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Outrank Your Competitors: Tailored SEO Strategies for Small Businesses and Startups

Author Ella Napata |

August 15, 2023

Outrank Your Competitors Tailored SEO Strategies for Small Businesses and Startups

Achieving prominent online visibility is crucial for the success of small businesses and startups. In this article, we elaborate on actionable steps to optimize your online presence and outperform competitors. Find out the power of selecting customer-centric keywords through tools like Google Keyword Planner and Moz Keyword Explorer to boost your search rankings. Uncover the transformative impact of strategic keyword modifiers and addressing customer queries. Learn the art of crafting enticing page titles and meta descriptions to drive click-through rates and entice users. Through tailored SEO tactics that set your small business or startup on the path to sustained success.

Outrank Your Competitors Tailored SEO Strategies for Small Businesses and Startups

Choose Keywords That Your Customers Use

The first step to outranking your competitors is identifying your target customers’ keywords and phrases to find your products and services. Rather than guessing what keywords might be relevant, use free tools like Google Keyword Planner and Moz Keyword Explorer to see actual search volume data. These tools show how often people search for different keywords and the level of competition for ranking for those terms.

Ranking for Keywords

For example, a small custom widget business saw that “affordable widgets” received over 1,000 searches per month in their area with low competition. They optimized their page content for this keyword, including using it in their page titles, URLs, and content. Within three months, their organic traffic from Google increased by 64% due to ranking highly for “affordable widgets.”

How to Find Valuable Keywords

To find your most valuable keywords, start by listing the products and services you offer. Then brainstorm words and phrases your customers might use to describe them. Enter these into a keyword research tool to see the search volume and difficulty of ranking for each term. Look for keywords with a high search volume and low difficulty, as these offer the biggest opportunity.

Keyword Strategy

A good keyword strategy should also include keyword modifiers to capture more specific searches. For the custom widget business, “affordable small widgets” or “affordable blue widgets” may also be viable keywords to target. Also, look at questions your target customers may have about your offerings. The keyword “How much do custom widgets cost” could drive highly interested searchers to the business’ website.

Once you identify 3 to 5 high-potential keywords, you can optimize your page content, page titles, meta descriptions, image alt text, and internal links to help boost your rankings for those terms. Be sure to place your target keywords in the most important parts of your page, including the page title, URL, and headings. Use them naturally in your page content as well. You can outrank competitors and gain more traffic and customer with an effective keyword strategy and on-page optimizations. Continually refine your keywords and make on-page changes to improve your rankings over time.

Optimize Your Page Titles and Meta Descriptions

Your page titles and meta descriptions are critical for appearing prominently in Google search results. The page title is the bold headline at the top of a search listing, while the meta description is the summary text below the title. Optimizing these elements can significantly increase your click-through rate, meaning more people visit your website.

Example of Optimized Meta and Title 

For example, a small local cafe optimized their page title from “Welcome to Maple Cafe” to “Maple Cafe – Delicious Breakfast, Lunch & Pastries in Springfield.” They also improved their meta description from “Maple Cafe is a cozy neighborhood spot serving high-quality, homemade fare in a relaxed setting” to “Maple Cafe is your go-to for amazing homemade breakfast, brunch, lunch, and pastries in downtown Springfield. We use only the freshest local ingredients to create a menu with something for everyone. Stop by for a quick coffee and pastry or enjoy a leisurely brunch—we’re open seven days a week.”

Results of Optimized Page Titles

These small changes led to a 73% increase in their click-through rate within a month. The optimized page title clearly conveyed their offerings and location, while the new meta description gave searchers a compelling reason to click through to their website.

Best Practices for Page Titles and Meta Descriptions

For the best results, page titles should be between 50 to 60 characters including spaces. Meta descriptions should be between 150 to 160 characters. Focus on using your target keywords, especially those people would use to search for your business and location. However, don’t overstuff your page titles and meta descriptions with keywords, as this can seem spammy to search engines and searchers.

How to Optimize Page Titles and Meta Descriptions

Select your essential keywords to highlight to optimize your page titles and meta descriptions. Then, craft compelling titles and descriptions that naturally include those keywords while emphasizing your key selling points and location. Test different options to see which gets the highest click-through rates. Make ongoing tweaks to continue improving your click-through rates over time.

