Search Engine Optimization

9 Small Business SEO Tips

For small businesses, it’s critical to build brand awareness and visibility. Your business can’t grow if consumers don’t know about you. One of the best ways to build visibility is through search engine optimization.

Strong brand visibility is very crucial to every business, especially startups and small businesses. In order for your small business to get customers and grow, people need to know about it. If consumers do not know about your business, you do not have a business. One of the most effective ways you can use to build brand visibility is through search engine optimization or SEO.  

Today, consumers conduct product research online before they make a purchase. It does not matter which industry you are in. if your business can benefit from being found online, and get more brand awareness, you need to do SEO.

When potential customers search for a specific product or service on search engines such as Google and Bing, you need to be visible to them. This is why SEO is important to your small business. Properly done, SEO can put your company website in front of thousands of people who are looking for a product or service you offer.

SEO is a very effective strategy and can yield exceptional results for your business. But it is not easy, and it takes a lot of time and investment. To help you speed up your SEO process, we put together this list of some small business SEO tips that can help you grow your brand online and increase your visibility.

Understanding small business SEO fundaments

Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your website so that when search engine crawlers index it, find clear and relevant content that deserves to rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Successful small business SEO is largely dependent on content marketing. The fundamentals listed below will help you get more traffic to your website. If you can be consistent in following them, your traffic will be in a steady upward direction.

Keyword research

This is where you find out what terms or phrases your potential customers search for when they’re looking for a product or service similar to yours. Once you know these phrases/terms you can start creating content based on them.

During your research, you will come up with hundreds if not thousands of keywords. You do not have to create content and optimize for each keyword. Similar keywords/phrases can be grouped together.

For example, suppose your business offers carpet cleaning services and is based in Johannesburg, South Africa. A group of keywords you can group on a single page are something like “Carpet cleaning Johannesburg”, ”Carpet cleaning services in Johannesburg”, “Johannesburg carpet cleaning”. 

A keywords strategy is an ongoing process. You will have to constantly monitor and update your keywords as search trends are always in flux.


Your goal with a website is to create content that is useful, well-laid-out, and makes compelling arguments. This way your visitors will stay longer on your website, and read more content. This increases your chances of converting visitors into customers.

The last thing you need are pages that are confusing and uninformative. These pages will result in website visitors leaving your site soon after they arrived. As a result, your website will have a high bounce rate. A high bounce rate informs Google that people do not find what they are looking for on your website and that will affect your rankings.

So, make sure you have a good copywriter on your team that will consistently help publish engaging, informative, and compelling content. The average time on-site of a top 10 Google result is three minutes and 10 seconds, so it’s crucial to write quality copy that gets readers to stick around. A copywriter will help you achieve the 3:10 minutes on-site time.

Content marketing

You cannot do SEO without content. It is impossible. Content is the cornerstone of not only SEO but of the entire digital marketing niche. A well-crafted content marketing strategy includes publishing blog posts that inform and engage your target audience. 

The majority of small businesses already have blogs. But you will need to blog with SEO in mind if you want your small business website to rank high in search. That means your blogs each have to target a specific keyword/phrase.

Depending on your business and the industry you’re in, content marketing and SEO may be the key to your online strategy.

Link building

Search engines use links– both internal (linking to existing content within your own site) and external (when a different site links to your content) – to understand your website and determine its quality. Links also help search engines identify the most important pages on your website.

In terms of SEO, links pointing to your website and page content are the two most important factors. This is why you don’t just end with creating well-laid-out content. You also need to build links for your website

Check out the video below featuring a Search Quality Senior Strategist, Andrey Lipattsev, making it clear that content and backlinks are key to ranking in Google: Jump to 30:20 in the video 

Link building is especially helpful if you get high-authority websites to link to your content. That indicates to search engines that your website is relevant and has good content. And so you get higher rankings.

Local SEO

With local SEO you still need to follow the fundamentals discussed above. But now, your strategy needs to focus on your immediate location and surroundings. That means your content now needs to be localized. Write blog posts based on local topics, acquire links from popular local newspapers and websites, and get reviews from local patrons.

Why should you care about your small business SEO?

The majority of small businesses, startups, and even large well-established businesses in South Africa have invested in a website. But the majority of these sites see very little to no traffic.

In a way paying monthly or yearly hosting fees for a website is a loss if that website just sits there getting no visitors. To large businesses, it might be nothing. But to a small struggling business paying monthly hosting fees for a website that’s got no traffic is a loss.

Without a proper SEO strategy, your website will struggle to attract search visitors from Google. Even if your business has a local customer base, you still need online visibility. Today, even locals head to Google first when they’re looking for a local service or product. Gone are the days where people walked down the street hoping they stumble across a product they want. Now, they fire up their phone or computer, search for where to find what they want before even leaving the house.

