SEO For Your Small Business – How Business Owners, Consultants and Professionals Can Rank At The Top Of Google

In this article, you are going to learn how to rank your small business website at the top of Google.

This article is for small business owners, consultants, professionals, and service providers.

(Not for bloggers or online entrepreneurs.)

If you run an offline business and you want your website to become a lead generation machine, then this is for you.

SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) is one of the best forms of marketing online. Because your prospects find you when they are looking for what you offer.

It is not like social media advertising where you choose your demographics and you show up with an ad.

This is different. This is showing up with a relevant answer when they have a question.

In marketing terms, we call this “pull marketing” versus “push marketing”.

Social and traditional advertising interrupts your prospects while they are doing something else. This is “push marketing”.

Search marketing delivers what the prospect is looking for. This is “pull marketing”. It’s non-invasive, and it delivers value before asking for anything in return. It’s also a great way to show your expertise in your field to your prospects without being salesy.

But before we dive into the details of how to rank, we’ll knock down a couple of myths that are popular in the SEO world.

Myth #1: The First Page Ranking

It is a common joke amongst SEOs that “if you want to hide something, put it on the second page of Google“.

It illustrates that almost no one will notice your website if you don’t rank on the first page.

But first page is not enough.

Most of the prospects click on the first top 3 results.

To get the full benefits of ranking in Google you need to aim for the top 3 results for your most important keywords.

The following image describes findings from the Advanced Web Ranking organic CTR research.

You can see how the Top #1 position gets a little less than 30% of the clicks, while the #2 position gets a little less than 15% and the #3 position gets 10% of the clicks.

Results below the Top 3 get very few clicks.

Click distribution by position in google listings

(Image from Advanced Web Rankings)

Myth #2: “Organic Traffic” is “Free Traffic”

When your website ranks in Google, you’ll get targeted traffic that converts to sales.

The best part is that you don’t have to pay for it.

In that sense, you could make a point that “organic” traffic is “free”.

But achieving the top 3 positions for your target keywords takes time and resources.

Instead of paying dollars for clicks (which is what you would do with Google Ads), you pay to improve your website.

This is what SEO is. To improve your website and convince Google’s algorithms that it deserves the #1 spot.

It’s going to cost money and time; make no mistake about it. (Even if you do it yourself.)

With that cleared, let’s get into the 12 steps you need to rank Top 3 in Google for any keyword.

Step 1 – Mobile Friendly Website

Step 1 is to have a mobile-friendly website. As you know, a lot of web traffic comes from mobile devices.

Even if, in your market, most of your users use desktop, your website needs to work well in mobiles. If it doesn’t, Google is going to drop it.

This is not optional.

The good news is that if you are using WordPress your website is already mobile-friendly because it is responsive.

“Responsive” means that the design and layout “adapt” to the device that is being browsed on.

When you visit from a desktop computer or laptop, you see the desktop version. And when you visit from a mobile or tablet, you see the mobile version.

Other popular content management platforms like Squarespace or Wix are also responsive.

If you want to test that your website is responsive and mobile-friendly, you can use the free tool below:

Check if your website is mobile friendly using Google’s own tool.

Mobile friendly test

Step 2 – Make it Fast

Your website needs to load as fast as possible.

Slow-loading websites get dropped off the rankings.

Plugins

If you’re using WordPress keep an eye on which plugins you use, and how many.

Try to minimise the amount of plugins you install. They can slow your website down, and make your website more vulnerable to hacking attacks.

This is called plugin hygiene. It’s “tech talk” for “don’t use more tools than you need to”.

Because if you do, your website will get clunky and slow, and your rankings will drop.

If you work with a good wordpress development partner, they can hard code most of the functionalities you need straight into your wordpress theme. This means you don’t need to rely on slow and unsafe plugins.

Why unsafe? Because many of these plugins may create vulnerabilities in your site that a hacker could exploit and gain access to your site.

