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SEO Best Practices for Small Businesses – Part 2

search the world for local businesses like modern earth that hosts sites locally within canada

Good content for local searches is subtly different than national searches and it comes down to the intent of the user.

People have more access to smart devices in their homes, like their phones with assistants, Amazon Echo, Google Home, and others. These devices pave the way for voice search to be one of the primary avenues of executing local searches – conversational voice searches.

“Hey Google” – voice searching is increasing

“Find a family lawyer near me” or “find a 24-hour emergency plumber near me” or “who hosts sites in Winnipeg” is easier to say to a device than to type, so it isn’t surprising to see many local queries based on conversational voice search. If your industry is service-oriented, try out keyword phrase variations that include questions on your page and post content. If content matches the search, you have a better chance of ranking higher. This doesn’t mean you need to stuff your content with hundreds of variations of the same question! Keep it readable. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing, now, Google’s AI can determine the relevance of your content to the audience so providing QUALITY content is what will increase your rankings.

Your content should answer genuine questions about your firm and your industry. If a customer has asked you a question about your services in-person look to answer it on your site. Does your website content inform? Does it help? Would people share your information? The best content does more than making Google happy – it’s informative enough or interesting enough that people share it – and that also boosts your rankings within search engines.

Use lots of words, but don’t get wordy

There is no ideal length of content but Google does favour long-form articles over short. There is simply more data for Google to parse through and to be able to figure out what searches are relevant to that content. Word count only matters if the quality of the content is high. Again, don’t try to pad an article to hit an imaginary “best number of words”. Good writing is good writing, it has no pre-determined length. Your goal is to write to cover the topic well. Long-form does appeal to readers as they can skim to the relevant points in one article versus going through several to find the information they want. That’s right, people tend to skim through articles, find the relevant sub-heading, and read that part of the article, and move on. Rarely do people read the entire article so the formatting of your information into digestible chunks, even in long-form writing, is important to the user, and to google.

Formatting matters to the user AND to search engines

How information is presented matters to search engines. It helps them understand the article’s intention much, in the same way, people process information. Use sub-headings to break down the different points of your information to help people skim through the article. Also, use bullet lists to help prioritize information. People love bullet lists, here’s why:

  • Keeps content concise,
  • Gives the reader an idea of how much data is in an article,
  • Easier to absorb the information,
  • See what we did there?

Google works hard to understand your writing, and having structured data provides explicit clues to the relative importance of your writing. To quote Google: “Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.” – in essence, it helps Google understand your content. The effect is that if Google understands your content, it can present relevant snippets to searchers enabling special search result features and enhancements. For example, a recipe page with valid structured data is eligible to appear in more locations in a search result because Google now understands the different parts of your recipe.

At all times, it is more important to supply fewer but complete and accurate recommended properties rather than trying to provide every possible recommended property with less complete, badly-formed, or inaccurate data. Quality trumps quantity in terms of word count and the tools to make your content relevant to Google.

The good news is that by using the built-in formatting tools in WordPress, bulleted lists, linking to other articles, headlines, etc., you are well on your way to following accepted formatting and schema.org best practices which will increase your success on Google search rankings.

Other considerations for content are relevance, timeliness, and depth.

  • Keep content relevant to your business and industry. Try not to veer off topic. Write directly to your customers interests and make mention of your area of operation (like web marketing, site design, and site hosting to Winnipeg companies).
  • Look for news and be timely. If a topic is trending in your industry you should try to post a relevant article or blog post, to add to that wave and ride it as well. Topical (new) content is searched for more often by people, we all want the latest news, and companies can benefit and garner more search results if they have content that is timely. There is a reason many influencers do internet challenges, they want to be where people are searching. So watch the trends and see if you can take advantage of relevant news topics on your site.
  • One blog post won’t cut it. You need to create a wide breadth of relevant content to help Google understand that you are an authority in your field. Your competitors have already built up this on their sites so you may need to double-down and over produce content at the start of a new site.

Need help with content on your site? We have local Winnipeg writers who understand local searches and write to help businesses improve their relevant search rankings. Ask us about our content plans for local businesses.

In part 3 of this series of posts on local search improvements, we will explore the technical and backend requirements that Google uses to rank a site, such as hosting speed, tagging, and accessibility.

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search the world for local businesses like modern earth that hosts sites locally within canada

SEO isn’t just for big business. As a local company, there is a lot you can do to get good results on search engines. It takes some diligence and work, but there are steps you can take to get your business found more often by interested customers.

