This complete small business SEO guide gives you an overview of the major steps you need to take for increasing your visibility on Google Search using the most up-to-date local SEO strategies.
Search Engine Optimization refers to the activities and processes that result in your business showing up on Google Search Results and Google Maps when customers search Google for the products and services you offer.
In 2022, 98 percent of consumers used the internet to find information about local businesses. Over half of consumers use Google Search to find nearby products and services, and roughly 42 percent of Google searches involve clicks on the local map pack.
Most searches do not go past the first three Google results, which means appearing on the top page is vital if you want to maximize the growth of your business in the modern digital landscape.
The SEO process for local businesses revolves around the following areas:
- Keyword Research
- Website Optimization
- Google Business Profile Optimization
- Citation Building
- Backlink Building
By the time you finish reading, you’ll be fully prepared to optimize your business presence on Google search.
Table of Contents
Keyword research is the process of determining all the relevant phrases customers search for on Google that relate to your business offerings.
This includes the keyword or keyphrase itself, as well as the monthly search volume in your area, which is simply an estimate of how many nearby prospective customers search for a given variation. You can use various software programs to determine monthly keyword volume.
The two most common software options used by agencies are SEMRush and Ahrefs.
Service keywords are the basic names and keyword variations customers use for the services you offer. These will be used as the titles of your website service pages as well as incorporated into the text on the web pages themselves.
We recommend choosing the highest volume variation as the page title, and the additional variations within the text itself. You can include the location where your business provides the service, such as the city or region.
Lower-volume keyword variations should be included in the H2 headers and text on your page.
Long Tail Keywords
Long tail keywords are phrases that customers search that is related to your business but are not specifically service keywords. For example, a customer might search “when to replace your air conditioner” or “how to fix a broken AC.” These keywords can be used to plan out blog posts and Frequently Asked Questions sections of your website.
Creating a list of long-tail keywords relevant to your service offerings is an important part of keyword research. People who search for long-tail keywords are potential customers of your business, and ranking for these keywords can bring more leads to your website.
Once you have your list of service keywords and long tail keywords with their respective search volumes, you are ready to begin optimizing your website and Google Business Profile.
Website optimization consists of optimizing the following aspects of your home page, service pages, location pages, and blog posts:
- Meta Titles & Descriptions
- Page Headers
- Page Text
- Internal links
- External links
The quality of your website from an SEO standpoint is by far the most important overall ranking factor for organic search results for your business.
Meta Titles & Descriptions
Meta titles and descriptions are a key aspect of SEO. The meta titles are the titles that show on the Google Search Results Page that show searchers the topic of your web page.
Google uses keywords in your meta titles as a major factor when determining what your page is about and whether to rank it on the results page.
They need to be around 55 characters long to avoid being truncated on the search results. Meta titles should include the main page keyword, service location, and potentially your company name depending on character count.
Meta descriptions are the text that appears under the meta title on the Google Search Results Page that tells searchers a bit more about your page.
The meta description should include the page keywords, a description of the page, as well as a prompt or call-to-action such as “schedule your free estimate today!” that encourages readers to click on your web page as opposed to the other results Google is displaying.
Meta descriptions should be 155 characters to avoid truncation.
Page headers are the title and subheaders on your page that break up the text into sections based on the topics covered. They are denoted with HTML tags that range from H1, H2, H3, and onwards.
Each page should have a single H1 header at the top that consists of the page title. This should be a different variation from your meta title but include your primary page keywords.
H2 headers break your text up into smaller sections. You should include your lower volume keyword variations relevant to your page topic in your H2s, and the text underneath should focus on those keyword variation topics.
H3, H4, and other headers can be further broken down based on keyword importance. While you should absolutely include H2s on your page, H3s and lower are more optional.
The main page text should include well-written, informative text relevant to your page that incorporates your keywords. The purpose of your page will determine the nature and amount of text, but generally speaking, a page should include somewhere between 500 and 1200 words of keyword-rich text in order to rank, although this will vary.
When it comes to user experience and ranking on Google, images are a must. Original images that are relevant to your page topic are the best, such as a newly installed air conditioning unit in our HVAC example. However, stock images can work as well, but are less effective for ranking purposes.
Each image should have a file name, title, and alt-text that includes a keyword relevant to the page where your image will be located. You will need to change file names before uploading, but the image title and alt-text can be edited after you upload the image onto your website.
Images serve the dual purpose of improving customer experience and trust while looking at your web page. Original images are also a ranking factor for Google, and may also be displayed directly on the Google Search Results page.
Internal links are links embedded on a page of your website that link to other pages on your website. These are important for both user navigation and Google ranking factors. Generally speaking, you want the anchor text of each internal link to be relevant to the page you are linking to.
In terms of website structure, blog posts targeting long tail keywords should include links back to the relevant service page. For example, on our blog post comparing Wix vs WordPress, we include internal links back to our “web development” service page.
External links are links from your website to other websites online. These links are used to show Google that you are referencing a valid authority, which will boost your own page’s SEO. Generally speaking, you only include external links in blog posts, 1 to 2 total links to relevant, non-competitor sources, such as published statistics.
Blog posts are an essential part of SEO strategy. Each post targets a long tail keyword based on your initial keyword research plan. Blog posts need to be individually optimized just like every web page, but should focus on addressing the main long tail keyword topic as opposed to discussing the specific business service.
Blog post topics should cluster around the services you provide, ultimately forming a series of posts on related long tail keywords that each link back to the relevant service page. This structure is the most effective way to boost traffic and SEO signals to the primary service/product pages that your business offers.
Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile (GBP) is the most important factor for showing up on the local Map Pack and Google Maps search results. The pin that shows up on the map is your Google Business Profile. Without a GBP, you cannot rank on local search results or Google Maps.
