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If your small business hopes to compete in the modern marketplace, you need a robust search engine optimization (SEO) presence. That doesn’t mean that you need to rank first for the most competitive keywords, but mobile searchers have to be able to find you. If hiring professional SEO experts doesn’t fit into your budget right now, the following tips can jump-start your efforts at minimal cost.

Mark Your Territory

The first thing you need to do is ensure that search engines know where you are. Prominently displaying your city and area of operations on your website is a great start, and using them as keywords is even better. Don’t try to rank for “near me” as a keyword, as that phrase is typically added by search engines when they think a user is only interested in local results.

For example, if somebody is searching for a restaurant, they probably want one near them. Google knows this and sorts listings accordingly. By contrast, somebody searching for a DIY project guide likely doesn’t care where it came from, only that it provides the right information. Google won’t add “near me” to this query.

Claim Your Business Listings

Most of the most popular search engines have a business directory listing all of the companies in a given area, such as Google My Business and Bing For Business. Your listing is free to claim, and the related search engine gives preference to businesses that have verified their listing over those that have not. You can safely assume that most of your competitors have claimed theirs already, but claiming your own at least gets you back on an even footing.

Your business listing also helps search engines locate your physical storefront. For instance, Google Maps draws on data from Google My Business when giving directions to your prospective customers. If you don’t have a Google business listing, you deny Google Maps the information it needs to guide customers to you.

Consistent NAP Data

NAP stands for “name, address, phone number.” It’s the primary contact information you need to provide on every digital business listing. What you may not know is that search engines use this information to separate legitimate businesses from shady or defunct ones. If you want them to acknowledge your existence, your NAP data must be identical across all platforms.

Identical means exactly the same. If your official website abbreviates the word “avenue” in your business address but your Google My Business profile writes it out, the resulting difference will set off a red flag on Google’s algorithm. Updating your information if it ever changes should also happen all at once to appease Google. Make sure that your NAP information is correct and consistent throughout all of your digital profiles.

Solicit Positive Reviews

Search engine technology is getting smarter, increasingly incorporating both the volume and content of online reviews to determine rankings. Angry customers are considerably more likely to leave a negative review than happy ones are to say something positive, presenting your small business an obstacle to overcome. Thankfully, asking for positive reviews is frequently all it takes to get one.

Your business listings provide some of the reviews search engines consider, but they also find reviews on your website, social media profiles, and extensive review sites such as Yelp. Search engines won’t give you credit for spam, so each report must be written by a different person instead of drawn from a template.

Go Mobile

Consumers are increasingly accessing the internet through mobile devices such as a tablet or smartphone instead of a traditional PC, preventing them from finding you if your website is incompatible with smaller screens. Search engines penalize you for excessive load times, so mobile difficulties will also hurt your rankings.

The best way to combat this is to access your site regularly from a variety of devices. If you have a bad experience on one or more, it’s safe to assume that your customers and search engines are as well. Make these areas a priority the next time you review your SEO information.

Final Thoughts

The tips above are not as comprehensive as professional SEO services, but they can get you on the right track to a stronger digital presence.