Search engine optimisation isn’t always much fun for small businesses. Aside from having to compete with your closest rivals, you’ve got those industry leaders hogging up page one of results.
To make matters worse, organic results are getting pushed further down the page, leaving less space for the little guy. These are the challenges small business marketers face, but each of these challenges is also an opportunity to get ahead of your competitors. Here are ten things every small business should be doing with its SEO strategy.
We may as well start with the obvious one. Unless you happen to be a small online-only retailer, chances are you have brick-and-mortar stores or offices. Which means local SEO is going to be a core part of your search marketing efforts. Below is an example of a local listing in Google:
There’s more to local SEO than Google Maps, though. First, you have third-party directory and review sites to think about – both of which Google uses for search and Google Maps results. You’ll also want to localise your content strategy and work location names into anchor text, URLs, headings, etc.
Related reading: Why don’t we appear in Google Maps? (this piece was written for solicitors but the theory applies to any industry)
Link building is tricky for every business so don’t let this one get you down. Just keep in mind that quality outweighs quantity when it comes to inbound links – so focus on getting links from sites with a higher domain authority than yourself.
These are some techniques to try:
Of course, your content needs to be good enough to earn those essential links and shares. Until your audience is large enough that link building largely takes care of itself, you’ll have to be tactical with your approach.
Related reading: 6 ways your link building strategy could generate more links
Another good link building strategy is to reach out to local/relevant publications. It’s not only the links you’re after, though. Google likes to see your brand mentioned in publications relevant to your industry or in your local area – so even if you don’t get links, simply being mentioned is beneficial.
The other main benefit with local and relevant publications is their audience. Links mean potential traffic, citations mean brand awareness and regularly featuring in these publications means you can tap into their regular audience.
Your closest competitors are facing all the same challenges you are. Use this to your advantage. Are they missing out on obvious keyword opportunities? Are they suffering from poor reviews on Google Business Profile? Is their website painfully slow to load or poorly optimised for mobile? For our customers, we use our software Apollo Insights to keep track of their competitors and make us aware of any threats and opportunities.
Every weakness your competitor shows is an opportunity to beat them, show users you’re the better brand and prove to Google you should rank higher than them.
While SEO is a long-term process of building an online presence, AdWords is a much faster way of bringing traffic to your site. It’ll take time for your SEO strategy to generate any kind of ROI but advertising on AdWords allows you to generate profit as your organic presence builds up.
AdWords isn’t simply a shortcut to getting traffic on your site, though. It allows you to target users who aren’t looking for content anymore; they’re looking to buy. There’s a reason Google charges to advertise on its search engine – because it generates the kind of high-quality leads you can’t get elsewhere.
Related reading: How to increase brand awareness with Google AdWords
Unlike paid advertising, SEO largely focuses on users who are still looking for content. Generally speaking, these are people who haven’t quite made up their minds yet. They might know they want to buy a new TV, but they’re not sure which model to go for. Essentially, they need help making a buying decision.
It’s important to understand what users look for as they progress along the buying journey. For example, someone who has booked a holiday but needs a hotel is very high-intent. They need a place to stay and it’s simply a case of finding the best place within their price range.
So let’s say you’re a small hotel, here’s your content idea: “Top 10 hotels in [location] for any budget”. Make this an evergreen piece of content that builds search authority over time and is always there for people looking for a room in the area.
We all love high-intent leads but they’re sadly the minority of your potential customers. The vast majority are low-intent and end up doing business elsewhere, unless you capture them early enough and bring them closer to the sale.
Instead of looking for hotel rooms in your area, these people are still considering where to go on their holiday. So you’re recommending destinations rather than hotel choices at this earlier stage of the consumer journey.
Websites that offer a poor user experience aren’t much good to Google. The search giant wants to send users to pages that load quickly, are well-optimised for mobile and – above all – provide the content people are looking for.
Make performance a priority (speed, mobile optimisation, etc), refine your content to keep people on your page (reduce bounce rate) and guide users to the next relevant page.
One of your biggest challenges as a small business is marketing efficiency. Keyword research, competitor analysis and everything else takes valuable time – all of which adds up very quickly.
The answer? Automate everything you can to cut down the workload of repetitive, time-consuming tasks.
Keap’s 2017 Small Business Marketing Trends Report reveals that automation is not a priority for most small business owners. Which means this is another one of those competitor weaknesses you can exploit while they’re busy updating their Facebook status.
The biggest misconception with small business SEO is that budgets are the main barrier. Whereas the real thing that stops a lot of smaller brands building a solid search presence is resources – i.e. not having the right team on board.
Going back to the Infusionsoft report, small business owners also tend to be the marketing manager for their brand. The problem is most small business owners aren’t marketers and they’re too busy running a business to dedicate the time it takes to build an online presence. Our advice – build a decent in-house marketing team or hire an SEO agency.
Related reading: SEO agency versus in-house team
We understand SEO can be frustrating for smaller businesses but it doesn’t have to be an uphill struggle. With the right personnel on board, and automation taking care of reports and other technical SEO tasks, you’ll start to see real progress.
Small businesses have a lot to gain from the latest marketing technology. Agility is one of the biggest advantages you have over bigger brands so move quickly to adopt the latest SEO technology and techniques – this is the best chance you’ve got at jumping ahead of your competitors and giving bigger businesses something to think about.
We have an in-house team of SEO experts that specialise in small businesses so if you need help, just give us a call on 023 9283 0281 or drop us an email with your details and we’ll call you.
Kerry has been working in digital marketing almost since the beginning of the World Wide Web, designing her first website in 1995 and moving fully into the industry in 1996 to work for one of the very first web design companies. After a successful four years, Kerry moved to an in-house position for a sailing company, running the digital presence of their yacht races including SEO, PPC and email marketing as the primary channels. A stint then followed at another in-house role as online marketing manager.
Kerry moved to Vertical Leap in 2007, making her one of the company’s longest-serving employees. As a T-shaped marketer – able to advise on digital strategy outside her main specialism – she rose through the ranks and in 2012 became the head of the Small and Medium Business (SMB) SEO team. In 2022 she became Vertical Leap's Automation and Process Manager.
Kerry lives in the historic town of Bishops Waltham with her husband and daughter. When she’s not at work she enjoys cooking proper food, curling up with a good book and being a leader for Brownie and Rainbow Guides.
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