Now more than ever, small businesses need take their SEO strategy seriously.  As a result of the current impact of COVID-19, there are a large number of new business considerations, and as expected in the world of SEO, there are a number of SEO considerations you must take seriously.

Some businesses are taking this time to sharpen their SEO skills and are putting time, energy, and effort into updating their SEO for their business.  While this is happening, we are also seeing a larger number of start-up businesses as a result of some of the Canadian work force that are fighting through reduced work hours, while others are using the current scenario to reset what they are looking to accomplish in their personal and professional careers.

It is a very fluid, and fast-paced marketplace at the moment, where businesses that are pivoting to provide solutions such as curb-side pickup, contact-less delivery and moving much of their business operations online, we are finding ourselves in an unprecedented time of business going digital and online to survive and thrive.

To help you kick-start your own efforts to maximize the online potential, Clear Digital has put together a short list of 3 SEO must-haves for small businesses in 2020.  There is no shortage of urgent fires business owners and operators must take on these days and SEO is just a small part of the bigger picture.  Use this list to get your SEO moving in the right direction, and then move on to the next area of business focus.

3 SEO Musts For Small Business In 2020:

With more businesses going digital, and bringing their business operations online, now more than ever, your SEO has to be top-notch if you’re going to match your business competitors, let alone beat them online.  Here are the 3 most important things you can do from an SEO perspective:

  • Conduct Keyword Research

  • Optimize For Local SEO

  • Optimize For A Frictionless User Experience (i.e. Optimize For Conversions)

The following sections will go into more detail about each along with some actionable next steps you can get started on right now.

1. Conduct Keyword Research

It goes without saying that understanding your target audience is important if you want to have your brand appear at the exact moment they are looking for a business like yours.  However there are 2 very important things to be mindful of.  

  1. Sometimes the language you would use to describe the product or service you offer, may not be how your target audience is actively seeking.  Business owners are often experts in their field and with that expertise comes deep knowledge and industry-specific terminology, however your customers may not be speaking at your level.  For example, a mechanic may consider looking at brake pads, rotors or the flywheel to diagnose a car that sounds “odd” when breaking.  A customer looking to fix their car may use terms such as “why does my car make weird noises when breaking?”  It’s important to take a step back, and consider how your potential customers may be looking for you online 
  2. The most obvious keywords tend to be the most competitive and difficult to win from an SEO perspective – that is to have your business rank at the top of a search engine results page (SERP).  We are not saying to avoid these terms, by all means if they are both relevant to your business, and have commercial intent (that is to say someone is looking to make a purchase, ask for a quote, or receive a service), then including this in your SEO strategy makes sense.  Having said that, consider the many different ways that someone might search for a business like yours, or a product or service like the ones you offer.  

Let’s take garden centres for example and illustrate the point of digging deep into keyword research.  What kinds of keywords come to mind?  Perhaps seemingly obvious ones like “garden centre”, “garden centres near me”, and something a little more specific like “houseplants” comes to mind.  These are all relevant and important of course, however if you focus on only a handful of terms like these, you are missing a tremendous amount of search traffic, and content ideas to position yourself a leader in your local market.

Let’s take a global lens to this and scratch the surface of possible relevant keywords.  Depending on where a given garden centre is located, keywords would need to be modified for the local market area.

A)  Questions:

One important grouping or theme of keywords are “questions”, search queries that your target audience is actively using in the form of a question.  Using our garden centre example from above, again with a global lens, here are some questions people are actively asking:

SEO For Small Business Questions

How to act on this:

  • There are a number of different ways for business owners and marketers to take action from an SEO perspective once you have a larger basket of relevant keywords such as the ones above, consider:
    • Create an FAQ page on your website
    • Consider answering these questions in your social media posts
    • Consider answering these questions in offline & printed materials
    • How could you create a better user experience at the store level to help answer these questions as well as to alleviate any concerns related to them

B) Prepositions:

Another important grouping or theme of keywords are “prepositions”, search queries that your target audience is actively using to describe and provide context to the main term, in this case “garden centre”. Again, using our garden centre example from above some key preposition search queries: 

SEO For Small Business Prepositions

How to act on this:

  • Consider what is relevant to your business and build content around this to gain more organic traffic.  Content can included, but is not limited to:
    • New website pages
    • Video content
    • Social posts
    • Google My Business posts

C) Comparisons:

In this grouping, consumers are looking for comparisons between your business and similar or alternative businesses.  In some other cases they are looking for your business + an additional element of produce or service they are seeking.

