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The Ultimate Guide to SEO for Small Businesses

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Digital marketing easily becomes a top priority for small businesses who want to increase their inbound pipeline. For many, the goal of attracting new clients is often satisfied by online marketing. If someone is in need of a service (landscaping, roofing, photography), a dire need (healthcare provider, car mechanic, chiropractor), or a product (clothes, software, art), they often head to the platform that seems to have all the answers: Google. 

Being found online is one of the biggest advantages a small business can have in today’s day and age. With online marketing as valuable as it is, search engine optimization (SEO) is an indispensable tool. 

As SEO specialists in Colorado Springs, Succeeding Small is proud to educate and empower small business owners, with specialized knowledge in the complex world of digital marketing. We’ve prepared an introduction to SEO for small businesses, where we will walk you through search engine optimization, how it works, and what you can do TODAY to improve your online visibility. Keep reading for the ultimate guide to SEO for small businesses!

what is seo - succeeding small

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing digital assets to maximize organic visibility in as many places as possible. For example, SEO is the strategy that helps your website show up in search results whenever someone types in a phrase like, “Dog Groomer Colorado Springs,” or, “Optometrist Near Me.” 

However, you’ll notice that our definition of SEO is specifically vague. That’s because SEO can consist of optimizing as many digital assets as possible (websites, listings, images, videos, etc.) and can be applied to ANY search engine, whether that is Google, Google Maps, Apple Maps, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and more. 

There are many ways to define and implement SEO, and no two strategies are equal. At Succeeding Small, we take a comprehensive approach in order to acquire the most visibility possible, in as many places as possible, for our small business clients. For instance, we help small businesses show up and rank in Google Maps AND organic Google Search Results. 

Does SEO Work For Small Businesses?

SEO is a long-term strategy for small businesses–it does not provide results overnight. But, with only so many resources and so much time, is SEO a wise investment for every small business?

With the primary goal of SEO being to rank high in search engines like Google, you can gain both visibility on google business profile and website traffic to grow your business.

Ranking near the top of search engines is a game-changer for small businesses, as 75% of people find their answer in the first ten positions of Google. Your ideal customers are searching for what you do RIGHT NOW, and they are looking at the top google search results first to find their answer

In addition to that visibility, SEO provides an incredible number of benefits for small businesses, including:

  • Increased phone calls
  • Wider customer reach outside your direct sphere of influence
  • Improved website performance and user experience
  • Long-term visibility online
  • Positioned above your competitors
  • Better qualified leads
  • More paying customers
  • Less reliance on ads

As an SEO company serving small businesses in Colorado Springs and across the country, we have personally seen SEO impact small businesses. Showing up near the top of search results can help your business thrive. 

So, How Do We Get Organic Search Traffic?

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t reveal all of its secrets. Most algorithms don’t–otherwise, there would be no competitive edge on how to serve their users best. This is where SEO comes in.

In order to gain online visibility, we need first to understand the algorithm behind the platform we’re utilizing. We can market and create content as much as we want, but if we don’t understand the boundaries of the platform, we likely won’t be seen. For SEO to be successful, we have to understand 3 things:

  1. Understand the Algorithm
  2. Understand Google’s E-E-A-T
  3. Understand Rank Signals

Understand the Algorithm

An algorithm is a protocol that sorts content and information. The algorithm will sort through its set of indexed data and reveal content in a very specific order, all designed to answer your question (looking something up on Google) or keep you satisfied (scrolling through your social media feeds). 

In order to gain online visibility, we need to first understand the algorithm behind the platform we’re utilizing (like Google). We can market and create content as much as we want, but if we don’t understand the preferences of the platform, we likely won’t be seen. 

Google’s EEAT

EEAT stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It originated from Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines—a 168-page document used by human quality raters to assess the quality of Google’s search results. Ultimately, Google wants you to PROVE that you are an expert at what you do, that you are an authority in your space, and that you are trustworthy enough to take care of people’s needs. 

Small Business SEO Ranking Signals

Google’s algorithm is theorized to function off something called rank signals. A rank signal is anything an algorithm might use when deciding where to rank a website on its search engine results page (SERP). There are over 200 possible rank signals that Google uses when determining where a site ranks. This is done in order to appeal to the algorithm. At Succeeding Small, we break those rank signals into several categories of SEO: On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO, Technical SEO, and Local SEO.

