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The beginner’s guide to small business SEO 

Small business SEO

Key takeaways

  • The more you understand your potential customers and their needs, the easier your digital marketing efforts will be
  • To attract more search traffic, start by exploring free tools like Google Analytics and a Yelp Business Page
  • For best results, strike a balance between creating quality content and improving the technological capability of your website

As a small business owner, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about small business SEO and how it can help your business. But what does it really mean? 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a way to optimize (improve or enhance) your website so that search engines like Google discover and display it to potential customers. The better your small business SEO strategy, the more successful your business can be in converting visitors to paying customers. 

Even the most amazing business can suffer if its web pages don’t show up in search results. Implementing these SEO tips can build more brand awareness and help you establish a strong online presence, both of which can translate to better sales. 

Here are some basic SEO terms that can help you understand the process along with tools that will support you as you improve your website. You’ll also gain a few tips on how to get started right away so you don’t lose out on any more potential customers.

What are some important terms for small business SEO?

Before you can begin your SEO campaign, you need to get familiar with all the moving parts. These common terms related to search engine optimization will help you understand why maximizing SEO is important for online marketing.

Keyword research

Keyword research is the act of understanding which terms searchers are most commonly typing into search engines. Knowing what’s important to your target audience can help you create relevant content on your web pages that appeals to what they want or need. 

Keep in mind that keyword research is ever-changing and you may need to update your SEO practices in a couple of years. There are many paid keyword research options like Semrush, but you can also try a free keyword research tool like Keyword Surfer.

Content marketing

A content marketing strategy relates to content—such as blog posts—on your website. Once you’ve identified relevant keywords (more on this below, you can build a content marketing strategy, which entails writing a blog post for each keyword.

Creating and sharing free and informative content can attract potential customers. The goal of using small business SEO is to inform and inspire rather than blatantly promote your products or services. It’s about telling your customers what they want to hear versus telling them what you want to tell them. Taking this approach builds trust with your brand, shows that you’re an industry expert, and can potentially lead to business down the road. 

Landing page

When a person is searching online and clicks on a promotional link, advertisement, or search result, that is when they will arrive on one of your landing pages. A landing page is a web page that can capture email addresses, encourage a follow on social media channels, or lead to the purchase of a service or product. 

The landing page exists to present a call to action that will hopefully turn visitors into customers. It’s the first page that visitors “land on” when visiting your website.

Link building

Search engines measure the quality of your site partly based on how many links from other sites you have on your own site. For example, if you’re in the restaurant business, you may link to a recipe on a well-known chef’s blog or to a relevant page on the Food Network’s website. This can help establish more SEO credibility. It’s important that you link to established resources and trusted websites.

Link building refers to the strategies you use to get other established websites to link back to your website and its specific pages. Doing so can improve the search engine rankings of your website and particular web pages.

Local SEO

This is the same as regular SEO but with an emphasis on attracting customers within your immediate location. Local SEO strategy includes creating blog posts that showcase local shops or attractions or Yelp business reviews. Considering that nearly half of all Google searches are geared toward local information, this form of small business SEO is critical to local businesses and their brand awareness.

On-page SEO

This involves adjustments that you can make on your web pages to attract more visitors. You can do on-page SEO by including keywords, improving the functionality of your website (such as optimizing it for mobile devices), and writing high-quality content. Your goal is always to make your web pages more credible so that they are featured higher up on the results pages of search engines. 

Off-page SEO

This type of SEO refers to the activities outside of your website that help build your ranking factors. An example is when a well-known brand mentions your business on their website or social media. When others share your content, it also contributes positively.

Organic search

This is when online content shows up in the search results without any paid advertising help.

Organic traffic

Connected to organic search, organic traffic is when a visitor arrives at your website without having clicked on paid advertising. Having a lot of organic traffic means that your content is popular and relevant, which is the ultimate marketing goal.


An acronym for the search engine results page, SERP is the list of results generated when someone types in their search terms.

