50 SEO Tips For Toronto Businesses

What is SEO? It’s search engine optimization. Part art, part science, it’s all done to improve your website’s ranking on Google and other search engines.


Why is SEO so important for Toronto businesses? The short answer is this: Toronto is an incredibly competitive market. Millions of people, hundreds of billions of dollars, and everyone is looking for a piece of the pie.


SEO can be used as part of a holistic marketing strategy that includes traditional marketing and/or other web-based marketing, or it can be used on its own. The biggest advantage of SEO? It only targets terms users are actively searching for – in other words, only Torontonians who are already looking for the products and/or services that you offer will find you. 


Every SEO lead is a good lead.


SEO Basics

To start, let’s look at the absolute basics that you need for SEO. We’re assuming you already have a website – if you don’t, get one – they’re the whole point of SEO.


What we’ll describe in this section are table stakes for any Toronto SEO efforts – without these, you’re not going to make your way to the top of search engine results anytime soon.


  • Set up your GMB

Google My Business (GMB) is Google’s business directory – and so much more. With a GMB, your business can show up in Google’s coveted 3-Pack:


As you can see, the 3-Pack is highly visual, and contains a lot of information that you might not find in a regular search result. What’s more, the 3-Pack usually comes up before all other search results – it’s where you want to be, and you can only get there with a GMB.


Setting up your GMB is simple: create your GMB by following the instructions in this link, and you’re on your way.


  • Keep your site mobile-friendly

There’s a lot that goes into keeping a site mobile-friendly, from maintaining fast loading pages (more on that in the Technical section) to ensuring that any forms you have on your website are easily filled with as few fields as possible.


You should also ensure that your site is responsive, and that everything is designed with mobile in mind. Torontonians do a lot of mobile searches when they’re out shopping, and to show up in those searches, it’s important that your site is optimized for mobile. 


  • Do keyword research

What are people in Toronto searching for? More specifically, what terms are they looking for that relate to your business? Keyword research is the first step in any SEO effort – you need to know what terms you want to rank for before you start trying to improve your standing on search engine results pages (SERPs).


A bike shop in Toronto might want to rank for the term “bike”, but, as you can imagine, “bike” is a highly competitive term. Instead, you might do better to rank for “bike shop in Toronto” or “bikes for sale in Etobicoke”. Use Google’s Keyword Planner or, if you prefer, a number of keyword research tools that aren’t Keyword Planner to find the keywords you want to rank for.


  • Create content constantly

Keyword research comes first; next, you need to create content to help you rank for those keywords. We have a whole section on content creation, but the point that’s important to hammer home here is that content creation cannot ever stop. Neither can keyword research – people are constantly searching for new things, and you need to be providing content tailored to those searches.


You should be posting something new on your website at least once a week. What’s more, what you post needs to be useful – spamming useless content won’t get you far. Fortunately, Toronto is a big, active city – there’s always something to write about!


Location, Location

Online advertising, and more specifically SEO, has a lot going for it. One of its advantages over traditional marketing is how granular you can be with targeting. In a city like Toronto, that specificity can be incredibly important.


You don’t necessarily want to be advertising to people in Scarborough if your shop only services Etobicoke. On the flipside, you might offer delivery to the entire GTA, in which case it might be to your advantage to target people in Burlington. SEO allows for this level of customizability in your advertising.


  • Create location pages

One of the ways that you can accomplish location specific goals is by creating location pages for the areas you serve. These are simple web pages, usually formatted as yourwebsite.com/location, i.e. torontobikes.com/eastyork. 

These pages should contain a bit of information about the region you’re targeting: mention some landmarks, festivals the area holds, and the like. Then, describe why your products/services are best-suited to the people living in the area, and the ways in which you serve the area. 


  • Think about SILs

Service-in-locations (SILs) are some of the best keywords to brainstorm when you’re targeting a specific region within Toronto. We’ve already seen an example of an SIL: bikes for sale (the service) in Etobicoke (the location).


Thinking of key phrases that follow this format can be incredibly useful, because they’ll also catch service-near-me queries. Continuing with our Etobicoke bike shop example, a person in Etobicoke who searched “bikes for sale near me” is effectively searching for “bike for sale in Etobicoke”. “Near me” searches are a key factor in any bid for successful local SEO.


