Learn Small Business Local SEO…In Under 7 Minutes!
Posted on August 2nd, 2019
5 min read
We’re going to teach you the basics of Small Business SEO in under 7 minutes.

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Lesson 1: What Is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is all about getting your website to the top of Google’s search results for the right search terms.

What are the right search terms? The ones from people who want what you’re selling.  

Let’s say you own a pizza shop in Cleveland. People who search for “health food stores near me” probably aren’t your target market.  

But Cleveland residents who search for terms like “Pizza near me” and “Best pizza in Cleveland” probably are interested in what you have to offer.  

If those people see your website as the first search result when they enter those terms into Google, that’s going to be great for your business.

SEO involves everything you need to do to make that happen.

Lesson 2: SEO vs PPC

“Wait a minute!” some of you might be saying. “If I want people to find my business on Google, all I have to do is buy some ad space, right?”

Yes, that’s an effective way to get seen on Google. But there are two things you need to know:

  1. Paid advertising has nothing to do with SEO. SEO is only for helping people find your website on “organic” (unpaid) search results and Google Maps.
  2. An effective SEO campaign typically results in 20x as many visitors to your website as a paid ad campaign on Google.

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are awesome because they start working right away, giving your small business an instant boost. They’re perfect for your short-term marketing strategy.

SEO takes more time to start working, but it will give your business a much bigger boost once your page makes it to the top of Google’s organic results.

Here’s how we help our clients understand the difference between PPC and SEO:

     ● PPC is an expense: It only works as long as you continue paying Google a monthly fee.

     ● SEO is an investment: Think of SEO as the digital marketing equivalent to a 401(k). The more you invest in the beginning, the more visitors your website will receive overtime. (Note: You can invest your own time and effort into your SEO strategy, or you can hire an expert to handle it for you.)

Why is SEO so powerful? Because people trust Google’s organic search results more than they trust paid advertisements.

In addition, people also trust Google’s 3-Pack, which is the top 3 results on Google Maps. The 3-pack is most prominently displayed on mobile devices, and since mobile users are responsible for 60% of Google searches, you want your business to show up there.

SEO is the only way to for your website to appear at the top of Google’s organic results, or in the 3-Pack.

Only a fraction of Google users click on ads, while almost everyone clicks on Google’s top organic results or the 3-pack. That’s why SEO is so important for small businesses.

Lesson 3: Keyword Research

How do you actually know which terms your potential customers are searching for on Google? You can find out through Keyword Research.

Here’s how to get started with Keyword Research:

  1. Write down a long list of terms you imagine your potential customers might be entering into Google.

  2. Enter each of those terms into a Keyword Research Tool. Our favorite FREE research tool for beginners is Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest.
Lesson 4: Understanding Key Metrics

You’ve entered your terms into a Keyword Research Tool, and now you see a collection of numbers and abbreviations you’ve never heard of. Don’t worry, this stuff isn’t complicated.

Here are the only two vocabulary terms you need to understand the results of your Keyword Research:

  1. Search Volume - The number of searches for a given term each month. The higher the number is, the more people you can reach by ranking #1 for that term.

  2. Search Difficulty/Competition - This is an estimate of how difficult it is to make it to the top of Google’s search results for a given term. Ubersuggest measures this on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being the most difficult.

○ Example: Getting ranked above the NFL’s website for the term “football” is going to be a lot harder than ranking above the competition for “gluten-free pet hotel near Liberty University.”

For now, don’t worry about terms like “Cost Per Click” or “Paid Difficulty.” Those metrics can sometimes be helpful for SEO, but they’re really designed for PPC ads.

Lesson 5: Choosing Your Keywords

As a general rule, the best keywords for small businesses fulfill ALL THREE of the following criteria:

  1. It’s A High-Intent Local Query - High-Intent Local Queries are search terms that indicate someone is looking for a local business to fulfill a need. Here are some examples of High-Intent Local Queries:

               ○ Steakhouse near me

               ○ Bottomless mimosa East Village

               ○ Moving company Haight-Ashbury

               ○ Labor lawyer Waldorf, MD

  1. It Has A Modest To High Search Volume - For some keywords, search volumes as low as 300 can generate significant revenue. But it’s rare that a keyword with a search volume of less than 100 will be helpful to your business.
  1. It’s Not Too Competitive - You can realistically make it to the top of Google’s search results for this term.

The search terms that fulfill all these criteria are usually Long-Tail Keywords, or keywords that indicate interest in something highly specific.

For example, let’s say you run a vegan restaurant in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. No matter how amazing your food is, ranking for a term as broad as “best restaurant in Los Angeles” is a tall order! That’s because you would have to compete with every single restaurant in Los Angeles in order to rank for that term.

But more specific terms like “Vegan Brunch Los Angeles” and “Vegan Restaurant Echo Park” have good search volume and much lower competition.

If the right restaurant ranks #1 for those terms, it should see a significant increase in its business.

