Unthink Improve SEO: Over the past few years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in our traffic due to many of these small business SEO tips.  We’ve been able to rank over 100 keywords for our (very competitive) industry on the first page of Google and by following these essential SEO tips, you can do the same with your small business website. The benefits of SEO for small businesses are increased traffic, leads, and profits.


What you need to know 

Website owners have been thinking about how to make their sites rank in search engines since the rise of the internet in the 1990s. Along the way, some SEO practitioners figured out ways to trick the algorithm into thinking their site was more relevant and authoritative than it actually was. This type of optimization was coined 'black hat SEO'. It quickly became frowned upon due to the negative experience it created for web users. Some SEO techniques were originally acceptable (known as 'white hat') but moved into the black hat category as they became overused or as the web matured.


Search engine algorithms are consistently updated to make black hat techniques less effective. SEO is always in a state of evolution – so it’s important to remember that what mattered a few years ago could now be less effective or completely discouraged. If the Google crawlers identify black hat SEO on your website, your site could be penalized and drastically drop in search engine rankings. The best way to avoid black hat SEO is to always ask yourself if you are improving the experience on your site or providing valuable and original information. If the answer is 'yes', you can feel confident that your website is search-engine friendly.


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  • SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Start now and never quit.
  • SEO is not a one-time event.  It’s an ongoing process. How many keywords and common questions can you come up with for your industry?  Are you ranking in one of the first five positions on the first page for each of your keywords?
  • Quality content is one of the most important ranking factors. Be sure your content is relevant.
  • Make certain your content is written for humans instead of the search engines.
  • While lengthy content can be helpful to your ranking, content quality is way more important.
  • Take Security seriously and consider using the Secure Firewall if you’re on WordPress.Each page should have a Title Tag with about 50 characters.  This title is usually what will show up in search results.
  • Pick out a unique focus keyword for each page of your site.
  • Make the focus keyword the first word in your Title Tag. For this blog post, the focus keyword is at the beginning and appears in bold font when displayed in the SERPs, as shown below.
  • Use the focus keyword in your meta description. It may not help your site to rank better but it will be important to maintaining a relevant search description for your audience.  Notice again that the focus keyword is in bold font in the meta description shown above.
  • The focus keyword should appear in the first paragraph of your content.
  • Create an SEO friendly URL that contains the exact focus keyword (ex. https://www.unthink.me/small-business-seo-tips/ instead of unthink.me/p=123?/)
  • Do not use your keyword too many times or your page could get penalized by Google Panda.
  • Install the Yoast plugin for WordPress.  It’s free and it’s awesome.
  • Each of your pages should have one and only one H1 header tag. You can view the source code of your pages by right-clicking and choose View Page Source.  Search for H1 and if you see it more than once, you need to clean up your headers.
  • Use multiple H2 header tags to make the content easier to read. And, include your focus keyword when appropriate.  Never stuff keywords and try your best to make your content easy to read.
  • Use long-tail keywords or keyword phrases on your blog articles. Keyword phrases and how-to questions are typically easier to rank than broad search terms.
  • Research new keywords and look for low to medium competition and low volume keywords for your blog articles.
  • Use the Google Keyword Planner for Keyword Research. Login to your Google Adwords Account and choose the menu option for the keyword planner.
  • Backlinko has one of the best guides’s on keyword research I’ve ever seen.  Get a notepad ready and review Brian’s keyword research tips.