  • Your name, address, and phone number are more important than you think

You might be shaking your head at this one: of course your name, address, and phone number (NAP) are important! 


What you might not know, however, is how important they are to SEO. NAP citations are what we call any online reference to your NAP – and believe me, they can be messy. People change phone numbers. Business names can vary from “Toronto Bike Shop” to “Toronto Bike Shop, Inc” to “Toronto Bike Shop and Biking Supplies Incorporated” – all for the same business.


Follow our guide to finding incorrect citations and building more citations. Basically, the more correct NAP citations you have on the web, the more search engines will like you – and the more incorrect citations you have, the more they’ll suspect you aren’t a legitimate business.


Mapping Your Website

In many ways, digital infrastructure resembles physical infrastructure. You have a central location – your home page – and from that central location, there are a number of paths (links) that lead to other locations, from which there are even more paths.


Taking the time to map out your website can help Torontonians get to the pages they want to see faster. As an added bonus, it also helps search engines crawl and index your website, which in turn, can give a serious boost to your rankings.


  • A shallow site structure

Start by doing an overview of how your whole site is linked together. For most websites, every page should be no more than 3 clicks from the home page.


You can accomplish this seemingly lofty goal by employing a shallow site structure. From a mathematical standpoint, imagine you have 10 links to various categories from your home page. Each of those categories has another 10 links, and each subcategory contains another 10 links.


That’s 1,000 pages in three clicks, using only 10 links per page.


It’s unlikely that your site will have precisely that structure, but it gives you a good idea of what an idealized site structure looks like – try to keep everything within that 3 click rule.


  • Links, links, links

Every single publicly facing page on your website – that is, any page you want search engines to crawl (more on that later) should link to another page on your website. This isn’t counting navbar links – every page should have a link to another page independent of the navbar.


There are a couple of reasons for this. First, when you create content that people find through a search engine, you want them following that page back to your home page – links act as both a sales funnel and as signals to search engines.


When people interact with and stay on your website, search engines know that the page the searcher went to was relevant to their query. What’s more, search engines use bots to “crawl” web pages, following links to other pages. A strong internal linking scheme leads bots to uncover more pages on your site.


  • Mind your URLs

Here in Winnipeg, we have a street: Route 62. No one calls it Route 62, mind you – the street changes names 8 times as you go along it. As you can imagine, it’s a bit of a navigational nightmare – many of our streets are like this. Imagine if Yonge Street changed names 8 times – it’s not fun.


Why the anecdote? To illustrate a point, of course: your URLs should be descriptive of the page they’re on (and you shouldn’t change your URL’s name several times; more on that later). A page about the 10 best Canadian mountain bikes shouldn’t be found at torontobikes.com/U?lrTT1mZ0QlApRrJn, it should be found at torontobikes.com/best-canadian-mountain-bikes.


  • Subfolders, not subdomains

This one is simple: you can structure your site like this:



Or like this:




Use the second format – that is, use subfolders instead of subdomains. Trust us, it just makes everything easier for SEO. 


  • Submit an XML sitemap

XML sitemaps are basically a directory of links that search engines can follow in order to crawl your website. You’ll need some tools (which we’ll describe at greater length in the Technical section): Google Search Console (GSC) and something like Screaming Frog.


Screaming Frog (or a similar tool) will allow you to create the XML sitemap – from there, you simply submit it to GSC. XML sitemaps shouldn’t include pages that you don’t want Google to crawl, including canonicalized and 301’d pages – we’ll cover all of this in the Technical section, but to talk about mapping without mentioning XML sitemaps just felt incomplete.


  • Think like Hansel and Gretel

While their use of breadcrumbs was…ill-fated, you can use them to a much better effect.


Breadcrumb navigation is something you’ve probably seen before on large e-commerce websites; it looks something like this:


Homepage > Bikes > Mountain Bikes > Children’s Mountain Bikes


It’s great for retailers with a lot of different stock sorted into categories, because it allows users to know, at a glance, where they are and how they got there. Not every site is going to benefit from breadcrumb navigation, but if you think users are going to do a lot of clicking through categories, it’s a great bet. Simple to implement, too.