This happens more often than you think. Hack attacks are usually not meant to take your website down, but to inject a piece of code and leave it there.

They could be using your website as a crypto mining resource, or even as a linking source for black hat SEO purposes.

So you should make sure that your website is safe from such vulnerabilities.

You WILL need some plugins though. And some plugins will even help your website load faster.

Below is a list of the plugins I recommend you install in your wordpress to improve your loading speed:

These plugins are safe to use and will help your website load faster. Make sure you keep them updated to avoid potential security issues.

And below is a list of the plugins or themes I recommend you don’t use because they slow your website down:

  • Divi Builder
  • Beaver Builder
  • Facebook Chat
  • Google Language Translator
  • Share Buttons by AddToAny
  • Backup Buddy
  • All-In-One Event Calendar

CDN Hosting

Another thing you can do is use CDN hosting. CDN stands for Content Distribution Network. You’ll use a CDN account to host images on a different server than the rest of your website.

This will distribute the server load requirements and improve your load performance.

Below is a list of CDN Host providers you can use:

Test Your Website Speed

To test your website speed you can use this tool.

Website speed test

You should aim to score at least a B score, and to have your page loading in less than 1 second.

Speed test results

Step 3 – Build Citations

Citations are business profiles that you submit to local and business directories.

In other words, a Yellow, Finda or Localist profile, is a citation.

#image

To find local directories search in Google using this combination of keywords:

{region} directory

Examples:

  • Auckland directory
  • Auckland city business directory
  • ponsonby directory
  • Manukau directory
  • Albany directory

There are also industry-specific directories, also known as vertical directories. Find all the directories that are specific to your industry and create a profile in them.

To find industry-specific directories search in Google using this combination of keywords:

{business type} directory

Examples:

  • marketing directory
  • digital marketing business directory
  • SEO agency directory

This can be very time-consuming. You can use the following services to outsource this part of the SEO process:

NAP Consistency

NAP stands for Name, Address & Phone.

You want your NAP to be consistent across all your citations, and instances in your website.

Keeping your NAP consistent has the following benefits:

  • It lets Google know that you are a real business with a physical address and a phone number.
  • Google acknowledges that your business is an “entity” that exists beyond your website. This adds a layer of credibility to your Brand and boosts your rankings.
  • It gets you ranking higher in the Local and Maps results (we’ll cover this in the next step).

When we say that your NAP should be consistent, we mean it. It pays to be pedantic here.

One could find many ways to write the same address in several different ways.

For example:

  • Road Vs Rd.
  • Street Vs. St.
  • Place the Zip code next to the city or next to the state

If we wrote the address in different ways, and we used each one single instance on each directory, it would be a mess.

We would be doing a very poor job at telling Google who we are and where we are located.

Once you decide on a NAP format, stick to it. If at all possible don’t change phone numbers.

If you must change phone numbers or physical locations, you will need to edit every instance of your new NAP. Both IN your website, and in every directory citation that you published in the past.

TIP: Find out how Google displays your address and stick to that format:

SEO Marketing GMB Listing

They count as links

Building citations has the added benefit that they count as backlinks.

As we will see in step 11, you need backlinks to rank in Google.

These initial links are not enough to achieve top rankings in most cases, but they are a good starting point.

Step 4 – Optimise Your Google My Business (GMB)

The next step is to claim and optimise your GMB listing.

You “claim” your listing by verifying you are the business owner or administrator.

And you verify your listing by following Google’s verification protocols. Usually they send a verification code on the mail. Sometimes it’s possible to verify a listing by receiving an SMS code.

You must keep your NAP consistency in your GMB.

Once you claimed your listing, you can start adding content to it.

Add as much as you can and is relevant to your business. Include images and videos if you have available.

GMB gives you a great opportunity to rank in the Maps Three Pack when people search for your services in your area.

