SEO for Small Businesses: How to Rank High on Google

17
December 2019

How to rank high on Google:


Did you ever wonder how Google chooses the top results for a particular search? It may seem complicated but it’s actually pretty easy. Google creates algorithms – sets of rules that, when used, solve a problem. Google’s problem is determining what web sites or online content best fit any given searcher’s particular needs.

The best way for Google to do this is to find sites or content that is high quality, comprehensive, relevant, up-to-date and authoritative. How do you convince Google that your small business site and content is worthy? It takes experience and expertise but it basically boils down to this: don’t make Google work too hard.

Page ranking is done programmatically, so your page needs to be able to clearly communicate with the technology that Google has developed to understand a web site’s content and its value. You make this easier for Google by clearly stating what you offer, by creating a lot of quality content – and some of it needs to be long-form content, which means about 1,200 to 1,500 well-chosen words – that answers the questions people have about your area of expertise. And you need to arrange all those words and images in ways that enable people to find the information they are looking for easily and quickly.

Then, to get your web site listed consistently as a top resource, you need to keep on top of changes in those algorithms. Google changes them frequently to provide a better search experience. What worked last month may work against you this week.

Search Engine Optimization Basics for Small Businesses


Search Engine Optimization, more commonly known as SEO, is a process not a project. You will need to refine your SEO consistently because, as noted above, Google algorithms keep evolving. Unless you have a lot of free time and a passion for tracking algorithm changes, you will probably find that its more cost-effective and efficient to hire experts like Optuno to build you a custom SEO-friendly website for your business. The professionals at Optuno also provide hosting, monthly maintenance, and a dedicated team to take care of the site. It also offers a 100% money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied. Click here for a free consultation.

SEO professionals can help you quickly determine how your website should be designed and what content it should contain. They can assist you in figuring out what topics your content should address. They can also tell you how to “talk” to Google’s crawlers (the name for the programs that discover, scan and index web pages) by correctly formatting the important parts of your website to align with what Google is looking for when it scans your site and indexes your content.

Google Small Business: 3 Ways You Can Rank


There are three primary sections in Google where your website can potentially rank: in paid results, local results, and organic results.

1. Paid Search Results

Paid results – the ads that appear on top and bottom of search results - can be purchased via a bidding process through Google Ads. Business owners pay for these ads to be displayed when users search for specific keywords. For example, if you sell blue widgets you can pay Google to display your business information every time a user searches for blue widgets. Google Ads can be a very effective way of utilizing ad spend for new businesses or struggling to compete against businesses that rank higher in organic search results. Be aware that some keywords are in very high demand and are priced accordingly. You may want to work with a paid search expert to determine how to get the best returns on your investment by being more specific about your keywords, displaying paid results at particular times, or targeting specific markets.

2. Local Search Results

Google’s local search results are displayed within Google Maps after a user searches for a keyword that includes a location, such as “Coffee Miami.” Landing within Google’s local search results requires that you have a Google My Business account. This is key for brick-and-mortar-based businesses because it puts your business in front of local people ready to buy.

SEO experts often recommend that small businesses start their SEO campaign by focusing on local results for two key reasons:

Higher chance of ranking – In the local results, you are only competing against other businesses in your area. This gives you a higher chance of ranking compared to organic results, which include businesses in any location that match a specific search keyword.

People who search local have intent to buy – The local results show up on search terms where people have intent to buy from a local business, so they are often the most beneficial for small, locally-focused businesses.

For example, if someone searches Google for “Coffee Miami,” then Google will display coffee-related business on a map of Miami. These businesses are pulled from active Google My Business accounts. The listing for your business can include reviews, information from you, photos, client testimonials, and other information.

3. Organic Search Results

Organic search results are free and display below Google Ads and sometimes local results. Google uses sophisticated algorithms (as discussed above_ to determine which sites rank highest for organic search results based on keyword usage, relevance, site design, and other factors. Generally, Google provides the highest quality, most relevant results based on the keyword(s) used by the searcher.

