The Ultimate (but concise) Small Business SEO Checklist
I’m sure you already know this, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog post, but SEO is an extremely important part of small business marketing. Without SEO and a well-established content footprint, you aren’t going to be found online. If you aren’t being found online, you aren’t generating new customers and new business. If you think long and hard about that, you’ll come to the same conclusion that I have which is this: bad news! We’ve put together a great list of local business SEO tips and tricks for you to reference when optimizing your website.

If I do a Google search for “small business SEO”, I’m presented 63 million results. What small business owner has time to learn everything about SEO?! Not many, I’d say. That’s why we’ve created The Ultimate (but concise!) Small Business SEO Checklist. Created in 2013, updated for relevancy in 2014! I’m going to break this blog post up into easy to digest sections. Tackle these steps one at a time. Bookmark or better yet, share this post so you can keep coming back to improve your small business marketing! At this point, I know what you’re thinking: “Come on, hurry up!”. And with that said, let’s hop right into it. It’s SEO time! What will we be learning today?

  • Google Analytics Implementation
  • Google Webmaster Tools Implementation
  • Optimizing A Title Tag
  • Optimizing An H1 Tag
  • Writing A Meta Description Tag
  • Placing Internal Links
  • How To Build An SEO Footer
  • Generating More Phone Calls From Your Website
  • How To Get More Emails From Your Website
  • Avoiding An Over Optimization Penalty

Google Analytics Implementation

Before we even get into SEO tips, tricks & tactics, our first step is to make sure that we’re tracking everything that happens on our website. There are lots of website analytics tools that can show you what your visitors are doing. The top web analytics platforms are: Google Analytics, Piwik, Adobe SiteCatalyst & WebTrends. The best web analytics tool for a small business is by far Google Analytics. It’s free and super simple to implement.

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  • Step 1 – Sign up for a Google Account (or sign in if you already have one)
  • Step 2 – Head on over to Google Analytics
  • Step 3 – Click “Sign Up”, enter your Website name, URL, category & time zone. Click “Get Tracking ID” to finish up
  • Step 4 – Place the tracking code on every page of your website.
  • Step 5 – Check your Analytics account weekly. Not sure what to track? Download our Google Analytics Guide for Small Businesses

Google Webmaster Tools Implementation

Again, we have one more thing on our list before we start actually optimizing our small business website. And that is: Google Webmaster Tools. Google Webmaster Tools is another awesome, free tool that provides you great data about your websites visibility on Google. From impressions and clicks to page load speed and errors. Webmaster Tools has it all. How do we implement it? Easy!

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  • Step 1 – Head on over to Google Webmaster Tools
  • Step 2 – Sign into your Google account, enter your website URL and click “Add A Site”
  • Step 3 – Select the “HTML File Upload” verification method. Follow the on-screen instructions for verifying
  • Step 4 – Review your crawl errors, crawl stats and impression data. Need help interpreting Google Webmaster Tools for a small business website? Contact us for help today!

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Optimizing A Title Tag

Finally, it’s time to begin our first ever small business local SEO campaign. Where do we start? <Title> tags! The title tag is the most important SEO element of a web page, even more important than the URL of the page.

what-is-a-title-tagA title tag is your chance to tell the search engines what your page is about. Title tag best practices: Keep them under 70 characters, include your city & state, include 1-2 keywords, and include your business name. If I were to open a bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey, my perfectly optimized title tag would be: Hoboken, NJ Bakery & Pastry Shop – Matt’s Patisserie. Why is this a good choice for the title tag? It includes my city, state, 2 keywords, and the name of my business in less than 70 characters. And just to save you from counting, I’ll le you know that it is 52 characters long.

The title tag should be implemented within the <head> section of your HTML code. A great place to start with title tag optimization is your home page, which is the most important page of your website. After you’ve implemented an optimized title tag on the home page, you can begin to move onto other top landing pages.


Optimizing An H1 Tag

After the title tag, one of the most important on-page SEO elements of a page is the header, or, <H1> tag. The H1 tag is another chance to tell search engines and users what your page is about. H1 tags can be much longer than title tags if necessary, and in many cases they can be the full name of the page or blog post they’re describing.

what-is-an-h1-tagYou always want to make sure there are keywords in your H1 tag. Sticking with the theme of Matt’s Patisserie (does anybody else really want an almond croissant right now?), we’ll build out an appropriate H1 tag that can supplement our already optimized title tag. That H1 tag would be: Pastry Shop & Bakery in Hoboken, NJ – Matt’s Patisserie.

What you’ll notice is that I used the same elements from the title tag in a new order. In this case, our Bakery’s home page is now optimized for people searching both: “City Keyword” (Hoboken Bakery) and “Keyword in City” (Bakery in Hoboken) variations. We’ll find out how to get the rest of the important SEO elements to reflect these optimizations as well.


Writing A Meta Description Tag

After title tags and H1 tags, the next on-page element to optimize for SEO is the meta description tag. When you perform a search on Google or Bing, the search engine will return the title of the page and a small snippet underneath describing to the user what the page is about. Check out the relevant screenshot below for a great idea of what the meta description is:

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Now that we know what a meta description is, how do we use it to improve our small business SEO campaign? Fact or Fiction: The meta description tag affects your SEO rankings. Answer? Fiction! The meta description tag does not affect your organic rankings, it’s only use is to entice users to click on your result in the SERPs. What makes a good meta description? Call to action!! – If you aren’t inviting a potential customer to try your product, call your business, or get something for visiting your website, you’re missing out on easy clicks!