SEO For Small Business Comparisons

How to act on this:

  • Based on what is both relevant to your business, and a priority given your business plan, consider the following ways to leverage these search query insights:
    • Again, new website pages & social content
    • Comparative tables between yourself and your business competitors that show your business as having the better solution
    • Perhaps even business expansion ideas based on expressed consumer interests

D) Related Queries:

Finally, the last grouping is related queries to the main search keyword.  In our specific example, this can be related to employment opportunities, ancillary services such as delivery or curb-side pick-up.

SEO For Small Business Related

How to act on this:

  • Again, based on what is relevant for your business, you can augment your current online content:
    • Expansions of services you may not already be engaged in, for example gift cards available for purchase online
    • Experiment with different delivery and pick-up models and develop content around this – web pages, social content, even consumer surveys

2. Optimize for Local SEO

Google My Business is of course one of the key items on this list however, here is a list of the top 8 considerations to help with your local SEO efforts:

  1. Google My Business listing optimization
  2. Bing Places listing optimization
  3. Yelp listing optimization
  4. Facebook listing optimization
  5. Review building
  6. Review response
  7. Post content on your local listings 
  8. Enable messenger (Facebook & Google My Business)

How to act on this:

  • Claim and verify all key listings noted above
  • Ask your current and past customers for reviews
  • After receiving reviews, whether they are positive or negative make sure to respond to the customer that left a review
  • Posting content to your local listings – make sure the first 2-3 sentences are compelling and engaging so that your audience will take the time to read further.  Depending on the platform many options are available to you including:  written posts, video posts, offer posts, and more
  • Enable messenger on your Facebook listing and Google My Business listing.  This provide clients and new prospects and easy way to connect with you

3. Optimize For A Frictionless User Experience (i.e. Optimize For Conversions)

It is consumer expectation that no matter where someone goes online, that a seamless, frictionless experience will follow.  With tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple leading the way, and billions of users engaging with these platforms, it’s no wonder that consumer expectation is one of near-flawless delivery whenever they engage with a website, app, or online listing.

Small businesses of course don’t have the resources that these giants do, nonetheless, are still expected to deliver frictionless online experiences.  So can small businesses compete and deliver great user experiences without breaking the bank?  It’s actually much more straightforward that you might think.  Clear Digital has put together the list below to help.  Some may come across as obvious and logical, however you would be surprised how many websites and businesses we come across that don’t follow these recommendations.

Top 10 list for a frictionless user experience to optimize for conversions:

  1. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
  2. If phone leads are important to you, make sure your phone number is readily seen at the top of every page of your website
  3. Then, also ensure that your customer can call you with one click of a button
  4. Ensure that your customer can email you with one click of a button
  5. Place calls-to-action on any page that lists a product or service you offer
  6. Ensure your website contact form(s) are placed above the fold (the area of a website at the top before someone has to scroll down), or as close to the top as possible
  7. Website contact forms ideally should have 5 fields or less
    • Full Name (one field to capture both first and last name)
    • Your Email
    • Your Phone
    • Subject Line
    • Message
  8. Make sure your product or service offering is stated clearly on your website and pages 
  9. Make sure that you identify for website visitors what makes you different than your competitors – your point of differentiation
  10. Finally, make sure that visitors are compelled to take the desired action you want them to take (i.e. phone you, email you, place an order, subscribe)

How to act on this:

  • Ask a friend or family member and ask them to review your website.  Get a timer and close the site after they have seen the site for 5 seconds.  
  • Why 5 seconds?  That is the amount of time you have to make a first impression and compel someone who is visiting your website to take an action (i.e. make a phone call, email you, add a product to an online cart, entice someone with a call to action – for example fill out an online form)
  • Now ask them:
    • Do you understand what product or service is being offered?  
      • Don’t accept “yes” as a reply.  Ask them to articulate it in their own words.  You might be surprised as to what you’ll her
    • Did you see a phone number?
      • Can you recall the number?
    • Did you see an email address
      • Can you recall the email?
    • Did you see a spot to fill out a form?
    • Were you compelled to take action?
      • What action(s)?