Organic results includes a wider range of websites—not just local businesses. While location may still be a factor in the organic results, it is not generally the dominant factor unless a searcher includes the words “near me”. The main factor is the authority of the website (or the credibility of the site), external links back to the site, the length of time the site has been live, and other considerations. This is why you will often see sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and Facebook show up high in search results.

In the organic results, the top-ranking websites are those best optimized for search engine optimization and boast a high domain authority. For these reasons, you are likely to see well-known websites ranking above smaller business sites, as illustrated below.

This is not to say that small businesses can’t show within the top organic results. If your business is located in a less competitive market or industry, like a nail salon in a small town, you have a better chance of ranking high in organic results. Most small businesses find it easiest to rank within local results, though small businesses can also rank high in organic results by investing in search engine optimization efforts.

How to Rank Higher on Google in 7 Steps


To improve your Google ranking, you will need to learn search engine optimization basics. This includes finding relevant keywords, registering for a Google My Business account, optimizing your website for mobile, link building, getting positive reviews, and consistently adding quality content.

As an alternative to tackling this on your own, try using a service like Mayple to match you with your industry’s best marketing experts. Mayple is a platform that connects business owners to vetted marketing experts, so you can focus on running your business and delegate the rest to experienced professionals — all you need to do is fill out a brief explaining your business’ goals. It even monitors your project’s progress and ensures your expert always delivers the best results. Get started today.

Visit Mayple

Here’s how to increase your Google page rank in seven steps:


Step 1: Determine what Keywords People Use to Find Your Business

Keywords are the words and phrases that people type into Google when looking for information. Use the Google Keyword Planner Tool, available through your Google Ads account, to find the most popular keywords people use when searching for your type of business. Optimize your website for those keywords by using them in blog posts and to web pages. Don’t overuse them – that can make Google think you are trying to spam the search results - but try to work keywords naturally into headlines/titles and throughout your content.

If you don’t already have a Google Ads account, start by signing up for one for free. This will give you access to the Keyword Planner.

Next, log into Google AdWords and click “Tools” > “Keyword Planner.” Once you’re on the Keyword Planner menu, click “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.” Complete the form that appears; to start with, search for your type of business and location. For example, if you own a hair salon in Chicago, you would want to enter “hair salon Chicago.” Then click “Get ideas,” and you will see the number of average monthly searches for the term you entered, plus other related search terms that you may want to use as keywords. Create a list of the keywords and search terms you want to rank for and fold them in to your website copy and content as naturally as possible. As Google sees your website using these keywords, it will view your site as a relevant and quality search result.

Keep in mind that the number of average monthly searches for each suggested keyword is an estimate that represents the popularity of that keyword or search term. This makes a difference when doing your keyword research, as it gives your insight into what people in your market are searching for. Understanding what they want allows you to focus your web content and social posts on relevant topics and information. (It may also give you ideas of what new services to offer, or products to sell).

Step 2: Claim and Optimize Your Google My Business Page

A Google My Business (GMB) page is a free business listing through Google that allows your business to show up in organic and local results. Having a Google My Business page is necessary in order to rank in Google’s local results, but how highly you rank within the results is determined by factors such as the quality of your account and your volume of good reviews.

To get started, you will need to either claim your current business page or create a new one, depending on whether or not a page already exists for your business. If you are unsure, you can go to Google.com/business to search for the name of your business.

Then go to “Google My Business” and provide some simple information – the name and location of your business, the type of business, your business contact details including phone (hint: use a number with a local area code) and website (and if you don’t have a website – make sure to click on the option that reads “Get a free website based on your info.”) And then you’ll need to “Verify” your connection with the business which requires a single click if you have a Gmail account. (It’s important to use a business email account here, as noted above).

