75 SEO Tips for Small Businesses in 2018

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This is the largest collection of actionable SEO tips for small businesses on the planet.

The best part?

All of the SEO advice in this post is 100% up-to-date for 2018.

If you’re looking for some practical strategies that you can use on your site today, then you’ll love this.


1. Start SEO Now

It depends on the industry you’re in – but the likelihood is your competitors are already doing search engine optimisation. Start doing SEO now for two reasons – competitive advantage and the best results from organic strategies can often take 3 – 6 months.

2. Patience is a Virtue

On the above note, know from the beginning that SEO results don’t and won’t happen overnight. I’m writing this as my website receives less than 5 visits per day because it is new. But a) I’m doing SEO for the long term gain b) it’s my passion and c) it’s my project.

3. Shortcuts Don’t Exist

It’s human nature to take the shortest route. Unfortunately, in this industry – it doesn’t exist.

The chances are you have already checked out the plethora of SEO gigs on Fiverr.com and I have too, I’ve even bought them in the past but with no tangible results.

Fiverr SEO Spam services

If it costs $5, it will be $5 worth of value – do yourself a favour and avoid Google penalties.

4. Google Regularly Updates its Algorithm

What worked 5 years ago, won’t work today – check out Google’s algorithm change history. Make sure the advice, techniques and guides you follow are up-to-date because what worked in 2014 could be penalized in 2018. In essence, adapt your organic strategy accordingly.

5. Set up Google My Business

This is crucial for local SEO (and subsequently, small businesses). Google needs to verify and understand that you are a legitimate business that has a physical presence (assuming you do). Build trust with Google and reap the benefits of improved rankings for local keywords.

BONUS: Fill in your Google My Business with NAP details (name, address, phone numbers) to enhance the listing and let Google know you really exist. OWN your branded SERP (Search Engine Result Page).

6. Set up Google Search Console

Hands down, this is the best free resource available to you for SEO intelligence.

Google Search Console allows you to figure out what search queries your website is ranking for, what pages are the most linked to, crawling errors and the opportunity to submit a valid sitemap.

Google Search Console guide to re-indexation

BONUS: You can also request re-indexation from Google in Google Search Console if what’s indexed in Google is lagging behind a bit.

7. Set up Google Analytics

If you are interested in tracking your progress, Google Analytics is your best friend. Another free resource from Google that will allow you to see what keywords your site is ranking for and how visitors behave on your site. Beware, Google Analytics is incredibly granular – so don’t get lost in the data!

8. Consider Pay Per Click (PPC) with SEO

It’s true that some industries are too competitive for organic growth strategies. If you want to see instant results then PPC may be your best bet. If you’re willing to bid a certain amount, you can obtain visitors straight away. If you go down this route make sure you track your spend and your cost per acquisition (CPA) – don’t just throw money at it.

9. Do Keyword Research

This. I can’t stress enough. This lies at the foundation of any organic growth strategy. There are several tools I would recommend for this – Google keyword planner and keyword tool are good places to start.

Keyword Planner search for keywords

Get your keyword research done right and everything that follows will be made easier.

10. Consider the Keyword Search Intent

To illustrate this – for my eCommerce clients, I would recommend they consider keywords that have commercial intent, for example, Buy {Keyword} Online.

Or perhaps you’re driving leads by educating visitors, for example, {Keyword} Guides or {Keyword} Tips. 

Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience – what would you search for?

11. Keyword Search Volumes

When choosing keywords for your small business you need to consider the monthly search volumes. You could pick highly targeted and relevant keywords for your business but what if the volume is only 10 per month?

Similarly, if it is too broad, you will get high volumes of traffic but they will bounce because the content isn’t relevant enough.

The best SEOs strike this balance between relevancy and volume.

12. Create Content for Humans

Having the standard welcome, about us, contact us and product pages isn’t enough.

Create value for your customers by creating great content and, yes, optimise this content for search engines but DON’T make this the primary focus.

Two physical robots to illustrate Google

Concentrate on the humans, not the robots!

13. Understand Internal Linking

A lot of small businesses neglect to link together pages in their website. It’s an easy way to distribute authority within your website. By internal linking you establish a SEO-friendly site architecture and spread link equity.

Here’s an awesome guide about internal linking for SEO from Yoast if you want more information on the topic.

14. Make your Site Mobile Friendly

Google is still experimenting with Mobile first indexing according to recent announcements. We can assume it’s coming eventually as mobile traffic continues to exceed that of desktop – we can prempt this change by making our websites as mobile friendly as possible. The easiest way to achieve this is to use a mobile friendly website builder (and theme) like WordPress which has plenty of responsive consideration.

15. Optimise your Page Speed

People are impatient and speed has been an important ranking factor in SEO for a while. It’s only getting more and more important. Again, where available, install plugins to perform cacheing, lazyload and compression to make this as easy as possible. This will help you stand out against the competition.