Types of SEO for Small Businesses

On-Page SEO

On-Page SEO (or otherwise known as On-Site SEO) is the practice of optimizing elements of a website to rank sites higher on search engine results pages. Your site is one of the most important signals for search engines to learn who you are, what you do, and why you are the most authoritative source for it to send users to. 

Example On-Page SEO Rank Signals: 

  • Website content
  • Service pages
  • Blog posts
  • Title Tags
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Image Optimization
  • Alt Text

Off-Page SEO

While On-Page SEO is all of the work that is done ON the site, Off-Page is exactly the opposite. Off-Page SEO includes all the optimization efforts done outside of a website in order to rank on search engine results pages.

Example Off-Page SEO Rank Signals: 

  • Directory listings (also known as citations or NAP)
  • Backlinks (whenever another website hyperlinks to yours)
  • Positive reviews
  • Google My Business optimization
  • PR & brand building
  • Guest blogging
  • Social media
link building strategies - seo

Link Building Strategies

One way to increase your off-page SEO is through getting links (link-building strategies). One popular method called “broken link building” which is a tactic that involves finding resources in your niche that are no longer live, recreating a version of the content and reaching out to webmasters who link to that content asking them to replace the now broken links or link with a link to your newly created resource.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is one of the more complex aspects of search engine optimization, but arguably one of the most important. Technical SEO (sometimes referred to as Tech SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to assist search engines crawl and index your site more effectively.

To break these terms down, we can review a brief overview of how search works. Google is constantly updating its library of information by discovering new websites and pages. In order to discover these digital assets, Google deploys something called a “crawler” that explores new webpages. Every time a crawler discovers a new webpage, it will then be “indexed” into Google’s library of information. Think of this like filing a new book onto a bookshelf, or adding a new chapter inside one of those books. 

Technical SEO ensures that your site is not only visible to Google’s crawlers, but that it is able to be indexed into the Google library, and therefore eligible to show up in search results. Technical SEO and On-Page SEO are often grouped together. The primary difference is that Technical SEO tends to focus on the back-end of a website as a whole, while On-Page SEO focuses on the individual elements of that website (like content).

Types of Technical SEO Work:

  • Crawlability
  • Indexation
  • Site structure
  • Site speed
  • Schema Markup
  • Security (Having an SSL Certificate)

Internal Linking Strategies

Part of getting good search engine rankings is making sure all of your content is linking to each other. This does a couple things: first it helps users find other helpful content based on their interests and needs. Second it is a ranking factor that lets Google know that this content is important because its connected to other pieces of content that are also valuable.

Google indexes content more quickly if web pages and blog posts have a good inner links. The general rule of thumb is to have 5-10 internal links for every 2,000 words of content. At the same time Google will not consider content with more than 150 links, so be careful not to overstuff your pages with links as Google will consider it spam.

Local SEO to Increase Search Traffic

Local search engine optimization (called Local SEO) is the process of optimizing local business listings and digital assets to show up for local searches. An example of a local search would be something like “Digital Marketing Agency Colorado Springs,” or “HVAC company near me”. This is a search made when users are trying to find a product or service within their local area. Local SEO encompasses all the core elements of both On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO, but focuses on getting visibility in local search results in places like Google Maps.

Types of Local SEO Work:

  • Consistent NAP (Name Address Phone Number) Information in business directories
  • Local Schema Markup
  • Reviews
  • Backlinks from local sources
  • Local content
  • Google Business Profile optimization

Local Directories

Part of getting local search results is ensuring you are are listed on local directories. Here are the top ones your small business may want to consider:

  1. Google Business Profile: One of the most important local business listings due to the sheer volume of users who use Google for search.
  2. Bing Places for Business: Bing’s equivalent to Google My Business, important due to the substantial number of people who use Bing as their primary search engine.
  3. Yelp: A popular directory for businesses of all types. It’s especially relevant for those in the food, retail, and service industries due to its review and rating features.
  4. Facebook: While primarily a social media platform, Facebook’s business pages function like local directories and are often used by consumers to find information about businesses.
  5. LinkedIn: Particularly important for B2B companies, professional service providers, and individuals for networking and job searches.
  6. Apple Maps: Given the number of iPhone users, registering your business on Apple Maps can help you get found by customers who use this app for navigation.
  7. Yellow Pages: The digital version of the old phone book, it’s still used by a significant number of people looking for local businesses.
  8. TripAdvisor: A must for businesses in the tourism, restaurant, and hotel industries.
  9. Foursquare: Used by businesses and consumers for check-ins and reviews, especially in the restaurant and retail sectors.
  10. Angie: Very important for local service providers, especially in the home services industry.

