Small Business SEO Checklist: 12 Ways To Improve Rankings

What should you focus on next for greater success with small business SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves optimizing your website to rank higher in search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Your goal is to reach searchers who may become your customers.

In order to maximize your visibility, your business must appear in different types of search results – Google Maps, organic, Featured Snippets, images, videos, etc.

Due to limited resources and lack of time, small business SEO can be particularly difficult.

As a small business, you compete not only with other small businesses, but also with publishers, big brands, and all kinds of informational sources.

Your budget definitely isn’t as big as those of your larger competitors.

What can a small business do?

Our SEO checklist for small businesses can help you prioritize and focus on the SEO tasks that will really move the needle.

1. Check Your Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

Every page and post on your site has a title tag and a meta description. First, you need to make sure these are unique for every page and post.

Your title tag will usually be the same as your page or blog post title. A good rule of thumb is your title tag shouldn’t be longer than 60 characters.

The best way to think about a meta description is a small advertisement for your content. People see meta descriptions when they are choosing which search result to click, so your goal is to “sell” the page to get a higher click-through rate. You can sometimes use the first few sentences of your post, but make sure it catches your attention. A good rule of thumb is to keep your meta-description under 155 characters.

If you have a WordPress site, download the free Yoast SEO plugin to make adding title tags and meta descriptions super simple (in addition to many other features for improving your on-site SEO).

2. Optimize Your Site’s Desktop and Mobile Speed

One thing Google takes very seriously is how quickly your website loads on desktops and mobile devices. They even have a free tool you can use to measure your speed called PageSpeed Insights.

Use the tool to test your website speed and see if anything is hindering it from loading quickly. It will inevitably bring up several areas for improvement, but don’t panic. Just focus on the first two or three, which will make the biggest impact. There may be technical fixes that you’ll need your developer to work on, but there are also several quick fixes you can do yourself.

One of the most common issues that affect site speed is image size. Large images take longer to load, so they need to be compressed. If using WordPress, there are multiple free plugins that automatically compress your images and reduce your load time.

3. Optimize Your Images for SEO

Just like the text in your articles, your images can also be optimized. This is a simple process you can do when uploading media to your site, but you should also go back and optimize existing images.

But why is this important?

Have you ever noticed a series of images show up in Google’s search results before any webpages? These images have specific titles that tell Google what they are and help them get ranked — just like a long-form article. The biggest benefit is that the images show up above other search results and it’s free.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Before uploading a new image to your site, rename it in plain English. For example: “Process Planning”
  2. Next, when you upload the image to your site, you’ll have the option to add a title. Add a title that’s also relevant to the image. It can be similar to the name of the image. For example: “Team Process Planning Session”
  3. Lastly, add the “Alternative Text” and “Description”. These can be a more technical description of the image or product and can include the model number, year, or any other details that people would be searching for. For example: “Every month the Operations Team meets for a process planning session like this”
  4. Hit save and you’re finished.

4. Choose One Topic Per Blog Post

Whether you like to admit it or not, you’re an expert in your field. You have a ton of knowledge to share with your clients and prospects. Your knowledge is extremely valuable, but for many experts, this can present a bit of a problem for SEO. It’s often easy to overload with too much content, which overwhelms the reader (and Google). For that reason, I recommend sticking to one topic per blog post.

A good way to keep your blog posts limited to one topic is to summarize the goal of your article in one sentence and write it at the top of your draft BEFORE you start writing. Here’s a guide to write a good blog post

5. Choose (and Place) Your Keywords

Simply put, keywords are the words and phrases people search for or the words and phrases that describe what your content is about. Since keywords help Google decide where to rank your content in search results, it’s important to choose keywords that your target customers will be searching for. For example, your most important keywords may include your company name and location, top products, services you offer, etc.

To improve your rankings for the keywords, you’ll want to make sure to include them in several places on your website. Some crucial places to include keywords are:

  • Blog post and page titles 
  • Article subheadings 
  • Body content
  • URL Slug
  • Image tags

As a general rule, try to keep each article and page optimized for one keyword (and one topic, as mentioned earlier).

6. Never Overstuff Your Content with Keywords

I want to follow my last point by emphasizing that it’s not 2004, and “keyword stuffing” — overloading a page with keywords to manipulate rankings in Google’s search results — doesn’t work anymore. In fact, Google now penalizes websites for it.

