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How to Master SEO for Small Businesses

Published Oct 25, 2021

Search traffic is a powerful tool for small businesses. With nearly half of all Google searches involving local keywords, and 88% of consumers who conduct local searches on their smartphones visiting a store within one week, the topic of SEO for small businesses has never been more relevant.


SEO is a foundational element of digital marketing for small businesses. If a small business does SEO poorly, it risks fading into obscurity online. A website that doesn’t rank on the first page of Google results almost doesn’t exist, from a marketing perspective. On the other hand, getting SEO right can result in an immediate lift to website traffic, overall brand visibility, and revenue. That’s why it’s so important for small business owners to take the steps to master SEO.


To help optimize your website for local search and understand all the latest Google updates in 2021, we have created this comprehensive guide. We know how important SEO is for small businesses, and our goal is for you to have a clear understanding of how to adjust your website to reach the greatest number of consumers through local search.


SEO Fundamentals for SMB

The right search strategy puts businesses front and center when people look online for information about the products and services they offer. 


When deciding which websites to rank on search engine results pages (SERPs), Google relies on signals. Search signals can include things such as:

  • Links
  • Title tags
  • Local website content
  • Citations
  • Social profile pages

Google’s search engine crawlers crawl the internet looking for these signals and then using that information to rank content. These are the signals that determine whether or not a website ranks on the first page of Google results for certain keywords.


How can we make sure Google is getting the right signals about your website?


We start by conducting keyword research and optimizing your website based on the latest best practices for search in 2021.


If you’re starting from the very beginning, take these steps:


  1. Create a Google My Business profile.
  2. Make sure your business name, address, and phone number is consistent.
  3. Optimize your URL, title tags, headers, meta description, and website content.
  4. Consider adding location pages to your website. (This is especially important for businesses with multiple store locations.)
  5. Develop local content that’s informative and well-written.
  6. Make your website mobile-friendly.
  7. Look for opportunities to get inbound links with authority.
  8. Optimize your website for page load speed.
  9. Engage with followers on social media.
  10. Actively participate in your local community, both online and offline.


Don’t skip any of these steps. These are the fundamentals of SEO for small businesses. Once you’ve completed these tasks, it’s time to move on to the next level. This is where you will want to start keeping track of the updates Google is making to its algorithm that impact SEO for small businesses.


Latest Updates in Google Search for Small Businesses


Google’s search algorithm is always changing — sometimes dozens of times a day. Google reports thousands of improvements to its search product each year. Some core updates are huge, and some are so tiny that they don’t matter at all. The company has traditionally been tight-lipped about its search algorithm, however there are experts and agencies, like CMDS, that track the updates Google makes to its search algorithm so businesses don’t have to.


Rewriting Title Tags

One of the biggest changes to impact SEO for small businesses in 2021 has to do with title tags. Specifically, Google is now rewriting title tags in SERPs with other relevant text. This isn’t happening on a widespread scale yet, however small businesses should be aware that Google is now rewriting title tags for a limited number of pages in search results. Often, Google is replacing the text with a page’s H1 tag.


As a result, you may notice that Google has appended your business name to the end on a search engine results page (SERP). Google also has the ability to override a title with different text altogether. Google may be replacing the titles of pages with anchor text from an internal link, and in some instances inserting dates into titles. Industry experts believe Google now has the ability to create any text to use as a page’s title. It can even replace a title with text found on a different page of a website. 


Emphasizing Page Speed

Google rolled out its most recent core algorithm update in July. Although the company rarely says what’s involved in its algorithm updates, it’s clear that this one will have an impact on SEO for small businesses.


If you have noticed your website drop in the search rankings over the past month, slow page speed could be to blame. As part of Google’s 2021 core algorithm update, it appears more emphasis has been placed on page speed as a ranking factor. 


When asked whether any core algorithm updates in 2021 were related to page speed, Google’s John Mueller affirmed that the company did make an update that affected the core of its ranking system and said slow page speed could be a reason for some ranking changes in 2021. 


Third-Party Reviews

User reviews have come to play an increasingly important role in SEO for small businesses. Google prioritizes reviews over nearly every other type of content, and savvy digital marketers have been able to actually use reviews to boost SEO.


From a user experience perspective, we have understood that third-party values could be useful for some time. However, what’s new here is that Google has started heavily weighing consumer reviews in search rankings. Reviews now account for 16% of the local pack ranking.


As a best practice, we recommend asking customers who have had a positive experience to leave a review. This should increase the number of positive reviews posted about your company (Google review count), and more reviews and positive ratings can improve a business’ local ranking. We also recommend responding to the reviews posted about your business, whether they are positive or negative. This allows you to control the narrative and highlight relevant keywords in your response.


Local Keywords

Small businesses are inherently local, which means mastering SEO for small businesses means mastering local search. Google has begun to place more emphasis on local relevancy in search results. In 2021, finding and using keywords can now increase your local search ranking.


Local keyword research begins with discovering which search queries are helping customers find your business online. Then, you’ll want to optimize your website with those keywords in mind. For example, if your bowling alley is ranking well for [bowling alley in San Francisco], then you can work on other relevant local search terms. Maybe consider trying to rank for searches like [best bowling alley in San Francisco] or [San Francisco bowling alley with food]. Getting your SEO game on point has never been more important as a small business, especially as Google continues to place more emphasis on its local search products.


Key Takeaways


Google’s latest update reveals quite a bit about the most important ranking factors for businesses. If you’re looking to master SEO for small businesses, remember that website design, website loading performance, and keyword selection all play a role in determining search rankings.


To learn even more about the latest SEO updates coming from Google in 2021, contact us for consulting on best practices and other ways you can enhance your digital presence. 


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