Once you’re verified, you can add your logo and additional information about your business to local search results. You can also add images of your business, yourself (and your team, if you have employees) and your products or whatever you sell. This is your chance to tell your story, engage with potential customers, and build your online presence. Think about what you’re going to write, what sets your business apart from others, and how to make your business a place that people want to experience. Choose photos that support your business’ story (your brand, in marketing speak). You can also create a video walkthrough of your business, and post that on local search as well.

Take your time filling out your listing. Type it out in a program like Word so you can check spelling and punctuation. Or have a friend or two read it to spot problems and give you feedback.

Here are some ways to optimize your Google My Business page:

  • Include Keywords in Your Description – Remember the keywords you found using Google’s keyword planner tool? Use those in your description whenever possible on your Google My Business page, but use them naturally—don’t force them in.

  • Use Keywords in Image File Names – Use keywords in image file names when relevant, and the titles and descriptions you use when uploading those images and videos to your Google My Business page.

  • Choose Your Category Carefully – Your category, chosen from Google’s extensive list, is a deciding factor in whether your business will be deemed relevant to a search. Make sure to choose the category that best fits your business.

  • Get Reviews – Businesses with more reviews are likely to rank higher. Get reviews by asking your existing customers to review you.

  • Respond to Reviews – You will also want to respond to both negative and positive reviews because owner response could boost your ranking as well.

  • Use a Consistent Address – Make sure the physical address you use is consistent with the one on your website and across directories (such as Yelp and Angie’s List). We will talk more about why this is important later.

When you’re happy with the content, post it in Google My Business. And keep it fresh. You can create, for free, posts with special offers, news and other content to keep your listing fresh and interesting. If you got a free website from Google, the posts will appear there as well.

If you want to really connect with your customers, download the Google local search app (you’ll find a link on Google My Business). The app not only lets you update your info, ads and other messaging from your mobile phone, it also lets customers message you directly for information about your business. You can reply using the app – and it’s totally free of charge. And if you accept appointments or reservations, click “Accept bookings on Google.” You’ll then be shown services that enable electronic reservations/appointments. Select one or more, and your customers will be able to easily access your services.

Step 3: Optimize Your Small Business Website

In order to optimize your site, you need to make sure you are including the keywords that you want to rank for multiple times throughout your site. Also, ensure your site has complete and up-to-date contact information, that you’re using appropriate meta tags, and that you include pertinent business information as text—not text on images that Google can’t search.

Here are the top six ways to rank highly in Google’s search results:


  • Ensure Your Information Is Complete – Make sure that every page of your site has your business name, physical address, email, and phone number with local area code.

  • Check That Information Is Visible – Make sure the above information is in text format and not an image so that it can be “seen” by Google.

  • Include a Descriptive Title Tag – Make sure to include a descriptive title tag that includes what your business is and where it’s located, like in the example below. Different site builders have different methods for doing this, but for WordPress, you can use a plug-in like Yoast to input this information.

  • Launch a Blog – One of the best ways to rank on Google is to create a blog and write blog posts targeting the keywords you found in the first step. This gives you a good chance of showing up in the search results you want.

  • Embed a Map on Your Contact Page – Embed a Google Map on your “Contact Us” page by searching for your business on Google Maps, then clicking “Share” on the left, and then “Embed” to get the code on your website. If you need help doing this, Fiverr is a good place for finding affordable website help for as little as $5.

  • Use Meta Descriptions Strategically – Meta descriptions are brief summaries of page content, searchable by Google. Put your primary keywords, areas your business serves, and phone number in your 165-character meta descriptions. You should be able to do this easily with Yoast (if you’re using WordPress).

In case you don’t have the time available to manually make these changes and optimizations, then Yoast’s Local SEO WordPress plug-in is well worth the money; it will help you automatically tackle the points above.

Step 4: Design Your Website for Mobile Search

Nearly 70% of searches now are performed on mobile devices, which is why Google ranks mobile-optimized sites higher than those not designed for mobile. In order to optimize your site for mobile, follow the steps below:

Here are the top tips to help optimize your website for mobile search:


  • Use a Responsive Web Design – A responsive web design will automatically adjust your website based on the device it is being viewed on, ensuring an easy browsing experience. Test your website for mobile using Google’s mobile-friendly test.