16. Understand the Rise of Voice Search

Smart home devices (Alexa & Google Home) is a fast growing industry and what comes with this is the prominence of voice search. According to Comscore, HALF of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 – we need to understand the impact this will have on small businesses and how we can adapt our on-page SEO to cater for voice search. Brian Dean has a fantastic voice search SEO study if you’re interested in learning more.

17. Know the Difference Between Follow vs NoFollow Links

Worthwhile off-page SEO is tough to execute and before you continue your link building efforts you should break down the important difference between Follow and Nofollow backlinks. A nofollow link is a link that does not pass on any link authority, will not count as a point in the page’s favor, and doesn’t help a page’s positioning in the SERPs. It’s like holding up a sign to Google and saying “don’t take this into account”. For example, blog comments, forum posts and anything Google deems as ‘untrusted content’ are typically labelled as Nofollow.

18. Engage Your Community

Start building relationships within your niche. Contemplate where your niche hangs out and reach out. Maybe you’re involved in a professional industry and perhaps influencers in your niche hang out on LinkedIn? Start building exposure to your brand on this platform. Or maybe your niche is less formal, so your community is based on Instagram? Reach out and talk partnerships. Build influence and discuss backlink opportunities to improve SEO for your small business.

19. Create Videos and Share

Buy yourself a decent mic and a webcam and start creating awesome videos. Quality videos are important for many reasons but in terms of SEO they will increase dwell time on your pages and will earn you backlinks from video sharing sites.

20. Use SEO Friendly URLs

Google prefers short URLs that follow a clear and simple structure.

SEO friendly – www.example.com/keyword

NOT SEO friendly – www.example.com/category/10354/p=3143224/keyword

As a guideline you should be able to look at the address bar and have a rough idea of what the page is about with a SEO friendly URL structure. This page’s slug is “small-business-seo-tips” and that’s what it’s about!

21. 301 Redirect Old Pages

If you change the URL of a page, don’t throw away it’s link authority. There could be old backlinks pointing to an URL, ensure the link authority flows to the new page by adding in a 301 redirect. Also, as a note a 301 redirect indicates to a search engine a move is permanent while a 302 redirect is temporary.

22. Use Header Tags (H1 – H6)

Let Google know what your topic is about by using header tags. Your topic (and primary keyword) should be wrapped in a H1 tag (only use one!) and H2 – H6 should be used to break the topic down into subtopics. In best practice, you should include variations of your primary keyword in H2 – H6.

23. Sculpt your Website’s Structure

The rule of thumb is – any page of your site should be accessed within 3 clicks. Do not create orphan pages. There are fantastic tools for finding out your website structure, Google Search Console and SEMRush are two I use.

24. Add Social Sharing Buttons

If it’s easy to share your content, visitors most likely will. So… make it SUPER easy for visitors to share your content. It’s a simple win-win for both sides!

25. High PR & Local Directories

This is some off-page SEO you can do yourself. Get your business added to local and high PR directories but don’t get carried away, there are thousands of spammy directories and most of them won’t be worth the effort. If this doesn’t give your website increased authority, it may be a source of referral traffic.

26. Targeting Local? Add your Address & Phone Number

If you have a physical location and want to target your locality, build even more trust with Google by adding your address and phone number to every page of your website. The easiest way (and lowest effort) is add this as a widget to your footer.

27. Ask for Reviews

Build social proof and trust in your industry by asking for reviews. Ideally, get your customers to review you on Google My Business or on some form of 3rd party review platform – I would advise Reviews.co.uk or TrustPilot. Develop your credibility!

28. Reach out to Niche Relevant Websites

Let’s say you sell craft beer on your website, you could reach out to merchandise websites (beer holders? coasters?) and small locally owned pubs that have websites. You could promote each other’s websites and make SEO more effective for both parties. Build relationships in your vertical!

29. Interact with Industry Influencers

The chances are, in your small businesses’ industry, there are people blogging! Reach out to them (through social sites, forums, email, or the phone) and introduce yourself. Get your brand exposed. It’s another step towards a backlink.

30. Leave Comments

If you’ve got something valuable to say, say it. Add your comments on websites and leave your details – it could lead to referral traffic if you’ve contributed something meaningful to the discussion. The same goes on social media, if you have something to add, don’t be shy.

31. Have Relevant Outbound Links

Link to another page if you believe it would be helpful to your visitor. Don’t worry about lost traffic, the ranking benefit should outweigh that risk.

32. Link from Homepage to Your Most Important Pages

Self-explanatory. Your homepage will have the most authority, pass this authority selectively to your most important pages.

33. Add a Blog

It’s likely that if you’re eCommerce, you won’t have a blog. Get a blog on your website and start creating quality content.

