We “Google” everything these days.
We Google where to eat, what to buy, who to do business with, or the latest COVID-19 statistics and regulations. From the little questions to the big ones, Google finds us our answers—3.5 BILLION times a day. In 2019 alone, Google fielded 1.2 TRILLION searches.* Were any of those queries from your future customers? You bet. The real question is, did you come up as an answer?
Every marketing strategy should include Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics to leverage the 200+ factors that Google analyzes to showcase top search results. Google revises their formulas daily to ensure searchers find the most relevant, helpful, and detailed information. You want your business to be on that list because if you aren’t on the first page of search results, you don’t exist.
While SEO sounds daunting, you can implement simple strategies so your webpages appear higher in search results. You may not need a marketing or IT team to make headway, but you will need to devote time and editing expertise to the content on your website.
Google your business, products, and services. Did your website come up on the first page of search results? Did your competitors? Basic searches create a baseline to determine where to focus your improvement efforts. How? Think like a potential customer and start searching online for solutions. Use simple and complex search terms and phrases, remembering that not everyone may use the same language as you. For instance, consumers may not be searching for your product or service by name, but rather the solution it offers them. Brainstorm with coworkers, customers, and friends to create a solid directory of search terms you can use to optimize later.
These searches not only provide valuable insight on which search terms to leverage, but also show how you stack up against your competition. If the first page of results is filled with URLs for your competition, you have some work to do.
TIME SAVING TIP: Analytics can save you time by providing you the most commonly searched phrases based on any keyword, AND it will do it in seconds. Try a website like www.answerthepublic.com. You simply type in a product, service, or keyword—and you’ll instantly have a large list of searched queries. There are both free and paid versions of this service, but the free version provides enough information to get you started.
The titles of your webpages heavily factor into search engine results. By using commonly searched phrases in titles for solutions or products, you can dramatically improve where you appear in searches. For example, a CPA firm that prepares consumer tax returns shouldn’t simply title a page “Taxes.” This generic title doesn’t advertise services, locations, or solutions. A better option may be: “Tax Preparation and Filing Accountants in Wexford” or “Tax Filing CPA Services in Shaler.” Google displays the first 50-60 characters in a title; use each character to your benefit. You can even include several phrases such as: “Tax Preparation Services | Pittsburgh | Wexford | Shaler.”
Now that your pages are titled to your advantage, you want to make sure GOOD content is on each page. Google can now tell when you are writing readable, helpful information or just trying to pad keywords into minimal text. One strategy that works well is to make your keywords or phrases formatted paragraph headers (i.e., bold, header, etc.) followed by GOOD information that includes your keywords or phrases in the first paragraph.
Google recognizes formatted and repeated words and factors them into rankings for searches. This is why blog writing serves an effective component of SEO; article after article of GOOD information populates your website with keywords, relevant links, and updated information.
Google also analyzes when you update your website. Stale content kills your ranking. When consumers conduct searches, Google will provide results with frequently updated content. By frequently updating existing content and adding new content to your website often, your Google relevancy score increases, bringing you one step closer to the top of the search page. This is why it’s important to recognize that SEO is an ongoing process. It’s never finished. Google revises their algorithms frequently, so you may be at the top of the result page one day and at the bottom the next.
You’ve created a system to keep publishing fresh content on your site. Now you can focus on other strategies to improve your relevancy score through Google. By linking your website with other websites, tagging on social media, listing in directories, and cross-referencing pages on your own website, you improve credibility and, therefore, your ranking. Work with your professional affiliations to link your website to their website, and tag one another on social media channels. Using shares and links demonstrates your business’ credibility and relevance to Google algorithms.
Create a “Google My Business” account and verify your business and location
“The “Google My Business” platform allows you to verify the validity of your business. Create an account and enter your contact information for your business (e.g., address, phone number and website). Google will call your business with a verification code to confirm your account. Confirmed authenticity goes a long way with consumers AND with Google.
After you are verified, claim and complete your Google Maps listing(s). Claiming your listing literally puts you on the map! Some consumers simply want the solution nearest to them, so showing up in the map results could be huge for your business’ visibility. To officially claim your map listing, find your business in Google Maps and click “Manage this listing.” While the directions are self-explanatory, this verification will take a little longer because Google will send a postcard with a verification code to your physical business. After you’re verified, be sure to populate your map listing with your business hours, services, website, and photos. The more information the better. Your customers will also be able to review you, which will provide your business even more keywords and credibility.
While you can spend countless hours on dozens of other SEO tactics, there are three more simple strategies that require just a little more IT or website support. If you’re working with a website professional, be sure to add these to your next project:
Before your content can begin to rank, your website needs both internal and external links to work correctly. Google finds your website through pages and posts linked from somewhere else on the web. The internal links help Google understand the structure of your site. As Google follows the links on your website, it begins to work out the correlation between your pages, posts, and content that cover similar subject matters. Fix or remove any old, broken or outdated links.
An XML sitemap, saved in the root folder with your website files, serves as a road map that tells Google where to quickly retrieve information from essential pages of your website. Have one there for Google to read.
Nothing dates your website faster than being static. In a world where more than half the Google searches are done via smartphones or tablets, your website MUST be mobile friendly. Google WILL lower your ranking if your site isn’t a responsive (or mobile friendly) site. Responsive websites automatically resize and format webpages according to the device used to access it.
Google weighs 200+ factors when analyzing web pages for search results. These steps only cover a few high impact actions. Keep in mind, SEO serves as a great equalizer for businesses of any size to climb the search ladder. In fact, smaller businesses often have an advantage because they can target their keywords and geographic locations more effectively. If you do business in a limited geographical area, that location or town name is a very strong keyword. Mega corporations have too many locations to list in page titles or headers.
As your business grows and gains a reputation as an expert provider, these strategies can help your digital visibility and credibility grow with you. Your future customers are looking for what you have to offer: make sure they can find you.
*Data from internetlivestats.com