SEO basics for small businesses

Because people rely heavily on search engine results to find products and services, small businesses need to understand and master SEO basics. Here are five ways to make sure customers say, “I found you online."

by Sandra Beckwith
updated May 11, 2023 ·  3min read

When a customer says, "I found you when I searched online," you can thank your website's search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO Basics for Small Businesses

SEO is the process of increasing traffic to your website to help ensure your business shows up near the top of search engine results.

Understanding SEO basics is important because, according to Zero Limit Web, the first five organic search results account for just over two-thirds of all clicks to websites. To capture that traffic, you need to make sure your site contains the search terms your customers use to find businesses like yours.

“When most people are looking for a service or product, the first thing they do is look up their search term plus 'service near me,'" explains Alexander Kehoe of web design company Caveni.

Here are five things you can do to make sure your company gets found in searches like this.

Conduct an SEO audit

An audit process provides a benchmark you can use to develop your SEO strategy. “You'll uncover which keywords or phrases are performing well naturally, plus how search engines such as Google navigate your site, along with any issues they may be having indexing your pages," says Stacey Kehoe of digital marketing agency Brandlective Communications Ltd.

A number of companies, including Brandlective, offer a free SEO audit online. They're a good starting point to help you decide whether you need to hire a specialist.

Research keywords and phrases

Keywords and phrases are the terms your customers type into a search engine to find businesses like yours. It's important to your site's SEO optimization to know and use the right keywords.

You probably already have a list of what you think are the right keywords. Test them to determine whether people are actually using them through free tools like Ubersuggest and the Google Ads Keyword Planner.

“Once you know your keywords, you'll want to make sure you're using them strategically on your website pages," says Jessica Rhoades of Create IT Web Designs. She adds that Yoast SEO, a free plug-in for WordPress sites, can help make sure you're using your keywords in the right places.

Start a blog

A blog helps your SEO in a number of ways. In addition to providing a home for fresh content with keywords your customers will search for, it keeps people on your site longer. In addition, a blog provides an opportunity for you to link to other trustworthy sites in your content and for other sites to link to yours as well. All of this improves your SEO and helps raise your ranking in search engine results.

Not sure what you'd write about? “Consider the most significant challenges your audience suffers from and create content that solves those challenges," Stacey Kehoe says.

Make sure your site is mobile friendly

Mobile now accounts for about half of all searches and that number is expected to increase. If your site isn't “mobile responsive"—meaning, the layout and sizing automatically adjust to a smartphone screen—you're going to miss out on that potential traffic.

“In our experience, many small business owners have not even tested to see if their website is mobile friendly," Alexander Kehoe says. Make sure yours is. If it isn't, get it fixed.

Create a free 'Google My Business' listing

Google My Business, a free option from the world's largest search engine, is designed to help send in-person traffic to businesses with a physical location, such as stores and restaurants. Businesses that travel to customer locations—computer technicians and mobile dog groomers, for example—can also create a listing.

Add as much information as possible to your listing, completing each field and making sure to add photos. “Filling out each field and every picture slot gives you 'micro-points,'" Rhoades says.

Continue to monitor your company's “page rank"—where it shows up in search results—and make changes until you see progress. “Good SEO implementation will add value to your business for years," Stacey Kehoe says. "And good SEO gets better with age. The more attention it gets, the better it performs."

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Sandra Beckwith

About the Author

Sandra Beckwith

Sandra Beckwith has been writing for traditional and online publications since she sold her first magazine article while… Read more

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