A beginner’s guide to SEO for small business

By Aimee Jurenka

If you’ve had a website for your business for any length of time, it’s pretty likely you’ve heard the term “SEO” used before, likely in the context of someone trying to sell you something.

If you’re not already a savvy digital marketer, you might be wondering what these recommendations mean. In this article, we will go over some basic concepts and expert tips to get you started on your journey to SEO success for your small business.

Is SEO worth it for my small business?

SEO marketing helps your site rank higher in Google search results, placing it in front of more potential customers with intent to purchase. Unlike other marketing efforts, SEO builds organic search traffic for your site and doesn’t require you to pay for each additional click or acquired customer. This means lower long-term customer acquisition costs and a healthier online presence.

A recent study showed that on average, 85% of all internet users click on organic search results, leaving only 15% for the paid ads you see on the top of the results page. SEO marketing not only captures the majority of potential customers but also converts them at a high rate.

To put it simply: The better your SEO, the more people find your site, and the more business you get.

A few SEO terms to know

Before we dive into SEO tips and tricks, it’s important to understand a few terms.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization – the process of modifying a website so search engines can read and understand your site. SEO can help your site rank well when potential customers are searching for answers, items, or services that they need.

Keywords: Important words and phrases potential customers use when searching for the things you offer.

Organic Search Traffic: The customers that come to your website directly from earned results in search engines, in contrast to paid search engine placements (PPC).

Google Analytics (GA): The most common tracking tool used to evaluate your website’s visitor activity and traffic sources.

Google My Business (GMB): A tool that helps Google and potential customers understand your business and its offerings.

Backlink: A link from another website to yours.

What is SEO Marketing?

SEO marketing refers to actions that give your site a better position when a potential customer enters a search in Google or another search engine. Results are presented in pages, with the vast majority of customer traffic going to sites that rank at the top of the first page.

The goal of SEO is to identify your target audience, find what they are searching for on the web, then optimize your website to answer those questions and rank well on those searches. This results in more traffic to your website, and (if your site converts them) more paying customers.

SEO differs from other types of marketing because it is earned, not paid for, and requires ongoing maintenance and improvements. Other websites are constantly making their own improvements and search engines frequently change their algorithms, so you will need to continue your SEO efforts to make continued growth and keep attracting more visitors.

If your competitors are working hard on their SEO and making frequent updates, you will find that it takes more work for you to keep up. However, the more you do, the more you will see your efforts rewarded. Having an ongoing SEO program allows you to not only keep your rankings up in a crowded space but also increase your visibility over time.

The four types of SEO for small businesses

There are four branches or types of SEO that need to be addressed for your business’s online efforts to succeed. Below is a quick overview of each, and how they affect your overall SEO health, as well as some tips for what to look for when hiring someone to help you achieve your SEO goals.

Technical SEO

This is the organization of the backend of your website: code errors, online security, site structure, internal linking, etc. Search engines determine SEO rankings by analyzing (known as crawling) websites and determining their authority and quality. Technical SEO includes basically anything that will affect your website’s ability to be crawled and indexed correctly.

Having a website that can be read and understood by the Googlebot is the first step of SEO, so paying for a complete technical audit with suggested fixes is always in your best interest. The main things to consider are site speed, internal redirects, site structure, internal linking, and ensuring all of the correct pages are indexable.

When hiring an SEO specialist or agency, here are a few things they should do:

  • Conduct a full crawl of your site.
  • Identify and prioritize the improvements or fixes that are going to impact your rankings the most.
  • Build a plan of action that fits your budget and can help achieve your goals.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is the text and formatting of any content on your website. Content is important not only because it tells potential customers what you do and why they should buy your product or service, but also because it tells search engines why they should send traffic to you. On-page SEO should be done on all your pages and blog posts to ensure your content is formatted for search engines to read, addresses the needs of your customers, and explains your products and services. Proper on-page SEO will show search engines that you are an authoritative expert in your field who knows exactly what they are talking about.

When doing on-page SEO, you want to address things like keywords, title tags, header tags, and image alt text. Google looks at all of these things to understand your content beyond the words on your page.

Another important element of on-page SEO is ongoing updates. While ensuring that your current content is adequate and properly formatted is important, that isn’t the end. Consistent updates in the form of blog posts, news, or other new content help build your SEO over time by showing Google that you are active and knowledgeable.

When you hire an SEO specialist or agency, here are a few things they should do:

  • Keyword research to identify what content you should create or update:
    • Core service and product pages
    • Pillar pages
    • Blog content
  • Content structure organization to enable Google to index your content correctly:
    • SEO titles and meta descriptions
    • H tag headers
    • Comprehensive content flow
  • Image optimizations to give search engines additional indicators:
    • Alt tags
    • Image titles
    • Image URLs

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is how your site relates to other sites on the web. You may have heard that off-page SEO is only about gaming backlinks, but that’s no longer true. Due to search engine algorithm changes over the past five years, you need better-quality backlinks from sites that Google considers credible to see a real impact. Link building has become an intensive, costly, and extremely slow process.

For a small business, the low ROI usually means it doesn’t make sense to focus on link building as your primary goal. Instead, a primary focus on promoting your website and its content to improve your engagement metrics is a much better move. The easiest, most efficient, and cost-effective way to do that is to utilize social media and social blogging sites. The process of creating and promoting high-quality content usually results in the best kind of backlinks as people share your content organically.

When you hire an SEO specialist or agency, here are a few things they should do:

  • Offer clear digital promotion strategies and tactics that fit within your budget and goal set.
    • Explain what they are doing, why they are doing it, and the expected benefits for your business.
  • Build a content promotion plan to increase website traffic, brand awareness, or site authority.
    • Create high-quality, professionally written content with SEO optimization that addresses your customer base’s search queries, including trending topics or common questions.
    • Build a distribution plan for the content that includes promotion to owned social channels, professional groups, and influencers.

Local SEO

Local SEO is first and foremost about your location and using Google My Business (GMB) effectively. You can customize your location on your GMB profile, along with your industry and services offered. Secondary directories that you should create listings on are Apple Maps, Yahoo Local, and Bing Places for Business.

From there, review generation is key. Ask your marketing or SEO agency if they offer a review generation tool or service to build your online reputation.

When hiring an SEO specialist or agency, here are a few things they should do:

  • Create and/or optimize your GMB account.
  • Provide some tips or tools to help you generate customer reviews.
  • Offer options to update your GMB periodically.

Take your digital presence to the next level

Rocketship is a full-service digital marketing agency. We are experts in using SEO, paid media, content, and web design to reach your business goals. Click here to schedule a consultation.