April 25, 2020

Search Engine Optimization For Small Businesses

Corey Shirey

Search Engine Optimization For Small Businesses

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of increasing the quality and the quantity of website traffic, by increasing the visibility of the website or webpage to search engine users. Simply put, they are the steps you take to make your website more accessible to potential clients or visitors. There are many different ways to accomplish this goal, and many different paths that will lead to the same result. Which path you take is completely up to you, and there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to SEO. There are things that may damage your rankings, that much is clear. But, how you go about getting to the coveted top spot on Google, differs for every business. Not everyone has the same set of circumstances, and different niches are more complicated than others. A small business's SEO plan will differ radically from a  large corporations.   In this article, I am going to supply you with 4 critical tactics you can use to boost your SEO. They are as follows:

  1. Search Engine Optimization Keywords (Long- Tail vs. Short Tail Keywords and which ones your small business should use) 
  2. SEO and Authority 
  3. Competitor SEO Research ( using different tools to see how much Authority your competitors have) 
  4. Diversifying your SEO ( leveraging different search engines and social media to boost Search engine rankings) 

SEO and Keyword Research (Long-Tail vs. Short Tail Keywords) 

keyword research

SEO and keywords are linked together, in other words you can't have good results in one without help from the other. We already know what “SEO” stands for, and what it is defined as. Keywords are search terms that SEO professionals use to achieve a ranking. In other words, when you go on Google, and in the search bar you type “artists”, “web designer”, or “business plan” ; those phrases are a combination of keywords. They are the phrases that customers, or potential clients, will most likely use to “find” your business on the web (with whatever search engine they choose). These are all examples of short tail keywords; one or two word phrases people can use to find you or your business. 

A long tail keyword would be a phrase like, “web designer in Loveland, Ohio”, “artists specializing  in realism”, or “business plan for ice cream shops”. These keywords, as you can see, are much longer (hence the name long-tail, ha!) and more targeted. They essentially narrow down your search from a broad combination of terms.


  Good SEO practitioners will know exactly what keywords to use, and how to best distribute them across their web content. Thus, their pages are ranking higher, and their businesses are getting more traffic from search results. Many large corporations have teams of people dedicated to SEO, that’s how important it is.  

Now, how does this apply to a small business? Well let's think about it.  When you're first starting out, what’s one of the main things you're focused on? Getting the word out there, right? Making sure people know you exist and where to find you. It can be daunting, as there may be some massive corporations that make up your competition. For example, if you sell shoes and we do a search for “shoe stores”, you get results like DSW, Famous Footwear, and Red Wing. Those are high value brands, who have had decades to establish their authority (which we will talk about later) and customer base. How on Earth are you going to compete with that?  

Well in short, you can't. 

There is no way a small business can compete with a more established brand, if they do the exact same marketing strategy. So, as small business owners we must adapt. Instead of just simply using “shoe store” as our keyword combinations, could we go with something longer tailed? Something like “shoe store in loveland , ohio”or “shoe department store in loveland” (you get the point). Try and go for those longer phrases that have less competition, therefore are more likely to give you a higher ranking. A great tool that can be used for this is the keyword planner by google. Just type in the keywords you want to research, and it will spit out a massive list. It will also show you what the competition level surrounding each phrase is, thus allowing you to plan a strategy accordingly. 

google adwords
google adwords

Now, why is this important? This is pretty common sense, right? How and where do I put these elusive keywords on my website?

So now that you have these keywords, how do you use them. Well, there are  many different ways to use keywords on a website. I am going to show you our strategy.  First, make pages that specifically address whatever keyword phrase you are trying to rank for. Obviously, SEO is huge in web- design. Therefore, we have a whole page dedicated to it (as well as this article). If you are a blogger, write an article about the topic, in addition to the webpage. In that article, you can pepper in variations of the keyword phrases (the longer-tailed) keywords. Now, you have multiple different pages and multiple different keyword variations across your website. This tells Google ( or other search engines), hey,  here is my site and this is what I am about! But where do these keywords go? Can we just type them in wherever we want?

Yes and No

Keywords are best used in the h1 and h2 tags on your web pages. Those are the largest, and usually most important tags. This is where you will  tell the user what the page is about, and what to expect while navigating. For example, when you click on a webpage, what's the first title that comes up at the top of the site (under the navigation bar of course)? These are usually your h1 tags, the largest.  Are there any sub-headings on the page? These may be just a tad bit smaller than the main ones. These are most likely an h2 tagged heading. Some of your website editors will call out these headings as h1 and h2 (it will give you the option to make a heading h1,h2,h3,h4 etc). This makes it really easy when deciding where and how to place keywords. Think of a good web page like a good paper or word document. They’re broken down identically. A main heading, with multiple subheadings. 

So, now that we know where to put the keywords; we can just blindly slap a bunch of phrases in a heading right? Who cares about the content on the page, as long as we have those juicy keywords?