Placing Internal Links

An “internal link” is a hyperlink within your own content that guides both search engine spiders and users throughout your website. Here’s an example of an internal link pointing to our Healthcare Whitepaper. Internal links like these help users find relevant content on your website while also letting Google associate keywords (Healthcare Whitepaper) with landing pages. When your on-page SEO strategy is complete, you’ll begin to see positive results in the SERPs.

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Now the big question is: How do you decide what content to internally link? It’s difficult to provide a rule that will work for every website. Generally, after developing your SEO keyword strategy, you’ll have a list of 2-3 terms per page that you’d like to optimize for. You’ll want to use that as your internal link guide. Each piece of content that you create should contain at least 2 links to other relevant pages on your website.


How To Build An SEO Footer?

As a local business, you need to be on Google+ Local. Without being locally optimized, it’s not possible to rank on the front page of Google. Again, it’s essential that you’re optimized on Google+. If you’re a local business that isn’t optimized on Google+ and other top directories, stop reading now and contact us, we want to help you! Once you’re on all of the top directories including Google, Bing & Yelp, there is still 1 large step to complete on your website. And that is putting your name, address and phone number (NAP) in the footer of every page of your site.

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You’ll also want to make sure your NAP is marked up with Schema code. This helps Google, Yahoo & Bing understand that your business name, address and phone number is actually associated with a business. To do that:

  • Step 1 – Head on over to The Schema Creator
  • Step 2 – Select “Local Business” under the “Type” drop down
  • Step 3 – Completely fill out all of your business information. Tip: Make sure this exactly matches your Google+ Local NAP
  • Step 4 – Take the generated code and put it in the footer of every page on your website.

Generating More Phone Calls From Your Website

Did you know that 60% of small business don’t have their phone number listed on their website? You’re working so hard to get that traffic, don’t you want to use it efficiently? If a potential customer can’t easily find your phone number, how are they going to call you?

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If a customer can’t find your phone number within 10 seconds of browsing your website, you have a problem! Add your phone number to your header, sidebar and footer. You’re already putting in a lot of hard work to get the traffic to come to your site, now it’s time to convert it and turn those visitors into customers!


How To Get More Emails From Your Website

Just like phone numbers are missing from most small business websites, contact forms are missing as well. A contact form makes it easy for potential customers to talk to you. It completely bypasses the step of forcing a potential customer to fire up their email program, find your email address and type out a long-winded email. Make it simple!

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Your local business website should be ready to convert a user at any given time. Brainstorm various “conversion points” of your website and build contact forms to make it simple for a potential customer to talk to you.


Avoiding An Over Optimization Penalty

With this great wealth of information, we need to make sure we’re not getting hit with an over optimization penalty. This is when Google believes you are keyword stuffing or attempting to manipulate the search engine results pages in a bad way. Your website and all pages it contains should be created for users first, then search engine spiders. Your goal should be to make a great user experience while implementing SEO best practices for local business websites along the way.


Remember: With great SEO power comes great responsibility. You don’t want to abuse the methods I’ve outlined above and hurt your website. Not sure how much is too much? We can help. Contact us today.


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  • This a great post. As a small business owner, SEO can make all the difference in the world. This checklist definitely covers most of what you need to know.

    • tasumner

      Thanks. Matt Ramos is an SEO ninja. Definitely a Wiz worth hiring.

  • I can’t decide which part I like most about this article Matt. What an exceptional piece.This will serve as our guide to a better SEO campaign.

    • tasumner

      So glad you found it helpful.

  • Cool article – I like the fact it doesn’t just cover SEO that it covers
    some simple content and conversion optimisation basics too.

    • tasumner

      You have to think all the way to conversion. Too often people think just about rankings and traffic not end results.

  • Thanks sharing for discussing “Local SEO Checklist”, i have use only several of this, relaxation different we are now gonna have tried them: -)

    I had some sort of issue about the event markup. If i markup an event will probably Yahoo and google take into account the date and index the page higher as the event gets closer?

  • Hi Matt. That was a comprehensive yet truly concise post that will surely be useful for small business owners. SEO could be technical, but through this checklist and guide, SEO could be a lot easier for small businesses.

  • These are fundamental SEO tactics, some of which do take time. Thanks for the great suggestions

  • Joana Magee

    Awesome blog…… I always check new updates on your blog and every time get something new and informative. It was really helpful for me.

    • Thanks for reading Joana! I’m happy the blog post was helpful.

  • Looks great article, what about the negative factor affect the Website from SEO, to be optimize, please provide the link, thanks for sharing of the post…

  • Hey Matt, I think you really hit the nail on the head regarding SEO. I keep trying to tell people that it’s quality content that will win the day. You would be shocked at how many seo companies crawl my site and then try to sell me the $300 junk backlinks disguised as SEO. There is no shortcut!

  • There are lots of website analytics tools that can show you what your visitors are doing.

  • Spook SEO

    Matt, it is such a great detail of the best things we can do with your site and you have written it perfectly that will definitely give you the best SEO value and it makes easy for your site to rank in the SERP and search results that will increase your sales.

  • Great point about collecting email addresses. Would it be a good idea to push visitors for leaving their mobile numbers as well so that the business owners can get back? Also, is it advisable to use plugins like optinmonster / bounceexchange to collect the mail id / phone numbers on these local business websites?

  • Thanks for excellent seo checklist including guidance of Google Webmaster tool and Google Analytical tool.