SEO for Small Business Websites: What You Need to Know

small business seo tips

It happens to small business website owners everyday. They do a Google search using terms they think their customers would use in searches and their website is nowhere to be found on the search results page.

“What do I have to do to get in Google?” they ask themselves.

The answer to that question lies in search engine optimization (SEO) for small business and it’s a topic that has to be understood from several angles:

  • The human aspect,
  • The “robot” aspect,
  • On-page SEO, and
  • Off-page SEO.

The first two items on that list are related. When you create a website, you’re creating it for two potential visitors: the prospect you want to convert into a customer and the search engine “robot” that is “crawling” your content in order to index and rank it for search purposes.

The things that make a page desirable for humans and robots are getting more closely related every year. A few years ago, web designers could “game” the search engine robots and algorithms by what we now call “black hat SEO.” However, that “game” is over now. Today you need to cover some small business website SEO basics, but even more importantly, you need to be sure your web pages meet the needs of your human visitors. Let’s first look at these aspects.

On-page SEO for small business websites

When we talk about on-page SEO for small business websites, we are talking about the webpages that make up your site, and it includes the words and graphics that your visitors see as well as the HTML code that they don’t see.

Let’s start at the top of a typical web page and if you look at the screen shot below, you’ll see that my home page has the title: THE Small Business Expert | Susan Solovic. The keywords “small business expert” are important to me, so I want to communicate them in all the right places; obviously, my homepage is one of those places. You would be shocked how many small businesses have a homepage that is merely titled “Home Page.”

page title

There are millions of them, and they all have missed one of the most important lessons in small business SEO: Use your keywords in your page-naming scheme. The keywords you use in your page title, should also be used throughout the page in its content, headline, subheads, names of graphics, URL, and graphic “Alt tags.”

The important thing here is not to “pack” your content with your keywords. If your most important keyword and its variations make up about 3 percent of your content, you’re probably at around the maximum level of density. (Of course, you need to be sure you’re using the right keywords, so always do your research.)

Further – and this may be the most important advice in this entire article – you must publish high-quality, useful, original content. Google’s over arching quest is to find the best, most relevant, information for searchers, and it’s getting better at this all the time. So be sure that your webpages meet this increasingly high standard of excellence.

There are two important HTML (the code that powers your webpage) attributes that you need to consider in your SEO strategy:

  • Meta description
  • Meta keywords

These are “tags” that are buried in the code of your webpages. The meta description tag is usually what Google will pick up and use as a snippet to describe what your webpage is about in its search results. The meta keywords tag is a list of keywords that are important to that page. It’s probably not as important in search results as it used to be, but it’s still good to include.

meta descriptions for small business SEO

And before we leave the geeky side of this discussion, let me mention “site maps.” A site map is a guide to the pages on your site that is used by the search engines. Having a site map helps your small business SEO efforts, so make sure you have this base covered. For example, if you have a WordPress site, you’ll find plugins that create and maintain an up-to-date site map on your website.

On-page links for small business SEO

Search engines – and your website visitors – also want to find a site that is comprehensive on its topic. This means that if you’re publishing a blog on your topic, that many of the articles should relate to one another. If this is true, many of your posts will be naturally interconnected by links. This demonstrates a breadth of knowledge and expertise. Your visitors will benefit from this, and it will prompt search engines to rank you more highly.

After all, if pages interconnect with useful articles, your visitors will spend more time on your site and look at more pages – two things that are important to search engines. And now that we have touched on the topic of links, let’s move to off-page SEO tips for your small business website.

Off-page SEO for small business websites

backlinks boost small business seo

Off-page SEO for your small business website generally boils down to how many quality links connect to content on your website. The number of these links is important along with the quality of the websites where they are found. A few years ago people created thousands of bogus websites that were nothing more than “link parking lots.” For a long time, Google didn’t really consider the quality of the websites very much, so this tactic could push a website’s placement to the top of the search results. This is no longer true. In fact, if you have links on any of these bogus websites, Google will penalize your site.

There are two main ways to create links on third-party websites that point back to your site:

  • Guest posting, and
  • Creating content others want to link to.

Guest posting is the most common strategy to employ when you’re trying to get links on other people’s sites. It takes some time and perseverance to pull this off, but it’s well worth the effort. To get started, find the places where others in your sector are guest posting and start inquiring. Write an article or two, submit them and see what people think.

Finding places where others can link back to articles on your site is a little more difficult. You can use a backlink checker and study your competition. You’ll have to do a little clicking to see exactly what those backlinks are, but when you find some that are linking to an article on your competitor’s site then you need to create a better article on your site and then approach the website suggesting that your article might be more useful to visitors.

Another off-site strategy that can boost your small business SEO is the smart use of photographs. Posting good photos on sites like Flickr with captions that link back to your website can help out, especially if they start racking up a lot of views.

I should mention local SEO before we leave the topic. If yours is a business that depends on local traffic, first you need a website and you must list it with Google’s local business listings. This will help assure that you get to the topic of search results when someone is in your neighborhood looking for a business like yours. Local citations are also important.


Further, if you’re a local business, be sure you’re using keywords that have a “local flavor” to them. For example, if you’re a pizza restaurant in Poughkeepsie, keywords like “best pizza in Poughkeepsie” make sense. If you just focus on the word “pizza” you’re competing with every pizza parlor in the world.

Finally, it takes time, a concentrated effort and a sound small business SEO strategy to get to the top of search results. There is no magic potion that will do it and if anyone promises instant results, they are not being truthful. If they manage to “trick” Google for a little while, eventually Google will discover what’s happening and you might even find your website taken out of search results entirely.

So hang in there and work at it. The results are worth the effort.