and forget about others, like Bing. In fact, 82% of businesses have yet to claim their Bing listings. To start, claiming your Bing listing will make you easier to find on Bing. But it will also increase the places you are listed online, boosting your ranking on Google.
With the above SEO tips in mind, you will be on your way to boosting your online reputation and ability to appear in local search results. Don’t forget to optimize for behind-the-scenes SEO, such as page loading speed, mobile responsiveness, and search engine crawlability.
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