Making sure people can easily find your business online isn’t optional anymore. Survey after survey — including this recent Google study — finds that consumers increasingly use the Internet to make buying decisions. In fact, Google found that 80% of consumers use search engines to look up local businesses.
Unfortunately, many small businesses haven’t taken advantage of some of the easiest — and most affordable — strategies for improving their website’s search engine optimization (SEO) marketing, and ensuring that it appears at or near the top of search rankings.
Here are five SEO tips for small businesses:
1. Take advantage of online business directories — and Google+
Many business owners have a love-hate relationship with online review and directory sites like Yelp, YP, DexKnows and Google+ Local. However, having a profile on these sites and adding photos, your physical address, your Web address and your hours of operation (and encouraging your customers to leave reviews), is one easy way to make sure consumers find you through local SEO. Google recently updated its algorithms — the criteria it uses to generate search engine rankings — and gave a boost to online business directories like Yelp, as well as business profiles on its own Google+ social networking site, according to Search Engine Journal.
2. Produce content with keywords relevant to your business
Google and other search engines use “spiders” that scan sites and search for keywords and phrases when determining rankings. So, if an accounting firm wants to turn up for a term like “tax preparation” or “small business accounting firm,” it will want to make sure to have that term in at least a couple places on its website. As search engines get savvier, however, they favor pages with more useful content. Making sure your website has a detailed description of what your business does — and perhaps even a blog that talks about your industry — will only help bolster your search rankings.
3. Make sure your full address and contact information are on your website
It’s a good idea to have your contact information and address on your website so that your customers can find you. But it’s equally important to have such information so that search engines will turn up your business when people in your area search for a nearby business like yours.
4. Share links
Another factor search engines like Google and Bing consider when determining their rankings is how many other websites link to your website — they think that links show credibility. It’s a good idea to link from your site to other credible sites and encourage others to link to your website. The more prominent sites link to yours, the better your page ranking will likely be. “Links from your website to other related websites, and vice versa, play a role in your business’ SEO visibility, because they help to establish the authenticity and credibility of your business,” writes Wesley Young of Search Engine Land. “But trying to game system by leveraging unrelated links will damage visibility over time.”
5. Consider paid search ads
Being prominently featured in Google and other search engine’s organic search results is a terrific long-term SEO small business goal. But frankly, it can take a while — sometimes years — for a small business to achieve that goal, especially if you’re in a competitive industry with a lot of players. The fastest route to getting featured prominently on search engines is buying pay-per-click ads for search terms that consumers use when looking for a business like yours.
About the Author
Kelly Spors is a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis. She previously worked as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering small business and entrepreneurship.