It is staggering how business has changed in the 15 short years since Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched their school project named “Google.” Prior to 1998, we had to rely on advertising or let our “fingers do the walking” in the Yellow pages to find a product or service we required.
Now, 89% of consumers say they use search engines to help them make purchasing decisions. Since searchers seldom venture past page one on Google, if your company’s website is buried on page 10, meaning your page ranking is in the dumper, your business is suffering.
This is what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about; getting your website on the first page of Google for people looking for you. Unfortunately, that’s not an easy thing to do. Google is very, very finickity. Its search algorithm is very rigid on how it ranks pages, and sites that it defines as trying to cheat, are punished severely. You couldn’t find them with the Hubble telescope. What Google loves however are sites that are honest brokers of their products and services. Here are some simple SEO best practices that will get your site in Google’s good books, and boost its rankings rapidly.
SEO pros always start here. They do an exhaustive keyword research to come up with a list of search terms prefect for a business. Here’s a secret for you: you can do this yourself. First thing to do: ask someone who is not in your business, “what term would you use on Google to find what we have on our website?” Their answer is your first keyword or search term.
Then plop that into Google and see what it comes up with. If your business isn’t on page one, you have some work to do. Here’s an example using “Brewery.”
Our local brewery ranks right at the top, (as it should – they are awesome!) Down at the bottom of the page is where the good stuff is however – Searches related to Brewery:
Thanks to Google, that’s a pretty good start for your keyword list. Next, build out the list to include variations and geographical locations. e.g. “Cambridge Breweries”. Put all these keywords on a spreadsheet and then check where your site ranks for these keywords. (If it’s not on the first five pages, then it might as well not exist.)
Next, who are your main competitors? Where do they rank on Google? What search terms have them ranking above you? Just a couple of hours of research can nail down a list of the best search keywords for your specific business.
Google’s algorithms may change, and change again, but the one key aspect of any website that Google has always put as most important is content. Content is king.
This is where your keywords come in. Not too long ago, websites had something called a “keyword metatag” where a site owner would list all the keywords that were salient to their business to help search engines out. Unfortunately these were serially abused by webmasters, so now Google all but ignores them. Today SEO is all about providing usable content for a visitor to make an informed purchasing decision. Fresh, interesting and useful, this is content that utilizes your keywords – all in the goal of educating the consumer. One thing – don’t super pack in the keywords. Your content has to be readable. The standard rule is no more than 5% keywords.
- Good websites have content that has been written with the user in mind.
- Crappy websites have unreadable copy crammed full of keywords that was written for a robot.
Other keyword uses
Keywords are not just for your site’s content, they’re also for your site’s tags, descriptions and headlines for your content. You should also create specific pages for each of your search keywords and terms.
Finally, get Google + and Get Local
No too long ago Google introduced “Blended” results into searches. Blended include a blend of both websites and local business information – mostly from Google+ Local Pages and are typically displayed like this:
For this “car insurance” search Google displayed location-based results in prime real-estate right on page 1. Creating a Google + Local page takes about 10 minutes, but Google will find it (Google loves Google +), and in a short while your business will pop up on page one for all local searches for your keywords and search phrases.
Another must for local search: Make sure you claim your listing and fill it out with as much information about your business as you can think of. Use keywords and highlight your products and service. Once you’ve done that, create a Local Google Page. Again, fill out the profile with business details, add a bunch of photos and make sure you include your logo.
Finally, you have to spread that link to your customers, your personal and professional network, employees and friends and ask/beg them for business ratings and reviews.
Oh, and one last thing
Set up Google Analytics for your site so you can see how well you are doing.
You are off to a good start
Some of this may sound silly, but this is what Google likes – and let’s face it, since 1998, they’re running the show. That’s all you have to do to get going on SEO for your small business. A full blown SEO campaign for your site will be money well spend (as long as you sign with a reputable SEO company – there are many, many posers out there), but if you’re just getting going, take these simple baby steps to get yourself familiar with the process.