  • Create Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) – An initiative created by Google, referred to as AMP, helps makes web content more mobile-friendly and leads to improved search results rankings. Learn how to accelerate your mobile pages using AMP.

  • Reduce Unnecessary Content – Mobile screens have a lot less real estate than a computer, so you will want to eliminate copy, white space, media, and pages that are not relevant.

  • Improve Page Load Time – Having a quick website load time is key. Sites that take too long to load lead to more page bounces (people leaving a site immediately after clicking on it), resulting in lower search results rankings. A quick way to decrease load time is by using a fast host, such as Bluehost.

To maximize your ROI when optimizing your site for mobile search, consult with a marketing professional to make sure your SEO efforts are in order. Use Mayple to be matched with a marketing expert from your industry, so you know your second set of eyes are from a professional. Visit Mayple’s site, fill out a brief identifying your business’ goals, and receive a FREE full audit of your marketing campaigns.

Step 5: Employ Link Building Strategies

Building links means that your business is being referenced or linked to on other sites. This tells Google that your website is authoritative (like a citation), helping to increase your rank on Google. There are two types of link building you should leverage: structured citations and unstructured citations.

Incorporate Structured Citations via Online Directories - When your business is listed in an online directory, it is known as a structured citation. These citations increase exposure and website domain authority while associating your business name with existing high-authority sites like Yelp—all of which is favorable to Google. To create an effective structured citation, include full business contact information on your directories and be consistent with formatting.

Structured citations include a combination of your business name, address, and phone number. Google looks at the consistency of these citations across the web to provide users accurate information in search results. With this in mind, you want to make sure that you are always using the same address and contact information.

Here’s an example of a structured citation:

Fit Small Business

315 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10017

212-555-3434

If you’re not sure where to start, use this definitive list of directories, where every business should be listed. This list not only includes top directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor, but also industry-specific and local directories that you can choose from based on your business type and location.

How to Get Unstructured Citations and Links - Unstructured citations include things like a mention of your business in an online newspaper article, press release, online job board, and other sites. Unstructured citations and links are important because they let Google know that people are talking about your business. To get the most unstructured citations, work on getting positive reviews, host events, send out press releases to the media, and engage with customers online.

Here are the primary ways to get unstructured citations:

  • Get Reviews – Ask customers to leave reviews of your business on sites like Yelp and Google. More on this below.

  • Host Events – Hosting events is a good way to land press, as events are often mentioned in newspapers and online event directories, such as EventBrite.

  • Submit Press Releases – If your company has news to share (new products, services, design, and so on), then let the media know by drafting and sending out press releases.

  • Use LinkedIn for Business – Having a business page, or bio, on LinkedIn gives you exposure to professionals in and outside of your industry. Setting one up is free via LinkedIn.com.

  • Participate in Forums – Getting involved in online forums, such as Reddit and Quora, can help increase the number of unstructured citations for your business. To maximize the potential of getting citations here, make sure your user bio includes your business website. Also, use the forums as a way to provide helpful information and not as self-promotion.

  • Use Blogs – Having your own blog, plus working with other blogs to guest post, gives you more unstructured citations and links. It can also be a good way of providing people with useful information and encouraging site visitors to talk about your business by linking back to informative posts.

Step 6: Get Reviews on Google My Business and Yelp

Reviews are important to your small business because having reviews—especially positive reviews—is a ranking factor on Google. People are also more likely to click and visit your business if it’s listed with a lot of good reviews. To get reviews, start by asking your most loyal customers and any contacts familiar with the quality of your goods and services to leave reviews on major sites such as Google and Yelp.

Here’s how to get reviews for your business:

  • Ask Your Customers – Don’t be shy about just asking your customers for reviews. Invite them to give you a review by asking them in-person or sending out an email.