For example, SEO Marketing has many local top rankings for searches related to SEO services in Auckland:

SEO Agency Ranking in GMB

Step 5 – Build And Optimise Your Social Profiles

We are sending signals to Google that your website is trustworthy.

The way we do this is by convincing Google that your business is real and present in many online platforms.

If Google only knew about your business through your website, it can’t be certain that it’s a real thing.

But if your business has many citations, a verified GMB, and several social profiles, it’s a lot better.

At the very least you should have a Facebook Page and a LinkedIn profile.

It’s even better if you have more social profiles and you use them.

Think about Pinterest, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Quora, and popular forums in your industry.

Step 6 – Research Your Competitors

On this step you are going to find out:

  • what keywords are driving traffic to your competitors
  • what content they are using to rank for these keywords
  • what websites are linking to them, and if it’s possible to get backlinks on these websites.

To do this you are going to need an SEO tool. I recommend Ahrefs.

First, you are going to enter your competitor’s website in the site explorer:

Ahrefs site overview

Then you’ll be able to see what keywords are driving traffic to them.

Keywords sending traffic to competitor in Ahrefs

You can also see how much traffic they are getting, and the traffic value. The traffic value is an estimation of how much they would have to pay per click if they were buying all this traffic.

(In Ahrefs these estimations are usually lower than the actual traffic figures. We use them as reference only.)

I am after 3 main pieces of information here.

  1. The list of keywords sending them traffic
  2. The landing pages getting the traffic

competitor content analysis

I will analyse their content in detail and answer these questions:

  • How many words in the page?
  • How many sub-headlines?
  • How many images?
  • Any other content module? (table, chart…)
  • How many videos, if any?
  • Any other worth noting?
  • A call to action?

3 – The websites linking back to my competitor.

  • Is it a blog? If so, do they accept guest posts?
  • Is it a directory that I can submit my website to?
  • A community site or forum I can create a profile with my website?
  • Is there an obvious way to get a link from this website?

Backlinks competitor research

Even if it’s not possible to get a link from every website that links to your competitor.

You also want to have an idea of the main metrics of your competitor’s backlink profile.

If most of the websites linking to your competitors have high trust metrics, that is what you need.

If your competitors have only a handful of low trust metrics links, then that’s all you need.

Your goal is to discover the baseline established by your competitors, and go a little bit above it. Do a little bit better than them.

That’s all it takes to get the top rankings.

In a competitive industry, the baseline metrics are high and hard to beat.

In a non-competitive industry, the baseline metrics are low and easy to beat.

Summary of Step 6

This might be the most important step in the process.

It is the foundational blueprint that is going to guide the rest of the process.

Step 7 – Build In-Depth Content Pages

On step 6 we discovered 2 things:

  1. The list of keywords that we are going to target.
  2. The landing pages that your competitors are using to rank for these keywords.

On step 7 we need to build better landing pages than your competitors.

This is a time-consuming process.

Each page of content needs to be a thorough in-depth resource on the topic.

A few years ago Google was not as good as it is now understanding documents. Because of this, it used to make sense to build different pages to target different keyword variations.

For example, if you wanted to target the following keywords:

  • what is seo
  • seo meaning
  • seo definition

You would create 3 different pages for each one of them.

Then you would optimise the keyword density for each one of those keywords.

Since 2014 and the development of the Hummingbird algorithm, Google improved dramatically in the way it is now able to understand the meaning and the context of a document.

So now, if you wanted to target these 3 keywords, you would create one page because they all share the same keyword intent.

When deciding how many and which keywords you need to target in one single document, look at the keyword intent.

Create one document for all keywords that share the same keyword intent.

To help you discover how many keywords you should include in your content, you can use LSI Graph or Text Optimizer.

This may result in big documents. That’s OK. It’s not a coincidence that most of the webpages that you find at the top of the rankings are 2,000 words or more.

Use the research you did in Step 6 as your guideline here.

What type of content are they using to rank for these keywords?

