All businesses, no matter the size, benefit from search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is how you reach potential customers through organic search (aka non-paid search results), which tends to perform better than paid search. In fact, out of the 39 percent of global traffic that comes from search, 35 percent of that is organic (versus the 4 percent that’s paid).
To better rank for SEO, check out these general and local tips. You may see an increase in traffic and revenue.
General SEO tips
If you aren’t optimized for SEO in general, or you’re looking to increase your rankings, here are five general tips for your small business.
- Include keyword phrases on your pages and URLs. Keyword phrases don’t have to match the titles of the page, but they carry weight with Google.
- Write “alt” text content for any images you use. Search engines read these and use them in their rankings. Be sure the description is correct and not misleading. Search engines will penalize you for misleading information.
- Do internal and external linking. Link to valuable pages on your site from other pages. You should also try to get links from external sources like industry blogs, vendors, mentors, influencers, and leaders.
- If you don’t have them already, add social sharing buttons to your website. This makes it easier for users to share your material on their own social media pages. Keep the buttons light, however. Don’t use too many.
- Update old content and keep the content rich and deep. This removes the number of pages on your site, which increases site speed (and in turn boosts user experience). Search engines also favor long-form, rich content.
Once you’ve gotten some general SEO tips down, you should focus on your local search results. Local search allows your business to compete with others (even larger corporations). In 2016, 72 percent of customers who conducted local search visited a store within five miles of their location. That’s a lot of potential for your small business.
How to rank better for local SEO
With the right local SEO strategy, your small business can see an increase in growth and market share. With local SEO, be sure to cover the following search criteria:
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
- Directions to your business’s location
- Coupons/special offers
- Ratings and reviews
- Local sponsorships and scholarships
Now that you know what to cover, here are five tips to help you do so.
- Local directories
Directories like Google Pages, Yelp, Facebook, and more require you to verify your listing through phone number, mail verification, or email verification. With directories, you’ll appear in the local search for specific keywords and terms. Let’s say you own a pizzeria. When you’ve listed your business in local directories, your restaurant will show up in the term “pizza near me” for customers who live near your business. Some local directory sites garner more traffic than others, so make sure you research which directories will give you the best results. Here are the top five:
- Google Play (aka Google+ Local)
- Online reviews
When people search for businesses and find yours, they should be able to see how other customers feel about your services. In fact, 97 percent of consumers read online reviews before they make a buying decision (with 85 percent trusting these reviews as much as they would a family member’s or friend’s). To get more online reviews, create an account on a review page like Yelp or Google My Business, create your business’s page and include photos of your business as well as your location, phone number, contact information, and hours of operation.
From there, ask customers to visit these pages and leave reviews. Feel free to incentivize them with a small discount or free, small item. If they do leave reviews, be sure to thank them and address any problems they may have had. Remember to keep calm if someone leaves a bad review. If you respond respectfully and in a timely manner, consumers will be more likely to overlook the bad review since they see that you want to help.
- Title and meta tags
Your page’s title and meta description tags are important both for general SEO and local SEO. These are HTML elements you can use to reflect the content of each page. Both the title and meta description tags are shown in search results. Your title tag doesn’t have to match the headline on your page word for word. A title tag needs to be compelling and unique, otherwise its click-through rate (CTR) will falter. Keep your title tags within the character limits, so they don’t get cut off.
Your meta description is longer, so you have some extra room to describe the content your page provides. Focus on one targeted keyword for each and carefully place it at the beginning of the tag (or as close as you can). To see how your title and meta tags will look, use a SERP Snippet Optimization Tool.
- Local and regional keywords
All local SEO strategies include website optimization. Customers search for specific products or services near them. You can use tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner to find new keywords or group ideas entering the main keywords for your product or service. You can remove default country tagging and specify your city and region. With tools like Google Trends, you can see interest over time and related searches.
Gather a list of keywords and research their competition. Narrow down the list and focus on the keywords that are a bit easier to compete for. To better optimize for these keywords, include your contact information, local/regional keywords within your content, incorporate them into catchy titles, and use local hashtags.
- Analyze competitors
To better rank for local SEO, see what your competition is doing. Conduct a competitive analysis for three to five local competitors, and analyze their meta titles, descriptions, keywords, website sections, and blog sections. Look at how they present their drop-down menus and see what products or services they offer (each one is a new keyword to research). Their title and meta descriptions will show you what keywords they’re targeting and can give ideas for how to better write your titles and descriptions. If they have a blog, see what topics they’re covering, especially if they’re covering local ones.
The right local SEO strategy can boost your foot traffic, web traffic, and sales. If you’re not an SEO-guru, consider taking classes or expanding your marketing team to create a killer strategy and execute it for your small business.