In our experience, dating back to 1999, we have found that most local business owners just need practical, truthful knowledge about search engine optimization aka SEO. Given this, we designed this SEO tutorial to give local business owners a practical and truthful understanding of search engine optimization. Whether you are a DIY type or want to hire a professional, this tutorial gives you the basic information you need. This tutorial will center around Google.
Now, let’s get started.
Local Business SEO Overview
SEO is the process of reviewing your website, and competitors, then making changes to your website to help other search engines find, understand and show your website for a targeted search term in the “organic” search results. This process is called “seo”.
*Organic search results are seen in the area of a Google search engine result page (SERP) which is NOT paid advertisement and is NOT a Google map listing. Organic search results are “free”. We quoted “free” because even if you DIY, there is a cost associated. After all, time is money.
In addition to a formal website, the number one thing a local business must do for “seo” is create a Google My Business profile. This is the profile which is seen in Google Maps, and is often seen BEFORE “organic” search results. There are additional “seo” tactics specific to Google My Business pages, but that is a different tutorial.
Google Marketing Tip:
The fastest way into Google is simply to pay for advertisements using Google Adwords. That can be costly and when you stop paying, you stop having visibility in the search engines. Every good marketer incorporates SEO and PAID advertising aka SEM / PPC.
Let’s get started with local SEO
Now that we have a general understanding of what SEO is and isn’t let’s explore the the three primary areas of optimization, which we call CCB
Let’s unpack CCB.
For the purpose of this tutorial we are going to refer to “code” in very broad and general terms. Code means all the hidden things a visitor to your website never sees. That’s HTML, CSS, JS, Meta tags, Schema, Etc. It also includes hosting configuration, domain name, DNS, etc. In short, code get’s complicated, technical and most local business owners do NOT need to know 99% of code. In fact, we do NOT recommend that local business owners spend much time on the more technical aspects of SEO CODE. A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous. However, what a local business owner does need to know related to code is the following.
Is your website mobile friendly and responsive?
This means does it load quickly on your phone and can people easily navigate it. Google how tests for "mobility".
Is it FAST?
Google does look at your website for speed and mobility. More importantly, so do users. If your website loads slowly, then humans will likely go away. A properly optimized website should “load” in less than 3 seconds. Usability does factor into SEO.
Is your website site secure?
Do you have HTTPS? If you can visit your website without adding an S to HTTP, then it is NOT fully secure. If you do not have HTTPS, you need to get an SSL. All requests to the http version of your website should auto-redirect to the https version. Google chrome uses will often get a “WARNING” notice if a site is not secure. When users see this, they will go away.
Additional reading about SEO and HTTPS >>
Do you have optimized “title” tags?
What’s a title tag? The title tag is a bit of text that is seen in the browser and it is the “link” seen in Google search results. There should be an option within your website to add a title tag.
Do you have a meta description?
A meta description is a short description of your website that is seen in the search results. This no longer has relevance for direct SEO, but a good META Description can increase the number of clicks you get when your site is seen in search results. That is called click-thru rate (CTR). CTR is a factor in SEO.
SEO Note: Google may or may not show your meta description. Sometimes Google will decide a different section of the page in question is more relevant and show that as the description in the search results.
Keyword tags - WARNING DO NOT USE!!!
In the hidden parts of a website there is often a function to add “keywords” to a web page. This specifically populates an old meta tag called “keywords”. This function was abused so severely by web masters and “seo experts” that if used now, it is a great big SPAM RED FLAG. Do NOT use it if it exists in your system. We only mention so you don’t accidentally use it and hurt your site.
Do all the pages of your website have H1, H2, and h3 tags, at least?
“H” tags are heading tags. Depending on your site code, “H” tags make your text larger. They are headings after all. Headings are like headlines in a newspaper or magazine article. They help readers, and Google, know what the important ideas are on an individual page of your website. This is important for small local business owners to know about when writing and adding the content to their website. Most “website builder” software aka content management systems (CMS), have a place for the admin to add and format their content with H tags as appropriate.
*DO NOT ABUSE HEADER TAGS
SEO Note: Only use H1 and H2 tags once per page. Use H3 as many times as needed. Use h4 and h5 for the “footer” area of your pages such as your location and privacy info headers.
Do all of your images have ALT tags?
An ALT tag is a little bit of code added to each image of your website which describes what the content of the image is. This helps Google, but more importantly it helps the visually challenged use your site. All good CMS systems let you add ALT tags to your images. Technically, ALT tags do NOT help directly with SEO, but they do make the page more “usable”. Usability does effect SEO.
Does your site use SEF (search engine friendly) URLS?
SEF urls are also called HUMAN FRIENDLY urls. Can a human look at the full url of your of page and read it? Or, does it look something like this:
If it looks like that it is not search engine or human friendly. SEF urls help search engines and humans read and understand what your page is about. And SEF looks like this
SEO Note: All good CMS platforms allow for SEF urls and the admin has the option of custom creating the SEF.
Does your site use microformats, schema and/or open graph?
Now, this is pretty technical, but newer CMS systems allow small business admins to add their own Schema and/or the CMS adds the code automatically. It’s important to understand what they are because the search engines REALLY, REALLY, REALLY like them. In short, they are additional hidden code added to the content to each page which are specifically designed to help search engines and social media sites understand what your website is about. We will delve into this more later.
Does your site have an XML site map?
Typically, a good CMS has this function and it is auto generated. An XML site map uses the XML mark up to create list of all public URLS of your website. The primary purpose of having an XML site map is to give it to Google once your site is built. This will help Google find and index your site. All good CMS systems will auto-generate an XML site map for you. To see if you have one pull up this page in your website.
If nothing shows up, you probably don’t have one.
*Once we’ve optimized a site, we’ll show you how to add your XML site map to Google.
*It’s also helpful to have an HTML version of the site map, but it is not required for SEO. It can also be cumbersome to maintain if your site does not auto generate it.
Summary of SEO CODE.
The above are the most important aspects of SEO code a small business owner should know whether they are DIY or hiring an expert. There are more, but when building your website or switching to a new platform, you want to ask about the “code” above.
Now, let’s explore the second C of CCB: Content
SEO content, as it relates to the local small business owner, is all the text, images, video and downloads (PDF, MP3, Etc) you add to your website. This includes your articles, products, services, reviews, about us, etc. What is most important about “seo content” is that it MUST be UNIQUE to your business and it MUST be “readable” by the search engines as well as people.
There is a popular saying in SEO: “Content is king!”
And, that is 100% true, but it has to be unique and the search engines must be able to find and read it. We call that RUC - Readable Unique Content.
Additionally, it must be FORMATTED correctly. That is where SEO CODE comes into play. Primarily the use of header tags, alt tags, titles, etc.
Ideally, new SEO content should be added to local business website at least once a week. At the least, once a month. If you can’t add new content once a month, you may have difficulty getting to the top of the search engines and staying there.
If your business time constraints do not allow you to create new content at least once a month, we strongly encourage you to find an expert to help.
SEO Content Summary
In short, SEO content must be added at least monthly, be unique to your business and properly formatted with SEO code.