You have a business but you feel lost in the big sea of the internet. Sound familiar? If you're the owner of a small business, you CAN get the upper-hand on your competitors by developing and maintaining a website. According to a recent study cited by Entrepreneur, just half of all small businesses in the United States have a website.

While getting a website up and running is the first step, you'll also need to optimize your site for higher search rankings. That's where SEO tools come into play. When someone searches for a keyword or phrase associated with your business, you want them to see your site listed at the top of the results. As revealed in this study by Chitka, search rankings play a key role in the amount of traffic a site receives.

1. Define Your Target Keywords

You can't expect to climb the search rankings without first defining your target keywords. These are the keywords for which you are trying to rank. The best way to uncover these would be to ask yourself "what words of phrases would my potential customers search to find me online." 

Characteristics of good target keywords for your SEO campaigns:

  • Low-to-moderate competition
  • Moderate-to-high search volume
  • Relevant to your business
  • Relevant to your target audience
  • Both "short tail" and "long tail"

2. Google My Business

SEO tools Google my businessFormerly known as Google Places, Google My Business (GMB) is an online directory of local businesses. Google displays these listings in several locations, including Google Maps, Google Search and the GMB platform. You can increase your business's visibility on Google by adding your business to GMB. Furthermore, you can encourage higher search rankings for your website by including your website's URL in the listing.

3. Consistent NAP

If there's one thing you don't want to leave out when creating your business website, it's NAP. Short for "name, address and phone number," it's a key ranking signal used by all major search engines, particularly in regards to local search rankings. If you own a local brick-and-mortar business, including NAP on your website, Google My Business listing, social media profiles and elsewhere will promote higher local search rankings.

But it's important to use a consistent format for your business's NAP. If you define your business's address as 123 Easy Street, Suite #1 on one page and 123 Easy St, St #1 on a separate page, search engines may have trouble determining your "real" location, in which case it's not going to provide any SEO benefit.

4. Content is King

The most influential factor in determining a website's search ranking is content. Without content, search engines won't know what your site is about, let alone where or how to rank it in their respective index. Create your content around your target keywords, including them in context when it's helpful and useful for visitors.

Here are some other content creation tips to promote a higher search ranking:

  • Break up your content into several sections using sub-headings (similar to this blog post).
  • Add relevant images to your content.
  • Avoid publishing the same content -- or similar content -- on multiple pages.
  • Install Google Analytics to identify which pages receive the most traffic and engagement, and which pages receive the least.
  • While adding target keywords can help you climb the search rankings, you should avoid "keyword stuffing."

5. Interlink Pages

While publishing high-quality content is important, you'll need to funnel visitors to relevant pages via internal links on your website.

You can create internal links manually by linking pages to relevant anchor text within your content. Alternatively, you can choose a "hands-off" solution, such as the Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP). Available for WordPress, YARPP is a plugin that automatically displays links to posts and/or pages that are related to the content on the existing post or page.

6. Optimize for Mobile

Is your website optimized for mobile compatibility? Mobile-friendly websites are more likely to rank high for their target keywords than their counterparts. So, run your business's URL through Google's testing tool to see if it's mobile-friendly. If it's not, you should invest in a responsive design.

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