Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Guide to SEO for Your Small Business

SEO for your small business may seem confusing and overwhelming but really it’s not. With some knowledge and the right tools in your toolbelt, you can put together a strong SEO strategy for your business.


SEO word cloud listing SEO key terms

Part 1

SEO for your small business, what is it?

Blocks spelling out the word keyword

Part 2

Keyword Research

The concept of business, technology, the Internet and the network. A young entrepreneur working on a virtual screen of the future and sees the inscription: Link building

Part 3

Links and Link Building

Smartphone with mobile friendly text concept on the screen.

Part 4

Common SEO Mistakes Small Businesses Need to Avoid

Smartphone with mobile friendly text concept on the screen.

Part 5

Tools to Help with SEO for your Small Business

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Concept On Work Desk, With Magnifier And Laptop Computer

Part 6

SEO Checklist for your Small Business

Part 1

SEO for Your Small Business

What Is It?

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. This is the process of setting up (optimizing) your website to achieve better rankings on various search engines. Search engines use spiders to navigate (or crawl) all through the internet. These spiders then index what they find and file it away. When you type in a word or a phrase in a search bar, the search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) will use a computer program called an algorithm to pull from the file system created by the spiders. These results are what you see. 

Word cloud for SEO - containing all words that apply to search engine optimization

Types of SEO

There are two types of SEO that I want to talk about today, on-page SEO and off-page SEO. 

On-Page SEO

Content quality – Write quality content that uses keywords (we will talk about those later) and offers value that your readers will want to share. Just think of every share of your content is a yes vote for search engines. 


Please include your keyword in your title 


Make sure they have your keyword and are simple in structure


A good meta description using your keywords will help drive search engines to your content


Remember search engines search photos to. It is a good SEO practice to add descriptive alternative tags to all your images.


Always link your content to other content on your site and don’t be afraid to add links to other websites if they have additional information to add to your post. 


Is your website easy to navigate through, is it logically arranged? How fast is it? Most people will close a website that takes too long to load in their browser.


Using headers (h1,h2,h3 etc.) logically on your website to organize your website and blog post. Please don’t use headers for styling your website.


Do you have your XML sitemap submitted to search engines?


Off-Page SEO

This looks at the trustworthiness of your website. Think about social media here. This is off-page SEO. Another thing to look at is what websites lead back to yours. These are backlinks. One example of a good backlink would be from your member profile of the Chamber of Commerce website. Others would be someone linking to your content as an external link in their post. Also, consider guest writing with companies that have a similar target market. 

“Good SEO work only gets better over time. It’s only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.”

– Jill Whalen

Part 2

SEO Keyword Research

What are Keywords?

Something people search and what you want to rank for. With these keywords it’s important you write a high-quality article (post) optimizing your SEO keywords

Types of Keyword


These are usually 2-3 words. As a small business, I would use caution with short keywords. These are usually very hard to compete with because large brands are usually racked high with them already.


These are usually 4 to 5 words and are more precise. For example, Best Web Hosting would be a short keyword, while Best Web Hosting for Small Business would be the long-tail keyword. Consider long-tail keywords for your SEO Strategy.

Blocks spelling out the word - Keyword

Keyword Research

Your strategy for keyword research is pretty straight forward. Identify the keywords that your audience is currently using so you can meet them where they currently are. This involves 5 key steps.

Step 1- Identify your audience: Think of who your target audience is, what problem they need to be solved, and how you can solve it.

Step 2 – Map your website – See how your current content can solve your audience’s problem in addition to mapping out the pages you want to perform well in a search engine.

Step 3 – Brainstorm – Think of all possible keywords that could be used to find your content. Think of service – problem – content and your location when brainstorming your keywords.

Step 4 – Quantify – How many people search using your possible keywords each month?

Step 5 – Evaluate and prioritize – Now look at these keywords and answer these questions: What is the intent of someone using this particular keyword? – Can I compete using this keyword? (keep in mind if a large corporation already ranks high your chance are pretty slim in beating them.) – Is this keyword relevant to the page I would like to be paired with? – How many people using this keyword in Google every month?