It’s important to keep in mind that for all these local directories, you want to make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) are consistent for the best results.

Optimizing Google Business Profile

Your GBP profile has a big effect on local search engine results. Within your profile there are a number of things you can do to achieve SEO success. Let’s go over a few:

Respond to Negative Reviews -Nothing impacts your business like a negative review. Your online reputation is on the line when someone publicly says something bad about your service or product. Reviews are one of the biggest ranking factors for local SEO, therefore getting more positive ones than negative ones is a smart course of action

Optimizing Google My Business Profile – For SEO purposes, writing a keyword rich GMB profile is one of the best things to boost your SEO efforts. When talking about your services online, it’s best to use long tail keywords that are high search volume and low competition.

Write Content on Google Business Profile – Whether you’re promoting local events or giving tips to other businesses about how they can better their own business with your services, publishing content regularly on your profile is a sure-fire way to get more traffic and boost your SEO success.

Each of these are local search ranking factors that can help boost your organic traffic.

Basic SEO Terms All Small Businesses Should Know

Title Tag The title tag is the clickable headline on the search engine results page (SERP) that tells potential visitors what the web page is all about.

Meta Description – The meta description provides a brief summary of a web page’s content. It’s often displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) beneath the page title and URL, serving as a short preview.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP) – SERP, or Search Engine Results Page, is the page showing results for a query on search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. It includes organic search results, paid ads, featured snippets, and other data such as maps, images, or videos.

Keyword – A keyword in SEO is a word or phrase that users type into a search engine to find relevant content. With keyword research tools you can do keyword research to predict the number of website visitors per month, which is called keyword search volume.

Indexing – Indexing is the process where search engines scan, process, and store webpages in their database, enabling these pages to appear in relevant search results for relevant queries.

Anchor Text – Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink, often appearing as underlined and colored. It’s significant for SEO as it helps search engines understand linked page content.

Link Building – Link building is the process of getting other businesses to “link” to your blog post or website via hyperlink. With each link, your website builds more authority in the eyes of Google and can thus rank easier.

Heading Tags – Header tags are HTML code that gives search engines clues about what your content is about helping it rank certain content over others.

Ranking Factor – A ranking factor is criteria applied by search engines when evaluating web pages. Having original, engaging content for example is a ranking factor.

Traffic – Site visitors are considered “traffic.” Like a store that has foot traffic potential customers, websites have online visitors and are considered simply traffic in SEO.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

The cost of doing SEO depends on a large number of factors: how big is your small business website? Is it optimized for mobile devices? What specific SEO marketing strategy will help your business succeed most? After an SEO expert has been able to fully take a look at your overall website to see how your SEO can be improved, SEO services can be proposed – each having their own costs associated.

For example, if your a small business owner with a website that only needs to rank for local keywords, but doesn’t need a complete website overhaul, then it will be significantly cheaper.

If, on the other hand you needed to rank for a competitive search terms, then it would require a lot more work: an agency would have to not only write extremely authoritative content but also build links to make your site rank.

It all depends on your specific business needs and how much each SEO service costs!

Branded vs Non-Branded Keywords

SEO is defined by how much search traffic you get that is non-branded. Branded key terms include words related to your brand or company name. The goal of any SEO campaign, is to boost your informational, commercial search terms that have nothing to do with your brand.

For example, if you are an HVAC company, and you wanted to rank for the keyword, “Duct cleaning service Colorado Springs”, then that be a great SEO strategy because you’re reaching people that don’t know about your brand, thus expanding your reach of potential customers.

SEO vs SEM

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are both strategies used to increase visibility and traffic to websites, but they function differently and serve different purposes.

  1. SEO: SEO can be thought of as a long-term strategy that has an incredible ROI when done properly. The work to optimize your website, write relevant content, get backlinks, and organically rank on page one takes a lot of effort. But the rewards?You get that position for “free.” Although, Google can change its algorithm and you may lose that position without constant monitoring and updates, the traffic, leads, sales, and profit businesses generate from SEO can be truly rewarding.
  2. SEM: Like SEO, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is paying for a position at the top of Google. The biggest difference between the two marketing strategies is one is paid and one is considered “organic.” With Google ads, you pay per click, which means that each click costs your business anywhere between $1 to $13 depending on how competitive your niche is.This is largely a short-term strategy and can be extremely effective when executed by a team of paid search experts.

