The solution to improving your business website's Google ranking is embedded in good search engine optimization (SEO). Managing SEO is a big task for any business owner, but there are a few best practices that you can start to implement to drive web traffic toward your business's website. Google has become the primary hub for everyone's information. It's the main place where consumers go to find products, have questions answered and learn more about the world. This provides an excellent opportunity for business owners to connect with potential customers.
More importantly, a customer's buying experience includes online interaction. Joshua Feinberg is a digital strategist and co-founder of SP Home Run, a management consultant company that helps small businesses identify revenue growth opportunities. Feinberg said he's been promoting and creating content on Google since 2002.
"Most of your future customers will make up at least 70 percent of their minds on which company to purchase from based almost entirely on what surfaces about your company on search engines," he said. "Your company's brand is now the collective wisdom of what future customers find out about your company when asking Google."
If you're running a website for your business and you're not prioritizing SEO, you're missing out on a massive number of potential customers. It's crucial to have a strong, well-organized website so that your customers can interact with your business and get the products they need. If you are struggling with building a strong website with good SEO tendencies, it may be worth it to hire a digital marketing manager to work on your site. You can learn a lot about SEO through online research, but if what you're trying isn't working, bringing in an expert could be invaluable to your business.
Otherwise, with enough research and critical thinking, you can take some important steps to bettering your business's online presence through SEO.
How search engines work
Before diving into the best ways to improve your Google ranking, it's important to understand the structure of search engines. Search engines, which are search services provided by companies like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, operate by finding and indexing website information. There are highly intelligent robots called crawlers that comb the internet looking for websites and following URLs. As these crawlers drift through data, they store information in massive data centers around the world. This allows search engines to quickly identify and provide different websites when you enter a query in the search bar.
There are billions of web pages, so engineers have developed algorithms so that when you search for something, you get results that you actually want to see. These algorithms prioritize relevance and popularity when ranking each website on the search engine results page. Your overall goal when thinking about your approach to SEO should be driving your site's popularity and providing relevance so your future customers can find you.
Keep in mind that search engines view web pages differently than humans – a good example is Google Chrome's cache version of websites. Search engines and crawlers only interact with your websites HTML text and code. That means that certain SEO tags and fields like page titles, URLs and metadescriptions that may not be central to your users' experience are still very important.
How to improve your site's SEO
There are lots of quick ways to build your website's SEO. Keep in mind that an SEO-tailored website is one that gets built over time – there are some quick tips, but you need to commit to building an online presence. As you incorporate and add value to your website, it will grow in popularity, helping your business grow as well.
The page title is the headline-style text that a user will see on the search engine results page. It also appears in the title bar of the web browser. Think of this as a headline that both your customer and the search engine needs to understand. That means incorporating keywords a search engine can identify and using natural language that your customer will understand.
"Every page title should have a unique, descriptive title that accurately represents what a user will find on that page," said Regan Morton, digital marketing specialist at FiG Advertising and Marketing. "The title should also include the focus keyword in a natural way."
There are a few factors to include when considering your page title for each web page. Include keywords, but make sure they are added in a natural way. Google will avoid pages featuring redundant or misleading keywords. Also, consider finding out what people are searching for in your field so you can reach the right audience.
"We use Google Webmaster tools to see what people are searching for when they find our website," said Justin Kerby, founder of digital marketing company Cave Social. "Many people found our real estate advertising page by typing real estate marketing into Google. When we saw that this was the case, we quickly changed the name of our page to match what people are searching for. This can quickly make you rank higher, and we recommend any business pay serious attention to their site visitor's queries on Google."
The metadescription is the short paragraph that appears underneath the page title on Google. Search engines don't consider these when establishing relevance, but this is a crucial way to pitch customers on why they should visit your website. It's likely the second thing a customer will read after looking at your page title.
"You should write these yourself to prevent search engines from using a less relevant piece of the content on the page as the description. The content should not exceed 160 characters and should also include the focus keyword in a natural way," Morton said.