34. Focus on Quality over Quantity (Pages)

It used to be about posting content frequently but not anymore. Forget about posting regularly if it’s going to be low quality. Instead, consolidate this content and make a bigger page or post (covering a wider topic with subtopics) this will achieve an increased dwell time on your content and will target more keywords.

35. Focus on Quality over Quantity (Links)

SEO in 2018 is about quality. Don’t bother with those spammy domains with no authority, instead try and go after the bigger fish, forge relationships with brands and get high authority, quality links from reputable sources.

36. Evaluate Your Content

Have a search on Google for the keyword you are targeting. Have a look at the top 3 results. Can you rival this content? Will your content be good enough to satisfy visitors and rank on the 1st page? Be realistic. If you are not up to the challenge then outsource it, or go after lower competition keywords.

37. Remove ZOMBIE Pages

Zombie pages are pages that are content-light, have low average session duration (dwell time) and little to no engagement (bounce rate). Remove these now as they can bring your overall site’s ranking. Brian Dean has an amazing 2018 Checklist which mentions this:

38. Create Infographics, Graphs, Charts & Stats

Reinforce your message with multimedia, statistics, visuals – anything to break up the wall of text. People want the TL:DR, give them a summary with a chart.

39. Guest Post

Reach out to other website relevant to your industry and offer quality content in return for a backlink. Most websites are open to this provided you are willing to cover a topic they are looking for.

Struggling to find resources? Check out this List of 1500+ High Quality Blogs that accept guest posts. We’d recommend this as a starting off point.

40. Create Infographics, Graphs, Charts & Stats

Reinforce your message with multimedia, statistics, visuals – anything to break up the wall of text. People want the TL:DR, give them a summary with a chart.

41. Avoid Too Much Keyword Repetition

Keyword stuffing looks spammy and is penalised in 2018. Instead, use Latent Semantic Index (LSI) Keywords, which are words closely related to your primary keywords. They say you should aim for a keyword density between .5% and 2.5% but don’t get hung up on this.

42. Use Google Trends

Trends is an awesome tool to view keyword volume and trajectory at the same time. Sometimes there’s no point in targeting certain keywords due to a year on year decline in search.

43. Front Load Title Tags

Insert your primary keywords at the front of your <title> tag (or close to the front). Google puts more weighting on this.

44. Restrict Your Title Tag Length

As a rough guide, titles should be 600 pixels wide (comes in at approx. 70 characters including spaces), as opposed to the previous 500 pixel cutoff. Don’t let your titles get truncated!

45. Add Alt Tags to Your Images

Officially, search engines can’t read images, so add alt tags to tell them what the images are about. Don’t be spammy, just add a rich description of the image and if applicable, add your primary keywords.

46. Restrict Your Meta Descriptions

December 2017, Google expanded the character limit of meta descriptions to 320. On the SERP instead of 2 lines, you will notice a 4-6 lines of description. So update your descriptions with more target keywords and richer, enticing descriptions to increase that CTR (click-through rate).

47. Increase Content Length

This boils down to the quality vs quantity debate but statistically, longer content performs better vs short. As a rule, my posts will never be less than 2,000 words.

48. Write your Own Content

All content on your website should be unique, don’t steal from others. You will be penalised for copying. If you are unsure, use the plagiarism checker Copyscape.

49. Avoid Duplicate Content

This is slightly different. Don’t have pages with the same content across your website. Google will see the duplication and will penalise you. Naturally, some things will stay the same (review widgets, footers, sockets, menus) but try to minimise duplication.

50. Target-Offer-Copy

Identify your target, what your offer is and write copy that converts. If your visitors dwell for longer because you understand your audience well, this will have a benefit in SEO.

51. Understand your Audience

Building on the above. You need to think about who your typical customer is, what they are looking for and what content they are looking to consume. Create surveys, join feedback groups, ask for reviews – build a database.

52. Niche SERP Features

There are a lot of SERP (Search Engine Results Page) features nowadays – map packs, images, answers, events. Maybe it’s not viable for you to target certain keywords because organic results are pushed too far down the page. Small businesses need to understand what they are competing with and if it’s going to be worthwhile.

53. Beware of Agencies that Oversell

If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. If an agency tells you “guaranteed #1 keyword rankings” then alarm bells should ring – SEO is not this simple and nothing like this can be guaranteed without due diligence. Agencies like this are likely to follow black hat SEO techniques that will ultimately harm your rankings.

54. Consider Different Search Engines

Google accounts for ~80% of search traffic but what if your target audience hangs out on Bing, or Yahoo, or somewhere else? You can find this out in Google Analytics. In any event, you should ensure you sign up for Bing Webmaster Tools and submit a sitemap.

55. Use Site Search Data

Do you have Site Search? In Google Analytics you can find out what users are searching (if tracking is enabled). This sort of marketing intelligence can be used to drive your content strategy.

56. Optimise Images

This is some low hanging fruit to improve your pagespeed. Here’s a guide to optimise images for SEO.

57. Consider User Experience (UX)

Your website should be as user friendly as possible on desktop and mobile. If there is something annoying users that is increasing your site’s bounce rate – it will negatively impact SEO.

58. Set Up Google Alerts

Small businesses should set up Google Alerts for their business name and keep track of any brand mentions and press coverage. If a website is mentioning the brand (unlinked) this is a great opportunity to outreach and politely request a backlink to your business. Easy linkbuilding!

59. Build Links from Local

If your business is focused on local SEO / local search terms then you need to reach out in your local area. Local backlinks will help your small business become competitive for search terms related to your expertise in your locality.

60. Check What’s Being Indexed

If you go to Google and type in “site:irwinorganic.com” and you will see how many results show up. The number of results is the number of indexed pages. Does it sound too high or too low? Then investigate.

61. Use Structured Data Markup

You can help Google understand the content of a page by providing explicit clues through structured data on the page. As Google says, “Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.” 

Maybe you’re already using this, use Google’s own structured data testing tool to find out.

62. Optimise for CTR (Clickthrough Rate)

Take a look at your titles and descriptions. This is your best opportunity to get online footfall – are they optimised to be as enticing as possible? Are you mentioning your unique selling points (USPs) – what makes you different from your competitors? Look at PPC ads for your primary keywords and see what others are doing, these will have been tested rigorously (in theory).

63. Google’s Fetch & Render

In Google Search Console there is a feature under the Crawl section > Fetch as Google. If you feel in the dark about how Google sees your pages, remove the mystery – you can fetch and render as as a search engine would see it.

64. Understand Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Back in 2016 Google wanted to pave the way towards a “better, faster mobile internet.”

Moz have an awesome article about AMP if you’re interested in learning about this in detail. Basically, AMP enabled pages load super-fast on mobile devices and receive a small ranking boost, in search results they will typically appear at the top of the page with the small lightning symbol.

65. Understand RankBrain

Put simply, RankBrain is Google’s machine learning system that helps sort search results. RankBrain focuses on two things, 1. Dwell time, 2. Clickthrough Rate (CTR).

66. Choose Between www. vs no www.

In Google Search Console you can set your preferred domain. Choose one or the other for consistency and so you don’t double index your pages.

67. Branding Search Results

Think about the branding opportunity in search results. A lot of small businesses have the following title structure – Primary Keyword | Brand name, for example, “Small Business SEO Tips | IrwinOrganic”.

You need to evaluate your business objectives, are you looking for brand exposure? If the answer is yes – brand your search results.

68. NAP Consistency

NAP (Name, Address, Phone) across directories, website, Google My Business should all be consistent or Google will revert your details accordingly. If everything is consistent this is a trust signal for Google and your rankings will receive a small boost.

69. Install Google Tag Manager

GTM is the best way to manage tags on your website vs putting analytics tags in the header. It can also speed up your website. Check out Google Tag Manager for more information.

70. Track Your Conversions

You should be creating goals in Google Analytics for your website. Submissions on your contact form, clicks on live chat, downloads on PDFs and video plays. Know where users find value on your website and optimise accordingly.

71. Consider Heatmapping

Heatmaps are one of the coolest ways to show how users find value in your website. What parts are used the most and what parts are underused? Google have their own extension called page tracking which isn’t the most accurate. Some tools I would recommend for this are CrazyEggHotjar and VWO.

72. Reliable Hosting

Use a reliable hosting provider. My hosting service, SiteGround had a 100% uptime over the past year. Your keyword positions will suffer if your site is inaccessible.

73. Aim for Page 1

90% of users click on results on the first page. Think about it – when was the last time you went to page 2? Realistically, you won’t achieve position 1 overnight so as a benchmark aim for page 1.

74. Ask Questions

There are plenty of free resources on SEO but if you’re ever unsure. Ask questions, leave comments, get clear on the steps needed to achieve page 1 for your keyword.

75. Join SEO Related Communities

Small businesses can really benefit from engaging with like-minded communities. There are a few SEO groups on Facebook I’m a part of and Ahrefs have a good post on which ones to join

Conclusion

That’s it for now. Next year I’ll aim for 100+ Actionable SEO Tips for Small Businesses.

Have I left any out?

Or do you believe some of these tips are deprecated in 2018?

Comment below!

2 replies
    • Jamie
      Jamie says:

      You’re very welcome. If you’d like me to cover anything else, let me know.

      Also, I’ll be updating this every year so keep me bookmarked for 2019 🙂

      Thanks for reading.

      Reply

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