Small business SEO tips for 2021

SEO Tip #1: Take care of your technical SEO

Technical SEO deals with the structure of your website. In order for search engines to rank your web pages higher, they need to understand your website. They need to be able to make sense of what your web pages are about. If your website is not structured according, crawlers will struggle with making sense of what searches to rank your site for.

Problems with technical SEO will hurt your rankings even if your web content is well-written. Before you get busy with creating fresh content in an attempt to attract more potential customers for your business, develop your content from a technical perspective.

Understandably as a business owner, you might not be a tech-savvy individual. In that case some problems you’d better leave to engineers. These problems include things like your website security, page speeds, and data structuring. Meanwhile, here are a couple of things you can do to improve your technical SEO:

Submit your website’s sitemap to Google — Depending on what tools or site builder was used to build your website, you can use different plugins to create a sitemap. A popular plugin most WordPress users like is Yoast SEO.  This SEO tool will generate the sitemap automatically. All you have to do is copy the sitemap and submit it to Google via Google Search Console. This is a free service from Google to help manage your presence in Google Search Results.

Fix broken links — Search engines like fresh and relevant content. They also want to deliver a great user experience for searchers. For these reasons, the SERP robots will downgrade your content if you consistently send your visitors to outdated content or broken links.

Optimize your images — Don’t try to improve your small business SEO by only thinking about Google. Also, consider your site visitors. Use relevant images on your content. Make sure they are named accordingly, they have appropriate captions and descriptions.

SEO Tip #2: Focus on Local SEO

Most internet searches are location-based. There are two ways people search based on their locations. The first one is they include the name of the location in their search. For example, “Best restaurant in Durban”. Another one is the most popular, “near me” search. Even without mentioning “near me” or your location, if Google can pick up your current location, they will only show local results.

Search engine result pages (SERPs) are setting up small businesses to be successful with local SEO. So it’s important that you prioritize your small business local SEO.

To get started with local SEO for your small business, set up a Google My Business profile here. Setup is easy and straightforward. You shouldn’t have much trouble with it. Make sure your fill everything out, Google requires every detail to rank your business.

Once this is done, Google will start showing your small business for local searches.

Another way to boost your small business local SEO is to get listed on local directories (Here are the top 10 best free business directories in South Africa). Most directories now allow you to register and list your business online. All they require is just a few details and pictures and you’re set to go live. 

The benefit of listing in a local directory website is that these sites often have high domain authority, so they rank better on Google. Listing your business improves chances of being found through these sites as they appear in organic search results more often.

SEO Tip #3: Conduct keyword research

You need to find out what your potential customers are typing into search engines when they’re searching for products or services similar to yours. People that are looking for the very same product go to Google and type different things.

For example, a young lady in Pretoria looking for a handbag might search “women’s bags”, and the other might search “purse”. If your web content is not optimized for these searches, these two potential customers might not discover your business. You need to optimize your content and website for the most popular searched keywords your audience might type in search engines.

There are many keyword research tools you can use for this. Others are free and others are premium. Such tools include the Google Keyword Planner, Moz keyword explorer, SEMRush and Ahrefs.

Using these tools is not difficult. You just type in your target keywords and they will return to you all the relevant keyword combinations.

One thing to note is that it will be very difficult to rank for highly searched keywords since you will be competing with big businesses with higher domain authorities and thousands of links pointing to them. Rather, figure out what are the not very popular keywords that have significant search volumes and target them.

Focus your keywords on your niche. Use niche keywords. That way you can reach out to a smaller but more specific audience.

SEO Tip #4: Focus on On-page SEO

On-page SEO is the one SEO aspect that is completely in your control. It’s all about optimizing your on-page content to improve rankings. So you should focus on creating content for search engines and your site visitors. You have to create content that naturally incorporates your target keywords. Here’s how you do on-page SEO for your small business’ website.

Optimize titles and headlines — your content’s headline will determine how many people click-through to your website in search. Your headline should be compelling. It shouldn’t be long, 60 characters will do. Anything beyond that gets cut off. You also need to mind your title’s length. If it is too long, the SERP will cut it and insert an ellipse when it has reached the character limit.

Use appropriate header tags — optimize your headers to contain relevant keywords for each section of your content. Headers if properly placed can help boost the amount of time your visitors spend on site.

Clean up your meta tags — Every content management system allows you to enter meta descriptions of your content. Search engine crawlers use meta descriptions to make sense of the content of the page. By incorporating your target keyword in meta descriptions, you ensure that search engines understand what your page is about.

SEO Tip #5: Create great on-page content

As we’ve mentioned before. The two main ranking factors on Google are links and content. While you cannot control how many links you get to point to your website, you have control over the quality of your pages’ content.

 You cannot rank on Google – or any other search engine without content. Not just any content, informative and useful content. If your small business has a blog, your blog posts need to be of real value to your readers. That means your blog posts should mainly aim to help, educate or assist your target audience.

Why is this important to your rankings? Because if your content is engaging your readers they’ll spend more time on your website. This tells the search engines that your content of great quality and they will reward your website with higher rankings.