Your Google Business Profile consists of the following sections:
- Business Details
- Primary & Secondary Categories
Completing all of these areas utilizing your keywords and original photos is vital for ensuring you outrank your competition on local search results.
Your GBP description should be less than 750 characters and describe your business, services offered, locations served, and perhaps a mission or values statement. It should incorporate your top keywords and give prospective customers a quick insight as to what your company is about, as well as establish trust.
You should include as many relevant photos of your business, products, services, and other branding as possible. You can even post videos that are less than 30 seconds, which is another great way to establish trust and introduce your business’s brand. These can be the same photos you are using on your website or other social media profiles. If possible, photos of happy customers should be posted, with their permission.
Business details are your name, address, phone number, operating hours, website, and other contact information. These should be filled out in the provided fields on the back end of your business profile. Everything should be up-to-date. You do not want customers showing up to your business when you are actually closed or clicking to your website only to be re-directed to a blank page.
Primary & Secondary Categories
The primary category of your GBP should closely align with your offered services. A good way to estimate what the right category should be is by Googling your primary service or products and observing the category of business that Google displays. This is a good gauge of what Google is looking for. Choose secondary categories that cover any additional types of service you offer. Your primary category will have the biggest impact on how Google displays your business.
The products section of your business includes a field for a photo, description, and link back to a URL of your choice. You can fill out the products section with services as well, simply provide a relevant photo and description. Be sure to link these sections back to the respective product/service pages on your website. Products display prominently on your GBP on both mobile and desktop and are a vital component of a fully optimized GBP.
The services section allows you to list every service with many different variations. Each service has a title and description, which are modified on the back end of your GBP. Pre-defined services are the best approach, but you can also enter services manually, although they can sometimes be rejected by Google. Be sure to select services that match your keywords, and include a keyword-rich description for each. Note that services only display on mobile results.
Your GBP has an FAQ section that allows customers to ask questions related to your business. These can be virtually anything from services to asking about holiday hours and everything in between. Be sure to answer every FAQ asked by customers, incorporating keywords when possible. You should also post your own keyword-rich FAQs, which can be done as a profile manager. Answer them in short responses of roughly 50 words. Your long-tail keyword lists are a good way to come up with FAQs for your GBP.
Responding to every customer review is key for a fully optimized profile. Be sure to thank customers for positive reviews, incorporating keywords in a natural way. Additionally, attempt to mitigate bad reviews as quickly as possible, including by providing customers with a refund if appropriate. Bad reviews have a major impact long term, so it is worth doing everything possible to mitigate them.
Encourage customers to leave reviews by providing an easy link or QR code at the point of sale or after completing a service. Consider offering a discount on future purchases, but be sure not to specifically ask for 5 stars.
You can create posts on your GBP similar to social media posts. These include a picture, text, and link or call-to-action. Try to post on a frequent schedule such as once a week or even daily. Posts can include announcements of events or discounts, holiday hours, or a shorter version of blog posts published on your website. Be sure to include the desired action you want customers to take when reading, such as calling your business or asking for directions.
GBP posts last 6 months, and the most recent posts display on the front end of your main GBP. Regular posts make your GBP look alive and well-cared-for to prospective customers. They also give a boost to your local SEO. Always strive to include relevant keywords.
Citations are listings on third-party directory websites that include a business name, address, phone number (NAP), and potentially other information such as a website link or reviews. Anywhere your NAP details are listed counts as a citation. Citation listings should always match the exact information on your GBP and website information. Inconsistencies can hurt rankings. You want as many consistent citations across the web as possible, which tells Google you are a legitimate business that cares about your online presence, boosting your rankings.
Common citation directories include:
- Business Facebook pages
- YEXT directories
- Chamber of Commerce
- Better Business Bureau
There are hundreds of potential citation opportunities across the web. These need to be managed appropriately to ensure consistent details. Citations are powerful local ranking factors, especially when they come from high-authority directories.
Backlinks are instances of other websites online providing a ‘dofollow’ link to your business website. ‘Dofollow’ is a tag in the code that tells Google to count the link as a backlink, which can provide a boost to your website’s SEO. Backlinks should come from high-authority sites relevant to your business niche. These differ from citations in that most citations provide a ‘nofollow’ link, although that is not always the case. Backlink generation can be challenging. Common ways to earn backlinks include:
- Sponsoring local events or organizations in exchange for PR, including a link to your website
- Blog posts that quote your business or business owner with a link back to your website
- “Best of” posts online that review the top businesses in a given city
- Naturally earning backlinks when people link to your blog posts as a source
- Directories that provide a ‘dofollow’ link
Backlinking is an entier sub-aspect of SEO that requires consistent PR efforts. While Google’s guidelines prohibit paying for backlinks, the dirty secret in the industry is that most backlinks require some form of payment.
With that said, you want to avoid spammy links, which do not help (and may hurt) your SEO. If someone offers hundreds of links in exchange for a small sum of money, look the other way. Manual outreach to local organizations or niche-relevant blogs is the best way to earn legitimate links, albeit a challenging and time consuming process.
Local & Small Business SEO Summary
The above steps are a basic overview of how to build out your business’s web presence to maximize your visibility on Google Search. You can undertake these on your own if you have the time and inclination.
However, in the competitive landscape of modern SEO, you are often at a disadvantage when trying to run your business and do SEO efforts, which are just one aspect of a complete marketing strategy.
While it is possible to manage SEO on your own, business owners are often best served by handing off their SEO to a professional agency and focusing on growing and managing their business itself.
If you are interested in learning how Dynamic SEO can help you maximize your visibility on Google and remove the stress of managing SEO from your plate, call or text 520-342-4221 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.