“Why is my website not ranking?” is a question we get asked a lot. To answer this query, we’ll point out key strategies that form the backbone of a well-ranking website. Small businesses, whose main market is local, can especially benefit from these SEO guidelines. So, if your website isn’t ranking, make sure you’re following the small business SEO tips below. We’ve covered both on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On-Page Small Business SEO Tips
1. Your website isn’t responsive
Responsive web design exists so that mobile devices can display content properly. A responsive website adapts to any screen size. Visitors coming from mobile will greatly appreciate that your website scales to their device screen.
Although people use mobile devices more often to surf the web than desktop counterparts, there are still many non-responsive websites. Don’t be one of them. Also, Google updated their algorithm back in 2015 to rank mobile-friendly websites higher in search rankings.
If your website is not yet responsive, what are you waiting for? If you want more proof that responsive web design is beneficial for your website (a.k.a. brings more sales), check out these statistics and case studies. They show how responsive web design and mobile design optimization increase conversion rates and revenue.
2. You don’t create content for the SEO of your small business
High quality content is vital for your business and your SEO strategy. Without content, you won’t have anything to rank with. Thus, it’s crucial to create valuable content that truly brings value to anyone who finds it.
Content can be text, images, infographics, videos, eBooks, podcasts, etc. All websites have content on them, but, done right, should be growing regularly to reflect the progress of the company (i.e. the value it provides to users).
The best way you can produce relevant content on your website is through your blog. The more awesome articles you have, the more value you provide to users, and that is what Google loves to see.
SEO aside, there are plenty of other reasons to have a business blog. Blogs allow you to convey your industry knowledge, showcase your products or services, establish a brand voice, and to show prospects that your company is alive and well!
3. You don’t optimize your content
- Readability — Although it’s not an SEO factor per se, high-quality content is! And good readability elevates your copy to another level. Google will notice your excellent content and will reward you with better rankings. Readability refers to using shorter words, sentences, and paragraphs, simpler words, coherence, less passive voice, fewer adverbs, effective formatting, bulleted lists, and images.
- Headers — These are the subtitles of webpages and are usually H2 and H3, which are both smaller than H1. H1 is normally reserved for the main title of a page. Use headers in your copy to organize and create a logical hierarchy of your main points. Also, use keywords in your headers to tell search engines that the topic/keyword is discussed in more detail.
- URL — The URL structure and length can have a small impact in rankings. Thus, keep your URLs concise but accurate, so that both readers and search engines understand them. Also, avoid using any other special characters in them.
- Meta descriptions — These appear in search engine result pages, below page titles. All webpages have them. Default meta descriptions are extracted from the copy of your webpage, but you want to make sure they represent the page as best as possible. Therefore, write meta descriptions yourself and use your targeted keyword once. Make it sound as natural as possible; don’t stuff meta descriptions with keywords!
- Title tag — A title tag (or SEO title) is like a meta description for webpage titles. It appears in SERPs, social media shares, and in browser tabs. Like your meta descriptions, your title tags should include your keyword and perfectly define what a webpage is about.
- Alt tags — These are invisible descriptions of your website’s images. They should explain what an image is about, which helps impaired users navigate your website. If it’s not forced, try using your keywords in alt tags.
- Internal links — Each webpage should have links to other webpages on your site. If it’s a blog article, internal links can add value as it sends users to potentially useful information. Besides that, adding internal links lets Google understand the relevance and value of pages, and the relationship between them.
- Keywords — Back in “the day,” keywords were the backbone of SEO. But are they still important? Read more about them below.
4. You’re not using keywords
Keyword optimization means researching, analyzing, and choosing the best keywords (topics) for your content. Their goal is to make your website as findable as possible to users who search for your product or service(s). For small business SEO, it’s best to find a few variations of a keyword for each one.
So how do you research keywords? There are plenty of keyword research tools on the web, such as Google’s Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest. In Google Keyword Planner, type a keyword and variations of it. Then, check out the many keyword ideas that are generated. Choose the ones that most apply to your topic and have the most searches.
Yet, a small business should aim for less competitive keywords, such as long tail keywords. Your content will attract a smaller pool of users, but at least it won’t be overshadowed by the big players in your industry.
Pro tip: in your content, you don’t have to use a keyword in its strict form. As long as it has the same meaning, it’s perfectly fine.
Once you know your keywords, you should include them in different areas of your website. Those include title tags, URLs, main body of blog articles, homepage, service pages, image alt tags, and meta descriptions. On WordPress, use the Yoast plugin for help with using keywords. In general, your keyword and its synonyms should comprise one percent of a text.
Use keywords as naturally as possible, though. When a keyword doesn’t sound right in a sentence, use a synonym. Or use it in another paragraph! Make your copy as pleasant and as readable as possible. Yet, always try to add a keyword in the first 100 words of a text.
5. Your website is slow
If your website takes over three seconds to load, that’s bad news. Google ranks websites faster than yours higher than yours. Check out Googles’ PageSpeed Insights to see what slows your website down. For more tips on boosting website speed, check out our website speed optimization guide.
Off-Page Small Business SEO Tips
1. You don’t know your audience
A good small business SEO strategy is centered around the right target audience. So before investing in SEO, make sure you know your prospects well. Your target audience should feel that you are talking specifically to them.
For example, if your main target are millennials, your message and tone would be different than if you targeted seniors. When working on your target market description, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the age of my ideal demographic?
- How about the gender of my target audience?
- And the income level of my prime prospects?
- What is their marital status?
