Search engine optimization has helped online shoppers find you. Now that you’re in growth mode, it’s time to up your SEO game to drive sales.

seo strategy

With so many websites vying for customers’ attention, it’s harder than ever to stand out. It’s not enough to build a great-looking site and expect people to visit. Keeping your site fresh by investing in regular updates is key to capturing and keeping your target audience’s attention. This is even more important as your business reaches each new stage of growth.

It’s not just your target audience that has changing needs and expectations. Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo are always adapting and enhancing their algorithms. This is why one top area to focus on when updating your website is boosting your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Regularly updating your website and putting in the effort to land at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) shows Google that you are a credible source – one of its most important criteria to determine search rankings.

It doesn’t matter how big you are, where you are or how much money you can spend. Even with limited resources, all businesses can benefit from upping their SEO game.

Postmedia’s SEO guide for small businesses

SEO and local SEO defined

SEO is a digital marketing strategy to help businesses improve their rankings on search engines’ unpaid or organic results pages. The higher your website ranks, the better the chances that your target audience will find you. Google’s algorithm is increasingly factoring in user experience when determining preferred rankings. When it comes to SEO for small businesses, this means providing customer-centric, easy-to-navigate web design and relevant, high-quality content.

Local SEO — or local search marketing — shares the same goal as its older cousin, SEO. The difference is local SEO improves a business’s visibility on searches that include a geographic descriptor, such as the city, postal code, service area or term “near me.” Local SEO will help you land on Google’s 3-Pack, the top three most popular businesses related to a search. This means your business will appear in the form of a snippet that includes your address, phone number, link to your website and directions. Most importantly, a local SEO strategy can help put you on the map for consumers ready to buy.

Google uses the following three key factors to determine a business’s local ranking:

  • Relevance. This comes down to how well a listing matches what a potential customer is searching.
  • Distance. The closer your business is to a searcher, the higher its ranking.
  • Prominence. This is all about brand recognition and how well known a business is offline. Google looks at articles, directory listings, likes, reviews and ratings to determine prominence.

The benefits of SEO and local SEO for small businesses

A strong organic search strategy:

  • Builds awareness, visibility and reach.
  • Attracts the audiences most likely to buy your products and services.
  • Increases website traffic.
  • Provides data you can use to further engage your audience.
  • Increases credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Delivers a strong return on investment at a low cost.

8 SEO for small business best practices

1.    Set up a Google Business Profile

A Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is a free tool that allows users to manage, customize and boost your business’s online presence so that it becomes an effective lead generator and SEO tool. It also allows you to control how your business appears when people Google it. This is important because consistency across listings will help you move up local search rankings. A Google Business Profile provides you a window to see how and where people are finding you. It lets you add photos and details, such as when you’re open and what you sell, and allows you to reply to customer reviews and queries.

Fast fact: Shoppers are 70 per cent more likely to visit businesses with a complete Google Business Profile listing. Research also shows complete listings are twice as likely to be viewed as reputable.

2.    Tap into new insights with Google Analytics and Google Console – at no cost

Google Analytics is a powerful and free web analytics tool that can help you understand how users interact with your website. It also shows you exactly who (by age, gender and interests) and where your current and potential customers are.

Google Search Console tools and reports help you see how your site appears in Google Search and measure your site’s search traffic. Google Search Console points out issues and allows you to submit free fixes to optimize your search performance. It also offers ideas on how you can improve content to rank higher.

3.    Create a strong keyword strategy

Identify and use the keywords and phrases people are using to find you and your products and services. For maximum impact, use keywords that target searchers/potential customers who have indicated they are ready to buy based on the search terms they’re using. There are two types of SEO keywords:

  • Short-tail keywords are general in nature, include one or two keywords and are impactful because lots of people search them.
  • Long-tail keywords are much more specific and can consist of more than 10 words, which means they are used less frequently.

Google Search Console can help you identify the keywords that are earning you good visibility on SERPs and the pages that are ranking for specific keywords. Google Trends, another free tool, collects and presents data from Google searches. Use this real-time data to help generate an effective keyword library. Keyword Tool and Answer the Public are two more free tools that can help you generate the best key words for your business.

Tip: See what your high-ranking competitors are doing. Look through their category and product pages to get ideas for different keywords you can use.

4.    Deliver a great user experience

Make sure your website is easy to navigate and designed to help users find what they’re looking for. This means considering text size and color contrast, providing logical internal links and HTML sitemaps, and employing alternative text to explain images and transcriptions of audio and videos. Incorporate apps that allow customers to take a close look at products and chat with salespeople. Ensure your site is secure (hypertext transfer protocol secure, or HTTPS, is part of the URL), there are no broken links, the site loads quickly in a web browser and it is optimized for mobile. Google considers all these factors when ranking.

5.    Structure and optimize content to earn rich results and featured snippets

Organize and present content on your web pages using HTML tags or schema markups that provide additional information about the content. This will help Google generate rich results and featured snippets, which earn higher rankings on SERPs than the first organic result.

Tip: Rich results (also known as rich snippets) are often image-based, animated, interactive search listings designed to help users find what they need quickly. Featured snippets are short excerpts of relevant, informative content on a web page that answer users’ questions and include the page’s title tag or meta title and URL.

6.    Build your backlink profile

The number of links you have to other high-quality websites is one of the factors Google’s algorithm uses to determine its rankings. The more quality sites your site is connected to, the more likely you are to be ranked high by Google.

7.    Create great content

Google’s algorithm prioritizes high-quality, relevant content. Create and regularly update content that searchers will find useful and engaging. Add relevant audio, video and photos to help further boost your ranking. Post content across your social channels and encourage customers to comment, share product photos and post testimonials.

8.    Encourage users to post reviews

Make it easy for customers to leave a review by creating and sharing a URL specific to your business they can click to share their thoughts on your products, customer service and brand. Include the link in emails, on receipts and at the end of chat exchanges. Reply to customer reviews. All these actions will help boost your ranking and build credibility.

Fast facts:

  • 92 per cent of consumers read at least one review before making a purchase.
  • 88 per cent of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • 97 per cent of consumers say customer reviews factor into their buying decisions.
  • Reviews for local businesses influence up to 10 per cent of the search ranking.

SEO for small businesses can help improve visibility, generate quality leads, build trust and ultimately drive sales. But just like creating a website, it’s an ongoing initiative that requires regular refreshes and effort. Staying on top of the latest trends will help you take your business to the next level.