SEO for Small Local Businesses

There’s quite a bit of content out there on SEO strategy for online startups. This is fantastic, but what if you’re not a national online startup – but simply a small local business that’s already been around for a while, and you want to start growing your online presence?

You already know you need a website to maintain competitive status in your industry – and you’ve probably started to understand the essentials of SEO to ensure that your business’ website actually shows up when someone searches for your product/service in your local area. 

In this article, you’ll get a quick rundown on exactly how to optimize your “onsite” webpage content for SEO, create “offsite” SEO value through activities like “link building”, and how to best target your specific geographic region as a small local business.

Begin Onsite

Keyword Research:

Onsite SEO is all about featuring the relevant industry keywords that you want to rank well for in google. This means that when someone’s searching for “Atlanta Italian Restaurant”, your restaurant should pop up as the #1 listing in google (ideally). The best way to achieve this is to populate your website pages with these high value SEO keywords. 

But how do you know what keywords you should include on your site? A great way to start is by doing some research with the free Google Adwords Keyword Tool. You can start by typing in some basic phrases you think you might like to rank for in the search bar. You’ll then get the search volume and “competition level” for each keyword. 

Make sure to filter the search options to your unique geographic area – and them respect on the “Local Monthly Searches” number:

SEO Local Businesses


You can also see that the keyword tool will provide you with “keyword ideas” that you can sort by search volume. If and when they seem applicable to your web content, include them – this will help you drive traffic to your website. Another great way to find out what keywords to use onsite is to check out your competitors websites, and see what keywords they’re featuring. 

Across their landing pages. With the restaurant examples, these are probably things like “Atlanta restaurant reviews” or “Atlanta’s best Pizza”. It’s also important to see that the competitor is actually doing well for SEO before you emulate their site, so type some of the high volume industry terms into google, and see of your competitors, who pops up.


Keyword Implementation:

Once you’ve identified some of the highest value industry keywords you want to use on your site, you might be wondering exactly how you should use these terms – and where? The answer can be broken down into several different basic best practice categories:

  • 1. Page Headers (Titles) – these are the standard titles you use for the content of your different landing pages. They should appear in a larger sized text as the rest of the page copy, and always at the top of the page. For example, if you have a page tilted “what they customer’s think” for reviews, this is going to be of much less value than a page titled “Customer Review’s”. Optimize your Page Headers for SEO.
  • 2. Title Tags (Meta Tags) – These are the keyword descriptors you see on the tabs for each of your unique landing pages, and they’re also what google displays to search traffic on their results page, after the page title. Most website templates like WordPress will default to using the Page Headers as the Title Tags – buy you can do better than that. For your Customer Review page, you should add something like “Customer Reviews – read customer testimonials of Atlanta’s award winning Italian cuisine.”
  • 3. Page Copy – While the page copy itself may not be the leading indicator to google of SEO value, it’s quite important overall. In addition to optimizing your keywords within paragraphs of text, you should also be looking for opportunities to link to other website pages you have that you can use as references. This kind of “internal linking” definitely scores points with google. 
NOTE: don’t over-optimize your content. If you’re using too many mentions of the same keywords, your site will be obviously geared towards robots – and you’ll actually lost SEO value with google.

Move Offsite

Now that you’ve put some serious effort into ensuring that your website is properly optimized for onsite SEO, you can begin to move offsite – and start taking actions that will prompt other relevant websites to send you SEO value. This is primarily going to be in the form of “link building” – the activity of getting outside websites to link to your website, and send you SEO value. 

Along with onsite content, Inbound links are the primary way google attributes SEO value. The more websites linking to yours, and the more relevant they are – the more Link building is extremely common, and there are many ways you can get people to link to your site. A really great way is to write content for websites, like expert articles. 

For example, as an Italian restaurant owner, you could write Italian cooking tips on various local cooking blogs – with a link to your website within the article copy. This would be an extremely relevant SEO strategy, that would be smiled upon by google.

Local Geographic Targeting

Since you’re a local business trying to drive local search traffic to visit your restaurant (versus trying to drive national traffic to order your products online) – you want to target your SEO strategy to include lots of geographic mentions. This means your site should be laden with local keywords; never “Great Italian Food” always “Great Italian Food in Atlanta.” Similarly, any link you get from an outbound website should have optimized anchor text for that region. 

To use the example of a printing company serving US customers you’d want a link with the anchor text United States Business Card Printing, as opposed to simply “Printing Business Cards”. It’s also helpful to get links from sites that are geographic specific as well. You’ll get more value from an Atlanta restaurant review site for your Atlanta restaurant, than a Los Angeles based blogger linking to you – referencing when they traveled to Atlanta.

Get Going!

Planning and preparation is great – but the best thing you can do to succeed at SEO for your small business is to simply get started! You can always tweak your unique strategy as time goes on, but delaying any action is unacceptable. It’s a lot like the classic quote “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” By far, no matter what you choose to do with your website SEO wise, the best thing you can do is start some type of active strategy today!

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