Search Engine Optimization Tips for Small Cleveland Businesses

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most important topics to learn about in online advertising. Have you ever wondered how Google decides to present search results to you? Of course, you will see sponsored results where people have paid for their spot, but how does Google KNOW what websites it can offer you when you hit the search button. Does Google actually sit there and analyze every single letter on every page of every website? Yes. One hundred percent it does.

Google will “crawl” a website and take stock of what words are written on the page. Almost everything on the entire internet is indexed and logged away by Google in some of the largest data centers ever conceived by man. Here’s where a small business out of Cleveland can capitalize on Google’s thorough sleuthing: keywords. Let’s say you want to advertise your sale for hand-crafted Christmas ornaments, but you want people who are in Cleveland to come to your store to buy them. If you write “Cleveland Ornament Shop” enough times on the pages of your website Google will almost automatically assign that title to your webpage when someone searches for similar things.

Keyword Research

You may be asking “Well how do I research keywords exactly?” We here at Acclaim are so glad you asked because it’s one of the things we do most often. Here is a short list of just SOME of the tools we use to compile and categorize keywords.

In Cleveland specifically, small businesses need to be on the up and up with sports and local activities. Clevelanders will go to absolute war over their sports teams. We trashed the city when Lebron James left, remember?

Finding your keywords is much easier with tools like the services listed above, and catering them to the Cleveland climate has never been simpler. Cleveland is such a unique name to begin with that it gives you a head start on the keyword journey. Simple keyword strategies are usually the most effective, let’s build a small list for a small café, let’s say they specialize in croissants.

  • Cleveland café croissant
  • Best croissant in Cleveland
  • Cleveland café near me

This is a fantastic start and is very easy to accomplish on your website or a blog. These terms are simple and consistent and will help you land in that Google search result whenever someone searches these phrases.

Local Content Creation

This section will focus on one specific action plan for Cleveland businesses. Do not get us wrong, there are many ways to create localized content, but one of the more prominent strategies in Cleveland is the hashtag campaign. This is one of the most effective and hands-off ways to get your business into the spotlight with an extremely minimal amount of effort.

A “hashtag” is basically a search term for social media sites, it’s a way to tag a specific topic. In our previous list we mentioned some keywords, well here we are going to list some specific hashtags for that café making those amazing croissants:

  • #Clevelandcroissant
  • #CLEcroissant
  • #Clevelandcafe

Picking a single hashtag and tying it to your business can be incredibly effective when you show it on your menus, your brochures, your website, and all your social media posts. Your customers will then recognize and even participate in the collective hashtag, because if your customers are using your hashtag about your food then you will pretty much own the topics on social media. This sets you up to run sweepstakes or competitions for your customers, and again you hardly have to do anything at all. Post a sign at your croissant café telling customers to take a funny picture with that hashtag and enter to win a free croissant at the end of the month.

Hashtags will help with your social media presence, and, tangentially, your search engine results. Most social media sites allow you to use your GPS on your phone and tag the specific business you are in. Couple that with customers using the hashtag, mentioning your business, and talking about it in the description of their posts and you have an abundance of keywords all associated with your business and address. The work is practically done for you. Best of all, Cleveland specifically loves using hashtags for topics like local businesses or types of food that are in vogue.

A Samsung tablet showing the Google homepage.

Website Optimization

Now we get to the bread and butter of SEO, getting your website to register on search engines by it’s own merits. Using those keyword tools mentioned earlier, you can cater your website’s verbiage to those keywords. Search engines are simple, the more often a keyword or its synonyms pop up on the website, the more likely it will appear for people searching for those terms.

Google is the king of search engines, but Bing has steadily been rising in popularity. In our opinion, Bing is focused more on business, while Google is focused on everything. Bing may have better results if you’re looking for a specific business in an area, but Google is going to tell you what’s popular, what’s the most famous thing, or what’s the hottest topic out there.

