You're kinda small, and your competition is very, very large. What's a small business to do? Although it might seem like a losing battle, small business SEO services can provide some aces for your sleeves.
Professional SEO services that work with small businesses regularly should be familiar with the following tactics. If your current provider is struggling to produce results, they're probably not capitalizing on your strengths.
As a small business, you have certain advantages that can put you ahead of (or at least on equal ground with) large, national competitors. You may not have an infinite budget, or thousands of employees, or the best marketing team that money can buy -- but you're versatile, you're relatable, and you're passionate about your business. (And remember: great things come in small packages!)
The following are three major tactics that experienced SEO providers use to pump up your small business and increase your online marketing effectiveness. Here we go!
How to Survive With Small Business SEO Services
The three tactics we most recommend for improving SEO ranking vs. the big guys are:
- Emphasizing your strengths
- Staying local
- Using long-tail keywords
1. Emphasize Your Strengths
Human Appeal & Unique Offerings
This may seem obvious, but it's amazing how many of our own clients take their unique offerings for granted. In general, small businesses seem more human to us because the owners aren't locked up in corporate castles. Small businesses are flexible and can personalize each customer's experience. What makes your business more attractive than a national chain?
- Are you a home-grown American manufacturer?
- Do you use real eggs and milk to make your custard?
- Are you bringing jobs back to the people of the USA?
- Is your business family-run and locally sourced?
- Do you collaborate with other businesses and groups to stimulate the regional economy?
Seemingly small things like that have great appeal to a new generation of customers who are growing increasingly disillusioned with mass-produced, outsourced products. Those are the things your SEO provider should highlight in your SEO strategy.
Quality Over Savings
Instead of lowering your prices to compete with Walmart, state your current asking price with your head held high. Proudly proclaim the passion that goes into your products and services, and let people know what it's worth.
Cheapness is always going to be a very persuasive quality, but research has shown time and time again that we are willing to pay more for higher quality products and services. Plus, people are much happier to support businesses they know and love over cold, profit-is-life corporations. Though, if you can keep your product affordable while preserving its quality, that will also give you a leg up.
People like to support local businesses! Here are some ways your SEO services can help you take full advantage of your location:
2. Stay Local
Your small, local business gives you a leg up on national competition. Your neighbors, fellow townies, and even people from nearby cities are more likely to do business with a company that's providing local jobs and stimulating the economy. In our experience, this is especially true with rural folks.
If your business is disconnected from the surrounding community, it's worth it to make local connections and get involved. You'd be amazed how supportive people can be when you make the effort -- and how it impacts your overall SEO!
Local SEO works a little differently than standard SEO. Standard SEO is only one aspect of making sure your website is optimized for local search. Here are some other things to consider:
- Claim Your "Google My Business" Listing. Make sure all the information is as correct and detailed as possible.
- Name, Address, Phone. Make sure these are listed in a conspicuous location on your website.
- Get real, high-quality reviews from customers. That means more than one sentence, preferably, and no fake reviews.
- Standard On-Page SEO. You can apply traditional SEO best practices to emphasizing your locale. Strategic optimization of keywords, anchor text, HTML, titles, headers, and more can assist Google in listing your business's location.
- Local & regional link building. There are a few ways to gather links locally. Start with Chambers of Commerce in your town and in surrounding cities, and other businesses who are interested in trading links.
Local reviews are directly associated with your local listing on Google. Other review-based websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and YellowPages.com can have an impact, but Google should be your focus.
As mentioned above, your reviews should be from real people with real experiences. It's fine to solicit reviews from family and friends who have done business with you - just don't be shady. Shady isn't going to bring respect from your customers (plus, review sites are getting better and better at spotting fake reviews and pursuing legal action).
In general, your best option for collecting reviews is contacting your current customers and past customers - you can add a little incentive if they need it. For future customers, you can make the review process easy by sending a follow-up link by email or using your website to direct them to your Google business listing. Incentives are always helpful in motivating people to leave reviews!
We mentioned making connections and getting involved in the community. You've also probably heard the phrase "It's not what you know; it's who you know." When it comes to getting referrals and word-of-mouth advertising, you need connections. And, you never know which connections will prove most valuable.
In regards to SEO, you want to use networking to obtain inbound links, guest blogging exchanges, and other referral opportunities. Even if you don't become best pals with every business in the area, you can create a mutually beneficial online relationship. Creating a local linking network benefits all local businesses and their SEO efforts.
Local Social Media
Most cities and towns, no matter how big or small, have their own social media communities. Visitors' bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, popular local businesses, and local universities are all great places to find local online activity.
Social media gives you a chance to connect with potential partners, clients, vendors, and customers. You can collaborate with other businesses to plan events, share content, and promote each other.
You can also start to build your brand's online community through social media. Take advantage of that everybody-knows-everybody network of connections to spread the word about your business. Tag specific people and start conversations. Reference local events and congratulate your local students for sports, arts, and other achievements.
We're personally seeing the immediate effect of small-town social media on one of Bradford's newest businesses. It's a tiny mobile coffee shop run by one guy and his family, but the amount of support they've gotten in a month is staggering. (See for yourself: The Coffee Hut!)
With Google's algorithm change, your activity on social media affects your general SEO as well as local SEO.
3. Use Long-Tail Keywords
Finally, we have long-tail keywords!
Most large corporations are focused on the obvious short-tail keywords that cost $50 per click in sponsored advertising. For instance, a large insurance company is going to aim for "insurance," "insurance agency," and similar short, highly competitive terms. It will work for them, because they have the money and power to fight thousands of other companies for the first page of Google.
"Insurance." No way you're competing with these guys.
If you're a smaller insurance company, you really don't want to bother ranking for "insurance." It's a losing battle, and it's a waste of your time and money. Instead of broad, vague terms that relate to your business, you want to rank for very specific words and phrases that your best buyers are searching for.
For a small insurance company, it may be more appropriate to try to rank for terms like "affordable home insurance for first time buyers" or "senior life insurance policies."
Search location also matters, so nearby searchers will be more likely to see your company in search results for these types of keywords.
These are only examples - your SEO provider will be able to advise you in more depth. They'll use the tools at their disposal to compare keyword competitiveness and monthly search volumes, which will help them devise the best approach for your business.
Small Doesn't Mean Powerless
If sports have taught us anything, it's that underdogs are a force to be reckoned with. Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better - what the little guys lack in size or strength, they make up for in technique.
That's how your SEO services provider should be approaching your SEO. If you don't currently have an SEO provider, try filling out our free SEO checklist to see where you stand. If you're not satisfied with your SEO, we're happy to help, or point you in the direction of resources you can use yourself.
(Editor's note: This article was originally published in September 2017 and was recently updated.)