For any small business, the internet is one of the primary sources of customer acquisition and lead generation. That is why, as a small business owner, it is extremely important for you to have a well-designed website and a strong online presence.
But that alone is not enough to get you customers from your website.
You need to have a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in place for your small biz as well. If you’re not optimizing and placing for your product or service offerings, you’re likely dead in the water.
You need to make it easier for Google, Bing, and other search engines to identify the nature of your business, your geographic location, and major products/services so they serve your website at the top of the results when consumers execute related search queries.
Fortunately, with so many updates in Google search engine algorithms over the last 2 years–the penguin update in particular–if you get a solid small business SEO strategy in place, you have an excellent chance of ranking well when potential customers search for your core and long tail keywords.
To make things easy for you, we’ve put together a checklist of all the major activities that you need to do in order to optimize your business website for search engines.
Read these points closely and try follow the exact actions mentioned with them. Address each of them one by one and bookmark this post if you’re short on time so that you can come back later to complete the checklist.
Here’s the SEO checklist that we’ll be exploring in detail:
- Setting Up Google Analytics for Your Website
- Setting Up Google Webmaster Account and Sitemap
- Integrating Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools
- Optimizing Your Website’s Title Tag
- Optimizing Your H1 and H2 Tag
- Writing an Optimized Meta Description
- Creating SEO Friendly URLs
- Optimizing Images for SEO
- Internal and External Linking of Content
- Setting Up an SEO Footer
- Optimizing Your Website for More Phone Calls
- Optimizing Your Website for Higher Email Opt ins
- Setting Up Your Social Media Profiles
- Setting Up Your Company Blog
- Avoiding Google Penalties
1. Setting Up Google Analytics for Your Website
Before going into the details of different SEO techniques, you first need to set up a Google Analytics account for your website in order to track your search engine rankings, website statistics and visitor behavioral patterns.
There are other analytics tools available as well, but Google Analytics is by far the most superior and reliable of them.
Here’s what you need to do to set up your Google Analytics account.
Step 1 – Sign in to your Google account (or Sign Up if you don’t already have one)
Step 2 – Visit Google Analytics website
Step 3 – Sign Up for a free account.
Step 4 – Enter the complete details of your website including name, URL, category and time zone.
Step 5 – Click “Get the Tacking ID” to get your Google Analytics tracking code.
Step 6 – Copy the tracking code and paste it under the <head> section of all the pages of your website. Alternatively, if you have a common header in your website, you can paste the tracking code there as well. There are also numerous plugins in most CMS’ that handle this as well.
Step 7 – Your account is ready to use. Visit it regularly to get the latest picture of your website stats.
2. Setting Up Google Webmaster Account and Sitemap
Before we go into the details of SEO, make sure you activate your Google Webmaster account and submit your sitemap to Google. You can get valuable insights to your website performance and search engine rankings using this tool, while submitting your sitemap will help Google crawl your website quicker.
Step 1 – Go to Google Webmaster Tools
Step 2 – Sign in to your account using your Google Id.
Step 3 – Enter your website URL and click “Add a website”
Step 4 – Verify your account by using the HTML verification method.
Step 5 – In the left column, click on Crawl Sitemaps. Here, click on “Add Sitemap”. To learn more about creating sitemaps, click here
Step 6 – Your account is ready. You can now view your top (provided) keywords, crawl stats, incoming links and many other stats.
3. Connecting Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools
Connecting the Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics accounts can give you awesome insights to your website statistics.
Here’s how to do it.
Step 1 – Sign in to your Google Webmaster Tools account
Step 2 – Click on the “Manage Site” drop down next to your website and select Google Analytics Properties.
Step 3 – Link your analytics account with webmaster tools and click “Save”.
4. Optimizing Your Website’s Title Tags
Now that you’re done with that setup process, let’s dive a little deeper. First of all, you need to optimize your title tags.
Google expects you to put the most important and identifiable information about your business in your title tag. As a rule of thumb, the title tag should not be more than 70 characters and should contain the name of your business, your target keywords and your geographic location. This is critical for small business SEO and will help both Google and users searching for your products or services to immediately identify your business and its location.
For example if you provided IT services and support in Austin and your core service is managed IT services, then this is how your title tag should look:
Austin Managed IT Services | IT Support & Cloud Cloud Computing Services
Alternatively, if you have a strong brand name with a geographic modifier, you may opt for this:
Austin’s Pizza: Austin, TX Pizza Delivery, Catering, and Pizzeria
The title tag should be placed within the <head> of the HTML code for every page. Start setting up the title tag for your main index page first because that’s your most important landing page and then move on to the interior pages.
5. Optimizing Your H1 Tags
Now that you’re done with the title tags, let’s move on to some on-page optimization factors. Here, H1 and H2 tags are the most important components. Intelligently optimized H1 and H2 tags tell Google what your page is all about.
Use different variations of your main keywords in H1 and H2 tags. But make sure you don’t use only the keyword as your H1 tag, because that looks unnatural. Instead, use long tail H1 and H2 tags that include your target keywords.
Using the example of Burger Shack again, this is how your H1 and H2 tags should look like.
Fast Food & Beef Burger Restaurant in Austin, TX
I’ve used a variation of the title tag for the H1 and H2 tags. You can use other variations as well, but make sure they include your target keywords and location.
Also, don’t use your target keywords in more than one H2 tag.
6. Writing an Optimized Meta Description
When you search for something on Google, it shows a small description with each result that tells you what the website is all about. This is called the meta description of your website and it is another crucial component of your SEO strategy.
Meta description does not directly impact your search engine rankings, but it does affect your click through rate and as Google continues to fold more usage and engagement metrics into their algorithms, this becomes increasingly important.
