Businesses don’t want SEO

Summary:SEO is a big buzzword with business owners, and for good reason: they want their business to be found online. There's more to SEO than keywords, and this article discusses those aspects.
How to SEO
I go to a lot of networking events where I meet new people. a common question I get is, “Do you do SEO?” Part of designing a website is to “do SEO” but it’s not my primary focus. 
I’ve discovered though that people don’t want SEO, they want people to be able to find them easily. To accomplish that requires more than simple keyword research so that a page or post shows up at the top of the search engine results page (or SERP). That’s only one component needed for a solid SEO strategy. I want to explain the different tasks that build a great SEO strategy and focus on how small and medium businesses can adapt these.

The 5 components of SEO

These five things in the SEO Components box can be used for a businesses SEO strategy. Most people view SEO as keyword research only, and a few understand how paid ads play a role. Very few are aware of how the last three items on the list are involved.

In an ideal world, your business would do all 5 of these, but small businesses usually don’t have the resources. To make matters worse, most of these are time-intensive and slow to show results. 

My goal is to explain these so you can prioritize which one(s) you should focus on.

Keyword research

Here’s what a business owner – let’s say a dentist in Saint George, UT – wants: when someone in that area searches for “dentists,” or “dentists near me,” the dentist wants to be at the top of the results page. For that to happen, page content must match the keywords used to describe that page, but she can’t just add “dentist” as a keyword and be done.

Some simple research can be done to get a feel for the best phrase to use as a keyword. At a minimum, look for the volume of searches a phrase sees, using tools like Ubersuggest or Keywords Everywhere. For a tutorial on using these free tools, read this post.

This is just the beginning of what can be done with keyword research, and for the small business that can’t afford an ad agency yet, this is a good start.

Paid ads

If you search, you can easily find many articles that claim that if you don’t spend money on ads, your organic rankings will suffer. Google says that’s not the case, as does Search Engine Journal (both authorities in the space). Moz has a couple of great articles that explain how the two complement each other (here and here), and for SMBs it boils down to more touch points. If someone sees your ad, then sees your organic listing, they are more likely to visit.

I’m hesitant to say that a small business owner should start running ads by themselves, but I also don’t want to say it should be left to professionals. Digital advertising has a steep learning curve, but if you have the time you can figure it out. I would recommend starting with a small budget – maybe just $2-5 dollars per day – while you learn. If you want to do it yourself, I would also recommend books or online training courses. A good place to start is Google’s Academy for Ads, a free training platform.

Content Creation

I’ve talked about why content creation is important here. One thing I can’t stress enough is that the content you produce has to be high-quality. If it doesn’t have value, if it doesn’t inform people and improve their life in some way, it won’t rank well.

This is a tall order: you need to produce quality content consistently to rank and stay ranked. Coming up with topics can be a chore, so here are three ways to overcome that hurdle:

Building Backlinks

What is a backlink? It’s a link that takes you to another website. For example, in the Paid Ads section I included a link to Google Academy for Ads. That’s a backlink. 

Backlinks build authority for the referenced page. When this article is published, it will be indexed and the bot will see that Google backlink. It will follow it, see how it ties in with this article, and give it a little more authority. It’s always good to include a few links to other sites, but the real power of backlinks is when a website links to your content.

This can happen organically, as is the case with this Google link. I knew about Academy for Ads and wanted to share it as a resource for learning Google Ads. 

Another way it can happen is artificially (or I guess inorganically). This is more often what you need to do to get backlinks, and there are a few ways to do it.

1. Guest Blogging

Reach out to related businesses and offer to create content for them. They publish it on their site and link back to yours. This is usually done at the end in the author bio section, but it can also be included in the body of content. You can reference an article on your site and BOOM – there’s a backlink.

This is often a win-win. Everyone needs content, so offering to create some is a show of good faith. You might also consider having them guest post for you in the future.

Make sure that sites you post on are relevant to your niche/industry, that they get enough traffic to justify the time, and that they aren’t shady or “spammy.”

