Small Business SEO, to many small business owners, might as well be witchcraft. Something that some very well payed people do, for very large businesses, with even larger budgets. For small businesses it can feel “out of reach,” difficult to pull back the curtain. Every guide you read on the internet seems to contradict the last, and businesses are left confused about how best to promote their business, and their website, in the search results.
But it really shouldn’t be like that at all.
In my role as a website developer it’s often my job to manage expectations. The size of the businesses I work for varies quite a bit, as does the expectations of their owners. No matter the size of the business, a website will not rank organically for competitive search terms right away, it takes time, and a lot of work.
In this post, Small Business SEO, I will talk through the ranking process from start to finish; what to do to promote your website before ranking improve and how to choose the right search terms to target. How to optimize your posts both in terms of content and and the more technical SEO aspects…
Top 21 Small Business SEO Tips
Tip 1 - Web Hosting
Before you even launch your website it’s important to think about your web hosting it’s a Small Business SEO key ingredient. So many new businesses go for the cheapest option, €5 per month, but it’s true, you get what you pay for. If your hosting provider doesn’t use up to date software, or stores too many websites on a server then your loading time will suffer, and your site may even go offline altogether.
At FutureProof Digital we use SiteGround Web Hosting, and we recommend them to all of our clients. The first year is around €50 (around €150 in year 2+) and you get a lot for that; page caching, free CDN and even a free SSL cert. As well as all that the customer support is excellent; specialist live chat.
Tip 2 - Google My Business
Ok, so maybe not a ranking factor, but it will get you on the search results page… fast, and it’s a huge part of small business SEO. Head over to Google now and describe what your business does, followed by your location, “plumber in Dublin” for example. In most instances there will be a map and 3 business listings at the top of the page. This section is called the local pack, and these businesses get there by having a well optimized Google My Business profile, it has very little to do with their website. A big factor here are reviews, so remember to encourage all of your customers to write one, you can put a link on your website too.
Tip 3 - Directory Websites
Again, not a ranking factor, but Small Business SEO is not all about ranking factors. This can be very helpful to new SME websites, especially service businesses. You might not be able to get on page 1 right away, but you might be able to list your site on one of the directory websites that does. If you Google a service, anywhere in the country, you will always find at least 1 directory site in the results, Golden Pages for example. Find as many as you can, and create a business profile. Remember to keep your info consistent; address, phone number etc.
Tip 4 - Website Structure
“A site’s URL (web page) structure should be as simple as possible. Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans. When possible, use readable words rather than long ID numbers in your URLs.”
The quote above it taken directly from the Google developer guidelines. It is especially important in a Small Business SEO context, because your number of URLs will be less than larger businesses. If you’re a service provider you need a homepage and a contact page. Below that in the structure come services (/services/name-of-service) and below that posts or portfolio (/portfolio/name-of-service-example-city).
Tip 5 - Internal Links
Making sure that your pages link to each other helps your SEO efforts in 2 ways. First, it directs your visitors to other content, in a way that you have some control over; you can direct them where YOU want them to go. Second, it tells Google about your website and how you see the importance of each page. For example, if there are 5 links on your homepage (excluding the navigation menu, although Google does see these as relevant) the search algorithm will, in most instances, decide that the one at the top is the most important and the one at the bottom the least important.
Because most small business websites are just that, small, internal linking becomes even more important to SEO. Remember, in local SEO small changes can make a big difference, and Small Business SEO is all about making a big difference.
Tip 6 - Google Search Console
There so many premium SEO tools available on the market these days, but don’t forget, Google gives you a lot of data about your website for free. Google Search Console is one of those free tools. It displays data only related to the traffic that comes from organic search and can be filtered in a number of ways including search term, date and page. There’s other handy tools, xml sitemap for example, outlined below…
In the page, getting Search Console set up on your website wasn’t easy, but today, it’s just a few clicks. If you’re running a WordPress website it’s even easier. Download and install the Google Site Kit plugin and follow the one screen instructions.