  • How long is it?
  • How many sections?
  • How many subheadlines?
  • Are they using other content formats (images, infographics, tables, videos, audio files)?

Your job is to do everything they do right, and do it a little better.

Make your content a little bit more in-depth. Include something they missed and look for opportunities where you can do an even better job than they did, at presenting this topic to search engine users.

Step 8 – Optimise for Clicks

Once your webpage is ranking in Google, it will start getting clicks.

Google has a lot of data to estimate how many clicks your page should receive according to the position in the top 10 rankings.

If your listing gets fewer clicks than expected, it means the users are not interested in your content and Google will demote your rankings.

If your listing gets a good amount of clicks, it means that users are engaging with your content, and your rankings will benefit from it.

Therefore, you should optimise for clicks.

You do this by optimising the text in the Title Tag and in the Meta Description.

Title Tag Optimisation

The most important job of your Title Tag is to have your main keyword that you want to rank for.

This is the most important tag in your page’s HTML code. If there was ONE tag where you should place your main keyword, it’s this one.

Therefore, the first priority is to include the keyword.

The second priority is to craft an attractive message that invites users to click on it.

We will look at two examples to clarify this concept:

incorrect title tag example

Example 1: SEO Company | Services | ECommerce | Affordable | Local | NZ

This is a common mistake. Novice SEOs or business owners will try to cram as many keywords as they possibly can fit in.

The logic behind this is that you will be able to rank for all these keywords, because you are including them in your title tag (as we stated, the most important tag to tell Google what your page is about.)

The problem with this approach is that it’s not optimised for clicks.

Therefore, it might get rankings but not many clicks.

title tag correct example

Example 2: SEO Company – Get First Page in Google – Results Guaranteed

It’s true that the title tag on example 2 will have a harder time ranking for some of those keyword variations that were left out (SEO ecommerce, SEO local, affordable SEO, NZ).

But that’s OK. Because the most important benefit of rankings is to get clicks. And you should optimise for clicks, because that will in turn benefit you with even more rankings.

The title tag on this example does a much better job at selling the benefit to the user and giving them a reason to click further and read what’s on your webpage.

This requires the mindset that you are publishing content for your prospects, not for Google.

When you give your human visitors what they are looking for, Google is very clever at rewarding you with higher rankings.

Meta Description Optimisation

The same concept applies to optimising the meta description.

In the case of the meta description, it has zero impact on the rankings. It only matters because it tells the searchers what the webpage is about.

Your job is to use the 150 characters available to sell the benefits of your content and produce enough intrigue to get them to click on your result.

Example:

Looking for an SEO Company to Get First Page in Google? Top Results Guaranteed – Local – National – Testimonials – Case Studies – Free Consultation

It’s very important that you use every character available in your meta description to craft the right message.

If you leave this HTML tag empty, Google will grab some text from your webpage and try to find a descriptive sentence. You don’t want this to happen.

Summary

When you optimise for clicks with the Title Tag and the Meta Description Tag, your rankings will get a lot more clicks.

You can use this tool to help you optimise your Title Tags and Meta Descriptions.

Step 9 – Dwell Time

Google wants its users to be satisfied with the pages they find.

If your visitors land on your webpage and leave immediately, it’s a clear signal that your page did not deliver what they were looking for.

On the other hand, if your visitors land on your page and spend several minutes browsing your website, it’s a clear signal that your content is great and keeps your visitors engaged.

Therefore, you should optimise to keep your users engaging in your site. This is usually referred to as “dwell time”.

You want to give your visitors reasons to stay in your website longer.

Here are some examples of how you can do this:

Display content in various formats (text, audio, video, images, graphics, tables)

Have videos available wherever possible

Offer links to other pages in your website to keep visitors engaged

Have a live chat or a chatbot option so that people can ask questions before leaving

These and other tactics are available to increase your visitors engagement and their dwell time.

With click metrics data available from multiple sources (Google.com, chrome, google analytics, etc.) Google has many ways of knowing how much your visitors like or dislike your website.