Instead of writing a keyword stuffed meta description, write a searcher-centric description about your business that includes a call to action.
7. Creating SEO Friendly URLs
Your website URL structure is also a key component when it comes to search engine optimization. Make sure your URLs are search engine friendly.
Don’t know what that means?
Here’s an example of an unfriendly URL
And here’s a friendly URL
A friendly URL, that includes your main keywords, plays a vital role in your search engine rankings.
It is almost as important as the Title tag.
So make sure your URLs are in correct form.
8. Internal and External Link Building
Internal links are hyperlinks within your page content that link to other pages on your website. This not only helps search engines to crawl your website much more efficiently but also improves your website’s user engagement and per user time on site by routing visitors to other relevant pages.
Google loves smart, natural and helpful internal linking, and that’s why you should focus on it as well.
But don’t do it the wrong way because that can get you penalized.
The old method of internal link building, which was to use the target keyword as anchor text, can now get you in trouble with Google.
Instead, use natural anchor text for links.
Here’s an example.
Unnatural Anchor Text: Tasty Beef Burgers
Natural Anchor Text: Click here to see the list of beef burgers
Use anchor texts link “click here”, “read more” etc. that look more natural. This is a recent change that even many SEO experts have not identified, but you can get penalized if you don’t follow it.
Similarly, use helpful external links within your content to other webpages or articles that can help your users. But make sure the links are not leading to your competitor’s website.
Ideally, you should use 1-2 internal and 1 external link on every page.
The Importance of Citations
Citations are external references of your business. Without getting into too much SEO-speak, the kinds of citations we’re concerned with are those we’re able to acquire from local business directories, like YellowPages, SuperPages, Yelp, etc. These citations include your business’ name, address, phone number (NAP), and sometimes a short description and other relevant information. If your business is operating with a physical address (even a small office suite), these are a critical component in optimizing for your local market.
Citations also play an important roll with regard to Google Maps rankings (often called the local pack) and localized searches. If you’re optimizing for maps, it’s vital that your business information is consistent and current if you want optimal placements. Even if you’re targeting keywords that don’t return integrated results with maps listings, a large number of consistent, quality citations can also help your content place well in search when consumers in your local area execute relevant search queries.
(image of citation with caption)
Even if you’re not targeting local search terms, they’re still important, trusted links worth acquiring and can send referral traffic if optimized correctly. We have a large list of citations which you can view here.
9. Optimizing Images for SEO
Apart from optimizing the text content on your website, it is extremely important to optimize the images for search engines as well.
Image search can get you a LOT of visitors from search engines and also help your overall search engine rankings.
You need to do 3 things to optimize your website’s images.
– Size optimization – make sure the images are not unnecessarily heavy in size (kbs)
– Image Filename – use descriptive image names and use your keywords in them.
– Alt Text – use alternate text with every image. Describe the image using your target keywords.
10. Setting Up an SEO Footer
Making effective use of the footer of your website is also important in order to rank on the first page of Google for your desired keywords.
You need to do two things in order to optimize your footer.
- Add a short description of your business in the footer. Consider this as a summarized version of your About page. Use your target keywords here as well, but no keyword stuffing.
- Add the name, address and phone numbers of your business in your footer are under the heading of Contact Us.
But for this to improve your search engine rankings, you need to do two more things 🙂
– Add your business to Google+ Local with the same contact details that you’ve mentioned on your website.
– Secondly, go to The Schema Creator and select “Local Business” under the “Type” drop down. Add all your business information here as well (the same as Google+ and your footer). Once you submit this information, you’ll get a code from the schema creator. Copy this code to the footer of all the pages of your website.
11. Optimizing Your Website for Phone Calls
Studies indicate that if your customer doesn’t see your phone number within 10 seconds of landing on your website, then he’s likely to go away without taking action.
But even more surprising is the fact that 60% of businesses do not display their phone numbers on their websites.
Make sure you’re not one of them because it can cost you a lot of valuable customer.
Add your phone on all the prominent places of your website including the header and the sidebar.
12. Optimizing Your Website for Higher Email Opt ins
Email addresses of your visitors are your most valuable assets as a small business because they give you an opportunity to regularly engage your visitors and send them new offers.
Make it easy for your visitors to subscribe to your mailing list by adding email opt in forms at prominent locations of your website.
You can use a free report, deal or any other giveaway to entice your visitors to subscribe.
13. Setting Up Your Company Blog
Blogging should be a mandatory part of your SEO and content marketing strategy. An active company blog will give you a great platform to share your expertise and industry knowledge with your visitors.
Regular blog posts will also get indexed by Google and send you highly qualified traffic.
You can add a WordPress blog at www.yourwebsite.com/blog.
You can either install WordPress on your website through the cPanel of your web hosting service, or you can download it directly from wordpress.org
Once you have the blog in place, keep updating it on a weekly basis with high value content to get the real benefits out of blogging.
14. Setting Up Your Social Media Profiles
Google now uses several factors in search engine rankings including the number of times a particular piece of content has been shared on social networks.
So it’s important for you to be present on all the major social media website.
Visit each of these websites and create your company pages over there.
Once you have created your profiles, add their links to your website and encourage your visitors to follow you.
15. Avoiding Google Penalties
If you implement all this knowledge to your website, you are likely to receive high volumes of traffic from Google. But there’s just one thing that you need to keep in mind while using these SEO techniques.
Always create your website content with the users in mind. Create content for humans, not search engines.
Don’t overdo any of these techniques because Google is pretty good at detecting unnatural SEO and will not wait for a second to penalize you for it.