Content Creation

We said it before: content creation is the never-ending process that will allow you to rank for the keywords you’re targeting. This section is going to help you generate content that’s relevant to Torontonians – you’ll get some great ideas about where to work in the SIL keywords we discussed targeting.


  • Unique and valuable

For some time, the SEO game was a very sordid affair – people copying content, spamming links behind black backgrounds, and other shady tactics.


Those days are long gone, and search engines are very good at discerning whether content meets their criteria: it must be unique (not copied or nearly copied) and valuable (users have to care about it).


Every page on your website needs to meet these two basic criteria. We’ll also address pages that aren’t written about in the Technical section; sometimes you need non-unique pages, or pages that aren’t valuable to search engine users. For the rest of this content section, however, we’ll give you tips on how to make content that’s unique and valuable.


  • Update old content

While your focus should primarily be on creating new content, it can be useful to go through old content to update it. Search engines care that you’re updating your website, and even updates to old content are better than nothing. What’s more, users are more likely to stay on your page if the information is accurate – go through content in batches on a scheduled basis (once a month can be good), and update as necessary. 


At times, content will be so outdated that you’ll want to replace it with new content. We’ll give you tips on how to do this effectively to boost your SEO in the Technical section.


  • Answer questions

Every query made on a search engine has an intention behind it: users want to find answers, whether that answer be where something is located to what the best mountain bikes for kids are.


You should craft content that answers these questions. You should keep your answers (and your content in general) industry and location-specific – in other words, try to answer questions that Torontonians are asking about your business.


For our bike shop, we might imagine questions like “Which bikes are best for winter riding” or “What are the best biking trails in Toronto”. By answering these questions, we’re providing both unique and valuable content – assuming you haven’t answered the question already! Even if your competitors have already answered the question, you can keep your content unique and valuable by providing a better answer.


  • The medium is the message

Search engines don’t only try to discern what users want to know – they figure out how users want to know it. In other words, Google will try to determine if images, videos, text posts, or something else entirely is the best way to answer a user’s query.


Fighting against this system can be pretty tough, so unless you’re certain you have some absolutely knock-their-socks-off content on your hands, you should try to match the format of the content to that of the top results. Making a piece of content called “how to fix your bike” and finding that YouTube videos pop up when you search for that query?  Make a video.


Keep in mind, you can always embed videos, infographics, and other content into your blog posts – sometimes, that’s the best way of going about things. Just be sure to caption your videos (it’s easier for search engines to understand text).


  • Headlines are very important

Your headline may be the most important part of any content you’ll make. The headline, meta title, and URL are often the same – the meta title is what’s displayed (most of the time) in search engines and on social media. 


That means the headline is the first thing a user sees – it’s the start of your elevator pitch, your first chance to grab someone’s attention. You’ve got to entice people and inform them at the same time – it’s tricky, but well worth the effort. Try Coschedule’s headline analyzer if you want metrics to help you improve your headlines.


  • Incorporate images

There are two big advantages to using images. The first is pretty obvious – aesthetics. Images can break up content, encourage people to continue reading, and just plain look nice.


Images can also be optimized for SEO; using alt tags on your images creates a better user experience (for both visually impaired users and scenarios where the image didn’t load properly). Alt tags also allow search engines to more readily understand what your image is.


  • Write naturally

Every page needs to be unique – fortunately, you have a unique perspective. Write about the things you’re passionate about. Do independent research. Don’t try keyword stuffing or any similar tactics.


You’re from Toronto, and your content is likely to attract Torontonians. Feel free to call the Danforth Greektown or refer to Roncesville as Roncy – whatever works for you. Write conversationally.


  • Stay plugged in

To make the best content, you need to know what people are interested in learning about – and people’s interests change quickly. That means you need to be doing keyword research constantly, but it also means you need to stay up to date on what’s happening in Toronto. This can be as simple as following Toronto influencers on Twitter and Instagram, checking blogTO regularly, and tuning into cable news.


  • Ask the audience

Simple, but effective: ask your customers and other stakeholders what kinds of content they’d like to see. You can ask them in-person, conduct surveys, or include an email link for content ideas at the end of every piece you run. 