Tip 7 - Rank Math SEO
Here at tip 7 we get more specifically into WordPress SEO, it’s probably what you have running your website, if you have a small business (you probably don’t care much about SEO if you have Wix or SquareSpace, lol). For many years I was a huge fan of Yoast SEO, they basically invented the WordPress SEO plugin. But these days I use Rank Math SEO on every website I design.
It is recommended by many of the biggest names in SEO, Moz and SemRush for example, and it does every SEO job your website needs; customize all of your SEO settings, control page indexation, and search appearance with Structured data. it also does one other very important job; it auto generates and updates your sitemap, which helps Google index your site.
Tip 8 - XML Sitemap
A sitemap used to be complicated but these days it’s super simple… if you tip 6 and tip 7 in the bag, Search Console and Rank Math. An xml sitemap is super handy for Googlebot (the name we give the Google web crawler than collects information about your website) because it’s a little list of all the content you want to be indexed and shows the bot where you want it to go.
The Rank Math plugin plugin creates and updates you sitemap for you, set and forget. Copy the link from the settings, paste it into the sitemap admin area of your Search Console and that’s it done. Unless there’s a problem with your website (hosting or domain transfer for) you will probably never have to think about this again.
Tip 9 - Google Analytics
“You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” It’s an old saying but it’s true. Google Analytics is one of the most important small business SEO tools. Like search console, it tells you about your traffic, but this is all of your traffic, not just from search. It tells you where your visitors came from; social media, Google search etc. It tells what they did; the page they land on, the pages they viewed, how long they stayed etc. It tells you a lot about them; their location, their device, their browser.
But the most important benefit of using Google Analytics is that it tells you what content is working, and what content needs improvement. If a page or post that matters to your business, a key service page for example, isn’t getting a lot of traffic, you need to know that, so you can fix it.
Tip 10 - Keyword Research
In Tip 11 we’ll get into optimizing the content you’ve created so that it ranks in the search results, but first… what should your content be about? There are 100 ways to do this, and just as many expensive tools to help you, but here I’ll layout a free beginner method…
- Make a list of your main competitors and list their web address in a spreadsheet.
- Enter “site:” followed by the web address into Google, and create another spreadsheet for each, use 20 results to begin with. This will tell you what the best/most popular content is on these websites.
- Look at each page title and give an educated guess at what search term they are targeting. For example; the title of this post is “Small Business SEO – 21 Top Tips for 2022,” I am targeting the term “Small Business SEO.”
- Exclude duplicates and compile a list, again 20 in total, of search term you should target with your content.
Tip 11 - Google Pagespeed Score
It feels like every year page speed gets more important, and it has always been important. This falls under the umbrella of technical SEO, and can be a complicated subject, but in simple terms, it’s the amount of time a user has to wait before they can view/interact with your page. There are a number of factors that add up to making your website slow or fast; good web hosting is vital. I use SiteGround exclusively, and they provide free website caching and CDN, which also speed up your site.
Another factor is image optimization, covered below in Tip 14. You should regularly test your loading time using Google’s free page speed testing tool. If your load time drops you need to know so you can find out why, and fix it.
Tip 12 - Meta Tags
Now we get into the content itself, and that’s what Small Business SEO is really all about.
There are two key elements to a Google search result; the meta title and the meta description. And what’s better is that you have total control over both of these. Rank Math SEO helps here too; you can set a unique title and description for each page and post on your site. Use appealing language, special offers, key info, even a number (the year for example) can entice people to click on your result.
Tip 13 - Heading Tags
Like an xml sitemap tells Google what your website is about, your pages heading tags tell Google what your page is about. The H1 tag should be the title of the page, it should have the target search term in it, and there only ever be a single H1 on any page. Your H2 tags are your second most important, H3 and so on. The important tactic here is to use these heading to target related terms and keywords, also, use target keyword in at least one heading. See how your competitors do this, and use the “people also asked…” section of the search results page.
