SEMrush Keyword Reasearch for Long Tail keywords screenshot

Paul Thornton - Thursday 22nd November 2018

3 Simple, Actionable SEO Tips for SMBs

Here a Digital Hothouse, we work with clients large and small. Whilst it’s great working with bigger brands, we enjoy the challenge of working with SMBs who are fighting those bigger brands for a slice of the organic pie.

For as many companies as we take on as clients, we have to turn twice as many down. This is often down to budgetary constraints – we simply can’t deliver ROI with the budget available, especially for small businesses.

This doesn’t mean we just leave those prospective clients out to dry. Just because you’re a small to medium sized business today doesn’t mean you will be in 12 months or 2 years down the line. We always try to a) pass these prospects on to some trusted freelancers who we know can do more within their budget or b) we provide them with a set of tips that will help them to carry out some of the work themselves.

Whilst there is, in my opinion, no substitute for engaging with a professional SEO company if you want to maximise your ROI, we also appreciate that small businesses sometimes need a leg up onto the ladder. That’s why we wanted to provide you with three of our top tips for maximising your SEO activities if you are an SME on a small budget.

1. Long Tail Keyword Focus

Challenging the big brands is not easy for SMEs. There are a couple of main reasons for this:

  1. They naturally have a lot more backlinks pointing to them as people want to link to their website
  2. They also have a lot more brand mentions, helping to raise awareness and help drive more branded search

This makes it tricky for you. Acquiring links as a small or medium sized business can be difficult and time consuming. If people don’t know about your brand or your offering, they are a lot less likely to link to you.

This lack of links and brand mentions impacts on your domain authority (DA) score. Typically, the more links you have from a diverse set of websites, the better your DA and the better the chance you have of ranking for your target keywords.

One way to navigate around this is to focus on a different set of keywords to the big brands. Let’s just say you work in the widget industry. You know that Big Brand A is always going to rank well for the head terms like ‘widgets’ and ‘red widgets’. Where they are not focusing is on the longer tail keywords which is where you can really maximise your potential.

Terms like ‘10cm red widgets x city’ for example, provides a much more detailed search query, with a lot more intent and is probably not something the big brands are focusing on.

Carrying out long tail keyword research

The easiest way to get started with long tail keyword research is to identify all the main keywords associated with your business. Pull a list together with everything you can think of and create a spreadsheet.

You can then use one of the number of free tools out there to help you dig deeper into the longtail. Here are some of the best free keyword research tools out there:

  • Answer the Public – great for pulling questions and ideas from blogs and forums
  • CanIRank – this keyword research tool looks at how difficult it is to rank for keywords and lets you know whether you have a chance to rank for a specific keyword
  • Ubersuggest – scrapes hundreds of Google’s autocomplete keywords for you and spits out a list of potential keywords to focus on

There is also a free version of one of my favourite tools, SEMrush, which is really great for providing ‘related keywords’ when you type in a keyword to kick things off. You can also use their Keyword Magic tool to generate more ideas for long tail keywords.

2. Create more content

Whilst it’s true that the online space is saturated with content, my advice would still be to keep on creating content.

There are 211 million pieces of content created online every minute according to Domo Research. That’s a lot of content to compete with.

What’s important for SMEs is to create content that adds value to the end user (potential customer). Content without value is just noise and all it does is dull down your brand voice.

Once you have identified your long tail keywords, look for patterns of topics that emerge. Then build your content around those topics. You need to use your content to become a topical authority within your sector.

Look at what your competitors are creating and the platforms they are using and look for the whitespace – the places they are not publishing, the content they are not creating.

If you know that all your competitors are active on Facebook but don’t really use LinkedIn, take ownership of LinkedIn. If you know all of your competitors have written content about the most popular red widgets but no one is writing about yellow widgets – own yellow widgets.

Creating great content is about researching your topics, understanding the opportunities and owning a space. Be unique. Be the first to write something or better still, the only person writing something about a topic that’s important to your audience

Top tip – if you are on a small budget, kill two birds with one stone and look to drive user generated content (UGC). UGC can not only save you valuable time and resources, it’s also more authentic so your audience is much more likely to engage with you. UGC can take all sorts of formats including:

  • Reviews
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Testimonials
  • Stories

See what opportunities exist for your business to curate UGC that’s relevant to your business and watch how your trust and engagement soar.

3. Local SEO

The final piece of advice I would give to all SMEs is to own the local space. This is an area we often find big brands neglect. Google has actually made it easier for local SMEs to rank in the local map space alongside the big brands – you just have to do the hard yards and optimise your site for local search.

There are a few key things you need to be doing now in order to improve your local SEO:

  1. Make sure you own your own Google My Business listing – the number of times we see SMEs who don’t own their own business on Google is frightening. Google has provided all the tools for you to be able to create an awesome local listing – take ownership and optimise that Google My Business Account
  2. Get directory listings – in order to rank well in the local space, Google likes to see lots of citations. Make sure you are listed in all your local directories as well as the major directory sites including: Yelp, Yellow Pages, Apple Maps, LinkedIn, Foursquare, MapQuest and Yahoo! Local
  3. Make sure your NAP information is consistent – your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) should be identically displayed wherever it appears – your website, Google My Business and directory listings – take the time to make sure it is consistent
  4. Reviews – Google likes reviews. Customers like to see reviews. Make sure you are doing everything you can to get more reviews. It’s actually remarkable how many times we see SMEs with more reviews than the big brands. This is usually because SMEs have a much better relationship with customers and people like to give them positive feedback for a job well done

One big advantage SMEs usually have over big brands when it comes to local rankings is that personal touch. Many SMEs we work with are an integral part of their community. Sometimes it’s about more than your online presence. It’s about the things your company does for the local community, how you support other local businesses and how you are known in your local area. This is something big brands really struggle with so leverage it and make it work for you.


Whilst there are so many areas for SMEs to focus on, working in-house on a small budget on these three elements will help you to take huge strides towards driving more organic traffic, engaging with your audience and driving more sales and revenue.

This blog was first seen as a guest post on Small Business Bonfire Community on 22 November 2018

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