What is SEO and why should it matter to small businesses?

Why SEO is important to your business.

"What is SEO? My small business has nothing to do with computers, why should I care? I'm not a tech person, I'm the least techy person you've ever met I won't be able to learn it anyway." 

Because you need to (this is coming directly from your mom, she also says you need to eat more broccoli). 

SEO is a big deal for small businesses.

Great SEO levels the playing field between small local businesses and giant companies. 

This is the stuff that boosts small business sites in search engine rankings. The closer you are to page 1, the better your odds are at being found.

Which is that thing all businesses want. And it's totally doable. 

First, a technology pep talk.

Let's have a short talk about Technophobia because I come across a lot of people telling me they're bad on computers. 

Most of these people are women. 

Listen, ladies. We have a hard enough time out there because of our anatomy. (You know what I'm talking about.) 

And here you are, actively disempowering yourself by flippantly dismissing yourself as too stupid to operate a computer. 



You're all smart beings (men, too). If you use a smartphone you're ahead of the game. You know so much more than you let yourself think you do. Do not do that thing where you giggle and think it's cute to be dumb.

It's not cute, it's not endearing, stop it right now.

All you are is overwhelmed by knowledge.

It's OK to feel overwhelmed. We ALL feel overwhelmed when we don't know something. You are not a special snowflake who is unable to learn.

If you're a technophobe small business owner you've probably been ignoring their website for 5 to 10 years because of this.

And that's a damn shame. Allowing yourself to be afraid of technology is a powerful obstruction to one of your BEST marketing tools. 

Technology is a lot to take in.

 Bill Murray's baby stepping it... 

Bill Murray's baby stepping it... 

The trick is to do it in baby steps. 

SEO is a big topic and I'm not going to cover all of the nuances in this first post but let's just get a general understanding down so you've got an understanding of the basics.

Alright, now let's get to it... 

SEO stands for search engine optimization.

You might already know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and that SEO has to do with keywords (basically, search terms). 

Anytime a person types a thing into Google, Google takes those words and compares them with all of the internet's indexed website keywords (+ website authority ranking) to see who comes up with first (and Ads but we'll get to them later). 

Impressive, right. ALL of the websites. Kind of makes you want to cut it some slack when it's taking 2 seconds longer than you want it to. 

Where you put keywords, matters.

Location, location, location. 

Not only do you want your language to be peppered with your keywords but you need to make sure that you put those keywords in your heading titles. Why?

Just like a human reader, internet spiders 🕷 (bot readers) scan your text and they're going to give most of their attention to your titles.

Say, for instance, you're creating a Mommy Blog about making healthy, local food for kids.

To come up in searches you'll want to focus on keywords directly related to your mission. For example: healthy food, local food, and kids. 

You may want to write a blog post and title it: "5 healthy dinner recipes your kids are going to love!" 

See how your keywords are bolded and italicized?

You're also going to want the titles in your text to focus on your keywords. When writing a blog post you might want some of your sub-titles to break out into: why I use local food, healthy herbs & spices, etc.

The same rules apply for any page on your website. The page has a title, the text will have subtitles, and regular text. 

Keep your SEO fresh.

Do you know that Google adjusts their SEO algorithm between 500-600 a year? That's almost twice a day! 

This is why Google stresses fresh content.

How do you get fresh content when you created a 5 page business website? A blog. Social media updates. Pinterest boards. 

Before you start to despair that website work is never done, remember that you're going to baby step this. How do you baby step it?

[ ➡︎ Related: The real question small businesses should be asking themselves about how they use social media]

Remember the social media plan we talked about yesterday? That's how you're going to do that. 

It's tempting to let your site get a little stale. Do you remember Aesop's fable of The Ants and the Grasshopper?

 By Illustrated byMilo Winter (1886-1956)

By Illustrated byMilo Winter (1886-1956)

Remember how the ants knew that consistency was the key to survival and the grasshopper slacked off until the winter and only then did he realize that he should have been plugging away a little bit every day to get the job done so he wouldn't die? 

Don't be the slacker grasshopper. 

The right kind of content for SEO.

Now that you know what SEO is and that you have to approach it strategically, you need to start coming up with content. 

Google demands good content. Post fluff or spammy stuff and your site will be set back faster than hitting the long chute in Chutes and Ladders. 

 Original Chutes and Ladders. From back in the days when life was easy and we all ate mud pies. Literal mud pies. Or maybe you ate animal crackers and I ate mud pies... Mm, pie.

Original Chutes and Ladders. From back in the days when life was easy and we all ate mud pies. Literal mud pies. Or maybe you ate animal crackers and I ate mud pies... Mm, pie.


Your site will actually be penalized if you keyword stuff and set up bad content curation (meaning, if you're a site that pulls information from other sites just to get clicks, Google is not happy). 

Does coming up with quality content kind of suck?

Yeah, it can.

But it can also be fun and exhilarating. It's problem solving at it's finest.

You're having a conversation with your customers about some of their biggest problems! And you get to help to inform them!

How to come up with solid content the internet will love.

It can be maddening at first but the answer to what to write about is actually quite simple. 

What are you asked about most often by your customers? That's content and SEO gold. That right there is what it's all about. 

Dig a little further. 

What's the product that you sell the most of? What do you sell the least? What do you think your customer needs to know that you wish they already knew?

These are all the kinds of things you get to create content about. Wonderful, friendly, fresh, quality content.

And a word to the wise... keep it friendly.

Don't be smarmy or snarky. No one likes to do business with a jerk. 

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your SEO.

It's important to remember that you're playing the long game when you're building your SEO. You won't see instant results.

It's going to take several months of creating GREAT content. 

If you do see an instant spike, which can happen, it's probably spam.

I'm not trying to burst your bubble but it's nearly impossible to go viral—unless Oprah comments on one of your pies... then you better buckle-in because you're gonna get busy in a hurry

You've got this.

Your brain is capable to amazing things and it can absolutely handle the patience it takes to learn about SEO.

How do I know that?

  1. Because we grew up counting on abacuses.
  2. We had the patience to dial rotary telephones and then wrote out text messages on flip phones where you had to press a single key 6 times to get a capital letter.
  3. We had to get up from the couch to change the television dial to see our favorite Saturday morning cartoons and then had to readjust the rabbit ears and hit the top of the TV to get a clear image.
  4. We waited WEEKS to get our pictures developed and we didn't even know if they were blurry before we sent them out for processing! Total leap of faith and confidence in our abilities. 

That's how I know we have the patience to see this learning stuff through.

This SEO thing is a snap compared to all of that. 


Do you have any other questions that need answering about SEO?

I'd love to answer them. Leave a comment below, or reach me on Facebook @igcdesign

Have any questions? 

IN GOOD COMPANY DESIGN is a design shop that helps small & local businesses grow through recharged branding and easy-to-use Squarespace websites launched in 2-weeks.

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Cindy Caughey

In Good Company Design, Barnstable, MA