February 26, 2021

How to Get the Most from Small Business SEO Services

As a small business owner, it is hard to rank well on SEO. There are several factors that work against you. We share how to beat them.

Small Business SEO Tug of War

In a small business, you are in a constant tug of war between several opposing forces. To combat them, you need a stronger set of search engine optimization tools helping your small business overcome them.

Keyword or Keyphrase Strategy

small business seo services tug-o-war

Any discussion on search engine optimization (SEO) service or SEO campaign must begin with a discussion on your keyword strategy. This underpins everything you do in SEO, so it is the first service you need to choose to do by yourself, with paid or free tools, or hire a firm to help.

Think Like Your Audience

If you are an expert in a field, it can be very hard to step back and think about which questions someone might have who is new to the topic. When in doubt, a good place to start is with the major interrogative pronouns: who, what, when, where, why and how. 

When writing this post, I went through the same process.

  • Who provides SEO services for small businesses? 
  • What are the SEO services that are most common?
  • When should I see results from the SEO services? 
  • Why do I need SEO services for my small business? 
  • How do I know which services are best?

This is just a simple overview of the concept, and I welcome your feedback if these are correct. We can never know exactly what our customer might ask. We can use tools to make informed choices, but they are estimates. Feedback is invaluable to get better. 

Finding Keywords doing Keyword Research

After you have developed the questions, now, it is time to consider which keywords would be linked to those questions. In our example, you might look for “small business SEO”, “common SEO services”, etc.

There are several free and paid tools available that can evaluate keywords from their applicability to your strategy. There are three pieces of data that you need for the next step: search volume, competitiveness, and relevance.

Fat Heads, Chunky Middles, and Long Tail

These are the terms people sometimes use for describing the three main classifications of keywords. 

Fat Heads are high volume, word or a few words, difficult to rank well, and relatively few. The Chunky Middle are moderate volume, more phrases, possible to rank, and average. The Long Tails are low volume, mainly phrases, reasonable to rank, and many.

small business seo services classification of keywords

Using your volume and keyword difficulty data, you should be able to categorize them into our three categories.

Evaluating the Right Mix

Once you or your agency has built their list and categorized it. There are two quality checks that you should make. First, you want to gauge how relevant that keyword is to your audience. You can do this by looking at what queries trigger it. 

Next, you will want to check the balance between fat heads, chucky middles, and long tails. You should have relatively few fat heads. 

For a small business, Fat Heads are nearly impossible to get. In the beginning, long tails should make the bulk of your list, with a few key chunky middles. That can change over time as you increase your visibility.

Keyword Strategy Wrap-up

Best practices for developing a keyword strategy are to think like your customer, find the keywords that answer their most likely questions, and ensure the right category mix. This will serve as the foundation of your SEO strategy.

Now that we’ve covered the first service needed, we can move the second, which is all about what you can do on your content page to improve its visibility and drive traffic to your website long term. 

On-Page SEO Lets the Search Engine Know What the Page is About

As the name suggests, on-page SEO focuses on what we can do on the content page to make it easier for search engines to find it. This is typically the next service you need. 

An SEO company can include content creation, or it can just focus on content optimization in its packages. Make sure you know who is responsible for creating content. It’s a fine balance between expertise and time.

What Bots Care About

Bots are signal minded and care only about three things. The subject and meaning of the content. The relevance of that content to a keyword or keyphrase. Last, how credible is the source of the content. On page SEO focuses mainly on the first point.

Content Signals

Google used natural language processing. Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing. Your or your content writer’s focus should be on creating relevant content around your chosen keyword or phrase. Targeted keyword use and the use of semantic (related) keywords are helpful signals.

Tags are another great signal which keywords we believe this content is most relevant. There are three tags that matter most: Title, H1, and H2. 

The title is the most important. The keyword should be an exact match and present early. 

H1 is the headline header, so an exact match should be used here as well. H2s are subheadings and a great place for semantic keywords.

Off Page Build Site Credibility and Authority

The next service that most SEO agencies provide is off page SEO. Off page, as its name suggests, focuses on activities outside of your website, and it speaks to the page’s credibility.

While most off page SEO focuses on link building, other activities, like local listings, can be helpful as we will discuss in the Local SEO section.