With some simple optimizations to your page titles and meta descriptions, you can significantly boost your traffic and search rankings. Higher click-through rates often mean more customers and revenue for small businesses and startups, so optimizing these elements is well worth the effort.

Make Your Website Fast and Mobile-Friendly

A fast, mobile-friendly website is crucial for ranking well in Google search results. Google’s “Mobilegeddon” update in 2015 made mobile-friendliness a key factor in search rankings. Since then, studies have shown that most people will leave a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. For small businesses and startups, having an optimized mobile experience is especially important as more and more people use their phones to search for local products and services.

Website Speed and Mobile-friendliness

There are a few ways to improve your website speed and mobile-friendliness. First, minimize HTTP requests by combining CSS and JavaScript files and removing unused plugins. Fewer requests mean faster load times. You should also compress images and media files without sacrificing quality. Compressed files take up less space and load faster.

Server and Hosting

Optimizing your server and hosting can also help. Use a content delivery network or CDN to distribute your content globally so it loads as fast as possible for all users. Make sure you have adequate bandwidth and that your hosting service isn’t slowing down your site. For ecommerce sites, a dedicated server is ideal.

Mobile-friendly Responsive Design

Finally, use a mobile-friendly responsive design for your website. A responsive design automatically adjusts the layout to fit different screen sizes. This provides an optimal viewing experience on all devices. You can use free tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check if your site is mobile-friendly and get suggestions for improvements.

According to research by Google, mobile-friendly websites with fast load times get higher click-through rates and rank better in search results. For small businesses, the impact of improved rankings and more traffic from mobile users can be huge. By optimizing your website speed and mobile-friendliness following the tips above, you’ll provide a better user experience, rank higher in Google, and ultimately gain more customers. Monitoring your mobile-friendliness and page load metrics with tools like Google Analytics is key to making ongoing improvements that keep you ahead of competitors.

Build High-Quality Backlinks

Backlinks, or links from other websites pointing to your site, remain one of the most important factors in Google’s algorithm for determining search rankings. Not all backlinks are created equal, however. Google distinguishes between high-quality editorial links and low-quality spammy links. To improve your rankings, you need to build high-quality backlinks to your site.

How to Build High-quality Backlinks

Two effective strategies for building high-quality backlinks include content creation and guest blogging. Creating useful, in-depth content like blog posts, ebooks, or infographics that people want to link to is one of the best ways to build organic links. When you publish great content, others will naturally link to it. You can also reach out to influencers and journalists who cover your industry and pitch them your content. Some may link to it or mention your site, providing a valuable backlink.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging involves contributing content to other industry blogs and including a link back to your website. Reach out to blogs in your niche and pitch a topic you can write about for their audience. When they publish your post, it will include a bio with a link to your site. Aim for blogs with high domain authority and traffic to maximize the SEO benefit.

BuzzStream, Pitchbox, and Buzzsumo

Tools like BuzzStream, Pitchbox, and Buzzsumo can help identify link-building opportunities. BuzzStream allows you to research influential blogs and journalists in your industry. You can then pitch them your content and guest post ideas. Pitchbox provides a database of blogs that accept guest posts. And Buzzsumo analyzes the content that gets the most shares and links in your niche so you can emulate that content for your own site.

For small businesses with limited resources, focus on a few high-impact strategies, such as optimizing your top content for search and pitching 10-15 relevant blogs for guest posts. As you build more links over time through content creation and outreach, you’ll see significant improvements in your search traffic and rankings. While link building requires effort and patience, it remains one of the most rewarding SEO activities for achieving long-term success.

Create Useful Content

The foundation of any effective SEO strategy is creating high-quality, useful content. Search engines like Google want to provide the most relevant results to searchers, so they favor websites with informative content that provides value. For small businesses and startups, focus on creating content that educates your customers and establishes your expertise.

SEO Content that Works

Types of content that work well for SEO include:

  • Blog posts: A blog is essential for any small business SEO strategy. Aim for posting at least once a week, with posts of at least 500 words focused on keywords you want to rank for. Blog posts allow you to optimize page titles, meta descriptions, and content for your target keywords.
  • Videos: Video content ranks highly in Google and engages website visitors. Create explainer videos, product videos, video tutorials, or video interviews with industry experts. Optimize your video titles, descriptions, and tags with keywords.
  • Infographics: Infographics are a popular form of visual content that works well for SEO when appropriately optimized. Include your target keywords in the title, alt text, file name, page title, and meta description where the infographic appears.
  • Case studies: Case studies build trust and credibility. Write case studies showing how you solved a problem or achieved results for a customer. Optimize case study content for industry keywords and include compelling details and data.
  • Industry resources: Create resources like glossaries, checklists, workbooks, or industry reports. These establish you as a thought leader and provide value to your customers. Focus the content around your most important keywords and include internal links to other pages on your website.

The more high-quality, useful content you publish, the more opportunities you have to rank in search engines and drive organic traffic to your website. According to a recent study, content marketing leaders gain 650% more traffic than those with less mature content strategies. By creating content tailored to your customers and optimized for the keywords that matter for your business, you can gain significant traction in search rankings and traffic. The key is to provide consistent, ongoing value to searchers and your customer base.

Monitor Your Rankings and Make Changes

To achieve and maintain high search rankings, consistently monitor how your pages rank for target keywords and make iterative improvements over time. Several free tools provide data on your rankings, traffic, backlinks, keywords, and more.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a must-have tool for any SEO strategy. It shows how your pages rank for different keywords, so you can see if your rankings are improving or declining over time. It also provides data on impressions, clicks, and average click-through rates for your pages. Monitoring these metrics helps determine if changes to page titles, content, backlinks, or other factors are positively impacting. You can then double down on what’s working and change what’s not.

SEMrush and Moz

SEMrush and Moz are paid tools that provide even more in-depth data on your SEO performance. They track rankings for thousands of keywords to get a broader view of your overall visibility in search engines. They also monitor your backlinks, allowing you to see new links pointing to your site and links that are broken or no longer helping your rankings. With this data, you can pursue additional high-quality links and disavow any spammy links.

Check your SEO Metrics

For the best results, you must check your SEO metrics and rankings at least once a month to see how you’re trending and make changes as needed. Google frequently updates their algorithm, so ongoing monitoring helps ensure you stay in compliance with their latest guidelines. Even minor tweaks to your page content, title tags, internal linking, page load times, and backlink profile can help maintain or boost your rankings.

Take Your Startup to the Next Level with SEO

The key is to start with one or two metrics or rankings to focus on, make some optimizations, then re-check to see if your changes had the intended effect. Over time, as monitoring becomes a habit, you’ll get better at interpreting the data and making tweaks that drive steady improvements. With constant attention and refinement, you can achieve and sustain high search rankings that generate a steady flow of organic traffic and new customers. Consistent monitoring and optimization separates SEO leaders from the rest of the pack.


How can businesses utilize data-backed keyword selection strategies without requiring specific tools like Google Keyword Planner and Moz Keyword Explorer?

Businesses that don’t have access to SEO keyword tools can still perform effective keyword research. They can start by performing a general search of terms related to their offerings on popular search engines to see what related searches come up. Additionally, they can pay attention to customer conversations, monitor industry trends, and follow relevant social media discussions. These sources can provide insights that help identify keywords that customers might use when searching for their products or services.

What are some ways to maintain a balance between using target keywords and overstuffing that could negatively impact SEO in page titles and meta descriptions?

To maintain a balance between using target keywords and avoiding overstuffing, it’s essential to integrate keywords naturally within your content. Typically, a keyword density of 1-2% is recommended, meaning your selected keyword should appear about one to two times per 100 words of content. Ensure you incorporate your keywords in a way that reads naturally, adhering to proper contexts and grammatical rules. Also, remember to use variants of your main keyword to avoid redundancy.

How can businesses manage to create a consistent flow of high-quality content that is keyword optimized, especially when resources are limited?

Despite limited resources, businesses can consistently develop high-quality, keyword-optimized content through several strategies. They could create a content calendar to plan their content well in advance, focusing on pertinent topics that allow the incorporation of valuable keywords. Repurposing also helps – a comprehensive blog post can be turned into a series of social media posts or infographics. User-generated content can be a treasure trove, too – customer reviews or guest blogs ensure regular content flow while providing fresh perspectives. Consider partnering with influencers or industry experts for guest posts to diversify and enrich content.

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