According to Ahrefs, 68% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. As small business owners, we realize the importance of connecting with target customers in the moments that matter most to them. Whether they are researching a product or service, or are getting ready to call or visit a store it is critical that our sites be the first ones there to greet them. That is why so many of us invest time, energy, and resources into small business SEO for our websites.

The problem is search engines like Google don’t provide you with the blueprint to success. Yes, there are webmaster guidelines and blogs that can help, but by and large the most successful websites have learned along the way through experience, experimentation, and learning.

As a small business owner myself, I have run the gauntlet of learning effective SEO along the way, and am continuing to do so each and every day. Looking back over the last 6 years it is evident just how far along our content strategy has come, but I still see just how time I have wasted too spinning my wheels. Here are five things I wish I knew about small business SEO before getting started.

1.  Build Your Content Out from a Single Keyword or Phrase

The most common mistake I see small business owners make when building out their website is that they simply start building pages. They don’t take the time to consider what search terms or keywords their target audience uses and that can be a huge mistake.

Writing content in the style that your target audience searches for is just as equally important as demonstrating why they should visit our store or give you a call. Let’s look at this in a common example we see.

A common mistake we see can be illustrated in the following example. A roofing company builds out a residential roofing page. They explain how they got started, the types of roofs they work on, and even include a couple of testimonials from past clients. By in large a great page.

The problem is the keyword they end up ranking for is the word residential. Not residential roofing company or roof installation company. How many people do you know that search the word residential on Google to find a roofing company? They don’t! They search phrases like roof repair company near me, roofing company near me, etc.

So remember when building out a page or blog post for your website please start by asking yourself what is the search phrase or keyword I am trying to rank for.

2.  Leverage the Data

When you are just getting started with small business SEO you may not realize just how many tools there are that can help act as a resource or guide for your SEO strategy. For me personally the two tools I use most often are The Google Keyword Planner and the Ahrefs Dashboard.

The Google Keyword Planner helps me to identify what search terms or keywords are most popular for my service in the area that I am trying to rank for. By taking the time to look at this before creating a new page or post I have saved myself from using the wrong keyword entirely, or a slightly different version that may not get as many searches per month.

The second tool that I use is the Ahrefs Dashboard. Known as one of the most proficient tools for SEO analysis out there. With this tool you can look at the keyword density of a search word, meaning how competitive it is. You can explore commonly asked questions or other search phrases associated with the keyword you are investigating. You can also take a closer look at your competitors and figure out what keywords they are ranking for or which blogs generate the most amount of traffic for them, and build your own content strategy around that.

As you can see there are a variety of SEO tools that allow you to leverage the data behind searches.

3. Focus on Long-Tail Keywords

I touched on this subject at the beginning of this article, but focusing on long-tail keywords is so much better than just broad keywords. As the name suggests long-tail keywords are longer and more specific search phrases that your visitors are likely to use when they are closer to a point of purchase or ready to reach out.

On your end, they are also easier to rank for so when you are just starting out with SEO long-tail keywords are your best friend. For instance, if you own a plumbing company, ranking for the keyword plumber is going to be extremely difficult at first. That is why you should look to rank for more detailed keywords like 24/7 emergency plumber near me, residential plumbing company near me, or something as specific as well pump repair company near me.

By taking a closer look at the types of phone calls or lead form submissions you would like to generate you can get a better sense as to what is going to work well for your website.

4. Consistency Is Key

The more time you spend working on your website the better the results will be. In the beginning of launching our company we were excited to receive 50 hits to our website in a month. Now on a daily basis, we exceed 1,000 visitors a day. We still have a long way to go but when we started developing a consistent small business SEO content approach for our website we started to see sustained success. The trick is how do you do this?

Planning. There is a great quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln that says “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.” I firmly believe that his quote can be applied to creating an SEO strategy.

Research your competitors and see what blogs they are writing about. Starting by googling keywords or search phrases that you think your target audience uses and see what appears in search results. Finally in your daily conversations with customers or clients write down the frequently asked questions or topics that they like to discuss. All of these methods will help you to formulate a content strategy for your website.

You don’t have to blog every day but you should try to update your website once or twice a week.

5. Be Patient

Ranking a website takes time. It takes focus, it takes creativity, and most importantly it takes patience. As the great Benjamin Franklin once said “Energy and persistence conquer all things”. Be resilient in your approach to SEO.

Always be willing to learn and invest time into figuring out what is trending with SEO. The great thing about SEO is that the answer is not too far away. At MarketKeep we follow the following blogs on a daily basis to help expand our knowledge of SEO and to get some ideas for our own content strategy.

You aren’t going to see results in your website on day 1 or even day 15, but I promise a few months in, and your website traffic and your website, in general, will be performing at a much higher level!

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