  • Keep up with the competition

Your competitors are probably doing a lot of the same research you are – they might stumble across ideas that you hadn’t considered. You should follow all of the content your competition is creating – then make something better.


Getting Clicks

Creating all of this content is wonderful, but it’s not going to be very useful if nobody sees it. Once you have high-quality content, the next step is getting clicks: from there, search engines will recognize that people both want to click on your content and that they want to stay on your page once they’ve reached it. These are very positive signals for SEO.


  • Make the best content

Simple, but challenging: you need to have content that’s better than what your competitors are offering. When two websites host content answering the same query, the best content is usually what’s going to come out on top. Crafting good content takes a lot of effort, and if you don’t do a good job, you won’t reap any benefits.


  • Respect authority

Authority is incredibly important in SEO. It works a little bit like an academic paper getting cited – the more citations a paper gets, the more likely it is to be a noteworthy, well-researched piece. 


In the same vein, if your content is getting links from highly respected websites, that’s a signal to search engines that the content you’re creating is worth seeing. You can check a website’s authority using Ahrefs’ Authority Checker. blogTO is an excellent example of a high authority website. Papers like The Star are the holy grail for links: hard to get, but very powerful.


There are two types of authority sites you should be targeting – local sites, and sites that are relevant to your industry. Optimally, you’ll target a site with high authority that meets both criteria. 


  • Put yourself out there

Once you’ve determined which sites you’d like to get links from, let them know about your content! Find pieces you’ve created that are relevant to the content those websites put out, and send them an email saying “Hey, I’ve got this great piece I think your users would appreciate, feel free to link to it!”. The process can be as simple as that.


  • Guest post

Unfortunately, while the process can be as simple as that, it rarely is. More often than not, websites are going to want a bit of tit-for-tat to link to your content – one way you can manage this is by creating guest posts.


With guest posting, you’ll approach an authority website and say “Hey, I’m a business owner in Toronto, and an expert in X field. I’d like to write a post for you.”. In that post, you can link relevant content you’ve created (don’t overdo it, though), and link to your home page in your bio. 


  • Use the skyscraper technique

Credit to Brian Dean of Backlinko for this technique: the skyscraper. Here’s the idea: you find a piece of content with a lot of links pointing to it, build a better version of that same content, and contact the people linking to the original piece, letting them know that you’ve created a better version.


This technique takes a lot of research, and you’ve got to be certain you can create a superior piece of content or you’ll be wasting your time. When used correctly, however, you can get a lot of traffic to your page.


  • Create mailing lists

There’s a reason mailing lists are so popular: you can advertise your products to Torontonians and include links to content you’ve created, encouraging people to view your pages. You need to be mindful of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation – it’s important that you’re certain you have consent before signing someone up for a mailing list. 


You can go about this at checkout (a check box to opt into email updates), and you can even put your most valuable content behind a soft wall – opt into email updates, get a PDF chock-full of useful information.


  • Be active on social media

Your website is important, but in this day and age, it’s not enough – you need a web presence. Be active on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin – whatever is appropriate for your business. You should post regularly (avoid being spammy, though) – at least once a day is good. 


In your posts, you can include links to your content – if you’ve got a decent following, this is a pretty simple way of generating free clicks.


  • Join local groups

You should join Toronto groups on Facebook – from business-oriented groups, like Toronto Small Business Owners, to demographic-based groups, like Toronto Mommies and Black Toronto


It’s important to respect these groups – only join groups that make sense for you to join, and don’t join with the intention of spamming. Be helpful, be kind, and try to keep your posts in line with the 90/10 rule – 90% content that isn’t about you, 10% your own content.


If you find there aren’t a lot of local groups that suit your business niche, consider creating your own!


  • Consider online advertising

Trying to get an influx of clicks to your website in a short amount of time? You might try PPC advertising through providers like Facebook and Google. While PPC is most often used to generate clicks for products, you can certainly use it to boost content that you think is valuable. Sometimes, content doesn’t get noticed, and the extra push PPC provides can bring it over the edge and start getting you organic links.