  • Request Links in Digital Communications – Include “Please give us a review” links in your email footer.
  • Use Feedback Surveys – Send out customer feedback surveys and then ask for reviews from those who gave you high marks.

  • Link to Your Reviews Page – Add links to your review pages from your website in your footer or on your Contact Us page.

For more on where and how to get reviews, view our small business owner’s guide to getting reviews.

Step 7: Create Fresh Content with High-Volume Keywords

Keeping your website content updated with copy that includes your primary keywords (noted from your Google Keywords Tool research above) can help boost your website’s ranking on search engines. Content can be in the form of web page updates or blog posts, but whatever the form, be sure you create content that is helpful to your target audience.

An easy way to keep your website current and relevant is by maintaining an active blog. This allows you to create posts that use your keywords while also telling Google your website is up to date without actually having to update your web pages. Consider writing on topics that answer frequently asked questions or sharing your expertise in your industry.

Also, be consistent in your posting. Decide on a posting schedule and stick to it for as long as possible; Google sees these updates and ranks your site higher because you are continuing to offer fresh, relevant content to readers.

For ideas on what to write about, use the Google Keyword Planner tool to see what keywords related to your business or industry have high search volume. For example, if you are a pizza business in NYC, you could search keywords like “ingredient sourcing,” “organic,” or “pizza recipes.”

Top 6 Small Business SEO Tools to Rank on Google

Search engine optimization (SEO) tools enable you to take the guesswork out of search engine optimization by giving you insights about your keywords, analyzing your website, helping you grow your domain authority through directories, and more. Optimizing a website to rank on Google can be tricky if you’re not a search engine optimization or web development pro. However, there are tools available to help make it a lot easier for small businesses.

Here are the top search engine optimization tools for small businesses:

Google Keyword Planner Tool – A free tool where you can get data and suggestions on keywords.

Google Trends – Get insight into what people are searching for using Google Trends. These insights can give you ideas for relevant content, which will help increase your page rank.

Localworks by Yahoo! – Localworks is a business listing tool that helps you easily manage your online reputation, exposure, and page rank through business directory listing management.

Can I Rank? – A robust search engine optimization tool that not only provides keyword data, but also actionable information on what you need to do in order to rank better in search.

Moz Link Explorer – A free tool that lets you check the web for links back to your site, as well as give you ideas for new content.

Check My Links – Check My Links is a free Google Chrome plug-in that scans for your links across the web and notifies you if any are broken.

10 SEO Pro Tips to Increase Google Rank

Learning how to rank higher on Google isn’t easy, but with the help of search engine optimization professionals, you can start increasing your Google rankings more quickly. We’ve talked to the pros to get you top tips from those who are experts in the field.

Here are 10 tips from search engine optimization (SEO) pros on how to rank higher on Google:

1. Create Diverse Website Content

Gabrielle Benedetto, Sales and Partner Strategist, Search Influence

Out of the 200+ factors in Google’s ranking algorithm, website content is one of the most impactful. Featuring client testimonials onsite helps rankings and is a great way to connect with your audience and build trust. Use content to communicate, testimonials to build trust, and email and newsletter marketing to nurture client relationships.

2. Get Quality Backlinks Using Your Network

Marie Lamonde, Content Marketing Specialist, DashThis

Simply look around at other sites—your clients, your partners, your providers, associations you’re a part of, local directories, or even some local communities or influencers. These are all websites that can have a huge impact on your SEO as well as help you get traffic and raise awareness for your business. You are probably already doing business with most of them, so simply ask for a mention, a case study, a testimonial, or other types of backlinks.

3. Optimize Your Website for Voice Search

Sheila Rae, Outreach Manager, Lean Rank

The most valuable tip I give small business owners who are looking to improve their ranking is to optimize their website for voice search. As of January 2018 alone, there were an estimated one billion voice searches per month. This number has grown exponentially over the past year and it will continue to grow in 2019. Optimizing their sites now will give them an edge in all aspects of their marketing.

