The ultimate guide to small business SEO

SEO isn’t just for big business. As a small company or a local business, there is actually a lot you can do yourself to get good results from search. This ultimate guide for local and small business SEO will help you get the most out of search by finding your niche, optimizing your pages and using social media.

Update: Since the 11.0 release, Yoast SEO builds a full structured data graph for every post or page on your site! A graph is a complete piece of structured data with well-defined connections to all the different parts. Search engines now not only know what all the parts mean but also how they fit together. Want to know what it does for your website? Read all about Yoast SEO 11.0!

Way back in 2014 we promised you in our post on local SEO that we’d write more about local and small businesses. As local SEO is basically about optimizing for local search engine results, it’s fair to say that local SEO and small business SEO are closely-related, which is why we’ll cover both in this article.

We’ll discuss a variety of related topics in this article:

As long as Google’s local search result pages continue to grow and improve, we’ll never be done with this subject. But in the meantime, here’s our ultimate guide to local and small business SEO. Let’s start at the beginning of your SEO process.

Finding your niche

Determining your niche is vital for local or small businesses. When you know your niche, you can emphasize what makes your brand or products unique, therefore improving your chances to rank well for them. If you have a clear niche, you can compete locally with large national brands – despite their multi-million dollar advertising budgets.

Find out who your customers are and which words they use to describe your product or service because people will use the same terms to find your website. These terms can really help you optimize your local business SEO when you turn them into long-tail keywords and these keywords should be as specific as possible. Once you’ve done all of this, remember to regularly assess your niche as it evolves with the growth of your company.

Low budget branding

We have talked about this time and again: branding is very important for SEO. Branding means stuff like your logo and tagline. Do they represent your company without further explanation? What do your logo and tagline reveal about your values and your field of expertise? It’s all about recognition.

Read more: Low budget branding tips for small businesses »

Here’s a tip for branding: share your expertise! You can do that in blog posts and on social media. We’ll talk more about this later on.

Start writing great content

Your small business SEO will get a significant boost from the right content. Too many small business owners just put their products and contact details on their website and leave it at that. But there is so much more to tell and share!

Focus on making an awesome first impression on your potential customer. Write about your business, your business goals, how great your products are and things like that. You could also discuss market developments or events that relate to your business. These are just a few tips for your local SEO content strategy.

When writing your content, be realistic about the chances of getting that content to rank in search. If you are in a highly competitive market, content works very well as a marketing tool and as input for social media, but it probably won’t get you that number one spot in Google, and that’s OK. Manage your expectations.

Picking the right keywords to optimize for is very important. Usually, it’s a good idea to pick mid-tail keywords, including the local area you are targeting. It really doesn’t matter if you add this content to your site as a page or blog post. Just make sure that you write about things that people want to talk about or things that make people talk about your business in a positive way.

Keep reading: Improve your small business SEO today »

Share your content on social media

While you can actually sell your products on social media platforms, in most cases we recommend using social media for brand awareness or to lead potential customers to your website for a sale. Using social media as a small business is all about promoting your brand, your company, and your products to establish your image and to get the right traffic to your company website. When used in this way, social media can really help small business SEO.

I like to compare social media to a market where all the stall owners know each other and customers browse the products. At some point, someone will tell other visitors where to go to for a product: “The cheese over there is delicious”, “you should really check out the fruit over there”, that kind of thing. So make sure people start talking about you. And start talking about yourself online, to make others start talking to you on social platforms. Lastly, actively engage in social media conversations, to let people know you are listening.

Local ranking factors that help your small business SEO

There are many things that influence your local rankings, but there is one very obvious one: your address details or NAP, which stands for Name, Address, Phone number. Be sure to add these in the correct formatting (in code), using details – our Local SEO plugin can help with that. Also, ask your web developer to look into AMP, as Joost says in this Ask Yoast article on AMP for small businesses. As well as this, it may help to add your city, and perhaps your state, in the title of your pages for easier recognition as well.