Tip 14 - Image Optimization
Page speed is hugely important to Small Business SEO, which also makes Image Optimisation important. All businesses should think about what they upload, before they upload. This applies to social media, but even more so to a website. Images should be cropped appropriately, resized to fit the intended position, and most importantly optimized. What this means in practice is that the file size should be reduced to as small as possible without loosing visual quality. At FutureProof Digital we use this free online software.
Tip 15 - Image Title + Alt Tags
Sticking with the topic of images, every image should have a title that describes it, and an alt. tag that describes what’s in it. An alt. tag is used by screen readers to describe the image to visually impaired users, but it does have an SEO benefit too. Google has always had trouble with images, and to a degree, it still does, Googlebot can’t look at an image, so it relies on the title and alt. tag.
Tip 16 - Keyword Volume
A controversial Small Business SEO tip at number 16, because many SEO experts believe it to be a myth. It is, and it isn’t, but it still has a small business SEO benefit. It could be said that the percentage of keywords used compared to number of words in the content overall is not a ranking factor, because pages rank for terms and don’t use the keyword once, this is true. But… pages that rank, on average, use the exact search term they are targeting somewhere between 1% and 1.5%, that’s around 20 times in 2000 words. I would say, for an amateur post writer, it’s a good practice to get into.
Tip 17 - URL
Use the search term you are targeting in the page URL… simple.
Tip 18 - Backlinks
Every week, there must be 100,000 words published about backlinks, it’s by far the most popular topic on the web, when it comes to SEO. But when it comes to Small Business SEO, backlinks have to take a backseat, especially in the early days of your website journey. A backlink is a link from another website to your website, and for those new this game they are probably the number 1 ranking factor. Google looks at link as if it were a vote, one website think another website is good, so they link to them. But not all link are equal; a link from bbc.com would be worth many multiples of “link equity” to that of a link from futureproofdigital.ie for example.
What we in SEO believe is that Google takes all these links, and gives each website a score. This score is then used to decide which content is put in position 1, which in position 2, and so on. All other factors being equal of course. Building links to your content is hard, outside of directory, or trade websites. I would suggest to most start-up businesses that backlink shouldn’t really be a priority for them. It’s something that can be returned to when the other 20 tips of this list have been taken care of.
Tip 19 - Social Sharing
This is definitely not a small business SEO ranking factor, so what is it doing on the list. Well, one way to build backlink, without putting in any extra effort, is for your social media fans and followers to share it, and then maybe post it on their websites. Another positive aspect of social sharing.
Another positive aspect of social traffic is that it can guide your content creation, especially in the early days of your website. Your Google Analytics will tell you how many visits each post gets, how long they stay there and if they click through to more content (bounce rate). There also some evidence that metrics like bounce rate, even when the traffic comes from social media, are take into account by the Google algorithms.
Tip 20 - Consistent Posting
I’m a huge believer in learning by doing. I’ve had some huge small business SEO successes in my career, but I only learned how to do that by writing very poor content, content that tanked, big time. You only learn from your mistakes, and the time to do that is early, while nobody (or close to nobody is watching). Write content, and keep writing; your traffic numbers will improve, your writing will improve and your business will grow.
Tip 21 - A Change of Mindset
The last Small Business SEO tip is less of a tip and more of a goal, it’s something I say to most of my clients when I start working with them. Most small business owners don’t think of themselves as bloggers, but when they launch a website, and publish content for themselves, they are.
You need to start looking at your business life in terms of blog posts; each job is a post, each new product you stock is a post, each event that you host is a post. While you’re running your business take lots of photographs, video, even take notes, this is your content.
First of all, well done for getting to the end of this post, Small Business SEO – 21 Top Tips for 2022. Although is pretty long, it’s a big topic. Don’t think that you have do everything described here all in one day. If you can do one a week, or one a month that’s a great start, and tips 20 and 21 are key; chance the way you think about Small Business SEO and stick at it !! Good luck with your new website.