4. Monitor Competitors to Discover Opportunities

Dustin DeTorres, CEO, DeTorres Group

Small businesses should track competitors using tools like Spyfu, SEMrush, or just simply making lists by Googling their competition. Find areas where your competitors aren’t as strong and maximize that opportunity.

For example, a plumber could first find a service that has search volume on Google but may not be talked about that in-depth on their competitor’s websites. In this example, a service like “leak detection” may be listed with a small blurb on your competitor’s sites, but none of them have elaborated on every angle, created FAQs, videos, or images. This represents an opportunity to dominate on that topic.

5. Use Your Competitors’ SEO Research

Alex Ratynski, Marketing Director, Roadside Multimedia

Take your competitors’ SEO work and apply it to yourself. For example, when writing your meta titles and descriptions, look at your competitors’ paid ads on Google for your keywords. Do they all mention a word or phrase (“complementary” or “free estimates,” for example)? Try using those to improve your titles and descriptions. After all, they spent money testing theirs out.

6. Deploy Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs)

Marty Meany, Search Engine Optimization Specialist, Three

Google loves speed and they actually got tired of waiting for people to speed up their sites. For this reason, they launched the AMP project. This is a special page structure which strips away some of the fancy styling to leave a much simpler page. Simpler pages load faster, and while there’s some debate in SEO circles about the ranking benefits that come with AMP, if you are running a website on budget hosting, this is almost certainly a winning concept. If you’re running a blog on WordPress, this is a relatively simple deployment, too.

7. Be Active on Google My Business

C.J. Redmond, SEO Specialist, Page 1 Solutions, LLC

Once you claim your Google My Business listing and verify it, you’ll need to take plenty of pictures of your office (both internally and externally), as well as plenty of photos of your staff. Get in the habit of snapping photos of your business in action, before-and-afters (if applicable), and post all of these assets to your Google My Business profile. A verified and optimized Google My Business profile stands out in search results, especially among customers in the local area. The more information and visuals you provide, the more likely they are to call or contact you online.

8. Write Clear, Concise Headlines

Alex Wright, Owner, Alex Wright Web Design & SEO

Many small businesses fail to write clear, concise headlines on their websites. Headlines are a big ranking factor for Google and other search engines. Because headlines are big and important looking, many small business owners are tempted to write clever or fun headlines, but this is a mistake. Instead, write headlines that convey a single who, what, where, when, or why statement that summarizes the content that follows. Imagine someone only reads the headlines—will they understand the content on your page? Clearly written headlines will help your readers and search engines understand your content.

9. Understand Your Audience and Their Intent

Liz Young, SEO Manager, Glamping Hub

One of my best pieces of advice when it comes to SEO for small businesses is to truly spend some time understanding your audience and their intent. Even if your website is perfectly optimized, if it’s done for the wrong audience, you will not see good traffic. Google is taking audience intent into account more and more, as updates like RankBrain try to understand the semantics of a search query and not just the literal definition of the words. If you can comprehensively answer the questions your audience is asking, your site will rank highly in Google organically.

10. Get a High Quantity of Quality Reviews

Derek Hines, Internet Marketing Specialist, West Coast Self-Storage

An important factor in ranking is review signals, which refers to the quality, quantity, velocity, and diversity of reviews you get from customers. This rank factor is intriguing as it has jumped up year-over-year in importance. Google reviews are the most important, followed by third-party reviews (Yelp, Facebook, and other sites). It’s also important to get your product/service mentioned in the review. There is even some suggestion that responses to reviews are a factor in rank.

The Bottom Line: Google Small Business

Ranking highly on Google is achieved by strategically using keywords and design elements on your website that are favored by Google. Learning how to rank on Google will help give you the ability to capture the top organic and local results. Every business should be consistent in their efforts to increase and/or hold their top position on Google, as online searches are a primary way for customers to find companies and products.

Try hiring website professionals at Optuno to build you a custom SEO-friendly website, so you don’t have to. Schedule a free consultation below.