As a small business owner you have to do a lot with little. And when you’re starting out you basically need to do everything yourself. You need to be the sales person, the marketer, the social media person, as well as the service provider.
I understand. I’ve been a small business owner and everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from hard experience.
To save you some of the headaches and get moving, I’m going to tell you the important basics that you need to know to get your website up and running and found on Google. This is what I did for myself and what I continue to do for clients.
Getting Started with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Small Business
The first thing you need is a website. I recommend WordPress because there is so much support for the platform in terms of tools, services, and contractors.
Your first step is to get a website up on the internet, preferably using WordPress.
When you’re putting up your site, you can buy your domain name at many places.
But you’ll want to make sure that you get good hosting for the website itself. A good host will keep the spam and malware attacks to a minimum, make your site is relatively fast and secure, and they should also have a decent backup system that comes with the hosting.
If your website ever goes down, you’ll be glad you got good hosting, because all you have to do is call your hosting company and ask them to launch a backup of your website from 3 days ago. Like magic your site will be back up and running.
You don’t have to spend a lot to get good hosting, you just have to pick a good company. I use a great hosting company and I spend about $18 a month. I’ve had clients that spent hundreds of dollars a month on hosting. You don’t need to spend that much.
On Page SEO Basics – No Fluff
Now that your WordPress website is live, go into the Dashboard and go to Settings. Click the General button. Here you need to enter your Website Title. This is important.
If you are a dentist in Raleigh, NC add your name and location here. For example: Happy Smiles Dentist in Raleigh, NC.
Next, while still in Settings go to Permalinks and select the option for Post Name. The Post Name option makes your pages and articles simple, clean, and easy to understand for humans as well as Google. For example, if you have a page on your website about dental crowns, the permalink might be -- happysmiles.com/dental-crowns.
If you don’t select Post Name, by default a bunch of numbers and symbols will show up which don’t make sense and confuse search engines. By using default settings your dental crowns page may end up like this -- happysmiles.com/?p=123.
See the difference? The one using Post Name makes it much easier to understand what the page is about.
Next, you’ll want to get an SEO plugin. There are three I recommend and you should get the FREE version only of whichever one you choose. They are Yoast SEO, All In One SEO, and RankMath. They are all equally good.
Any of these plugins offer a variety of features, but you only need them for three things: an xml sitemap, a robots.txt file, and to control your Page Titles. Whichever plugin you get make sure to have it create the xml sitemap and robots.txt file. These are usually turned ON by default, but double check. These files help Google crawl and understand the information on your website.
The plugins also let you control the Title on every page of your website. So, you can make the title of the dental crowns page something like: Dental Crowns by Happy Smiles Dentist Dr. Brown, instead of just the page titled: Dental Crowns.
You’ll also follow your plugins suggestions to improve SEO for each page you create as you’re working on them.
And that’s all you have to do.
Local Business Listings
Business listings, also known as citations, are important for small businesses. The first thing you want to do is write down your business name, address, and phone number on a spreadsheet or other document so you can easily copy and paste from there.
It’s critical that you be consistent with your name, address, and phone number for every citation you create. If you want to use LLC at the end of your name, you need to use it every time. Make sure if your address is 123 Front St., you use that version every time. Do not use 123 Front, or 123 Front Street Suite 4, or 123 Front Drive. Pick one exact version, and use it every time. This is why working from a spreadsheet or document is helpful.
The first business listing you want to create is for Google My Business. This is how you show up on Google Search as well as Maps. They are free to create. Just make sure you fill out the listing as completely as you can, and stay consistent with your name, address, and phone number.
Next, I’d recommend filling out the same thing for Bing. It’s called Bing Places. After that you have plenty of options like BBB, FourSquare, YellowPages, etc. Just do a search for “local business listings” and you should see a bunch of options.
You should fill out 20 citations to start with.
Social Media Accounts
Next, you want to do basically the same thing you did with the business listings for social media. We all know of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., but did you know there are hundreds of social media sites? Go to the website Knowem.com and enter your business name and you’ll see all the places you can get an account. The search is free.
As with citations, it’s important to be consistent in claiming your social media accounts. Also, many sites give you the opportunity to link your other social media accounts and your website, so it’s a good idea to do that, too. And as with the citations, I’d aim to fill out at least 20 of these accounts.
If you were consistent, then all the accounts should have your same brand name like Happy Smiles Dentist Facebook, Happy Smiles Dentist YouTube, Happy Smiles Dentist Yellowpages, etc.
The reason you want to create all these profiles is that some of them will show up in Google when people search your business name. This is called a brand search and it’s one of the most common types of Google searches.
It’s critical to show up for your brand. If someone is thinking of buying from you, it’s almost guaranteed they’ll do a brand search of your business.
If you follow the steps I outlined above, your website should show up as the first search result when people search your business name. The rest of the page will be filled with your business listings and social media accounts. This is SEO branding. No matter what results are shown on your brand search, they all lead back to your business, and there is no confusion for potential customers.
Outlined above are the bare basics, but it’s the 80/20 rule in effect – 20 percent of the work gets you 80 percent of the results. And as a small business owner, this is what matters.
And just about any business owner can pull this off by themselves with a few Google searches and YouTube videos.
Bruce Paulson is the owner of Determined Solutions, an SEO agency. All the work he does for his clients he learned from testing his own websites on Google. Bruce talks strictly from experience about what works, not from theory or reading Google’s latest algorithm update.