How women-owned small businesses can grow their online visibility
The current take on marketing can be described by a simple notion: Everyone’s a marketer. Marketing is a soft and hard skill everyone will deal with (if they aren’t already), just like writing or reading. Because if you have a social media account, manage a website for a local small business, or want to promote your support for a cause—it requires some marketing acumen, which everyone tinkers with on a more or less daily basis. As the world undergoes a notable digital shift—accelerated during the pandemic—we’re entering an era where almost all marketing is digital marketing, and the latter implies a deep understanding of the search landscape and SEO.
Despite this almost universal adoption and rapid acceleration, SEO, however, is a male-dominated field where almost 70% of the workforce identify as men.
Many SEO and digital marketing platforms understand the potential consequences of such disparity, as the industry may see:
- Fewer marketing specialists (women are still underrepresented in STEM, and SEO is still regarded as a technical field, although it can be viewed as an aspect of a broader marketing program)
- Fewer role models and mentors that are, in the opinion of many women in SEO, crucial for new generations of women entering the industry
- Slower innovation as diversity is an important driver
That’s why many companies strongly support women entering SEO and other tech-related industries. For instance, Semrush recently donated $100K to the Girls Who Code project.
But it’s not just about financial aid.
“Knowledge about what’s working with your marketing, what isn’t, and how to fix it shouldn’t be held by a limited few. It also shouldn’t be overly complicated or onerous to locate,” said Lenox Powell, content director at Semrush. “Platforms that give anyone—regardless of their experience level—access to performance data and useful insights is what helps level the playing field.”
Whether you own a business or hold a marketing position within a company, this article will reveal everything you have to know about SEO and how to beat the competition in search.
Demystifying the concept of SEO for women-owned small businesses
Truth be told, Google algorithms are as close as it gets to gender neutrality. The search engine’s ranking algorithm doesn’t differentiate business results by gender unless it’s what the user was searching for.
So, when it comes to the way your site is ranked, it really doesn’t matter who owns the business or heads the board of directors (although, this is not always true in other languages that use gendered nouns).
But it gets more nuanced than that.
For instance, Google has a “Women-led” attribute within Google Business Profile that you can add to your woman-owned business.
There’s your first potential edge.
Yelp—one of the most prominent local business directories—followed Google’s move, adding a “women-owned” mark.
While these are promising signs, women-owned businesses are still pretty hard to find. One journalist from Time magazine described her journey of attempting to live off of women-owned businesses and services but found it impossible to find these kinds of companies. She Googled what she needed to buy, and one of the key obstacles was that women often fail to voice their ownership. Hence, Google doesn’t really reflect the entire range of women-owned businesses.
So, if you are a woman and entrepreneur who owns a small business, you can consider building an SEO strategy that helps to highlight this.
SEO for all kinds of businesses
While there are some specific ways to leverage your women-owned status, your SEO strategy shouldn’t look different than that of any other business.
You always have 5 key areas of SEO that you should take care of:
- Technical SEO: site audits, regular site health checks, site speed improvement, internal linking, smooth UX, and so on.
- On-page SEO: essentially, keyword optimization and overall content strategy.
- Off-page SEO: typically implies a healthy backlink portfolio and link-building efforts.
- Local SEO: ranking in local search results and targeting voice search.
- Competitive intel: this is where you explore competitors’ SEO and online visibility strategies to learn from their hits and misses.
Let’s get into each part in a bit more detail.
Taking care of technical SEO
This is usually one of the most dreaded parts of SEO.
However, a well-optimized site that has impeccable technical SEO specs is really just a matter of thorough and regular site audits.
You don’t have to do anything by hand. There are special site audit tools that take care of the whole thing.
For instance, Semrush’s Site Audit tool runs your site through more than 150 health checks, reflecting all the errors and problems that need your attention—whether it’s about internal linking, site load speed, schema markups, page experience, or even crawling issues.
Whether you have a few broken pages, duplicate metadata, or uncompressed images—you’ll easily see it all within one spot.
You can simply use the tool’s improvement suggestions and run easy fixes yourself. If you face a more advanced issue, you can turn it to your dev or site maintenance team.
Finessing your on-page SEO
As mentioned, while on-page search optimization also has to do with technical SEO and off-page SEO aspects, it’s mainly about keyword and content strategy.
But once you have your list of promising keywords and have the right content to match it, you have to make sure your pages are also fit for top Google positions.
Once again, you don’t have to do any manual work—you can simply use a tool like the On-Page SEO Checker and let it do its magic. It analyzes the top-performing pages for your target keywords and reflects the best practices your page does or doesn’t follow, arming you with spot-on page enhancement tips—from strategy, semantics, and content to technical SEO, UX, and backlink ideas.
All you have to do is simply follow the tool’s improvement guidelines.
Building up your backlink profile (off-page SEO)
Now, as a small business, you can hardly expect to have an extensive high-authority backlink portfolio where you have the likes of Forbes or Wikipedia linking back to your site (although it is possible).