So make sure they like it and your rankings will benefit.

Step 10 – Visually Appealing

Your content needs to be presented in a way that is easy to scan.

People don’t read full pages of content. Rather, then scan through and read bits and pieces.

Your content needs to be visually appealing and easy to scan through.

You want to avoid a “wall of text”.

Break paragraphs, include sub-headlines, lists, and other media.

If your visitors see a long wall of text, most of them will feel intimidated and give up on it before reading it.

On the other hand, if they feel they can scan through and get an idea of what the page is about, they will scroll through and read some parts (or the entirety) of your content.

Use the following tactics and media to format your content effectively:

  • A table of contents
  • Paragraph breaks
  • Subheadlines and sections
  • Bullet points
  • Information presented in tables
  • Infographics
  • Images
  • Videos
  • etc.

Step 11 – Backlinks

Traditionally, this has been the main topic that keeps SEOs busy.

This is usually the most popular topic between SEOs. Backlinks have been the main ranking factor for the last two decades.

However, in the last few years, there has been a gradual change.

There are now usability and branding factors that affect your rankings that didn’t matter before.

And the Hummingbird algorithm changed dramatically the way publishers create content that can rank for hundreds or thousands of keywords, from one webpage.

Having said all this, backlinks are still one of the most important ranking factors.

The good news is that the citations that you built on step 3 count as backlinks.

But they are not enough. If you have great content and you are still not ranking you need more backlinks.

There are dozens of ways to build backlinks. In this article, we are going to focus on Guest Posting.

Guest posting is when you reach out to another blogger and you offer to write a blog post on their website.

When you publish a guest blog post on someone else’s website, you are allowed to include a link to your website in the content.

To do this successfully you need to:

  1. Reach out to webmasters/bloggers and offer your guest blog post
  2. Create the content

This can be very time-consuming.

You can find blogs that accept guest blog posts by searching on Google for any of the following:

  • [your niche] “write for us”
  • [your niche] “guest post”

Find guest post opportunities

Find a few good websites that accept guest post submissions, and read through their guidelines.

Any website that is worth submitting to will adhere to strict quality guidelines.

You should read them carefully and adhere to them before you contact them.

guest post guidelines

How many links you need pointing to your webpages depends on how competitive the keyword you are targeting is.

To estimate how many links you need, you can use an SEO tool to find out how many backlinks have each one of the top 10 results (using the same tools and analysis we did in Step 6).

Step 12 – Internal Backlinks

Internal links are not as powerful as links coming from another website. But they are still effective and you have control over them.

You should link your webpages with each other in the most relevant way.

Not only with your menu links, but also with in-content links.

An in-content link is a link that is embedded in the middle of a sentence, such as this one, that links to another page in your website.

The anchor text of your link should describe the page you are linking to. For example, if the page is about content marketing, then it’s a good idea to use content marketing as the anchor text. The anchor text is the clickable area of the link.

When you link to relevant internal pages on your website you are helping them rank higher. Each internal link helps the linked page to rank higher.

But you can’t abuse this tactic and you shouldn’t link to any page that is not relevant.

A great strategy to take advantage of internal linking is to create Topic Clusters.

Topic Clusters

A topic cluster is a series of webpages related to a common general topic.

When you target a high competition keyword you can create a series of “supporting posts” to point internal links to the main page.

The image below helps to explain this concept:

Internal backlinks - Topic Clusters

Each supporting post you publish helps the main page to rank for the target term.

When you publish dozens of articles about a related topic, Google starts to consider you an authority in that particular topic, and you can use your internal links to rank for high competition keywords.

Conclusion

You can optimise your website to get top rankings in Google by yourself or with the help of someone in your team.

If you go through the 12 steps we outlined on this article your pages will get top rankings.

If you have any questions you can post below and we will be happy to help.

To get in touch with us and discuss your SEO needs contact us here.

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