You couldn't be more wrong…

In the old days, like ten years ago, people would do this all the time. Make random pages that would rank extremely high, but make little to no sense when you read them. This is called keyword stuffing, and to combat this Google has evolved. They will demolish your web presence, if they think you are misleading your users (or keyword stuffing ). Taking you from that top ranked spot, to the 20th page. After that, well you might as well  decommission your site. Think about it, when is the last time you looked on the 20th page of Google when searching. Probably never.

So what do we do then? This question leads us to our next topic. 

cornerstone content
content is king (cornerstone content that is )

As we mentioned before, large corporations and businesses already have massive authority over their fields. One of the ways they have accomplished this, is amazing content (not to mention being on the internet for 20+ years, some of them) . In conjunction with a good keyword strategy, this can give you a serious boost in rankings. Not only will your rankings skyrocket, but you won't be penalized by Google for keyword stuffing.  

You see, Google has “flipped the script” so to speak, when it comes to the criteria search engines use to rank web pages. They want business ( bloggers, marketers, you etc) to post valuable content. The more informative you are, the more authority and traffic Google will send your way.  Again, as a small business, you should choose content for which you can provide a keyword strategy, in a market you can compete in. Stop choosing “web designer” or “Copywriting”, as these probably have been taken up by the conglomerates.  Choose those long tail keywords,  and develop interesting and dynamic content strategies around them. These two things in combination will help build a sense of trust and authority, with not only search engines, but your customers as well.  Talk about things your customers or clients want to hear about. Make sure you fact check your information. All these things will help promote that authoritative status. 

So, we have a content strategy and keywords to go with that strategy. What is next?

Competitor SEO Research ( tools and tips to help you plan)

google's domain authority
google and their domain authority

Like a good pharmaceutical, an SEO strategy must have a large amount of research attached to it. It can be difficult to see what the competition is doing, but there are tools available to aid you in your search. We mentioned one of them earlier, keyword planner by Google. This allows you to see different keywords and keyword combinations, as well as the competitiveness of each keyword. Another tool  is the Domain Analyzer by Moz. This will allow you to not only view the keywords your competitor uses, but see what authority they have over the topic. Again, it is best to use a strategy that has an “opening” in the top authority spot. Google, is not one of these examples. They would wipe the floor with anyone trying to compete with them, as they have a 98/100  domain authority rating.   Look for domains that have under a 50 authority rating, when starting out on your SEO quest. 

Diversifying Your SEO Strategy 

seo diversification

Believe it or not, Google isn’t the only search engine out there. Yelp, Merchant Circle, Bing, and  yellow pages often appear in the top search results on google. What does this mean? Make sure you take advantage of every platform you possibly can, when posting your business online. Again, this will help boost your Domain’s authority and just overall web presence. The more places Google can pick your business name from, the better. Think about it, when you search a company you may not have heard before, and they only have one listing or one page on Google, how does that look? Shady right?

Another key factor many small businesses overlook is the CONSISTENCY of information they are posting. When starting out, this can be quite difficult. You can change  your brand name, website provider, or  business location throughout the creation process. This is quite normal. But, before and after you post your business online, make sure you are also updating your information across the various platforms. Mismatched information leading to dead pages or addresses can cause terrible user experience. Ever looked a place up in Google Maps, drove there, then once you arrived, realized the business no longer existed or moved locations? I bet you were pretty pissed off , and rightly so. 

When you combine a good SEO strategy, with a social media platform your results are staggering. List your business across places like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Make quality posts and content, and you will see results. The name of the game is getting your business the maximum amount of  exposure. The faster the better.  Also, you can use websites like You-tube or Amazon (if you're selling a product) and “piggyback” off the authority these websites already have. Google will see your listing (on these already authoritative sites) and you will reap the benefits thereafter.  

This is no bulletproof formula. There are thousands of different variables that Google uses in their algorithm to rank websites. This is no fast track to 1,000,000 views across your website. This strategy takes time, therefore many people fall off the wagon if they don’t rank in a month. Stick with it, and I guarantee you will see results. As the old adage goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” You know this is true for your small business, it take massive amounts of time, blood, tears and sweat to produce results. Your online presence and authority is no exception to that rule. However, if your use  the multitude of strategies listed here, it can significantly increase your chances.


Check Out Our Search Engine Optimization Services

Additional Tools:

Google Search Console (see your website rank, and help google index your site aka find it )

Google Analytics ( see real time stats of users visited as well as behavior flows)

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About the Author:

Web Designer, Digital Marketer, and Blogger. Certified in both Google Analytics and Google Ads (As well as many other qualifications, which you can view on my LinkedIn Profile). A listed "Top Expert" on the Kartra platform.

Premium Design Partners was started with the goal of helping small businesses achieve an online presence through SEO, an incredible web design, and content catered to promoting their brand.

Former construction professional (Superintendent for 10+ years), who understands and values an "honest day's work". Enjoys softball (And baseball, but softball now that I am old), constant gym sessions, and anything that pushes me mentally and physically. After all, life is a strive for improvement and knowledge. Meaning, in order to "climb the next rung in the ladder", you must be focused on improving yourself. If you aren't striving to reach "the next best you" in life, then what's the point?

Corey Shirey
Premium Design Partners
CEO & Founder