Lesson 6: On-Site Optimization

Now that you know which keywords you want to target, it’s time to let Google know that your website is a candidate for those keywords...and then start competing. This requires something called On-Site Optimization.

On-Site Optimization: The process of making tweaks and adjustments to your website so it ranks for the right search terms.

We’re going to divide these tweaks and adjustments into two basic categories: technical and content-related.

Lesson 7: Technical Tweaks

To rank for your chosen keywords, here are four of the most important technical tweaks you need to make to your website:

     1) Optimize Your Title Tags And Header Tags

A Title Tag is the page title that’s displayed in Google’s search results and on your web browser’s title bar. A Header Tag or <h1> tag is the main heading at the top of a webpage. Both of these tags should include the keywords you want a particular page to rank for.

     • For example: A good title and header for the home page of our vegan restaurant’s website might be Cafe Green - Echo Park’s Top Vegan Restaurant. (This helps rank for “Vegan Restaurant Echo Park.”)

Their brunch page could be called Vegan Brunch in Los Angeles - Cafe Green. (This helps rank for “Vegan Brunch Los Angeles.”)

     2) Perfect Your Internal Links

Internal Links are links that go from one page on a website to another page on the same website. When one page on a website links to another page, it passes “equity” or “authority” to that other page. Let’s say you have one webpage that Google already thinks is important. We can call that page Webpage A. Now Imagine you’ve decided to edit Webpage A so it includes a link to a newer page on your website. We’ll call this new page Webpage B. Because you’ve added that link, Webpage A is telling Google that Webpage B is also important. This helps Webpage B rank higher in Google’s search results. Including Keywords in the “anchor text” of your links will help Google understand what each page is about, making it easier to rank for the right keywords.

     • For example: Let’s say we want our Wolf Of Wall Street blog post to rank higher for the term “Direct Response Marketing.” When you click the hyperlink above, it takes you to our Wolf Of Wall Street blog post. Because the anchor text of the hyperlink says “Direct Response Marketing,” that helps Google understand that we eventually want our Wolf Of Wall Street post to rank for “Direct Response Marketing.”

     3) Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

60% of searches come from smartphones and tablets, and Google has taken notice.

If your website doesn’t look good on both smartphones and desktop computers, Google intentionally makes it more difficult for you to rank #1 for any keyword.

At I Want Digital Marketing, every small business website we build has a Responsive Design. That means our clients’ websites automatically adjust to look great on any screen size, whether it’s the world’s smallest smartphone, or an enormous desktop screen.

     4) Make Sure Your Website Runs FAST

This is a huge topic that requires its own blog post...and possibly an entire book. For now, just make sure you have a talented web-developer who understands that Google demotes the rankings of websites that run slowly.

Lesson 8: A Quick Word About “N.A.P.”

There are three things you should include on your website’s header or footer, in addition to your “Contact Us” page:

  1. The name of your business
  2. Your business address
  3. Your business phone number

This simple on-site optimization will accomplish two things:

  1. It will help visitors to your website get in touch with you more easily.
  2. It will help Google confirm the legitimacy of your business. (More on that later.)
Lesson 9: Produce Amazing Content 

Now that we’ve covered technical on-site optimization, it’s time to go over content-related on-site optimization.

Here’s a quick exercise:

     ● Pick one of the keywords you want to rank for.

     ● Enter that keyword into Google Search and take a quick look at the first few results.

     ● Ask yourself: “How can I produce something better than those results?”

Content-related on-site optimization simply means improving the quality of the content on your website.

All of the technical on-site optimizations we discussed earlier were mainly about making sure Google knows you’re trying to rank for a search term.

But once Google understands which keywords you’re competing to rank for, it’s mostly Google searchers and other content creators who decide which pages make it to the top of Google’s organic results.

People who consume your content don’t care how many times you use a keyword or what signals you send to Google--they care that your content gives them the information they want.

The more people like your content, the higher your page will rank for relevant search terms.

Lesson 10: How Google Validates The Quality Of Your Content

How can Google tell if people like your content? Google measures the overall likeability of your content in two major ways:

  1. The number and quality of external links (links from places other than your website) to your webpage.
  2. The level of engagement people have with your content.

Because these factors depend on things that happen outside of your website, they fall under the category of Off-Site SEO Factors--the opposite of the On-Site Factors we optimized in Lessons 6 through 9.

The rest of this post will cover Off-Site (also known as “Off-Page”) SEO factors.

Lesson 11: Link Building

To get to #1 on Google, you’re going to need other websites to link to yours. The process of earning those links is called Link Building.

To build a healthy “Link Profile” for your website, you will need plenty of links from websites that are trustworthy and authoritative. For small businesses, that should include links from prominentlocalorganizations and news outlets.

Links from those places will bring you new visitors right off the bat. Just as importantly, they will get Google’s attention.

Google assumes that if an important website links to you, that must mean your website is also important. If Google thinks your website is important, they will boost your rankings in organic search results.

Links from scammy, low-quality websites will hurt your rankings. That’s why attempting to trick search engines with “link-building schemes” rarely works. Credible websites won’t link to just anyone.