In step 6 you will find helpful tools for performing your keyword research. 

“Think about what a user is going to type.”

– Matt Cutts

Part 3

Links and Link Building

What are links?

Links are found within your website that when clicked your visitor will be taken to another page, section, or an entirely new website.

Types of links on your website

Internal Links 

This is linking within your own content. For example if you are currently writing a post about social media marketing and in the past you wrote about designing social media graphics, you will want to link your past post to your new post. 

External Links

This is linking to content from another source that further backs what you are writing about. You can see throughout this article I have linked to articles on backlinks and social media (See part 1)

The concept of business, technology, the Internet and the network. A young entrepreneur working on a virtual screen of the future and sees the inscription: Link building

Let’s Look at Link Building

Link building will help you to increase your presence online and will show Google you are a credible site because you hangout with other credible websites. Link building is about putting your network of strong relationships together. 

First, take a look at what is already happening with your website. Use tools like Google Search Console and Moz Link Research to see what your backlink network currently looks like. 

Next, brainstorm your relationships and make a list

  • Are you in a professional network?
  • Who do you do business with?
  • Have you worked with any nonprofit organization?

Go through your list and see if Google can see a relationship between your business and them based on links. If the answer is no, these are opportunities for link building.

When you are thinking of these opportunities be sure to think of how you will add value to them. Remember this is also about building strong relationships so adding value to both parties is key.

Some great ideas are:

  • Partner lists – If they have a page on their website that shows their professional relationships ask them to add your business. Be sure to reciprocate the gesture. 
  • Sponsorship – If you are supporting a charitable event request to be included (with your website link) on their sponsorship page.
  • Chamber of Commerce or professional organization – If you are a member of any of these, there is usually a directory of members. Make sure you are listed with your website link.
  • Podcasts or web shows – I love to listen to podcasts and I have seen a huge growth over the last few years. With Facebook Live and Instagram TV, more and more people are hosting their own shows. In the area where I live I know of one podcast and one website show that interviews local businesses and business leaders. Take time to pitch yourself to them to be a guest on the show.
  • Guest blogging: Perfect for putting yourself out there as the thought leader in your industry. Find businesses that are complementary to yours and pitch your ideas for written content. 

Now, take the challenge and pitch yourself to one of your opportunities this week. 

“Don’t build links. Build relationships”

-Rand Fishkin

Part 4

Common SEO Mistakes Small Businesses Need to Avoid

5 Common SEO Mistakes

One thing I have noticed over time is some common mistakes business owners make while creating and working their SEO campaigns. Avoiding these 5 goals will certainly help your SEO efforts over time. 

  1. Looking at SEO as a short term strategy
  2. Not performing your keyword research
  3. Not having a mobile-friendly site
  4. Not having a secure site
  5. Not updating past content

Let’s take a look at these 5 mistakes more in-depth.

Smartphone with mobile friendly text concept on the screen.

5 Common SEO Mistakes 

Looking at SEO as a short term strategy:

If I said it once, I’ll say it again. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Most SEO strategies don’t see fruit for 3 to 6 months. That’s okay because, in the long run, it’s worth it. But most people will abandon their strategy or change SEO management companies within the first month because they didn’t see results not understanding that they won’t. Hang in there, remember it’s the tortoise that won the race, not the hare. 

Not performing your keyword research:

Remember part 2 of this article? I know it’s daunting but it needs to be done and there are some great tools out there to make it much easier By having Google Analytics and Google Search Console set up on your website you will have access to keywords that people are already using to find you. This knowledge can help you plan content that will move you up in rankings. SEO Book and Ubersuggest are great free tools for helping you find the right keywords for you.