Local SEO vs. SEO

First off we need to define the difference between SEO and Local SEO: SEO is about ranking for search terms on a national or international level that doesn’t depend on a specific location. Local SEO is about optimizing your pages to show up on search engine result pages within region-specific searches (such as when a user adds “near me” or “in Winnipeg” to their searches). Google has gone to great lengths to boost local searches in its algorithm to match when people’s search intent is for a local site or service, not an international one. Some of the tactics to boost your search rankings are the same, some are not.

Small business SEO and Local Ranking Factors

People have identified hundreds of ranking factors for a Google search (Google stubbornly refuses to acknowledge or release officially what it deems is a ranking signal for sites) but for almost all local sites it boils down to these four questions to improve your rankings.

  1. is your site up to scratch?
  2. Are you physically located close to the person searching and is Google aware of that?
  3. Is your offering relevant to the person’s search?
  4. Do you have a good online reputation?

Step 1 – what makes a good website for SEO

Google has many measurements as to what makes a “good” site for local search rankings. Google has tools to help measure the technical requirements for quality websites, (there are many others available to but you should start with what Google suggests for a quality website). These tools analyze the site technology you are using, look for best site practices, and measures the speed of delivery of your site. Building towards what Google considers quality is a major first step in search rankings.

Google indexes your site based on the mobile/phone version of your site first. They made this switch a few years ago to better match user behaviour which is predominantly mobile searching. Your site needs to be mobile-friendly if you want to compete in the search rankings.

If you don’t have a website, get familiar with WordPress. Out of the box, it is a secure, stable platform that enables you to control (and own) your site and content. With the addition of a wide range of plugins, you can boost security, SEO efforts, and hit many of the technical requirements from Google quite easily. WordPress is our go-to environment for websites, we have many years of building sites in WordPress, and are supporters of the community that continues to improve it. Used by major brands and small businesses alike, many companies build additional functionality for WordPress so it has the tools you need to boost your search rankings.

Branding Matters

Branding is more than a logo. Here’s a top tip for branding for search engine rankings: share your expertise to build your brand’s authority! You can do that in blog posts and on social media (but remember to always link back to your own site!). Authority is a huge ranking factor for Google and you need relevant content on your site that proves you know what you claim to be about. So while having a tight visual representation of your company is essential for recognition and customer retention, putting content that bolsters your brand promise is equally important for small business success in SERPs (search engine ranking positions).

Where are you?

Google My Business Modern Earth Listing 1

Google wants to show people businesses near them. To do this, you have to let Google know where your business is located in a structured, methodical, way. Do you have a contact page? Is your information set up Name, Address, Phone number (NAP convention)? Is your contact information where people expect to find it on your site, like in your footer? Does your Google My Business (GMB) listing information match what’s on your site exactly? You do have a GMB listing, right? And you’ve optimized that to 100% level? You have mentioned your city’s name (i.e., Winnipeg) or area several times on your site? All these elements and more help Google understand where you are to local searchers. See that competitor that ranks ahead of you on Google searches? They’ve invested the time to get these details right.

The importance of having an optimized Google My Business listing can’t be stressed enough. Google will pull up your GMB listing as often or more often than your site. Make sure the NAP information is exactly the same (data and format), add photos, fill out all the information, add videos and link back to your site! This is important so Google understands the relationship between your GMB listing and your website. Also, you will need to foster and curate reviews that happen on this listing, it’s part of your online reputation. Respond to every review, even the bad ones, in a timely manner.

Rich results, those extra links Google sometimes adds to a result that takes up screen space, are a huge bonus to click through by searchers IF you can get them. To do this you need to structure your data properly but there is no guarantee that they will show up. Whatever factors Google uses to determine if they show these extra rich results, they aren’t telling, but you should follow Google’s suggested schema and technical requirements to try and garner this extra real estate in Google search results.

rich results for modern earth google search

What’s Next?

Of course, Modern Earth can help you with all of these concerns but wait, there’s more to consider!

In part 2 of this series of blog posts, we’ll talk about the importance of good, relevant, content (written word, photos, and videos). Having it, making it, and developing a strategy for distributing it effectively.

In part 3 we’ll discuss more of the technical aspects of a site that can make it load faster and the good practices you should follow to make your site accessible for all.

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SEO Best Practices for Small Businesses – Part 2

by Rod Salm Reading Time: 4 min
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