Small Business SEO – Part 1, Keyword research & Google Places

| 18th June 2013

How to tackle local SEO if you’re a small business

Local SEO (Search Engine optimisation) is one of those things that someone who has set up a small business doesn’t necessarily know much about or why it’s important.

What I want to do here is to explain some of the easy steps you can take even if your business is small just now, because you’re not planning for it to stay that way right?

Let’s leave all the negative comments about SEO to one side and talk about how it can be really useful for your business, even outside of helping you get more visibility.

We run many seminars (links to slides here) and we try to give people in this position good, solid advice, very often it’s one of those situations where you don’t know what you don’t know!

So in no particular order, here are some of things you can do quite easily and in most cases for free!

1. Keyword Research

Do you know how people search for your products and services? Don’t guess, it’s what we all do as business owners, because we call it one thing we expect everyone else to do the same – BIG MISTAKE! Even small differences can make a big difference when it comes to how competitive phrases might be and therefore how “easy” or “difficult it’s going to be to rank on the first page of Google or one of the other search engines out there.

This is what the free Google Keyword Tool looks like, sign up for a free Google account (which gives you more data although you can use it as a guest) and it gives you lots and lots of ideas for similar keywords. The competition data doesn’t look that helpful, Low, Medium or High, but download this into an Excel Spread sheet and that column is converted into number format where 0 is the least competitive.

free google keyword tool 1

free google keyword tool 2

There are lots of tools out there, but if you’re a small business looking at SEO for the first time just use the free tool to get up and running! You can get more sophisticated as you grow.

One word of warning with the tool is that let’s say you’re an accountant in Manchester, right now you can search for just the term “accountants” in Google and you’ll get localised or personalised listings. When you use the Google keyword tool putting the term “accountants” will give you a figure for the national searches, if you want to narrow that down and you search “accountants Manchester” it will report back on the number of times that search was used including the word “Manchester”, because as a searcher I can get local results without typing a city or region, the figure I get for the complete term i.e. “accountants Manchester” will be less than the actual number of searches. Just something to bear in mind if you’re targeting local business with SEO.

2. Google Places (Google +)

For a local business this is a must! I’m constantly amazed how many people don’t have this set up! Again, it’s free in your Google account. Just click on the Places icon in your back office and you will be asked to find or identify your business with your phone number. If Google is aware of this as your businesses number it is very straight forward to claim your listing and optimise it.

google places for SEO

Google Places is the regional map Google shows in its search results for local terms and you can have a red pin sometimes by doing nothing at all. If Google finds your business in an online directory and deems it relevant it can bring that back but it’s still really important you claim your listing and optimise it. You want to make your listing as rich as possible and give searchers as much information about your business as possible.

A quick note of one recent update. In the past you had to use at least one Google recommended category and then you could write the other free hand or free text, if you do that now Google won’t show the ones you’ve effectively designed specially to describe your business, but on the other hand it’s incredibly unlikely that the drop down list Google suggests as categories will be totally suitable for your business. Add as many as you can that Google suggest, but for the others you might as well add them long hand.

In this this listing you can add photos and video which we really suggest you do.

Google and getting visibility online is not just for the big companies out there, if you’re after local SEO or small business SEO there’s a lot you can do that can get your website traffic and enquiries before you engage the services of a consultancy company.

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