Also, if you want to start optimizing your website in order to rank better, but you are not sure where to start, you might want to have a look at our new, free SEO course for beginners!

Google My Business

Make sure you use the exact same NAP details on both your website and your Google My Business listing and include your website link to your listing too. This is the only way for Google to understand the relationship between them. Add these details – for example in your footer – and of course, on your contact page. Google My Business really is your friend if you want to rank in your specific geographical area, so get your details right!

Add ratings and reviews

Google My Business, like Facebook, allows others to leave a review of your company. If your company has a good rating, people will be more likely to click through to your website from either of these two platforms. Make sure you monitor and maintain these reviews.

If you get a negative review for any reason, react by responding and solving your customer’s problem. Then, once you have, ask them to change their review afterward. In other words, turn that dissatisfied customer into a brand ambassador!

It’s easy to make use of these reviews and ratings. If you need some tips, find out more in this article:

Read on: Get local reviews and ratings »

Links from related small businesses

Social ‘proof’, like the ratings and reviews mentioned above, should be backed up with a few links from local directories, such as:

  1. Yelp
  2. SuperPages
  5. Bestoftheweb

You should get a listing on these sites, for the obvious reason that this means you also get a link to your website. If you can get some links from other related local websites in that directory, that will also help your site’s findability. Note that links from other local websites should be from sites that are in a related profession. It’s of no use to have your bakery website linked from an accountant’s website.

If your small business is closely related to other businesses that are not located in the same area, you should definitely also ask those businesses for a link. Google spiders the web link by link, so if your business is linked to from a website in the same field of business, that link is extra valuable to you.

Near me searches

When talking about local rankings, we also have to mention near me searches. These are searches and search suggestions that include words like “near me”, “closest”, “open” and “nearby”. Optimizing for these searches is similar to optimizing for local, but applies for global brands as well (“buy Lego near me”). So you’ll have to think outside the box – there’s probably more to optimize for. Google really focuses on search terms like these, as you can read in our post on Google’s Possum update.

In conclusion

As we’ve seen, there are many things you can do as a small business to improve your site and rank better. You should start by focusing on your niche and emphasizing your uniqueness. Think about how you present your brand: logos and taglines are important to give your customers an idea of who you are as a business.

You can increase your visibility by creating great content on your site, optimized for the most appropriate keywords. Also, it always helps if you are active on social media. There are several factors related to local SEO that help small businesses. Make sure Google My Business has the right details, keep track of your ratings and reviews, and try to get links from related small businesses. Finally, try to optimize for ‘near me’ searches.

Keep on reading: WordPress SEO: The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites »

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18 Responses to Ultimate guide to small business SEO

  1. david smith
    david smith  • 2 years ago

    We always try to produce suitable content for our customers but I wish you talked more about content marketing and something rather than sharing content on social media

  2. Matt Ventura
    Matt Ventura  • 2 years ago

    Hi Michiel,
    My company is only about 5 months into SEO and I must say local SEO is what I value the most. I really want to emphasize building relationships with local businesses and helping them get that extra push to expand their businesses even further. That being said, this whole article really gave me a lot of insight on what my strategy for local SEO should be. Through my experience I think citations and Googly My Business has helped me and my clients the most. I have a question on what the ideal strategy for ranking for “near me searches” as I am not well versed in ranking for those terms. Could you provide me with some basic information on how to strategize for those long tail key word searches?

  3. inforistic
    inforistic  • 2 years ago

    Awesome tip! this is a nice one for everyone who runs a small business website to see.
    I will be sharing this to my friends.

