Finding the Needle in The Haystack: Zeroing In on Small Business SEO

If you Google the words “small business,” the world’s most recognizable search engine will spit out nearly 9 billion links. That many links supply you with all the information you could possibly want relating to the topic. While many of us appreciate the plethora of information (thanks, Google!), people don’t possess the ability—nor the patience—to sift through that much data.

So, the big brains behind big data came up with a solution to your data-searching problem. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it’s commonly called, is the magic behind those results. No doubt you have heard of SEO at some point if you are utilizing the internet and/or social media for marketing your business. But what exactly is SEO?

SEO explained a là DisneyWorld

Here is another way to understand it: Have you ever been to Disney World?  Remember how the lines for rides could have a wait time as long as a few hours?  Well, think about SEO as your FastPass+ to the top of Search Engine Results.  While your content might not necessarily become the very first link in the overwhelming line, being intentional with your SEO gets you closer to the front!

Now, I bet you’re wondering how you too can cut in line when people are searching for businesses like yours. Aside from Google, Bing, and Yahoo, there are other international search engines as well. As it turns out, you’re in the right place for small business SEO, my friend! Grab your 3D goggles and pay attention as we discuss how to feel less like a needle in a haystack, and more like a line-cutter at Disney.

First, Give the People What They Want

a cartoon girl and robot holding hands saying "make web crawlers your BFF"

Before we get started, we’re first going to stress the most crucial concept in this process. Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” So, if we think about this logically, the purpose of their little crawler that crawls web pages will be exactly the same.

Search engine crawlers are analyzing pages and using algorithms to determine which one best answers specific queries. These queries are the questions people type into their search bars. You’re helping the crawler find what each of your pages is about and how it applies to and answers the user’s query. In short, you’re trying to be BFF’s with the search engine crawlers!

Stay User-Friendly

Whether you’re editing a website you already have, or building a new one, the user experience should always be at the forefront of your mind. When you encounter a website that’s hard to navigate, do you stay on it? Exactly! Most of us return to Google and look for a better website.

Readability is another factor for the user’s experience. Even if you’re a technical analyst and use that lingo in your everyday life, your website is not the place. 43% of Americans are at a reading level that’s considered basic or below basic. So consider those statistics along with your business and target audience.

However, the general rule of thumb is to make it at a readability level that most people will understand. There are of course exceptions to the rule, but we’re generally speaking, and for small business SEO!

It’s All About the Niche

When you’re spending gobs of money visiting Disney World, the last thing you want to do is ride a million rides you don’t like.  Take the teacups at the Mad Tea Party, for example.  The platform spins, and the teacups themselves spin around and around. In case I need to spell it out for you, it’s a lot of spinning.  While I love Disney World with all my heart… I hate that ride. Coupled with pulled pork and greasy fries, and it’s a recipe for making me regret the money spent, and swearing I’ll never return. 

Oh the other hand, focusing on the rides and food you like and went for, gives you a completely different experience. Instead of trying all the rides at Disney World, if I just focused on riding the roller coasters and the nearest place to grab a pretzel, I could save myself a lot of time and frustration.  I would feel like I had maximized my money. 

This same scenario applies to SEO. All this to say, be thoughtful when determining your niche.  Having a clear niche cuts out the fluff and makes you competitive with other businesses—even the giants with big marketing bucks to spend! Remember, people are searching for something specific, and not finding what you’re looking for is frustrating. So make your niche clear, and your content easy to find.  

For example, if you are a master fake flower arranger, don’t try to compete with all the local florists who arrange fresh flowers—clearly identify your business as a fake floral arranger. Yes, this is a real type of business and identifying this niche makes your content one in 160k links, as opposed to one in 424k. 

Vocalizing Vocabulary

For your fake floral arranger business, what kinds of words do you commonly use?  Try starting with the essential components of an artificial floral arrangement.  Dry floral foam, wire cutters, and waterproof floral tape are all essential materials and tools that are necessary for arranging flowers.  Use industry-specific terminology such as these when discussing your craft.

Try to steer clear of generic terms, such as foam, scissors, and tape. Generic words produce much larger quantities of content, which is what you’re trying to avoid.  When you’re marketing your business, talk the talk so people searching for your type of business won’t go down Alice’s rabbit hole while trying to find your content. 

