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4 Simple Small Business SEO Tips to Dominate Your Competitors

Written on November 7th, 2014 by

Small business SEO is an absolute must for any company looking to get the most out of their marketing budget and grow their client base.

Good SEO takes time, money and resources. It’s not overnight and it’s not for the instant gratification types. However, when done correctly and consistently, small business SEO will allow you reap marketing benefits for years to comes.

There are a lot of different factors that you must look at when deciding on how to proceed with your small business SEO campaigns. Answers to these questions and more will determine how you proceed with your SEO campaign:

  • Is your business locally, regionally or nationally focused?
  • What makes your business unique compared to your competitors?
  • Who are your ideal customers?

We know this can all seem overwhelming if you’re new to SEO. But that doesn’t mean you should just put this off until “next month,” which we all know will never come. Nor does it mean you have to pay someone an arm and a leg to do this work for you.

We have put together a few quick tips to get your small business SEO campaign moving. Follow these and you’ll start to see some returns and SEO success before you know it:

Look at Geographic Targeting Differently

If you’re running a local small business, your first SEO thought might be, “I need to rank for [My City] + [My Profession].”

So, if you were a plumber and lived in Dallas, you’d want to show up in the rankings for “Dallas plumber” or some variation of that when customers searched.

And while this does make sense and should be your ultimate goal, it’s something you’re going to have to work up to. Dallas is a big city and I am sure there are a lot of plumbing companies that have more money and resources than you and have been at this game a bit longer.

But starting off trying to rank for such a competitive term would be like someone reading a book about how to swim and then trying out for the Olympic team.

Instead, start slower by targeting and trying to rank for search phrases focused on smaller cities around Dallas or defined neighborhoods within the city limits. Trying to rank for suburbs like Irving, Mesquite, Grand Prairie or Arlington would be much more attainable than Dallas proper.

This tactic also allows you to more specific in your messaging when creating content for your site or in your advertising. If I live in Duncanville, TX, and I have a choice between a plumbing company that talks about Dallas or one that says they focus on Duncanville, which one do you think I’m choosing?

This strategy also can work well for companies with a regional or national focus. Say your company sells high-tech weightlifting equipment to gyms, schools and other organizations. Spend the time to create (or the money to pay someone to create) content about your product with geographic locations attached.

Get a list of all cities with populations of 100,000 to 250,000 people and create content on your website for each. When you potential customers from those areas look for your product they will have a better chance of finding you because you took the time to make content that says, “Hey consumer, I sell what you’re looking for in your area.” Make sure the content is not misleading in that you claim you are a local company though.

Local Link Building

OK, we all know SEO 101 is building links to your site. More importantly, you want high-quality links that are relevant to your content.

Well, in the local arena, link building is a little bit different. Most local searchers on Google call up a listing of business locations (in addition to a map with pins on it) mixed in with the normal organic rankings.

These business listings tie into your Google+ Business page, which is also tied to your website. And one simply does not build traditional links in order to improve your chances of showing up in this business list.

Instead, Google is looking for a couple of major things:

  • The presence of a Google+ Business page
  • Business reviews
  • Other local business relevant sites that list your business with the same name, address and phone number.

That last one is really important. Your NAP (name, address, phone number) needs to be consistently listed in other places besides your own website in order for Google to trust that it’s a real business and rank you accordingly.

In order to make that happen, you need to build out listings on business directories and other sites confirming that NAP. These are called citations and they are the lifeblood (for the time being) of local small business SEO.

So, here’s what you need to do:

Search your city+profession and see who pops up in the map listings. Ideally, clear your cookies first and make sure you’re not logged into any Google products or they might personalize the listing and show your business higher than it shows for others. Google this from a random computer if need be. You can also go into private browsing mode. 

Find the competition that is outranking you: 

  1. Go to White Spark.
  2. Run your competition and your business as well to see how many citations they have and how many you have.
  3. Clean up any of your citations that don’t EXACTLY match what’s on your site. If the address on your site says “123 Elm Street” then fix any listings that read “123 Elm St.”
  4. Go out and build listings on any sites that your competitors have and you don’t.
  5. Find more citations locations and post on them.

This can be time consuming, but luckily for you White Spark and others will do the heavy lifting for you if you’d rather pay the money than do the work.

Use Images Intelligently

On business review and directory sites where you will be making these citations, you usually have the ability to upload photographs.

And most businesses will post pictures of the outside and inside of their location (hey look, we’re real), maybe some staff pictures (hey look, we’re real people and not a bunch of psychopaths trying to lure into some crazy dungeon) or industry related tools and equipment (hey look, we’re surgeons who don’t use either and hacksaws still).

And while a certain amount of this is all fine and good, these images are valuable real estate that you could be using for other purposes. Instead of your receptionist’s smiling mug, include a coupon with a strong call to action; like “Come in today and get 25% of your first teeth whitening!”

Or you could also use a picture to relate one of the factors that makes you better than your competition, like “Rated Excellent by the Douglas County Health Department 10 Years Running.”

Mark It Up

Google and the other search engines primarily read the text on a website to determine if and where it should be ranked for a given search.

But, as the search results get more involved, the search engines want to provide more and better information in their results. This information is often industry specific:

  • If someone searches for a restaurant, they probably want to see reviews, hours of operation, a menu or directions.
  • If someone searches for a movie they probably want to see reviews and showtimes.

The search engines realized that in order to give users a better experience, it was in their interest to have websites code important information like this in a way that it could easily be pulled from the site, like a title or description tag, and populated in the search results.

 

And in order to make sure that there isn’t a different set of code for each search engine, they made a standardized code listed at Schema.org.

Using the Schema markup correctly will give your small business an added SEO boost and help increase visitors. Now, unless you are a web designer or really like reading about code, going into the nuts and bolts of Schema markup is a little much.

The best way to take advantage of this system is to speak to your web designer and let them know you want the markup related to your industry put in place. If you are a self publisher using a system like WordPress, then talk to the support team of the company that made your theme. You can also check for plugins that will create the needed code without you having to crack open any templates yourself.

Now, Google and other search engines have started to pull information out from the listings themselves to give you quick results which often devalues the use of Schema markup. Or, they can change their policies on what markup they want to show.

The most well known change was when Google went away from the authorship markup they had touted for so long. Now, having that authorship markup on your site isn’t going to hurt anything but the search engine results no longer show that additional content.

Just know that search engines change their minds all the time about what information they want to show, so don’t get your unmentionables in a bunch if they stop showing yours after you spent the time to mark it up.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

By now, you probably know more than 80 percent of other small business owners about how SEO for small business works. Use these tips as a jumping off point to gain even more knowledge and increase that competitive advantage.

Even if you don’t want to do any of this yourself and you’re looking to hire it out, you at least have a handle on the vocabulary and know what to ask and look for in a local SEO provider.

What other small business SEO questions do you have? What have been your experiences with these types of campaigns in the past? Let us know.