Small business marketing needs to include a plan to gain exposure in the search results in order to be successful. The term ‘SEO’ is tossed around often, and many small business owners cringe when they hear that word because they aren’t entirely sure what it means.

SEO doesn’t have to be a scary word, and when you understand what impacts small business SEO it becomes clear that it isn’t scary at all. In fact, search engine optimization can dramatically improve a small business, so take a look at these four small business SEO tips and learn how it is possible to dominate the search results, driving highly targeted traffic back to your website.

1. Create Local Listings That Are Consistent

The first thing you want to focus on is how your business listing appears on third party business directories and local listing websites. The search engines crawls these websites and use the data found on them to display their local search results.

If your business isn’t listed or has inconsistent information in the listing it will affect how the search engines view your business in a negative manner. There are several third party local listing services, such as Moz Local, that will search through the most popular local listing sites and check to see if you have claimed your listing and if the information is displaying correctly. It is important to delete duplicate pages and make changes to your listings to keep all of your business information consistent.

Some of the most popular local listings include Facebook, Google+, Yahoo Local, Bing Places for Business, Yelp, YP, and Foursquare. It is important that you fully complete all of your listings, adding the maximum amount of photos, videos, and content that the listing allows. You should take advantage of all features, as consumers will naturally want to interact with a business that has a complete and detailed listing.

If your small business has multiple locations a tool such as Moz Local is great, because it helps to keep track of each locations listings. You want to make sure you have separate listings for each location, and also make sure that all of your location addresses are included on the contact page of your website. The addresses need to be uniform across all listings.

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2. Optimize Your Website

If your website is not properly optimized it will make is so much harder to rank in the search results. Your website needs to have quality content that is optimized for your target keywords and all elements of each page such as the title and URL need to be properly optimized. You need to also make sure that you have a contact page that features your complete business address exactly as it appears in all of the local listings.

A small business website needs copy that is written in a way that commands the attention of the reader, but also makes it obvious that you are a local business. Ever notice how large corporate websites tend to have very dry information? A local business can include information about the local community and surroundings to really give it that local feeling.

For complete information about how to optimize your website we suggest that you take a minute to read our definitive on-page optimization guide. This will show you all of the elements of your website that need to be optimized in order to achieve the highest local rankings.

3. Listen to Your Customers on Social Media

Social media can play a very important role in a small business online marketing strategy. You need to make sure that you are active on your social channels, interacting with your followers and answering any questions that they might have. Your social media profiles will gain more of a following if consumers see that your brand is active and interacts with your customer base.

Everyone is on social media, so when consumers see a small business that is easily accessible via social media they feel more comfortable engaging with that company. So many small businesses are using social media as their main customer service channel.

With so many different social media platforms it would be nearly impossible to maintain active profiles on each one, but you want to make sure you look into Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest, as these are considered the most popular and active.

Use your social media to announce new specials and promotions, new products, and any industry news that you feel your social media base would enjoy reading. Delivering them breaking news and useful information creates a stronger relationship. This results in more social activity, including having your content shared throughout social media. How does this help SEO? It is a great way to earn natural links.

4. Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews

Reviews help improve the visibility of your business in the search results, and while we don’t suggest you flat out ask for reviews there are things that you can do to improve the odds of your customers leaving a review for your business.

Something as simple as an email follow up, or a note on an invoice/receipt that explains how much feedback means to your company is a great way to encourage your customers to leave reviews. It is important that you let them know where to direct reviews: Google+, Yelp, etc. You want to spread them out over multiple platforms for diversification.

Do not offer incentives for posting reviews. Many companies will offer something such as a discount or coupon for posting a review, but this can be viewed as deceptive marketing. Earn your reviews by providing a great service and having a great relationship with your customer base.

These are all very easy to implement and can really help small businesses improve their ranking in search results, so take the time to make sure you are taking advantage of these tips. Remember, SEO is not an overnight solution, and there are several factors that determine rankings.