- Is this something that they’re willing to save money for?
- What do they like or dislike about the product or service?
2. Your business is not on social media
Social media is a key tool in marketing. Moz.com also found that social media engagement counts as a Google local SEO factor. The more likes, shares, and comments a post has, the better it ranks on Google, especially on local searches.
Every business should have social media accounts (typically, at least, on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) unless they operate under a rock. Billions of people are on social media. That’s enough reason to join them with your business and grow your brand image.
In addition, social media can be an amazing platform for marketing. Every major platform has a streamlined ad and analytics system to help you make your branding and marketing efforts more efficient. For more info, check out social media tips for small businesses.
3. Your business social profiles aren’t complete
Of course, don’t hastily create social profiles and just forget about them. Before putting out content consistently, first make sure your social profiles are complete.
If you leave fields in your social media profiles blank, you could be missing out on new customers. The more you describe your company, the more transparent and reputable you’ll be for your audience. So, take the time to make sure the info is available.
You can add a ton of information on Facebook and other platforms. Provide at least the company description, address, contact info, business hours, and upload a profile image.
Also, don’t forget about your personal profiles! Most prospects will want to check out the company owner or other company employees. Complete your personal profiles in a professional way, too – it helps you show your credentials and personality.
4. You don’t have a Google My Business listing
If you have a local business, then claim your Google My Business (GMB) listing. This has a big impact in your small business SEO strategy. Listing your local business makes it findable in the “local 3-pack”, Local Finder, and also boosts your organic rank. And – it’s totally free!
If you haven’t taken this step yet, get started at google.com/business. First claim your business, then verify it. Include all of the information about your company such as address, phone number, business hours, and types of payments accepted.
In spite of the big local SEO advantage, many businesses claim their GMB listing and forget about it. But you should keep it as accurate and up-to-date as possible, all the time. As soon as something such as your business phone number changes, update it in your GMB listing. Pro tip: Don’t forget to write Google Posts in your GMB listing too! These are short posts that can be calls-to-action, tips, events, etc.
5. You’re not listed in local directories
Attracting new customers as a local business is pretty challenging. Back in the day, people turned to the Yellow Pages to find trusted business recommendations. Today’s web, however, is a much better and faster way to find local businesses.
One major way of being found online, besides GMB as described above, is to include your business in local online directories. There are plenty of these on the web and you should be present in all of them to increase your odds of being found.
In addition to Google and major social media platforms (like Facebook and LinkedIn), here are a few others you should join: Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, Merchant Circle, YP.com, Whitepages, CitySearch, and more. To fill up forms faster, use an autofill tool like Autofill for Chrome.
Also, you need to include your NAP (name, address, phone number) consistently across directories. That is, with the same number format, spelling and abbreviations. Google will be able to recognize that it’s the same business listed on each of those websites.
6. No one local or relevant is linking back to your website
Link building is extremely important in a small business SEO strategy. Backlinks are what gives your website trust, credibility and “authority”. Sites with the most backlinks usually rank the highest. But getting high quality backlinks using legal practices is a challenge.
As link building can take a lot of time and effort, hiring an SEO company can be productive. They can get your website enough quality links to propel you to the first page of Google as long as your content and other local SEO factors are rock solid.
However, before someone would want to link back to your website, you need to have high-quality content. You should produce content frequently to have more things you can be found for. Make sure your on-page and off-page SEO are in good shape, too.
Getting links is a matter of sharing and promoting your content. Whether you want to rank locally or nationally, email influencers in your industry and ask them to share your content (you should return the favor as well if they ask). Don’t forget to share your content on social media, too. Another strategy is to write original guest posts on major platforms (like Entrepreneur) with links back to your website.
If you have a local business, contact your local chamber of commerce, business groups, etc. Get to know them until you’ve built a relationship, then politely ask them to share your content. As you can imagine, this can take some persistence.
Keep in mind that your organic ranking also depends on your targeted keywords. The less competitive the keyword, the easier you can rank high on Google. So, link building will help you rise in SERPs, but be aware that your competitors might be way ahead of you.
7. You’re not actively pursuing reviews
According to socialmediatoday, reviews are crucial in a small business SEO strategy. They’re not hard to get and, if you do quality work, they might just provide excellent credentials.
Online reviews are critical in influencing the purchasing decisions of customers. According to Zendesk, 9 out of 10 consumers base buying decisions on reviews. Moreover, 80% of those buyers will change their purchasing decision based on negative reviews.
Although you can passively wait for people to give you reviews (if you’re lucky), you can take a more active approach. Ask them directly for reviews after they have completed a transaction. You can do this by speaking to them directly, over the phone, email or via the web. People tend to write reviews if they’re asked nicely.
This sounds like a lot of work, but if you use a service like our Get Bright Reviews, it shouldn’t take you more than two minutes per customer (and it costs less than a weekly visit to the local coffee shop).
Moreover, you should be replying to reviews, too. If the reviewer was happy, respond that you’re happy that they’re happy! If they’re not happy, say that you’re sorry for their bad experience and offer to resolve their issue. Never be rude to your customers.
Your website isn’t ranking if you’re not doing all of the above consistently. Creating a business, launching a website, and investing in initial marketing are just the first step. Growing your business further is an ongoing process and a team effort.
The key is to be consistent, and be patient. As long as you’re following a sound marketing plan that includes a SEO strategy tailored to your small business, you’ll see your website’s rank growing. It might take months before your ranking, traffic, conversions and profit increase, but you’ll be well on your way.