The Top SMB Local SEO Questions Answered
I’m a member of quite a few digital marketing Facebook groups, Slack channels, and Twitter chats.
As someone constantly immersed in SEO questions, audits, implementation, and troubleshooting all day, every day, I think many SEO specialists often forget that what seems like basic, general knowledge to us is often completely foreign to small businesses (SMBs).
This is especially true as they’re often juggling many things like running their businesses, managing finances, marketing, hiring, and much more. Here are the top questions that local SEO agencies and consultants should make sure to answer for prospects and clients.
1. What platform should I use to build my website?
This question pops up almost daily for small business owners across the web. Sometimes they’re brand new businesses. Other times they’ve been doing well for decades but have decided to enter the digital age. Or maybe you have a client who’s looking to move to a new CMS with your help.
No matter the situation, there’s no doubt that SMBs don’t always know which CMS is best for their business and site’s long-term growth.
Many SMBs lean toward WYSIWYG website editors like Wix or Squarespace because they’re easy to understand and they can even set them up themselves. However, DIYing your website doesn’t work as well as it did 10 or even 5 years ago.
Sites built on these platforms often come with a lot of code bloat to make it easier for website owners to use but can slow download times. These CMSs also don’t come with some of the same smart SEO features of platforms that have been around a while. For example, Squarespace sites duplicate the ‘/ and /home’ pages and often have trailing slash issues.
In general, most businesses benefit from using WordPress as their base CMS. It works well for small businesses, grows with them as they scale, and has mature SEO features no matter how big or small your client’s business is.
2. How do I get my business details to show up in that box on the side of Google search results?
Many business owners are local SEO savvy nowadays and know that they need a Google My Business listing to show up on the map in search engine results and to get reviews. But often, that’s as much as they know about GMB.
I once had a client ask me if they could get the kind of Google My Business listing that didn’t have reviews. After a decent amount of back and forth, I discovered that she was asking about how to have her company show up in the rich snippet result (not a GMB listing).
It’s crucial as local SEO and marketing experts that we ensure our clients truly understand ALL aspects of their GMB listing–and how they can make the most of them for their businesses.
Not only should your SMBs respond to all reviews, but they should be utilizing features like setting special business hours, answering FAQs on Questions and Answers (they can both ask and answer them!), posting events and specials with the posts feature, adding photos regularly, and more.
Many online businesses don’t know they can set a service area for their Google My Business profiles and add regular offers and calls to action through posts.
Make sure your clients know what their Google My Business listing actually is (as opposed to another rich snippet) and the best ways they can take advantage of this free online feature.
3. Does my business website actually need a blog?
A lot of SEO specialists approach local SEO from a multitude of perspectives. We look at a website, we look at third-party online properties and off-page SEO strategies, and we look at technical SEO and on-page content. Using all that data together, we can create a game plan or roadmap for our clients’ SEO success.
But what a lot of local SEO clients may not realize is that their business doesn’t always benefit from having traditional content on their sites or would only benefit most from strategic content. This is especially true for SMBs on a budget looking to maximize their marketing dollars.
While a plastic surgeon or local dentist may benefit from having an informational or marketing blog, it’s rare that a restaurant, for example, finds people searching for their blog content. It’s critical that we ensure we’re not taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach to local and SMB SEO and really looking at ways content can make the difference for them.
If you look at content from a more zoomed-out perspective, then, yes, SMB marketing plans DO require content. They require campaigns, posts on GMB and social media, reviews (yup, that’s a type of user-generated content), and even video! These are all types of content beyond the classic blog.
So when your client asks, “Do I need a blog?” The answer may not always be yes. (It’s likely the classic SEO adage: It depends!)
4. Do my social media posts and links count toward my SEO?
Online marketing can be a difficult web for SMBs to untangle. This is made especially hard when they don’t understand all the nuances of search that an SEO expert would or when they get bad advice from those claiming to be experts.
I’m always surprised when small business owners think their social media efforts “count” toward their overall SEO. It’s as if they think search engines keep a tally or score, and the more online things you do, the higher your SEO score. Sadly, that’s not the case!
While social media is a great piece of a digital marketing strategy and ecosystem (as mentioned in point 3!), it doesn’t help a business rank higher in search results.
Some social media posts rank unto themselves–if you’re doing well on Twitter, for example, your tweets can show up in certain search results–but your tweets showing up on Google doesn’t translate to your website or GMB property ranking higher.
Another common misconception I see is that businesses that link back to their own websites and blogs are “link building” through social media marketing. As of now, linking back to your own properties doesn’t pass any “link equity” from the social media site to your website as the links are generally “nofollow.”
It is its own driver of traffic–and hopefully conversions–but we need to make sure our clients know that it isn’t helping move the needle in their website’s spot in search results.
However, just like your Google My Business listing is a citation in your local business client’s favor, your Facebook page can also serve as a third-party citation. It lists your address, hours, happenings, photos, and reviews. So while social isn’t completely useless for local businesses–it isn’t a direct SEO ranking factor right now.
5. Should my business use microsites to rank for a single, specific keyword?
I’m seeing this trend pop up a lot with some local SEO agencies, and I think sometimes SMBs can confuse a landing page with a microsite. A landing page is often considered a “squeeze page” where you direct traffic for one specific reason (like to sign up from Google Ads or contact a business for a specific opt-in or offer).
A microsite is almost like a mini secondary website that businesses or agencies set up to help a business rank for a very specific, typically longer tail keyword. The idea is generally that the business secures an exact-match domain to a long tail query and has an entirely secondary website.
For example, a dental surgeon might buy pediatricdentalsurgerysantaana.com and build a small website all about their pediatric dental surgery services.
This might seem like a genius idea, but what businesses and agencies should be asking is: What would happen if we actually put all that effort, time, and money into optimizing our existing business site for that keyword?
If you’re working on optimizing both, you run the risk of cannibalizing your client’s own website in search engine results, too.
Local SEO can be confusing for Small Businesses. Agencies need to provide clear guidance.
It makes sense that your SMB and local SEO clients may have a tough time deciphering all the latest local SEO information, Google feature changes, and bad advice they may be getting from elsewhere on the internet. And, oftentimes, as consultants or agencies, we go into conversations with them assuming they understand local SEO in the same ways that we, the experts, might.
Instead, I hope these common questions give you an idea of what information is really going out to SMBs so we can remedy it and give them the tools they need to succeed online.
Speaking of local SEO tools… ready to take your local SEO tracking to the next level? Check out JP’s Local SEO tracking and backlink monitoring features.