Before you optimize a page or post for a keyword, make sure the content reads naturally and doesn’t feel like it’s written for a robot. If you can work the keyword into the content naturally, great! If not, it’s probably better to leave it out.

7. Find Opportunities for Other Sites to Link Back to You

Optimizing your website is only 50% of SEO. The other half is off-site optimization where Google looks at other sites linking to your website as a sign of authority.

Consider this: If my website says I’m the best small business consultant in the world, that’s one thing. Readers may or may not believe me, but either way that won’t affect my SEO.

But, if the CEO of a well-known company writes about an experience, they had with me and says I’m the best consultant in the world (and links to my website), it carries a lot more weight than me just tooting my own horn — both for my readers and Google. Google notices that another credible website is vouching for us, and therefore rewards us with a higher site ranking.

That’s an extreme example, but you can do this using guest posts on industry sites, answering questions on sites like Quora, using Google Alerts for unlinked mentions of your brand (find where someone may have mentioned your brand on their site and didn’t link to you, then reach out and ask if they would add a link back to your site from theirs), and finding online opportunities for partnerships with companies you work with offline.

8. Manage Local Business Listings & Citations

A local citation is an online business listing on a website, such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.

Among the information they contain is a business’ name, address, and phone number.

Many directories also include a business’ website and operating hours.

A local citation management process involves maintaining accurate business listings.

The following are some of the tasks involved in managing local citations:

  • Being aware of listings, even if you didn’t create them.
  • Making corrections to inaccurate business information.
  • Filling in the missing business details in incomplete citations.
  • Getting rid of duplicate listings.

Citations play an important role in local ranking.

Use any local keyword in Google, such as “italian food near me” or “italian food new york city”.

There is something called the “Google Local Pack” by Google.

When you search for local keywords, this map and business listings appear.

There is no randomness in the businesses listed here. Their ranking and ranking keywords are determined by a number of factors.

One of these factors is local citations. In particular, Google looks at:

  • The number of citations you have.
  • How complete your citations are.
  • Whether or not your citations are consistent with one another.
  • Incomplete, incorrect and duplicate listings hurt your rankings.

9. Get More Reviews

Whitespark’s Local Search Ranking Factors report found that local reviews were a major ranking factor in 2021.

It is also beneficial to get reviews and feedback from your customers in order to increase your conversions.

It is never easy to get your customers to leave reviews. This can be accomplished using a number of strategies, just like there are business profiles online. The first step is to ensure that as many customers as possible are satisfied. 

You can help those satisfied customers leave more impactful reviews by providing them with links to your Google listing, along with starter questions, which can make it easier for reviewers to compose their reviews, as well as subtly encouraging them to use the keywords you want to target.

Monitoring your online reviews and responding appropriately wherever possible is an essential part of your online review management.

10. Include Multiple Types of Media on Your Pages and Articles

One thing Google weighs heavily is how much time a user spends on your page or article.

Using different types of media like videos and graphics has been proven to drastically increase engagement (ie. time on page). So, if there are any opportunities for enhancing your content with engaging visuals, add them to your page.

11. Update and Improve Your Content Regularly

This may not be the most exciting SEO task, but it’s one of the most underrated ways to improve the rankings of your website. Go through each page on your site, especially your most popular, high-traffic pages, and look for these things:

  • Is your content outdated or in need of expanding?
  • Have you learned new information about the topic and need to update it with new insights?
  • Do you have links on the page?
  • Is the content off-brand?
  • Do you need to improve the quality of a poorly written article?

Do not replace the page. Just make the updates, re-publish, and promote it. Google loves to see that you are keeping your content up-to-date and will reward you for it. I recommend doing this once every six months to stay on top of it.

12. One-up Your Competitor’s Content

Another extremely effective way to generate traffic and improve your SEO is to find what your competitors are writing about by searching for one of your main topics in Google and analyzing the top 10 results.

For example, if you want to write the best article on “how to throw the best party”, search for it, and open the first 10 pages that show up. Then make a list of the main things that each article covers, including content, visuals, structure, etc.

Then create an even better article that includes these main points and fills in any gaps they may have missed. When you get this right, you create an ultimate, one-up piece of content that’s more thorough, helpful, and higher quality than anyone else’s.

It takes a bit of time and research, but Google will reward you for it. It’ll also attract new backlinks and traffic you wouldn’t have received before.

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