And remember: QUALITY ARTICLES. You want to create great value anywhere you’re published.

2. Link updating

These are also called link inclusion and link stealing, but I’ve grouped them together because they are so similar.

First, you’re not stealing anything, that’s just a name given to the technique.

When you come across content that has something wrong with it – some of the content may be missing, incomplete, inaccurate, outdated, or a link may be broken, you jump in and offer to fix it.

You do that by contacting the site webmaster, politely pointing out the error, and pointing them to an article you’ve published that has better information. The key here is better. Whatever you’re offering as a replacement must be BETTER than what’s currently there.

You may come across these articles in the natural course of reading about your industry, but you can also go out and search for them. When you find an article with bad info, grab the URL and head over to the Ahrefs Backlink Checker. Enter the URL into the tool and it will list every website that has linked to it. Send your BETTER information to every one of those sites. Some will ignore you, but most people appreciate it when you give them updated content. Remember your manners when contacting them.

Using Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) isn’t technically part of SEO. Remember I started this by claiming that businesses don’t want SEO, they want to show up high in the search results. GMB is a great, free way to do this that doesn’t take as much time as the other options.

GMB is great for local businesses. If you have physical locations where customers visit, or a service area (like a plumber or handyman), you want a GMB listing. If you’re doing online sales or running a home-based business, it’s not as attractive.

You’ve probably noticed that when you search for a product or service on Google, the first thing you’ll see is a map with 3 recommendations. This is called the Google Knowledge Panel, and here’s what I was given when I searched for St. George, UT dentists.

The Google KP plays a big role in local SEO strategy

Right at the top of the page I see three options, along with business hours, ratings, address & phone, a link to their website and directions. These are GMB listings, and they can shoot you right to the top of the page, passing paid ads, organic search results, and everything else. Clicking one of the listings will give me even more info about them & other GMB listings. 

Expanded Google KP plays a big role in local SEO strategy

So how can you get your business to show up in the Knowledge Panel? Start by creating or claiming your business on Google. You’ll need a Google account (make sure it’s the account you want to “own” the business) to log in with. If your business has been around for a while, odds are Google already knows about it (because they know everything, right?). If that’s the case, claim it. The claim process varies, it can be as simple as using your Google account to verify it, or they may need to send you a verification card (yes, through the mail). Once you’re verified, you can manage the listing.

What if your listing is already claimed?

This can happen sometimes, and if it does, there’s a process to determine who the rightful owner of a listing is. It might seem stressful (Who’s claiming your business and why?!?), but it can be resolved pretty easily by following these instructions.

The things you can do with your listing

The first thing you want to do is make sure your address, contact info, and office hours are correct. You can modify all of these, and the one to pay attention to is office hours. By default, Google will show your office as closed on major holidays, but you can also change those as needed.

Next you’ll want to add photos. Images of staff, the building, waiting room, offices, etc. are all good. You can include a photo of the city or area if you want, but that’s optional. 

A newer feature is posts. While some question their value, they are generally a good idea. These only exist for a short period of time (up to 7 days usually), so don’t put a lot of effort into them. But writing 2-300 words or promoting a special is a good use for them.

Where you want to focus is on reviews. Get in the habit of asking customers to leave a review. The easiest way is to email them a link, so they don’t have to search for a way to review. To get your link, go to Google and type in your business name (not the website). Email that link to people, asking them to click the “Write a review” button.


There are many different parts that make up SEO, and it may not be practical to do all of them. If that’s the case, pick the most important one(s) and do that (them). If you can only do one, and you’re a local business, the GMB listing is the way to go. It can be setup in less than an hour and can be managed in 15-20 minutes a week. The one potentially big change with GMB would be asking for reviews. Positive reviews are one of the biggest things you can control that will help you on Google. If you’re already asking for reviews on other platforms, you’ll need to figure out how to spread the reviews around.

The second choice would be the basic SEO discussed at the beginning. These are the two things we do most often for our clients who have a tight time or cash budget.

Do you have questions about setting these up, or aren’t sure which would be best for you? Post a comment below.  


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *