It's no secret that SEO has only grown in popularity over the years, but what small business owners need to remember is that SEO has also changed over the years. The tactics you may have been using last year might now be irrelevant, and they may need to be replaced with new strategies altogether or completely revamped to include new considerations.

Google has kept the SEO industry on its toes, so a few times each year it is crucial to go back and take a look at what has changed in their algorithm and determine which tactics are truly essential for long-term success.

SEO tactics can range from very basic to very advanced and intricate, so sometimes it can be tough to weed through all of your options and figure out which are really vital. Luckily, we have done this for you.

  1. Be sure to have focused, relevant content

Always make sure that the text on your page is focused around a specific topic as opposed to multiple topics. For example: if your company has a service area that includes 10 nearby cities, it would be best to have a page dedicated to each of the 10 cities instead of trying to rank for all those cities on one page. The more "local" you can get with your content and pages, the better opportunity you have to rank.

  1. Local citations and the importance of NAP data consistency

There are thousands of websites and directories that allow any business to create their free business citation, some of which include: Yelp, Yellow Pages, Google+, SuperPages, etc. The purpose of these listings is to increase your business's chances of being found online. By submitting your business information to various citation sources and ensuring the accuracy of your Name, Address, and Phone (NAP) data, you are significantly improving the chance that you will rank well in locally oriented searches.

  1. Google My Business profile created and categorized properly

In today's local SEO landscape, it is extremely important to make sure you have a Google My Business profile created. When creating this page, the more complete you can make your profile the better. You should upload several quality photos, fill out all of your information (description, hours of operation, etc.), and foster some good reviews (more on that point later).

However, if we're talking about the most essential aspects, categorizing your business properly is definitely one of the most crucial. Google allows you to categorize your business into two to five categories, so that they understand your business better. Doing so will help your website to show up in locally oriented searches related to those particular categories.

  1. Managing and encouraging reviews

The voices of your customers are playing a larger role in where your business is seen and how it is perceived online. There are several ways to encourage reviews, but here are a few of the most popular:

  • Have an obvious "Review Us" button on your website and/or display some of your previous testimonials.
  • Send a follow-up email after a service with a link to where your customer can leave a review.
  • Ask for reviews in person after a service or hand out a paper with directions on how to review your business online.

Of course with these reviews comes responsibility to react and respond to improve customer relations. Regardless whether the feedback is negative or positive, you need to be proactive. The more you show that you are in tune to what your customers want, the better you look in the eyes of both current and future customers.

  1. Acquiring links from local organizations and associations

Acquiring these links helps associate your website with the local area you are targeting. A few examples include the Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, and your Community Service Center.

By following these essential tactics, your small business will be set on the right path for long-term success in the search engines.