Appearing near the top of organic search-engine results is one of the most effective— and affordable—ways to drive traffic to your website and ultimately attract new customers online. But standing out amid the sea of websites is getting increasingly difficult, and research shows that 75% of online searchers don’t go beyond the first page of search results.


And with so many people using mobile devices to find businesses on the go, local businesses need to care a lot about search. In fact, Google research found that 88% of people who do a local search on their smartphone visit a related business within a week.


Search experts say small businesses can take some basic steps to vastly improve their visibility on search engines:


  1. Create content and encourage backlinks

The more relevant content related to your products or services you have on your site, the more Google and other search engines will pull that content into its search results. That content could be blog posts, videos or even frequently-asked questions—since many people type questions into search engines.


Search engines gauge your site’s credibility and relevance in part by how many other sites link to yours. So it’s also important to find ways to get links back to your website. You can put them on your own online accounts—such as on your company and personal LinkedIn profile and your Facebook page—but you should also encourage other websites to link to yours, says Eric Fischgrund, founder and CEO of FischTank PR in New York City.


“One of the best short- and long-term SEO practices is a URL building strategy,” Fischgrund says. “This means adding your backlink to as many credible sites as possible, often done through content creation and media engagement. There are countless opportunities to do this, especially for small businesses.”


He also recommends businesses set up profiles on Crunchbase, Manta, Yelp—as well as the major social media sites—and adding hyperlinks to their website and updating it regularly with content. “You don’t need to update it every day, but it will help to have Google index that content,” he says.


  1. Complete your Google My Business profile.


Setting up and robustly fill out your Google My Business profile—which is free—is an easy way to draw people to both your website and your physical location, says Matthew Powick, owner of, an SEO consulting firm in Martinez, Georgia. Make sure to include your hours of operation, services provided and other details. Consider updating your Google My Business profile with weekly updates, such as blog posts or photos.


“If the business offers a service that leaves a good impression visually—like cleaning, painting, or refinishing, for example, upload pictures of your work and team doing the work,” Powick says. “Respond to every review left on your profile, good or bad.”


Mary Cate Spires, a digital marketing consultant in Columbia, South Carolina, says businesses should treat their Google My Business profile like it’s an extension of their social media presence. “Every business should be responding to their Google reviews, answering questions in the Q&A section, filling out a full business description, making sure they are listed under the appropriate categories, and adding services where applicable,” she says. “Posting to your profile, almost like a form of social media, is also a great way to boost your local SEO. Essentially, any regular updates you can provide to your profile will give you an SEO boost.”


  1. Localize your site 


Similarly, if your business is local and serves a specific geographic area, you can boost your SEO by wrapping the names of the towns or cities you serve—or even specific neighborhoods—into your your website copy. This alerts search-engine crawlers that your business is local to that area, and your site will more likely be served up when someone in your area searches for your kind of business.


A small business that optimizes for their local area and gets backlinks from

their local area actually has the upper-hand compared to larger companies

with bigger budgets for non-local SEO,”  says Nick Leffler, who leads Loclweb, a web design firm for small businesses based in Lincoln, California. That means optimizing the site title, the meta description, the page content, and also social profiles and including the local area you serve.”


  1. Use a keyword research tool


Wrapping the words and phrases that people are typing into search engines to find a businesses like yours is critical when it comes to SEO and drawing in the right kind of online traffic.


There are many tools out there that can help, including the Moz Keyword Explorer, Ahrefs, AnswerThePublic. Many SEO software providers offer at least some free keyword research as well as more detailed keyword data with their paid subscriptions.


Knowing what people are typing into search engines not only helps you write better website copy, but it can also give you ideas for topics that you might include on, say, your blog or videos you post.


“With the right keyword tool, you’ll be able to find keywords that have an interesting search volume and low competition,” says Myriam Temam, founder of, a site that offers reviews and information about skateboarding products. “ With that, you’ll write a post about the subject and add links to your article with guest posts or with other link-building tactics”


By improving your business’s SEO, you can generate both more online traffic and foot traffic to your business. 

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