It is also important to note that there are two types of content for a website. There’s sales content – your regular page content where you brag about how good your product or brand is and why people should buy it. Then there are blogs posts – where you help your target audience.

Your regular web page will target different keywords to your blog posts. What’s important for both of these is that you find creative ways to naturally incorporate your target keywords in your content. If you want Google to rank you for “carpet cleaning services” you need to include this keyword somewhere on your page.

SEO Tip #6: Build Links to your website

On top of having great content on your website, you need to have other websites pointing to your website to rank higher in SERPs. This is because Google looks at the quality and quantity of backlinks to determine the quality of a website. The more website pointing to your website you get, the better your small business SEO results.

The statement that was made by Andrey Lipattsev on what it takes to rank on Google was also confirmed by research which shows that the number of sites linking to a page correlates with higher rankings more than any SEO strategy. This suggests that content comes second.

To build links for your business’ website you need a strategy. There are multiple ways to earn links to your site:

  • You can issue a press release
  • Guest blog on other websites
  • Get mentioned from mainstream media
  • Create awesome content that other people will want to link back to

One way to speed up the link-building process is by identifying where your competitors are getting links. Then all you have to do is target the same places. Most SEO tools have link audit and analysis features which can make this very simple for you. There are many tools you can use, there’s Alexa’s backlink tool, there’s Moz, SEMRush, and many more.  All you have to do is enter your competitor’s domain name and start seeing where they get all the juice from.

SEO Tip 7: Target long-tail keywords

You might have seen this already, but all the highly searched keywords on Google are dominated by mega publications and authorities in your industry. Attempting to rank for those keywords would be really difficult. So what can you do?

Well, instead of trying to rank for highly competitive keywords in your niche, you can target long-tail keywords. Sam Oh from Ahrefs describes long-tail keywords as “Search queries with low individual search volume, but can have an enormous total search demand as a group.”

These keywords are not necessary long. The name Long-tail was derived from a long-tail of the search demand curve which is a graph that plots all keywords by their search volumes.

For example, suppose you sell a weight loss program. While you could target the keyword “Weight loss” chances are you will not rank for that keyword. At least not right away. It’s a highly competitive keyword. Instead, you could target the keyword phrase “How to lose weight fast without taking supplements” The reason the keyword is long-tail is because it’s near the bottom end of the search demand curve. It has less search demand.

You have a better chance of ranking for a long-tail keyword since there is not much competition. Yes, only a small number of people will see your website, but that is better than having no visitors at all.

SEO Tip #8: Optimize website for mobile

The number of people who use mobile phones to access the internet is increasing. In 2020, 59% of the South African population (35 million people) accessed the internet using a smartphone.  And about 52% of global internet traffic comes from mobile devices.

Your business needs to keep up with the times and changing consumer behaviors. To increase your small business SEO chances of succeeding you need to have a mobile-friendly website design. Responsiveness and user-friendliness should be at the top of your list when looking for an effective mobile-friendly website design.

If you’ve optimized your web pages for mobile devices, your website visitors won’t have to zoom in or zoom out. A good mobile-friendly website is perfectly accessible from screens of different sizes.

An optimized mobile-friendly website can help you improve your search rankings. Google has made a note of the increasing number of mobile phone users around the world. So, they updated their algorithm to reflect these changes. You can check if your website is mobile-friendly by submitting your URL to Google here.

For businesses that have both desktop and mobile websites, google recommends that both websites should have the same content. This recommendation applies to content text, images, and videos. Also, make sure that you add the same descriptions and titles to both websites.

SEO Tip #9: Promote your content

Lastly, you need to promote your content online. Now that you have created great informative pages and blogs on your website, you need to share them with your audience. Give Small business SEO a head start by sharing your content on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Social signals are important to Google and may increase your rankings. If Google picks up that your website is being shared by unique people on different social media networks that tell Google people like your content. Therefore they should show it to more people.

Also, consider promotion by email. If you had just published a great blog on your business’ website notify people you think it will bring the most value to. Let them know it’s live and also share the link to your page or blog post.

Growing your presence on social media networks not only works as a great social signal to Google. It also gives your brand more visibility and improves brand awareness. In turn, you can get more content engagement, and drive traffic to your website.

Improve your SEO and start ranking

As a small business, it’s important that your potential customers are able to find you when they are looking for products or services similar to yours. This is why SEO is important to your small business.

These small business SEO tips can help you improve your brand visibility, attract website visitors, and drive engagements. However, small business SEO is a long process. It requires planning, a lot of time, and effort before you can start seeing results. If you adopt the right SEO strategies, you are guaranteed the growth of your small business.

With so many decisions and commitments waiting for you as a small business owner, SEO might feel like something you can afford to put off. And maybe you can. But the longer you wait, the further you may fall in search results. Start today with these actionable small business SEO tips to help ensure that your potential customers can find you online.


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