  • Optimize your GMB

We have a whole guide to optimizing your GMB – here’s a brief synopsis.


  • Choose the category that’s most relevant to your business (for our bike shop, bicycle store is a good bet)
  • Take nice pictures! Have a business by the Waterfront or another good-looking area? Take some scenic outdoor shots.
  • Answer questions in the Q&A; reply to every review
  • Use GMB posts every week


The Technical Stuff

From here on out, the tips we’re offering are going to be less Toronto-specific, but they’re still essential to your SEO efforts – without the technical stuff, all the effort you put into Toronto-centric content might not get seen.


  • Use tools

At the top of this article, we talked about GSC and Screaming Frog. There are other tools available like SpyFu, SEMRush, and Moz Pro. Familiarize yourself with what all of these tools do, and consider purchasing them to up your SEO game. For the rest of this technical section, we’ll stick with GSC and Screaming Frog, two of the tools we use the most often.


  • Get an SSL (or TLS) certificate

Without going too deep into the weeds, SSL or TLS certificates allow you to secure your pages. You’ve probably seen https: before – the “s” literally means secure. Basically, with the appropriate certificate, your pages can be encrypted in a manner that makes them much more secure for the end-user. Search engines have been caring a lot about https recently – if your pages aren’t secured, and you don’t have a certificate, use Let’s Encrypt to get started. It’s free.


  • Robots

You may encounter pages that you don’t want search engines to index – indexed pages can be displayed in search results. Pages you may not want indexed include:


  • Search results on your website
  • Media files
  • Resource files
  • Login pages


You can use a robots.txt file to stop sites from crawling your webpage – they may, however, still be indexed if another link points to the page. For those pages, you’ll want to use meta robots and noindex. For a more in-depth look at robots, check out our Technical SEO guide. 


  • Use 301 redirects

Imagine our bike shop created a guide to the top 10 bike paths in Toronto back in 2010, and that, since then, new, better bike paths have been created. We want to update that article and move it to a new URL, but we don’t want to lose the authority and link-juice it has.


We can create a new article, then perform a 301 redirect – any links to the old article will automatically be redirected to the new article. This can also be useful if you have a number of articles (best bike paths in Scarborough, best bike paths in North York, etc.) that you want to consolidate. You can 301 all of those pages to a new aggregate page that includes the combined information. It preserves existing links while offering better content to users.


  • Canonicalize nearly identical pages

Imagine we’re selling a mountain bike that comes in five different colours. While each of those bikes might need its own URL, we don’t want every one of those URLs showing up in Google – search engines might not see the pages as unique (which can net you penalties).


Here, you can employ the canonical tag to let search engines know which page is the original (that’s the page that will be offered in search results). Pages can also be self-canonicalized (they point to themselves) – it’s best practice to self-canonicalize your home page.


  • Eliminate useless pages

You may find that you have pages that:

  • Don’t work well with robots.txt or meta robots
  • Shouldn’t be canonicalized
  • Shouldn’t be 301’d
  • Aren’t unique and/or valuable


Delete these pages. They aren’t helping you or your clients.


  • Reduce page content

We’ve mentioned that you should have an image and text on every piece of content you create. That’s well and good, but filling your pages full of high-resolution images (among other things) can seriously increase loading times.


Google recently unveiled Core Web Vitals; one of the most important things is LCP, a factor that checks loading times on a page. The best way to reduce loading times is to simply eliminate unnecessary content from the page – less data to load means faster loading.


  • Minify code

Code is often written with lots of spaces, comments, and the like, in order to make life easier for coders. What a lot of people don’t realize is that doing this can actually mess with loading speeds. Use minify or a similar tool to minify your code, making it easier for computers to read.


  • Don’t use Javascript if you don’t have to

In some ways, the Internet runs on Javascript – most successful websites employ it in some capacity. Whenever you don’t need to use Javascript, however, you should opt not to. Google can render Javascript, but it takes them a lot of time to do so – it can lead to your pages not being indexed as quickly, and other problems. What’s more, Javascript is render-blocking, meaning that it can be a loading time killer when it’s not properly used. 


You can use Javascript – just use it sparingly.