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  • Add an XML sitemap to your site and submit to Google WebMaster Tools.
  • Use Yoast to create and configure your XML sitemap. The XML sitemap contains every page on your site and is important for Google to consume this file and index all your new pages.
  • SEO for local business: add your business listing to trusted directory sites like Yelp, Superpages, and MerchantCircle to increase your citations.  Unthink can scan your local business listing for free, just message us. 
  • Install Google Analytics on your site. Google Analytics will help you track the number of visitors and how they landed on your page.
  • Authenticate Google Webmaster Tools with your Google Analytics Account.
  • Connect your Google Analytics Account to your Google Webmaster Tools account for better keyword data.
  • Use Google Page Speed to determine how fast (or slow) your site loads.
  • If your page speed is slow, consider using a content delivery network (CDN) to speed things up. Your site’s response time is a factor in the Google search algorithm.  Siteground and WP Engine are also great hosting options for your small business website.
  • Purchase an SSL certificate and apply to your site to transition to HTTPS. Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal in 2014.
  • Every new blog should contain 1-2 external links to trusted sources (ex. Wikipedia, Google, etc). Your new visitors (and Google) will appreciate the quality of your content if you link to trusted sources of information related to your industry.
  • Add social share buttons on each page of content. Doing so will allow your visitors to share your content on their favorite social media pages.  And, it increases the chances that someone may decide to link to your content from their website or blog.
  • Share your content on your social media pages, especially Google +. If you don’t have social media pages set up for your business, you should do so ASAP.
  • Create a Google + Profile for yourself and your small business.
  • Associate your Google + Business profile with your website to establish Google Publisher status.
  • Setup a Google + personal profile and establish Google Authorship. On 8/28/2014, Google dropped Authorship from the search results.
  • Tips for Improving SEO and Best Practices
  • Get your local business verified with Google My Business so that you’ll have a chance to appear on the Google Map listings, also known as the 3-pack.
  • After verification with Google My Business, update your profile to 100% by adding a category, office hours, a business description, pictures, website, and office contact information.
  • Ask your happy clients to consider leaving a review on your Google My Business page. High quality, positive reviews from your customers will help increase your local visibility.
  • For local businesses, it’s important for you to respond to your Google Reviews.
  • Duplicate content is bad for your SEO.  Create unique, compelling content.
  • Use your focus keyword when naming your images and include an alt image tag and image title with the focus keyword.
  • Add a lead capture form above the fold to increase the chances you’ll get a lead. “Above the fold” refers to visibility of the form on your page(s) without having to scroll down.
  • Require only minimal information on the lead capture form (ex. Name, Email). Phone should be optional.
  • Be sure your phone number is in a prominent place so your new visitors will not have to search for your contact information.
  • Your site should be easy to read on mobile phones.  Perform a mobile-friendly test on Google Webmaster Tools to see if your site measures up.
  • Create an awesome mobile experience.  Google has reported that mobile searches outnumber desktop searches.
  • To give your products and services pages a boost in rankings, link to an internal page of your site with a focus keyword as the anchor text.
  • Be sure to use diverse anchor text when linking to your internal pages.
  • Add 3-5 tags to each of your new blogs posts, using your focus keyword and other related topics.
  • Add keyword rich categories for your blog posts.  Categories are more general and tags should be more specific to the individual blog articles.
  • Add a rich snippet to your website.  One example of a rich snippet may be a 5 star review that will show up in the Google search results. Check your rich snippets with the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.
  • Review your crawl errors in Google Webmaster Tools.  Google is pretty good at letting you know if there are any errors with robots.txt or 404 errors.
  • Use the redirection plugin for WordPress to setup redirects to decrease your bounce rate.  This action is especially important if you’re doing a web redesign.
  • When making significant changes to certain pages of your site, use the Fetch as Googlebot in Webmaster Tools and submit the URL to Google for immediate indexing of new information.
  • Run an adwords campaign for a few months to learn more about the best keywords for your industry and apply those keywords to your SEO strategy.  Adwords generally provides better keyword data than Google Analytics.
  • Use primary keywords with higher search volume and low competition on your main products and services pages.
  • Occasionally Geo-Tag your Title Tag with city names in your service area.  For example, “Atlanta SEO Expert – Unthink SEO.”
  • Be patient for the first 3-6 months.  Most SEO campaigns take 3-6 months before you realize any significant results. National campaigns may take 6-9 months.
  • Check references when choosing a new SEO company.  Understand their methodology and be sure it doesn’t include any blackhat or grayhat techniques.
  • Brainstorm new keywords and use Google Search to find suggested keywords (usually at the bottom of the page).
  • Become active on Google + by sharing content and growing your Circles on your personal and business pages.
  • Use Schema.org to add rich snippets or local address markup.
  • Navigate to Search Engine Optimization – Landing Pages in Google Analytics to review impressions, clicks, and average position for each landing page.
  • Use the Genesis Framework for WordPress for a superior SEO foundation.
  • If using Genesis for WordPress, choose a mobile friendly child theme or have someone build a custom site that is mobile friendly.
  • Update and add quality content regularly.  The more you do so, the more the Google bots will crawl and index your site.  Google loves fresh content.
  • Don’t design a new website without considering SEO.  Be sure your web designer knows SEO and has references to back it up.
  • Google considers the WWW and Non-WWW versions of your website as two separate domains.  Consolidate your SEO to one or the other.  In WordPress, you do this by ensuring your URL on the Settings page is the WWW version of the website.
  • Links from .edu and .gov sites can give you a boost in search rankings.  It’s your job to be creative and build content worthy enough to be added to an official government or university site.
  • Compelling images and video can significantly reduce bounce rate and engage your visitors longer.  Search engines will reward you.
  • Create a sitemap page (for humans) that includes a link to every page on your site.  Include the sitemap URL in a global link on your website.
  • Bruce Clay does a great job of explaining how to organize your website into silos for the best SEO results.
  • To determine if all of your pages have been indexed on Google, type site:www.mydomain.com into the Google Search bar.
  • Backlinks are important to increasing your search placement.  To determine who has linked to your website, login to Google Webmaster Tools and choose Search Traffic – Links to Your Site.
  • Create Video content with keyword rich titles.  Add a lengthy description explaining the video with a link back to your website.
  • If you want to rank at the top of Google, using free template sites is a mistake.  Most do a poor job of handling SEO friendly URLs and the way they serve pages is often times less than desirable.
  • Update old pages on your site with new and improved content.  Search Engines seem to give weight to pages that are updated often.  Be sure the updates are substantive changes.
  • Never hide text on your website.  Search engine crawlers understand CSS code.  Every precaution should be taken to include visible text.