You always want your business’ contact information and location on your site prominently, and you also what to have your menu or services listed in an easy to navigate spot. General website maintenance can go a long way, especially if you haven’t touched your site in a while. Also, if your business is in Cleveland, you should mention Cleveland as often as possible. (See? We’re doing it right now for our own SEO.)

One of the more advanced tactics is creating landing pages inside of customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This way you could cater to more individualized neighborhoods. Let’s say your business is actually located in Garfield Heights, you can construct a specific page dedicated to audiences and traffic that are localized there and get more insights from who exactly is visiting from that area. This will help you zero in on where your searches and clicks are coming from.

Finally, blogs.

Writing blogs and providing good content to people is without a doubt one of the most labor-intensive strategies, but it does yield the best result for contributing to your authority on the topics you write about. Take that croissant business, writing a blog about the ingredients and production of those croissants is insightful and may bring people to your site who really want to bake your style of croissant at home. Writing a piece on the best toppings for croissants will draw in a crowd that might not know you exist but find that cream cheese and raspberries sound like the best topping for their Tuesday morning breakfast. Writing blogs takes time. The blog you are reading here took upwards of two and a half hours of outlining, typing, researching, choosing pictures, and proof-reading to make sure it was ready to go.

A google search on wikipedia

Business Pages for Search Engines

We would love to go into the nuances of SEO for Duck Duck Go and Ask Jeeves, but honestly, they are not worth anyone’s time. Google My Business and Bing Places for Business are the reigning champs and deserve most, if not all, of our collective attention. Before you read the rest of this section, take a moment to search your business on Google or Bing. Honestly, go look at your business’ representation on those pages, as you may notice you’re lacking in specific areas and need to create business accounts to claim and update your listing.

You will see a few key things on your business listing: location, details, links, and reviews. Updating your location, contact info, website links, etc. is a straightforward process and only takes a little bit of time and patience. Building up those reviews may take a bit of time and effort but can lead to very favorable results. Any city, not just Cleveland, relies on reviews of businesses to find out the best brewery, the best PC repair store, the best thrift shop, etc. so having reviews will lend a huge helping hand to your reputation and will add more customers to your weekly roster.

Make sure to have your pictures updated as well. It’s disappointing to find a location and wonder what the patio looks like when it’s nice outside only to find a black space on your business listing. Go back to those social media posts using photos of your customers who willingly tagged themselves and used your hashtag. Those are photos of your business, use them.

Building Backlinks

This is the hard one. By and large building a backlink strategy takes the most time and has a payoff in the end, but the payoff may not come until years of executing this plan. Backlinks are when one website links back to your website. It’s simple, right? The more links your website has across the internet the more search engines will register you as a reliable and dominant name in their searches.

All of the previous strategies help with this section, as every time someone links your website in a Facebook status, a tweet (or X whatever they’re called now, thanks Elon), or even on their own website you will get a registered backlink and Google/Bing will place you higher in search as you appear more dominant online. So all of the hashtag and social media giveaways you did, all of the blogs you wrote, and all of the work on your listing and website will help you get more attention from all angles possible.

As an aside, do not buy artificial backlinks. They are easy to spot, and Google or Bing will simply remove you from search entirely. It’s a lot of work to do it correctly and doing it incorrectly has too big of a risk compared to what reward you may get momentarily.

S-E-Over It

Here’s a quick recap of the topics we discussed:

  • Keyword Research will help you identify the search terms Google and Bing will use to place you in searches around Cleveland.
  • Local Content Creation is by and large the biggest payoff with the least amount of effort.
  • Optimizing your website creates a sense of reliability with your customer base and gives you a chance to utilize those keywords to rank higher in search with blogs and updated copy.
  • Using Google My Business and Bing Places for Business will assure you look presentable and dominant to search engines.
  • Building backlinks is arduous and takes the most time but will ultimately make you appear higher in search results more consistently.

Hopefully these strategies help you build your business up in the Cleveland area, as all the different strategies help each other out. If you ever have any questions on Cleveland SEO, feel free to reach out to us at Acclaim anytime.