So your job is to get as many links from your partners as you can—reach out to your suppliers, distributors, and neighboring businesses, asking them to link back to you from their sites.
Also, don’t forget to add your business to every thinkable and unthinkable local directory—Yelp, Foursquare, you name them all.
Tip: You can use a tool like Listing Management and automate this process by spreading the info from your Google Business Profile to relevant directories.
A more advanced link-building strategy would require more research. You can explore your competitors’ backlink profiles through Backlink Analytics and discover sites that link back to them—these could be your potential backlink partners, only double-check their authority score (it has to be high) and traffic-driving potential.
Don’t forget to regularly check the state of your external links and your overall backlink profile health through a tool like Backlink Audit—it reflects any new, broken, or lost backlinks along with an assessment of their potential benefit (based on toxicity score).
Gathering competitive intel
Most small businesses can hardly replicate Cannes Lions campaigns, but competitors do offer a lot of food for thought and inspiration. After all, a big part of a successful online presence is knowing about your competitors’ ups and downs—to learn from their mistakes and success stories, and implement them within your strategies.
Once again, competitive research is an entirely separate matter that needs your close attention, but there is a quick way to take a bird’s eye view of their best practices.
Reveal which organic strategies work for your rivals
For instance, a tool like Domain Overview unveils how sites manage to win their share of organic presence.
In the example above, it’s clear that backlinks and referral traffic are responsible for the largest share of the company’s organic visibility.
This means that you should explore its backlink portfolio in more detail and see which platforms feature the company’s site and bring the majority of traffic.
If you see that keywords are the main traffic driver, you should explore the rival’s keyword strategy in more detail, using tools like Keyword Gap to spot missing organic growth opportunities.
Tip: If you want to take your competitive intel beyond pure SEO, you can tinker with the Semrush .Trends platform—it has both high-level market insights that cover demographics, emerging trends, and overall digital marketing patterns within the industry and more granular website-specific intel like engagement stats, the most traffic-driving pages and offerings, traffic dynamics, and more.
SEO specifics for women-owned businesses
All the previous steps are absolute must-do’s for optimizing any website—regardless of who the owner is.
But there are a few things you can do to highlight your “women-owned” status.
Why market your business as women-led
Purchases from women-owned businesses tend to be more tied to conscious consumption and value-based shopping—and they are only increasing over the years, especially as the more value-conscious Gen Z is entering into its full economic force.
This means that being a women-led business and marketing yourself as such can come with multiple advantages:
- It can give you a competitive edge
- It can bring a more value-oriented and loyal audience
- The audience buying from women-owned businesses tends to be on the higher income spectrum
How to market your business as women-owned
#1. Use “women-owned” attributes anywhere you can
As mentioned, Google Business Profile and Yelp allow you to specify that your business is woman-led, so make sure to leverage these attributes and show up to consumers who want to make women-owned purchases.
#2. Integrate “women-owned” keywords into your content strategy
You can—and you should—emphasize the ownership of your business across your site.
Make sure to mention this in the “About us” or “Our story” section. Also, don’t forget to include your “women-owned” status within the metadata as well.
After all, you want to rank and show up when someone is Googling “a women-owned laundry near me”.
#3. Partner with other women-led businesses and support women in tech
As a woman who leads or manages a small business, you can support your community by:
- Hiring more capable and ambitious women to do your marketing, finance, site design, and so on
- Featuring other neighboring women-owned businesses on your site
- Joining local Women Business Owners associations and networks.
#4. Reinforce your “women-owned” status in all your comms
Whether across your next social media or email marketing campaign, make sure to highlight your status in all your communications.
This will differentiate your business from all the rest and help to add a more human, personal touch to your message.
#5. Submit your business to the “Best of…” lists
Check online for any “best of…” articles and directories that highlight women-led companies. If you see a relevant list that could include your business, reach out to the author/site owner and ask for a feature.
Having a woman-owned business—and marketing it as such—comes with many advantages.
But this doesn’t mean that all obstacles are overcome and the bias is broken.
Yet if you have a women-led company, make sure to talk about it. Here are a few resources that will help you along the way:
- Google has a dedicated section that features workshops and tools that help women entrepreneurs—from seeking financing options to digital training.
- Semrush has an entirely free Academy platform that teaches about the ins and outs of digital marketing—from general courses that cover all things online visibility (local SEO, advertising, content marketing, social media, etc.) to Semrush-specific teaching classes.
- Plus, there are prominent industry blogs that cover everything from content marketing to technical SEO. This post features a great round-up of some of the top media outlets you can follow.
And, of course, no woman-led business can build its SEO strategy without access to high-quality tools that will help them boost their online presence and get a competitive edge.
As Semrush truly supports women-owned businesses and wants to pitch in for their digital success, it kindly offered an extended 30-day free trial of its comprehensive online visibility platform.