Search engine optimization (SEO) is more important than ever for getting found online—and getting customers to buy from your business. That’s because online search has become the primary way potential customers find local businesses.

Don’t believe me? A whopping 87% of people used a search engine to find a local product or service in the past month, the Local Search Association reports.

SEO was once a specialized skill that required hiring a professional to drive traffic to your website. Today, while SEO Is still somewhat of an art form, there are plenty of tools and tips you can use to improve your website’s SEO all by yourself—with excellent results.

Here are three key steps to boosting your SEO—that you can do yourself:

1. Use the right keywords.

Keywords are the words people type (or speak) into search engines when searching online for what you sell. There are lots of apps that can help you choose the right keywords to use in your website and online advertising—some paid, some free.

For a free choice, start with the Google Keyword Planner tool. This tool is meant for planning online ads, but you can also use it to research keywords to use on your website.

Input keywords that relate to your business to see how often people search for them, get suggestions for related keywords, and find out how much competition there is to rank for them.  (This last is important: Keywords with a lot of competition are more difficult to rank for.)

Another way to find ideas for keywords is by using Google Trends. This site shows what search terms on Google are currently trending.

For instance, suppose you own an e-commerce website that sells skincare and cosmetics.  Just type in “cosmetics” or “makeup” to find the most popular search terms. You can even sort results by filters such as location and whether users were searching the web in general, shopping sites, YouTube and more.

A couple of popular makeup-related terms are “Halloween makeup ideas” and “makeup revolution concealer.” Use this information to create content about Halloween makeup ideas. You could also spotlight Makeup Revolution Concealer on your website (if you carry this product) or do a video tutorial on how to use it.

Don’t just “stuff” keywords into your website willy-nilly. Google penalizes this kind of thing. Instead, make keywords part of useful content. Specifically, you’ll want to use them where they seem natural in your website headlines, title and image tags, and meta descriptions.

A local business should include location-related keywords in its website, too. A pizza parlor, for instance, could improve its SEO (as well as provide valuable information) by listing the names of cities and neighborhoods in its delivery area on the website.

2. Think local.

For a local business, local search directories are vital to getting noticed. Get your business listed in as many local search directories as you can. (Basic listings are typically free, although many directories also offer paid options).

Here are some of the most important directories to get listed in:

When completing your listings, include all of the information a potential customer might need to decide whether they want to buy from you:

  • A description of your business that includes your keywords (including location-related ones)
  • Your hours of operation
  • Your business address
  • Your business phone number
  • A map and/or directions to your business
  • Your website URL
  • Photos of your location

The more details you provide, the better!

Keep in mind that for local directories to boost your search engine results position, your business name, address and phone number information (NAP) must be absolutely consistent across all of your local search directory listings.

If your business address shows up this way on one website:

4747 Wilson St., Suite 10

and this way on another:

4747 Wilson Street, Ste. 10

search engines will see these as two different addresses—and two separate businesses. As a result, your website won’t get the SEO boost you’d normally get from multiple directory listings.

3. Build a mobile-first website.

More than half (55%) of all visits to search engines now take place on mobile devices. No matter what you sell, chances are that customers are searching for it on their smartphones, not on their computers. Google has also begun to factor your website’s mobile-friendliness into its search engine rankings. That means if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, your rank will suffer.

Bottom line: It’s no longer enough for your website to be mobile-friendly. It needs to be mobile-first—that is, designed primarily with mobile users in mind. The good news is that a mobile-first website design easily translates into desktop format, so there’s really no downside to this approach.

Always be learning

The rules of SEO are always changing, so if you want to stay on top of search engine results, you need to keep learning. Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch and the Moz Blog are good places to find news, how-to information and resources that can help.

Of course, if you’d rather get help one-on-one, the mentors at your local SCORE office can guide you through the ins and outs of SEO. Get matched with a SCORE mentor today.

About the Author(s)

 Rieva  Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog

CEO, GrowBiz Media
Get Found Online with These 3 SEO Tactics