Content Marketing to Increase Organic Traffic

Utilizing content marketing into your overall SEO strategy is a great way to boost your search results. That’s largely because Google LOVES quality content because Google is in the game of servicing quality search results that are helpful to users.

Here’s a few content ideas you may want to consider for your business:

  1. Blog Posts: Businesses can use blogs to share industry insights, provide helpful tips, or discuss product uses.
  2. Social Media Content: This includes regular posts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter to engage your target audience.
  3. Email Newsletters: Updating your audience on company news, products, and tips to help their business grow will help create brand loyalty.
  4. Webinars and Podcasts: These offer another medium to reach audiences, particularly those who prefer audio or visual content. They can cover a range of topics and often feature industry experts.
  5. Infographics: These are a great way to break down complex information into a more visually appealing and easily digestible format.
  6. Video Content: Videos can be highly engaging and are easily shareable across various platforms. They can be used for product demonstrations, tutorials, customer testimonials, behind-the-scenes looks at your company, and more.
  7. Case Studies: Case studies provide real-world examples of how your product or service has helped other customers. They can be powerful tools to convert a lead into a potential customer.
  8. User-Generated Content: Encouraging users to create content related to your brand (like reviews, testimonials, or social media posts) can build community and trust.
  9. SEO Content: Crafting content with specific keywords in mind can help improve a website’s SEO. This can include blog posts, product descriptions, and even image captions.

Remember, the most effective content marketing strategies usually involve a mix of these types of content, adjusted to fit the company’s audience and goals. Tailoring content to various stages of the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, decision) is also an important part of a successful content marketing strategy.

Disadvantages of SEO for Small Businesses

While SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is typically beneficial for businesses of all sizes, it does come with some potential challenges, especially for small businesses. Here are a few potential disadvantages:

  1. Time Consumption: Effective SEO often takes a significant amount of time, both to implement and to start seeing results. It might take several months or even longer for a new or optimized site to climb the rankings. Small businesses, especially startups, might not have the luxury of this time.
  2. Complexity and Constant Changes: The field of SEO is complex and constantly evolving. Google frequently updates its algorithm, and keeping up with these changes requires expertise and ongoing learning. This can be difficult for small businesses that may not have a dedicated SEO specialist.
  3. Cost: While SEO is cost-effective in the long run, the initial setup and ongoing maintenance can be quite expensive, especially if you hire an agency or professional. This can pose a challenge for small businesses with tight budgets.
  4. Competing with Larger Companies: Smaller businesses may find it challenging to compete with larger corporations that have more resources to dedicate to SEO. These larger companies often have higher domain authority and more backlinks, which can help them rank higher in search results.
  5. Results aren’t guaranteed: Despite following best practices, there is no guarantee of achieving top rankings due to the highly competitive nature of SEO and the constant changes in search algorithms.
  6. Penalties and Ranking Drops: If not done correctly, SEO can lead to penalties from search engines, causing a drop in rankings. For instance, attempting to game the system with techniques like keyword stuffing or using low-quality backlinks can lead to penalties.

While these challenges exist, it’s important to remember that the benefits of a well-planned and executed SEO strategy can outweigh the disadvantages in the long run, potentially leading to increased visibility, traffic, and credibility for your small business.

10 SEO Tips that Will Boost Your Organic Traffic

  1. Set up and optimize your Google My Business Listing
  2. Customize your title tags & meta descriptions
  3. Get positive reviews on your Google My Business listing
  4. Set up social media profiles
  5. Start a blog on your website
  6. Make sure you have your primary keyword phrase on the home page of your website (and dispersed throughout your site)
  7. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly
  8. Link out other websites with high authority (external links)
  9. Set up Google Search Console & Google Analytics to make sure your site is being indexed and receiving traffic
  10. Ask community/business partners to give you a backlink

Small Business SEO Agency

SEO can be an incredible marketing tool for small businesses. As a digital marketing agency based in Colorado Springs, we partner with small businesses just like yours to help you get more visibility and more paying customers with search engine optimization. If you’re looking to increase your visibility, get more qualified leads, and grow your revenue, connect with us today for a free strategy session!

Grow your Small Business With Succeeding Small

Succeeding Small is an expert in growing small businesses through our amazing digital marketing, SEO, branding, web design and social media services.  Learn about our services today!

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