Paid search

These are the first results that are shown above the regular search results on a search engine results page (SERP). You can usually tell they’re paid because it will say “sponsored” or “paid” next to them. These placements are also strategically distributed on other relevant business pages. Paid search lets you target a niche pool of customers and ensures your small business website is seen first.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO optimization requires someone who can improve your website by modifying the HTML code. If this sounds a bit too techy for you, you’ll want to hire a developer. A professional developer can audit your website’s load speed, enhance security, and make necessary mobile optimization changes. Other content-related considerations include removing duplicate content and repairing broken links. 

If you take one thing away from this point, it’s that a professional developer will have the know-how to improve your small business SEO ranking in ways that aren’t immediately obvious to the untrained eye.

User experience and usability

User experience (UX) measures how people feel when visiting and interacting with your website. It often goes hand-in-hand with usability, which is how easy it is for users to navigate and interact with your website. 

To optimize user experience, make your site visually appealing and use colors, fonts, and buttons in a smart way. Similarly, to make it more user-friendly, ensure your website runs smoothly and users can easily navigate wherever they like. 

Truelist reports that a well-thought-out user experience can increase conversion rates by up to 400%. In other words, the more time customers want to spend on your website, the more likely they are to purchase.

2 free tools to help you get started on small business SEO

Small business SEO can be a lot to take in. Figuring out how to boost your online presence while running a small business can feel like much more than a full-time job. To help make things more manageable, here are two free tools that can help.

Bing Webmaster Toolset

Bing offers a toolset that’s free for anyone with a website. It can help you understand SEO-related metrics. Metrics are statistics that are compiled based on the activity of those visiting your website. These numbers can help inform you about who your visitors are and what’s really important to them based on the web pages they visit. 

Yelp Business Page

Claiming your Yelp Business Page opens direct communication with your current clients and potential customers. You can create a free business profile that includes your hours of operation, phone number, photos, and more.

Get a free Yelp Page

Promote your business to local customers.

Claim your free page

Not only will it provide valuable insights that most marketers would love to get their hands on, but it can also boost your reputation through organic customer-generated reviews. 

The 2020 Moz State of Local SEO report confirms that marketers see the power in reviews—90% see a direct impact between rankings and reviews.

3 ways to optimize every web page of your site

To start improving your SEO ranking, here are three quick tweaks you can make right now.

1. Optimize your headers and subheaders

Include your target keyword in one headline and at least one subheader—this could be enough to boost your small business SEO ranking. 

If you have content that you created before knowing about SEO, revisit it and refresh your headings. For best results, keep the keyword close to the start of the title.

2. Add meta descriptions to your web pages and alt tags to your web images

Meta descriptions are small snippets of content that describe what’s on a web page and homepage. Think of it as a written preview for any given page. Experts suggest the ideal length to be between 50-160 characters.

Alt tags (or alt attributes) are like meta descriptions for photos—they use words to summarize what’s in the image. If you built your website with a program like WordPress, you can easily add alt tags so that the search engines can read the words you used to describe the image and know what it’s about (without “seeing” it). 

For example, if you have a cleaning company and write a blog post about simple tips for cleaning a bathroom, you might have a meta description that reads something like: “Learn five top tips for cleaning a bathroom from the sink and mirror to the toilet and tub.” 

You’ll also want to include images with alt tags. For instance, depending on the photos you choose, you might write something such as “woman cleaning a bathroom sink with vinegar.”

3. Promote your content on social media

Sharing your content on social media creates the potential for shares and likes—these are great for your website because they can boost your ranking and credibility. Search engines see content that’s getting shared as more important and that can help you climb the SEO ladder. 

Small business SEO starts with a few small steps

Digital marketing has become one of the most important practices for small business owners. With some slight improvements, you can gain a lot of exposure, or you can invest a lot and have the chance to see exponential growth.

Understanding the basic terms and concepts of small business SEO can help build brand awareness and boost your bottom line. Add to that a couple of free tools and a few easy website tweaks, and you might see the results sooner than later.

Get a free Yelp Page

Promote your business to local customers.

Claim your free page

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.