There are a couple of techniques that are helpful for link building. To be honest, this is the hardest part of your SEO efforts. It can be tedious and time-consuming, but since backlinks remain a major ranking factor, we have to do i

  1. Press Quotes: HARO, Quoted, and other sites connect you with reporters and/or bloggers who are looking for sources. By being a source, you receive a backlink from the article. It is an effective means to raise 
  2. Guest Posts: When you write an article for another site, you typically get an author link back to yours.
  3. Skyscraper: You can reach out to relevant sites to offer suggestions on how to improve a piece of content (including a link back to you)
  4. Content Marketing: Actively promoting your content via email outreach, social media, etc., can generate links if users find it helpful.

Technical SEO Deals with the Technology Under the Hood

The degree to which they offer this service varies depending on the technical capabilities of the agency. Most agencies will do the basics, while others will go much further. 

Do It Yourself Technical SEO

There are some basic technical SEO that most anyone can do for themselves. The first is robot.txt. This is a simple file that allows spiders to crawl your site. 

User-Agent: *

Disallow: /directory name/


Sitemap: URL Link

This little snippet of text allows all (*) search engines like Google to crawl your site. It will crawl the folders in the allowed URL, except for folders you disallow.

The sitemap is a little harder, but there are several free programs that can create one for you, but you would have to upload it to your server. In its simplest form, it is just a list of all the URLs on your site that you published.

Don’t Do This at Home Technical SEO

There are two major areas I would recommend you seek help before trying on your own. These require knowledge in code, which if done incorrectly can damage your site.

Page Speed

We’ve talked about page speed in several posts. The reason it is here is that Google ranks mobile first. Meaning how you perform on mobile has a direct impact on your ranking on all devices.

To check where you are, I would suggest going to Google Pagespeed Insights and performing a test. If you do not at least reach 60, you should probably chat with someone about your web design (LINK).

Structured Data

We could spend a day discussing structured data. It’s a great way to ensure your search results come with the added bits of content like reviews, pricing, hours of operation, location, etc. While this may just be a nice to have for many, it is really a much for local business and local SEO.

Structured data uses a system called Schema. An example of schema is below:

small business seo services example of schema markup

It requires some knowledge to set it up properly. However, if you are interested in learning more about structured data, I suggest you go to schema.org.

Local SEO Helps Tilt the Balance in the SEO Tug-o-War 

The last service we will cover in this post is local SEO. Google developed local SEO to help local businesses compete against larger competitors within their local geographic area

This was the genesis of the Google 3 pack that tops the page when you search for a local term, like “restaurants near me”.

These ratings are powered by Google My Business, so if you are a local business, it pays to claim your Google My Business, Apple Maps, and Bing Places. These are all part of the local listing strategy.

Example of Google 3 pack for small business seo services


The closer a customer is to your business, the better your chances of ranking. It’s very important to put location queues in your content. Your SEO service can ensure your small business has its geo coordinates loaded on the page.

If you plan to do local, it’s ready back through your keywords and pick the best descriptors of your business. Then, I suggest you localize them, give each a bit of a local flare for the town or neighborhood in which you work and/or live.

Now comes the more tedious part. For each new keyword or phrase you created, we now need to build content to support it. We would have to create a somewhat unique post that’s 500-1000 words for that keyword. 

Here is also where structured data can play a key role in ensuring that the bot reads your geo coordinates, name, address, telephone number, hours of operation, and list goes on. It’s a powerful tool in helping you rank locally, generating website visits, and phone calls.

Mobile has become so sophisticated that it can help tie your online marketing to your in store business.


The last exercise may have been tedious. However, if you write quality posts for these keywords, you will raise your prominence. Google knows that all these neighborhoods or towns are near you.. So, for each excellent post you write, you help raise your prominence on a given topic in a given location.

It also helps prominence if you adopt the basic techniques I mentioned earlier, such as being a part of local business groups, like your local business chambers, local events, among others.


So, I like the blog technique because it hits all three key areas. If your keyword is a descriptor of what you do and the neighborhood is one you serve, it is highly that you will score points on relevance.


In the Small Business SEO Tug of War, you need all the help you can get pulling on your side. If you are looking for key services for small businesses SEO, then make sure that they cover the major points we discussed.

  1. Builds or Builds upon your KW strategy: You or your partner needs to think like your audience, find the right keywords, and ensure you have the right keyword mix.
  2. On-page: Make sure you write relevant content to the keyword, then follow it up with proper tagging.
  3. Off-page: Build your credibility through backlinks from the press, other bloggers, promoting your own content, or adding something to someone else's.
  4. Technical SEO: Many can manage The DIY technical SEO my most on their own. Structured data and page speed are things you really need to contact a professional. 
  5. Local: Remember 3 things about local - proximity, prominence, and relevance are the most important ranking factors.

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About the Author

Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkenIn profile

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