Your website or web page's URL is another key area for both customers and search engines. URLs should be structured in a user-friendly way and should clearly indicate where a customer is within your website. Avoid jargon, symbols or other robotic-type text. Oftentimes, including keywords can help, but don't include too many. This could set off spam filter and search engines may notice that you're trying to game the system by including as many keywords as possible in a URL. Instead, as with everything in SEO, keep things natural.
"URLs should be unique and clearly explain where a user is on your site," Morton said. "Avoid using path names like 'new-page-1,' and instead name each category, subcategory, and page."
Including keywords in your content is a good way to show search engines that your web pages are relevant. As with URLs, peppering content with keywords can be misleading. Keep things natural, and do your best to get a keyword in the first paragraph. Your content should also be original and not duplicated from other pages on your website. Duplicated content is a red flag for search engines, and often, this can seriously affect your rank. Search engines want fresh content that is relevant to users. Including new information and lengthening your content – especially for blog posts – to more than 500 words should help with SEO.
The best way to approach content on your site is to view it through the eyes of your customers. You should create interesting content that your customers will want to interact with. This will drive popularity and help with overall SEO results.
"Stop obsessing about what Google wants and focus on what your customers want and need," Feinberg said. "With hundreds of millions of users logged into Google-owned servers every day, Google can very quickly figure out whether visitors love your content, or [if they] run away within seconds.
Photos are a great opportunity to get SEO results. You can often add keywords to alt-tags and photo captions to further affirm your site's relevance on a topic. Alt-tags are the main way Google can tell what your photos are and will impact your overall rank. Without alt-tags, search engines have no idea what is in a photo.
"If you have a picture of a glass of wine, your alt-tag for that photo could simply read, 'Glass of wine,'" Kerby said. "This helps you improve your ranking in search, by giving more context to Google, and ultimately, the searcher."
Create a mobile-friendly site
Mobile searching has become a major source of traffic on Google. After all, studies show that users spend 69 percent of their media time on smartphones and Google drives 96 percent of mobile search traffic. Google values mobile-friendly websites, so be sure to create a site that works on mobile.
Google also prioritizes website speed. An additional factor to relevance and popularity is how user friendly your website is. A main component of this has to do with website speed. Kerby said that paying for good web hosting can make a big difference in upping your site speed.
"If your website does not load quickly, visitors will leave quickly," he said. "This tells Google that your page is not relevant to searcher's queries, and your ranking will suffer. Call your hosting provider and be sure that you're paying for good hosting, not the basic package."
After you've worked on bettering your SEO, there are a few ways to brainstorm and track success. The first, and most obvious, is to Google your business or different keywords you've incorporated and see if your company appears on the results page. Beyond Googling keywords, there are a few other ways you can analyze and better track SEO. Google doesn't release information on how to better your Google rank. A lot of the data marketers success with SEO has been hypothesized and tested using online experiments.
What Google does provide are a few tools to measure things such as keyword relevance, site speed and whether your site is mobile friendly. Derek Hales, editor-in-chief of the realty platform Modern Castle, said that using these tools are a great way to get started with SEO.
- Keyword Planner – With this tool, you can analyze and plan which keywords you want to include. If you don't have an Adwords account or don't want to set one up, you can sign into your Google account, click "skip this guided set up" during the Adwords set up and then head right to the Keyword Planner.
- PageSpeed Insights – PageSpeed Insights analyzes your website's speed on both desktop and mobile devices. It also suggests "possible optimizations" for how to better your scores.
- Mobile-Friendly test – This tool will tell you if your website is mobile friendly and provide additional resources.
Building an SEO-friendly website is an important part of business. By driving web traffic, you can increase sales and develop an online presence that helps your business. Building a solid online presence is something to be accomplished over time. So start with these tips and tools, and determine what the best next step is for your business.