Search Engine Optimization Small Business

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Affordable SEO for Small Businesses Many businesses have been advised to outsource their search engine optimization efforts, but there are many reasons to avoid outsourcing.

In this article, I’m going to briefly explain why outsourcing the search engine optimization of your business is a bad idea, and why you should go in-house with your SEO campaign instead.

How SEO benefits small businesses

 Replace expensive paid ads

Some industries face steep competition for paid ads, with Google Ads’ cost per clicks sometimes ranging upwards of $20. If 10 people click on your ad in a day but quickly leave your site, you’ve already spent $200 without a lead. Small business SEO can replace that spend with a steady stream of web traffic and without the daily costs. 

Small business insights

“This is probably true for any business, but adoption is a very cutthroat and competitive area. […]. As an example, the cost per click for “I want to give my baby up for adoption” is about $18, and it’s very, very hard to predict what expectant mothers will be Googling for. We’re only three years old and our attorney recently told us that, based on our last fiscal year, we might be the largest agency in our state, and he works with a lot of adoption agencies. I attribute that to a lot of things, but very, very much so the long-term work that Markitors has done on our site.”

– Adoption Agency

Increase the number of new leads

Companies may choose to continue to run paid ads and are looking for additional marketing channels to drive leads

Small business insights

“Approximately 75% of all new business over the last three years is the direct result of marketing. While Markitors previously handled all marketing aspects, they helped us internalize the management process a year ago, so I like to think this success is a sign of our effective partnership.”

– Staffing agency

This staffing agency started their SEO engagement in January 2015, when their website was bringing in the paid ad equivalent of $100 each month. In other words, the organic search queries taking visitors to the site were the equivalent of $100 if coming from paid ads instead. Their website now sees around $10,000 of traffic value each month. Needless to say, they no longer have a need for paid ads. 

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Small business insights

“In the last year and a half, we’ve probably come close to doubling sales because of SEO. Our phones are growing and we have to try hard to keep up with our emails.”

– Beauty eCommerce store

Boost website visits coming from search engines

While more leads are usually the goal for SEO, sometimes the objective is to simply raise brand awareness by driving more traffic to a site. 

Small business insights

“Our small, niche, regional site often drives more traffic to clients’ career portal than our clients’ LinkedIn and Glassdoor profiles. Additionally, [Markitors’] comprehensive ROI reporting has helped us retain, renew, and update clients. I’m looking to double my client-base this year, and if we succeed, it will be because of the ROI story and messaging Markitors has created for us.” 

– Employer branding company

How does Google choose first page results?

Google filters through billions of pages to decide which best match a search query—all within a second. But, what exactly makes it to the top and why?

how google chooses first page results

Google states that its algorithm considers a few key factors when deciding on the winning results: 

  • Meaning of your query
  • Relevance of webpages
  • Quality of content
  • Usability of webpages
  • Context and settings

Ultimately, search engines make money from finding the best content to satisfy people’s search queries. SEO’s role is to optimize webpages to link together search queries with content that best fulfills what Google and humans want to see.

Google’s official guidelines

Because Google is where the majority of search happens, let’s get a closer look at what Google considers best practice.

  • Create high-quality content that your visitors are looking for 
    • This is the absolute center of SEO. Ultimately, the number of keywords on a page or how fast your website loads won’t determine successful SEO alone. There is no magic formula without good content.
  • Only natural links are useful for the indexing and ranking of your site.
    • Links back from other sites indicate that your website is valuable. However, Google’s algorithms can identify natural and unnatural links. Manual manipulation of links won’t help you.
  • All pages should be linked from somewhere else on the site.
    • Information on each page should be accessible to both web crawlers and visitors alike.
  • Meta title and descriptions should be unique and accurately describe what’s on the page
    • Meta info hints to search engines what a page is about and is what visitors see on search result pages, as illustrated below.
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meta description and title
  • Logically format content with header tags
    • Formatting and headers better organize thoughts and make it easier to navigate through a page
  • Descriptive URLs better organizes sites
    • Rather than having a page named, for example, it would be better to name it This makes it easier for others to link, reference and visit.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the long-term, sustainable results that come with Google’s guidelines in mind. Some find it easier to use disapproved tactics for faster SEO gains. 

All the corner-cutting and shady individuals looking to make a quick buck off uninformed clients have given way to two distinct camps in the SEO world: black and white hat SEO.

Black vs white hat

Black hat SEO attempts to trick search engines with deceptive practices. In worst cases, Google can even ban websites affiliated with these tactics from appearing on their results at all.

These tactics have evolved over the years to keep up with algorithm changes, but here are a few persistent indicators of black hat SEO:

  • Keyword stuffing, or using the same keyword an unnatural amount on a page
  • Publishing a lot of low-quality content
  • Buying links to your site
  • Spamming links to a website in comments

On the other hand, white hat SEO works with search engine’s guidelines to achieve healthy long-term results.

This is how white hat SEO looks.

Nail Down What Problems You Solve For Customers

Before jumping into SEO, you must first understand the nature of what your small business provides to your customers, according to Chris Luttjohann with Digital Current.

For example:

  • How, when, and where do customers determine they need your product or service?
  • Is it away from home, using their cell phone? Is it at home using a desktop computer or tablet?
  • Is it driven by a personal desire, like good food to eat or a great place to spend some time?
  • Or is it caused by a disruptive event like a home or personal issue?
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These questions color the language your customers will use to find your business.

This information will drive your keyword research and content creation, among other tasks.

Tools to use: Whiteboard
Time involvement: 

Fix Your Technical SEO Issues

Your small business website might look fine on the outside – with great graphics, colors, and fonts.

But if there are technical problems “under the hood,” it will likely impact your rankings and traffic.

Before embarking on a content or link campaign, spend time fixing the foundation.

You need a solid website structure so search engines can properly crawl and index your webpages.

Some of the most common technical SEO problems have to do with:

  • Speed.
  • Duplicate content.
  • Broken links.
  • Improper use of canonical link elements.
  • Un-optimized pages.

For more information on how to audit a website, read this article: The Ultimate SEO Audit Checklist.

Tools to use: SEMRush, Google Search Console, GT Metrix, Siteliner and Screaming Frog
Time involvement: High


Small business owners should understand the importance of search engine optimization or SEO for their company. SEO is one of the most important factors to your company’s growth and success.

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