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Improve SEO With Tools and Search Algorithms

  • Check your HTML code with the W3c Markup Validator to ensure there are no major issues.
  • Verify that your site does not have broken links or links that are redirecting, with W3c Link Checker on the same site as above.
  • Use the Rank Checker Mozilla Firefox Add-on to check your keyword rankings.  You can export the results to Microsoft Excel and add a date column to track how you’re doing.
  • SpyFu has a great keyword tracking tool if you’d like a paid solution to tracking keyword rankings.
  • Using a tool like Onlywire will allow you syndicate your content out (with ease) to 30 or more social networks.  Spend time building out each social network with a profile picture and bio as time permits.
  • Having too many external links in your page content is a bad idea for both search engines and the end user.  External links can be useful to your website visitors but according to Matt Cutts, you are dividing the PageRank of the page between the number of links you add.
  • Google Webmaster Guidelines states that a “reasonable number” of links should be used for each page.  Don’t do anything spammy and provide quality content.
  • Use hyphens to separate multiple words in your URL (ex. www.unthink.me/small-business-seo-tips/.  Stringing words together in your URL is not as easy for Google to read.
  • Make sure your robots.txt file is configured properly.  The robots.txt file allows you to block certain pages from the search engine and you’ll want to confirm that all of your important pages are accessible by the Google bots that crawl your site.
  • Understand the differences between Panda, Penguin, Pigeon, and Hummingbird.
  • A Google Penguin penalty is caused by adding unnatural links to low authority sites with repetitive anchor text.  Google will penalize your site on a particular keyword or keywords that have been unnaturally linked.
  • Google Panda penalties result in a site wide penalty based on low-quality content, duplicate content, or extremely low word count.  Too many ads on your website could also set you back with a Panda penalty.
  • Though not the official name, the Google Pigeon update occurred on July 25, 2014, and affected the local search results.  Many map results were reduced from a 7-pack to a 3-pack, or removed altogether.  It seems that the real estate industry was the hardest hit.  But, great search results come from compelling content, Improve SEO best practices, Social sharing, and ethical link building.
  • The Google Hummingbird algorithm introduced a completely new algorithm for search queries during Google’s 15 year anniversary.  The new algorithm looks more closely at the true meaning of the search term and understands synonyms better than before.
  • Guest posts are not a good idea for helping improve SEO.  As a matter of fact, Google has announced that guest posts could hurt your site.  Simply write quality content on your website and share it on social media.  Look for ways to provide compelling content so that others will want to link to your site.
  • If you’re starting a new business, consider choosing a domain name that includes the main keyword for your industry.  It’s not a requirement but could help a bit with your rankings.
  • Forget about PageRank.  Pages with lower PageRank can rank ahead of companies with a higher PageRank.  Unthink is a great example of this fact, our clients find us as far as Malaysia and as near as El Paso, TX. When you hire an SEO Company consider asking them questions and examples - don't give them the benefit of doubt.
  • Include your primary keyword, focus keyword, and your brand in your Title Tag, in that order.  If you have a recognized brand, you might consider adding your company name at the beginning of the title tag.
  • Research your top competitor sites and determine which keywords they’re using to rank well.
  • Google has nearly 70% of the search market share.  Focus your efforts on Google but don’t disregard Yahoo and Bing.
  • Create a Webmaster Tools account with Bing and use their keyword research tool to find new keyword opportunities.
  • Paid ads are becoming more prevalent in search results and are also taking up more real estate.  With that in mind, your goal should be to rank on the first page of Google in one of the top 3 positions.
  • Combining an SEO and Adwords campaign can increase your leads due to the trust factor and the sheer number of times your business appears on the page of search results.


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Did you find these tips for improving  SEO valuable for your small business?  If so, comment below and let me know your thoughts.

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About the Author:Humberto Valle

Humberto Valle is a digital marketing strategist with Unthink Marketing Experts in El Paso, Texas. He has over 10 years experience helping small businesses find clever ways to compete in their markets.

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