Not having a mobile-friendly site:

You would like to think that everyone has a mobile-friendly site by now but that’s just not the case. Are you one of those business owners? Since 50% of website traffic is now on mobile phones it is so important and not just for SEO to have a mobile-ready site. SEO Hermit has an excellent article on the importance of a mobile-friendly website. 

Not having a secure site:

Bottom line, Google is not going to recommend your website if it’s not secure. Getting an SSL certificate from your hosting provider is a must. Not sure if you have one already, here is an easy check. Is your URL displayed in your browser as http: or https:. If it’s https: you are okay if it’s http: it’s time to contact your hosting provider.

Not updating past content:

This might even mean deleting some. Take the time to look at old content. Make updates as needed to posts and if something has changed considerably delete the old post and write a new one with the current information. This is also a great way to come up with new content.

Bonus Mistake to Avoid

This is my number one pet peeve. Please write your content with your personality and knowing that real people are reading this. I know you’ve seen this before a blog post that is clearing written to satisfy a search engine. These posts are disingenuous and Google is getting wise to it. 

Part 5

Tools to Help with SEO for Your Small Business

What are my favorite tools?

There are so many tools that can help you with research, planning, and analyzing your website. I want to share with you the favorite tools in my tools box. I have also included the links to these favorites of mine so you can check them out for yourself.  

Smartphone with mobile friendly text concept on the screen.

SEO Tools for your Toolbox

Wordpress Plug-ins

Yoast SEO – By far the easiest tool to help you optimize every aspect of your website

MonsterInsights – get realtime Google Analytics on your Wordpress dashboard

Smush – Compressed and optimizes your media files

Analytics and Monitoring

Google Analytics

Google Search Console

SEO Tester Online  – Chrome Browser extension

Content Optimization

SEO Analysis & Website Review – Chrome Browser extension

SEO Site Checkup

Do you what more SEO tools?

The list above is just my favorites. There are so many more and this article at reviews 187 free and paid SEO tools. Check it out for more information and start putting your SEO toolbox together.

Part 6

SEO Checklist for your Small Business

I love checklists and putting together a detailed checklist to tackle my SEO strategy has been a huge help. I’ll list everything here including the links to the websites I’ve listed. If you find this list helpful and you would like to have a version to print out for yourself just scroll down to the end of the article where you can sign up for my newsletter and receive your free copy of my SEO Checklist for you Small Business.  

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Concept On Work Desk, With Magnifier And Laptop Computer

SEO Checklist for Small Business

SEO Basics Checklist

Keyword Checklist

On-Page SEO Checklist

  • Is your keyword in your URL?
  • Is your URL too long? – remember stick to short URL’s
  • Is your keyword in your title tag?
  • Have you used your keyword at least once within your first 150 words?
  • Did you use your keyword in your Hl, H2, or H3?
  • Read your post – have your overstuffed it with your keyword? If so use LSI keywords to find some synonyms.
  • Do you have any internal links in your post?
  • Do you have any external links in your post?

Technical Checklist

  • Launch Google Search Console and check these things:
    • Crawl errors – find info in your coverage report.
    • Inspect your URL.
    • Conduct a mobile friendly test.
  • Use and make sure you don’t have broken links.
  • Is your site secure – are you http: or https?
  • Check your site speed.

Link Building Checklist

  • Guest post on respected sites in your industry.
  • Become a podcast guest.
  • Who have you mentioned in your post? Let them know they are likely to share your post on their social media.

Content Checklist

Your content will be the key driving force in your SEO efforts along with everything listed pre­viously – make sure you view this checklist before you hit publish on your next post.

  • Does your post solve your client/customer problem?
  • Does your introduction make your reader want to read more?
  • Look at the readability of your post – read it out loud
  • Have you included a Call to Action (CTA)?

Karri is the owner of Little Owl Design, a design firm located in Discovery Bay, CA. Little Owl Design specializes in graphic design (print and digital), logo design, branding, website design, and SEO management. To see a full list of services offered by Little Owl Design visit my services page.

Headshot of Karri Reiser, owner of Little Owl Design
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