  4. Nina
    Nina  • 2 years ago

    By Sven on 20 December, 2017
    I have a problem: I am using your basic Yoast SEO plugin on a WordPress site, through on site creator (SiteRubix). Sometimes the Yoast SEO plugin, does not detect the Focus KW: I put it in the field, and it does not detect it nowhere in the page (not it title, meta tag, body text) even though it is there, and it is correct, I checked hundreds of times to make sure. As a result only Orange color is for my SEO statistics, according to Yoast. On other posts, in the same site, it works. Once I saw that a post which had the orange on, turn green without me doing or changing anything … What is going on and how can I fix it?

    Hi Michiel,

    I have the exact same problem as Sven, but I couldn’t comment on the article where I found his reaction anymore ( It seems that the Yoast plugin does not detect my Focus Keyword like with Sven. It says under the red bullets: 1. the focus keyword is not in the first alinea. 2. the density of the focus keyword is 0%. 3. there is a meta-description specified, but it does not contain a focus keyword. 4. the focus keyword does not appear to be in the SEO-title

    But I checked all of these red bullets, and the focus keyword is definitely there. Some help, please?

  5. Sergio Guillén
    Sergio Guillén  • 2 years ago

    Excellent tips! SEO is important for small businesses as well. I’d add to the list some guest posting in other local small businesses’ blogs.

  6. Ahmed
    Ahmed  • 2 years ago

    I have always been struggling with writing related to content. especially for niche reach, I feel that the content I write is mostly similar to the competitor, will u suggest me help?

  7. Orezi
    Orezi  • 2 years ago

    I make use of Yoast for my to sites. Although I’m not an SEO expert, but my ranking has improved. What are the special features that the premium plugin has that the free version doesn’t have? Just want to know because I’m considering the premium plugin.

  8. inovies
    inovies  • 2 years ago

    its an awesome article.
    if possible please draft an article on google map citations

  9. David
    David  • 2 years ago

    Thank you Michiel for this great article about small business SEO. I think it contains great insights. Especially the point about starting to write great content is absolutely important.

    I think small business owners still don’t realise how much opportunity there is left to target long-tail keywords (especially if your business is in a country where English is not the main language). The best thing I found is to use Google Keyword planner because it gives you great insights about how competitive a keyword is and where the opportunities are.

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Thanks for the addition, David. There are multiple tools, the planner is indeed one of ’em!

  10. Manuel Algaba
    Manuel Algaba  • 2 years ago

    Great article Michiel, I sometimes struggle to explain to potential customers with a classic vision of SEO that it doesn’t make sense to try to rank first for a keyword like “pizza” when you’re not wikipedia or a brand or don’t even have the budget to begin with. For a local shop it makes more sense to work hard to be found locally where your potential customers are.

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Totally agree!

  11. Marcin Kordowski
    Marcin Kordowski  • 2 years ago

    Small Companies very often focus on SEO in marketing activities. Mostly because of the costs and ROI from this channel. If those activities are correlated with Social Media and Paid Search the effectiveness growth significantly.

  12. black
    black  • 2 years ago

    This was quite impressive article to read out. Thanks for your kind info.

  13. Tim Oxley
    Tim Oxley  • 2 years ago

    Helpful post as usual – thanks.
    What about Press Release(s) as recommended by others for increasing citations and awareness?
    Interested in your comments on this.

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Press releases can be part of your marketing outings, for sure. I would list these on your site as well, for instance as a download. The thing is, that for small businesses the press release is, most of the time, a rather “boring” notification of something that happens in a company. That is because you want to keep the information general, so other media can repost it or create their own news item from it. So when sending a press release, keep that target audience for the press release in mind.

      On your blog, I’d rather translate that press release to an appealing blog post, which shows how thrilled you are about the developments, etc. Does that make sense to you?

  14. انجام پروژه متلب
    انجام پروژه متلب  • 2 years ago

    We always try to produce suitable content for our customers but I wish you talked more about content marketing and something rather than sharing content on social media

    • Michiel Heijmans

      Isn’t SEO content marketing as well? I would love to hear some examples of the content marketing you are referring to that we did not write about, always open to new blog ideas (obviously). Thanks for your comment, انجام پروژه متلب!