Here are four popular Link Building strategies for small business owners:

  1. Get active in your local community - If you do this long enough, you will meet content creators willing to link to your site.
  1. Offer to write a guest blog post - If you have useful ideas to contribute to a prominent blog, ask if you can write a guest post. You can include a link to your website in your post.
  1. Provide a testimonial - If you had a positive experience working with a popular company, ask them if they can include your testimonial on their website. A link to your business’ website can be included in your testimonial.
  1. Create amazing content - If you create excellent content that gets traction, people who have never met you will link to your site. Once your business reaches a certain level of online popularity, other high-quality content creators will have incentive to start linking to your website.
Lesson 12: What We Know About User Engagement And Behavioral Signals

Google hasn’t divulged much about how it measures user engagement, or to be more precise, how it measures the signals users send to Google when they engage with a website. But through carefully crafted experiments, SEO experts have arrived at two conclusions which are probably true.

  1. The more clicks you get on a search results page, the higher Google will boost your webpage.

Why we believe this: In 2014, one of Rand Fishkin's web pages ranked #7 for the keyword “IMEC Lab.” He asked his Twitter followers to do a Google search for “IMEC Lab” and click the #7 result. Within three hours, his page rose to #1 in the United States, where he suspects the majority of his clicks came from.

Quick vocabulary lesson: The percentage of people who click on your page in Google Search is known as the Click-Through-Rate (CTR). As Fishkin demonstrated in his experiment, a higher CTR probably means a higher search ranking.

The main takeaway: If clicks alone boost your search ranking, it’s critical to make sure your title tag (discussed in Lesson 7) and meta-description (your webpage’s description in Google’s search results) are interesting enough to make people want to click on your website. That’s because more clicks=higher rankings.

  1. The more time people spend on your webpage, the higher you will rank in Google’s search results.

Why we believe this: In 2015, Google enhanced its search engine with an artificial intelligence system called Rankbrain. In 2018, Larry Kim found that after Google introduced Rankbrain, Google’s top search results were far more likely to have an above average Dwell Time.

Quick vocabulary lesson: Dwell Time is the amount of time people spend on your site before returning to Google’s search results page. Since 2015, Google’s top search results have often displayed pages with a higher than average Dwell Time.

The main takeaway: Create engaging content that holds people’s attention! With that said, there’s no need to write extra long blog posts so people stay on your website longer--there are plenty of short posts that rank high on Google Search. If we have to guess, we imagine that RankBrain takes post length into account when assessing how Dwell Time should impact rankings.

Lesson 13: How Google Validates The Quality Of Your Small Business

How does Google know your small business is actually good, and that you’re not just a savvy marketer promoting lousy products and services?

Here are four things you need to do to show Google that you’re legit. Ignoring these tasks will hurt your rankings.

  1. Fill Out Your Information In Google My Business.

Google My Business is a tool that manages how your business appears on Google Search and helps validate the legitimacy of your business. It will also automatically place you on Google Maps, a critical tool for attracting new business online.

○ Since Google search results are personalized (influenced by a searcher’s location and search history), validating your location on Google My Business will help you show up on searches by people in your area.

  1. Get As Many Local Citations As Possible

○ A Local Citation is a N.A.P. Listing (Name/Address/Phone) on a credible website--usually some sort of directory. Moz’s post on local citations has everything you need to know about getting listed.

○ As each citation becomes visible to Google, it will become easier to achieve the rankings you’re striving for.

  1. Get Good Reviews

○ There’s no way around it--if your business has bad reviews on sites like Yelp, it’s going to be harder to rank for your desired keywords. That is why improving every single aspect of your business has to be a critical part of your SEO strategy.

  1. Engage With Your Fans On Social Media

○ The importance of social media in SEO is often overstated, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. When Google sees that your fans are engaging with you on social media platforms like Google+, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, that should give your website a modest boost in Google Search.

Lesson 13: How Google Validates The Quality Of Your Small Business

Here’s something a lot of marketers forget:


That’s really all there is to it. It’s great if you’re getting better rankings, more traffic, and more engagement, but none of that will matter if the final result isn’t more customers and more revenue.

That’s why to get the most out of SEO, you need to complement it with other forms of marketing. Every small business needs to implement SEO as part of a holistic marketing strategy, where the ultimate goal is expanding your business.

And that’s our 10 minute guide to the basics of Small Business Local SEO!

Did you finish reading this post in 7 minutes or less? Even if it took you a bit longer, we hope you learned a lot.

Keep in mind that this post is an introduction to Small Business SEO, not an advanced overview of everything a professional SEO does. That would require a much longer post!

We hope you can use this post as a launching pad for your continued SEO and digital marketing education!

Does your small business need help with SEO, or with refining its holistic marketing strategy? Get in touch with us by requesting a FREE Digital Marketing Consultation! We’ll do a deep assessment of every aspect of your online marketing, including your SEO...and provide you with expert advice on how to take your business to the next level.

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