  • Let your pages be a bit lazy

You’ve probably seen lazy-loading before – when content is lazy-loaded, it only starts loading when the user actually needs it, instead of as soon as they try to load the page. It’s commonly seen when scrolling through blogs – images will only load when users scroll to where the image is located.


Doing this can substantially lower initial loading times – it can be used on videos, images, and even Javascript.


  • Keep image SEO in mind

You’ve got a beautiful 3 gigabyte ultra-high resolution photo of your staff in front of the ROM, and you want to post it on your website. 3 GB is obviously way too big – I picked that ridiculous size to illustrate a point.


Images should be optimized for size, shape, responsiveness, and more – if you need to reduce the quality of your image in order to reduce the file size, it may be worth it. Yoast has a handy guide to image SEO that covers everything you need to do.


  • Kill pop-ups

Do you like pop-ups? Me neither.


As it so happens, Google doesn’t like pop-ups either (they call them “intrusive interstitials”). They’re particularly heinous on mobile, where clicking the X can be particularly difficult. For this reason, you should avoid pop-ups unless they’re related to core functionality – things like pop-ups about cookies or age verification.


Obviously, some sites will want to use pop-ups on occasion nonetheless – if that sounds like you, make them as unobtrusive as possible.


Reputation Management

How many times your business has been reviewed, the diversity of reviews you get, and how often you get reviewed: all of these things can influence SEO. As you can imagine, having several positive reviews also encourages people to visit your website, especially if you’re showing up in 3-Packs. Reputation management is all about getting (and keeping) good reviews.


  • Encourage people to review you

Quantity is one of the most important review-related SEO metrics – so you want to encourage people to review you as often as possible. You can do this by asking people to review you – in conversation, via email, via text, any way you can. Remember, people don’t need to be prompted to leave a bad review, but perfectly satisfied customers will often need a prompt to leave a good review.


  • Respond to reviews

Whether reviews are positive or negative, you should respond to them. Positive reviews can be met with a simple “Thanks, glad you enjoyed it”, while negative reviews should be addressed offline. Leave a comment apologizing for their negative experience –  let the reviewer know you’ll be in contact with them (and/or how to contact you). Then, address their grievances – this strategy can turn 1-star reviews into 5-star reviews.


  • Check reviews on multiple platforms

While most of our work is focused on GMB, you can get a lot of clicks from Facebook, Yelp, and other platforms, and those clicks can help your SEO efforts. Be sure to check for reviews of your business on a regular basis across multiple platforms – sign up for email updates from these platforms, and do routine searches for reviews of your business.


  • Get testimonials

Testimonials are kind of like super reviews – you can get a lot of content from them, too. You might ask your best clients for a video testimonial, you might include quotes from a testimonial in your ad copy or on your home page – they’re quite versatile. What’s more, people like testimonials; they give potential clients a sense of what makes your business unique, and why other Torontonians like you.


  • Use reputation management software

Review management software can do a lot for you. Some features you might find include:

  • Automated text and email requests for reviews
  • Automated posting of good reviews – automatically notifying customer service in the case of a bad review
  • Social listening and online reputation tracking 


We offer a reputation management system with a free trial, so if you’re looking for something I’d recommend – well, I might be biased, but give ours a try, it really is excellent!


Phew – that was a lot of information, and I hope you found it as interesting to read as I found it to write. As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into SEO. 


What you might not realize is this all just the absolute tip of the iceberg – a short summary of the basics, if you will. SEO Toronto businesses can use to really boost their rank will take a lot of effort – sometimes a full restructuring of the website. That said, by following the tips we’ve laid out here to the letter, you’ll be doing more for SEO than most Toronto businesses.


Your only competition will be businesses that are also following all of these tips – or who have opted to hire their own Toronto SEO agency. Consider First Rank – if we can give you all of these Toronto-centered SEO tips for free, imagine what we can do as partners with you, afterall we were named one of the top SEO companies in Toronto

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The purpose of First Rank is to help businesses generate leads from their websites. We put a focus on SEO, because we believe it is one of the most cost effective and highest converting forms of traffic generation, however traffic alone is not enough on its own to grow your business. SEO should be combined with conversion optimization, email marketing and retargeting to maximize the ROI of your advertising dollars.