Small Business SEO Without Breaking The Bank

There is a revolution going on in the business world. Remember when we used to propose an online marketing project and everyone gave you the “look” like you don’t know what you’re talking about? Well, I bet most business owners (especially local businesses) are on board in some way or another. Businesses ranging from local movers to pizza shops are taking advantage of precious real estate on search engine results page like never before. Let’s not forget social media, which can triple sales if done properly. Almost everyone is online and we can finally use the web to its fullest potential.

small business accounts

There are 311 million people online in the US. 164 million of them are adults

I don’t want to go back in time and tell you why people didn’t jump into the web as quick as they should have or why some to this day don’t have a website to promote themselves. I am just going to dive in and try to help you get your business online. You might have to hire someone to complete a few of these tasks without hiring an expensive agency.  As long as they follow Google/Bing Webmaster guidelines your website will do well.

So Where Do We Begin?

Well that depends where you are. Here’s a quick checklist of questions to ask yourself and things to consider:

  1. Do you have a website?
  2. Is it designed well or did your grandmother design it? Or even worse, please don’t tell me your uncle’s son’s friend knows how to design websites and you decided to save a few bucks by hiring him/her.
  3. What about content? Who is writing your copy?
    1. Oh, and where is your content going to go?
  4. Do you have a clear marketing plan that can resonate on the website?
  5. You must have:
    1. Pictures (real pictures, not stock photos)
    2. Time to put into the website (a website is not a “set it and forget it” deal)
  6. Have short and long term goals

Step 1: Figure Out Your Title And Meta Description Tags

You might not know it but your title and Meta description[1]  tags are very important (title tag is a big ranking factor while your meta description tag is more of a conversion factor). Aside from being a big deal, you need to actually write them well. That’s right, no more lazy keyword | keyword entries. And no, you should not copy and paste a Meta description tag from the page itself unless it is clear and describes the page. Consider this, when an ecommerce site decided to change[2]  the description tag of one of their items (out of thousands) to something more descriptive with a call to action, their conversion rates and traffic went through the roof even though they stayed in the same spot for the same keyword on search engines. Can you imagine if they did this for every single item? Here is a great guide on how you can improve your meta description tags.

Here are some examples of title tags that either suck or kick ass:

  1. Tony Wilson – Vancouver Franchise Lawyer | Boughton Law
  2. Blakes Vancouver | Vancouver Law Firms | Vancouver Lawyers
title tag example

The first one is clearly better but I would still improve it. Depending on the page you can avoid branded terms and focus on something to entice a user to click on your title within search results. Even though the one that sucks is second on Google it’s confusing and is obviously keyword stuffed. I bet the first one gets more clicks.

Comparing pizza giants and their description tags:

  1. FAST Pizza Delivery to over locations in Vancouver, British Columbia. Grab a Pizza Coupon & Order Your Pizza Online Right Now!
  2. Call Panago for delicious delivery/takeout pizza that’s fresh and affordable! Try our quality salads, breadsticks, wings, and organic juices.

description tag example

Domino’s wins this battle since Panago won’t even put their promo in the description tag.

Here’s a tip: Consider a dynamic description tag that changes based on the deals/promotions they have. Lets not forget that most people looking up pizza are probably on mobile devices trying to get a quick and fast deal. Why not help users with the promo right in the description tag?

Step 2: Optimize Your Web Pages

Every page should be optimized for a primary keyword and secondary keyword that supports the primary keyword. Each page should have more than 300 words on it. Let’s do this in order:

  • Make sure you know your 2 best keywords for each page
  • Your primary keyword should be placed (organically) in the content
  • Apply an “alt” tag on every image
  • Try to have the content flow so people can scan it with headlines, bullets, images etc…
  • Bolden top keywords (don’t overdo it)
  • Interlink important pages that relate (yours or other sites).
  • Don’t be a link hoard and link to other sources
  • Make sure your title and meta description tags are applied
  • Don’t forget your canonical tag
  • The URL string should be descriptive and not keyword stuffed
  • Make sure your website is accessible to search engines
  • No more than one <h1> tag and the <h1> tag should in some form or another include the primary keyword

Usability / Accessibility

Your website can be the most beautiful thing you’ve ever looked at but it’s useless if your visitors can’t find what they are looking for. Your best bet is to wireframe the whole website and make it interactive by using Balsamiq (I use Balsamiq and I love it). Let’s go over a few things you can do to improve usability if you haven’t already.

Keep your content to the point:

I hate to say it but humans are becoming more and more short attention spanned, which means your content “must” be compelling. Try not to use long paragraphs or sentences. Instead use lists, numbers and cut your paragraphs.

Try using to get a grade for your website.

readability test

Looks like Mashable is doing really well. You want to shoot for the same numbers.

Help Users Scan Your Website In An ‘F’ format

What you want to do is make sure your content is in an ‘F’ format. Your most important content should be within the ‘F’.

F Pattern

You can see clearly how people scan in an F pattern no matter what the content is. Try to organize your webpages where it’s easy to read in a F pattern

Lets go over some examples of good web design with the user in mind:

mashable f pattern

Again, we see Mashable with great usability using the F pattern.

Small Paid Search Budget

A lot of people consider Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC) as outbound marketing. I disagree. People look for specific keywords or they are retargeted with the display network on Google. Regardless, they are looking for something you offer when you show up on the result page from a search. So a PPC campaign alongside a good SEO campaign should definitely be considered. However, it needs to be done right so you don’t blow your budget.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, STOP

Look, if you don’t want to lose money you need to setup your account correctly. Setting up an Adwords account correctly needs finesse and knowhow. DO NOT give it to someone in the family just because they say they know what they are doing. Almost every client we take over has a mess we have to fix with their Adwords accounts. And in most cases they’ve lost thousands of dollars with bad setup or wrong targeting.

Get Some Link Action

Link building can be hard depending on where you’re getting links (I’ll leave the hard stuff for another post). Getting basic local directories should be easy enough for everyone to do. All you have to is sign up and you’re good with several high quality backlinks.

Here is a list for you start from:

  1. Yelp
  2. Angie’s List
  3. UrbanSpoon
  4. Manta
  5. Hotfrog
  6. Yellow Pages
  7. 411
  8. Google Places
  9. White Pages
  10. Fouraquare
  11. Bing Places
  12. Localpages


If you’ve read this far you’re a trooper. You’re on your way to taking your business seriously and where it shows up online. Remember, you digital strategy is very important and it will only get more important with time.

We don’t mind helping and answering questions. So if you have any questions, send them away.

Puya Turkiyan – SEO & Online Marketing Expert

is a well-established online marketing professional with over 10 years of experience. He has primarily focused on how revenue can be increased through better visibility on search engines. His true passion is to use analytical data for digital acquisition. Follow him on Twitter @PuyaTurkiyan