How To Do SEO: Small and Local Business Guide for 2013

Optimize for Search Engines and DirectoriesMany SEO techniques and tactics have changed over the past couple of years due to Google’s ever-changing algorithms. As a business owner, keeping up with your brick and mortar obligations plus your online presence can be a daunting task. Here’s a guide to help you get started and to help you maintain your online visibility.

Get the right commitment

Starting any new venture or campaign requires a level of commitment to the process. As you know, since you’ve already invested countless hours and energy into your business. SEO and digital marketing success do not happen overnight. It takes time and patience to let it organically grow. Gone are the days of “black hat” tactics and quick hits; true sustainable SEO takes commitment.

Get your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) consistent

NAP is your Name, Address, and Phone number. It is critical to your organic SEO success that you have it correct and consistent. Search engines like Google use that data to rank companies on geo-targeted results. If you have inconsistencies in what your business is named, and differences in addresses or phone numbers listed, search engines might list all of those as separate establishments. Not only will this hurt your overall SEO, it will also hurt your brand and cause consumer confusion.

Claim your online citations

Now that you have your NAP written in stone, it’s time to claim or create your citations online. What is an online citation? Citations are references to your business online. They are usually found in local directories online or social media “check-in” and review sites. According to getListed.com, the following directories are crucial to your online presence.

  • Google+ Local
  • Bing
  • ExpressUpdate
  • Neustar Localeze
  • Yelp
  • Foursquare
  • Yahoo!
  • Superpages
  • YP
  • CitySearch
  • HotFrog
  • Best of the Web
  • Here Prime Places

Once you have claimed your business on these directories and services, and standardized your NAP, you have accomplished more than half of your competitors, according to SinglePlatform’s recent survey.

Get the right tools for the job

There are thousands and thousands of tools out on the Internet that claim they will turn you into an SEO guru. You may want to try any and all of them as you see fit (most have trial periods). The following list would be what I would consider the “core” toolbox that everyone should have and use.

  • Research – You will need to know what the keywords and phrases in your customer targets are worth going for by volume and competition.
    • Google Adwords Keyword tool (free)
    • SEMRush
  • Ranking – You will need to know how your website is doing in the organic search results with your chosen keywords and phrases.
    • Rank Checker – SEOBook (free)
    • Advanced Web Reports
    • Rank Tracker
  • Analytics – You will need to know how many people are coming to your website and how they got there.
    • Google Analytics (free)
    • Bing Webmaster Tools (free)
  • Management – You will need to be able to manage and check on your website and its health.
    • Google Webmaster Tools (free)
    • Bing Webmaster Tools (free)
  • Link Tracking – You will need to know what other sites and sources are pointing back to your website.
    • OpenSiteExplorer

Get the right content

Now you are armed with all the intelligence you need to get your website ranking well. The first thing to do to your website is to get a blog. One of the most widely used blog engine is WordPress, and that would be my suggestion due to the robust support and wide variety of plugins. Make sure your blog is self-hosted on your server and not on a subdomain like “yourblog.wordpress.org”. It is best to keep everything on one central server to your website for the search engines.

Once your blog is set up, it is time to focus on content. You want to be the thought leader in your niche and location, so think of content that would be of value to your customers. Get ideas from your everyday business activities and the questions that your customers frequently ask you. All this content will tell your potential customers and the search engines that you know what you are trying to sell. If you haven’t already, create a Google Plus page so that you can also claim authorship of everything you write and post.

Do the right thing

The most important thing to remember is that digital marketing and SEO take time. If you are committed to the process, and keep doing the right thing, the results will come. Be aware that there will be people contacting you, claiming that they can get you number one page ranks within 2 weeks. There are tactics that can accomplish that, but these tactics do not produce sustainable results. The search engines will penalize you if you do them. The landscape of SEO has changed, and the search engines are a lot smarter than they used to be. You do not want to be the site that gets wiped from them. It would be equivalent to moving your store into a dark alley with no street signs – no one will find you.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask, as this is a high level guide to SEO for now and the future. There are of course many, many more elements, but this should get you started on the road to SEO success.

About Vu Thai

I am a "Search Experience Officer" ;) for SuperMedia. I have helped small businesses near and far be heard and seen online. In my spare time, I'm keyword ranking my words before I speak. You can find me on Twitter or Google Plus

Comments

  1. Great article. If you have a brick and mortar office, you have to have a digital office. If not, you are missing out on the 90% (maybe a little high :) of people who will Google you before they ever visit you. Additionally, how will new comers know about you if there is no Yelp, or local listings?!

    About the local listings, do you list on all the local directories? Yes, it helps the local SEO, but how do you monitor the positive and negative reviews? We all aim for excellence, but people are sometimes just negative. How do you deal with that?

    Near the end, you mentioned that you should get the right content – but if we are focusing on content over keywords, should this portion not be leading the article? Should we not have a blog long before we get out on local? Otherwise, what do we drive them too? Basically, why did you mention building a blog after the other strategies?

    Outstanding article. Just wanted to add some discussion to it.

    • Hey Eli,

      Great statements and comments! I do agree that the line between physical and digital businesses have melded together and will continue to do so. You have to do both to be successful. Local listings, directories are important, as these are “citations” pointing to your business. Google is always on the look out for “spam” and “low-quality” sites, and these citations give validity to your business as an actually existing. I would advise that businesses monitor their reviews on authoritative sites (such as Yelp) and not worry so much if they are negative or positive, but to keep an open dialogue with their customers and their reviews. Just like word of mouth, if they run a good business, then the positive will outweigh the negative.

      The reason blogging is at the end of the article, is because many small businesses do not have the capacity to blog, and these were not meant to be done step-by-step, but with an overall content/seo strategy. The right content, doesn’t always mean in a blog, the right content can be in the website copy itself. It is good to make sure you’re listed within google and have your citations correct, and then go after the unique content and niches that blogging will provide..you have to build the “store” before you populate it.

  2. sorry to say, but nothing new in the article., i would like to see more about measuring my success after doing this.., tools,.. but i like your presentation.,

    • Thanks Uday! To a seasoned professional, these SEO strategies aren’t new, but they are tried and true and have withstood the changes in Google’s Algorithms. The best way to measure success, has always been the case with any marketing campaigns. Exposure and Conversions.

  3. We can expect these strategies to continue being useful for the rest of the year and the next. Unless Google will roll out another revolutionary algorithm update.

    • We can expect these strategies to be the most “algorithm” proof as possible, since they are generally used as a good primer and best practices to give your business a good start for its online presence.

  4. With the ever changing algorithms of Google, the techniques we use is something that we should always keep up phase.

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