To Thine Own Self be True

Since we’ve discussed your niche and lingo, you need to make sure that those two things align to represent your brand in the best way.  You want your brand to represent your business at its core.  For your fake flower arranging business, you may be tempted to  have your tag line say, “Brightening your day in a fake way.” While clever, that tag line might be a little misleading or confusing, so incorporating something more specific about what you do would be a bit more appropriate.  “Fake is the new fresh: Fannie’s Fake Floral Arrangements.”  Now that has a nice ring to it!

Write it Right

Once you’ve nailed down your niche, your terminology, and your brand, it’s time to get down to the best part of all—the content writing.  This is where you really illustrate how you envision your business, but by using words.  If you’re keeping small business SEO in mind, you will do this by hiring someone who not only understands your business, but also the direction you’re trying to take your business and your target audiences. 

1. The Start of Keywords

If you don’t have an in-house person handling SEO alongside Marketing, you’ll probably need to find an SEO copywriter. You can even get specific enough to find a small business SEO copywriter, that focuses on more local levels. The writer will be the person helping drive your business to the top of that search engine list with each keystroke.

After you have your writer, you’ll get started on “keywords.” You’ll begin by determining what words best describes your business, but in a language people will understand. You want to make sure your keywords aren’t over your target audience’s head. Be inclusive, and really try to determine every aspect of your business.

2. Choosing Keywords

After you’ve got a list together, now it’s time to determine which ones are the best keywords to use. This is one of the most crucial parts of this process – if your keywords aren’t commonly searched, you’re doing a lot of this work for no results. So the trick is to find the keywords that best apply to your business specifically AND have high search results.

Let’s use our fake floral arranger as an example. The phrase “fake flowers” has search results of 27,100/month (when this was written). On the other hand, the phrase “artificial flowers” has search results of 90,500/month. Your content copywriter will do a lot of this legwork for you, but it’s important to double-check, especially if you know absolutely nothing about SEO. Heaven forbid you pay for a bunch of copy thinking your keyword had 75,000 searches per month, only to learn it’s closer to 166 searches a month.

Keyword example, showing the different in volume, CPC, and Competition for each keyword

If you are focusing on the local level for your small business SEO, add in location specifics as well. For example, if our florist is located in Dallas, TX, her main page would use the key phrase “artificial flowers” while the contact page could be “artificial flowers Dallas.”

3. To Each Their Own

Although all of this is important for SEO, remember you can only use each keyword on one web page. Using the example “artificial flowers,” Fannie would only assign this keyword to one page. If she used this keyword for every page, she can actually confuse crawlers. The crawlers will see each page as having the same content. So think of each keyword as pairing with their page.

A page can have multiple keywords (if it applies!), but keep them to one page only. Keep a spreadsheet detailing your web pages, their keywords, and the keyword rankings.

4. Don’t Over-Optimize or “Fib”

Back in the day (technology moves so fast, so this was only 15 years ago), packing your content with keywords was how they did things. The more the keyword was mentioned, the better. I cannot stress how wrong that is for SEO today. Search engine crawlers have become advanced enough that they know exactly what game you’re playing, and they don’t appreciate it.

Using this method will actually make you rank lower because the crawler knows you’re just trying to rank rather than provide users with the information they are looking for. Another thing to steer clear of is only focusing on the number of search results for a keyword. If a keyword has phenomenal power but doesn’t directly apply to your business, do not use it.

Trying to direct traffic to your page artificially through popular searches will only hurt your rankings. Your bounce rate will increase (people bouncing back to Google after seeing your website), and your content will lose credibility.

Remember Google’s mission!

Small Business SEO Magic

Perhaps you’re the person writing for your whole business—including the webpage, the blog, and the social media sites.  If so, be aware that this is a huge job (if you have not already realized this!).  Many entrepreneurs choose to outsource this aspect of their business, as they know that their passion and expertise is in the essence of the business, not necessarily the marketing piece. If you’re in this boat, consider outsourcing this task to an SEO expert. Again though, it’s a good rule of thumb to still double check this information just to be safe.

Whether or not your business is in fake floral arranging, you can focus on making the most luscious-looking bouquets of blossoms, while your content writer is busy finding all the synonyms for the word “luscious!” 


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