In today’s digital world, having a website and active online presence is no longer optional. But knowing where to start can be overwhelming. Social networking, mobile-optimized websites, content marketing — there is a lot you need to consider. What are the steps that are essential to ranking well in Google and other search engines?
Search engine rankings can drive organic traffic to your site, leading to everything from increased visibility to more leads and customers. Search engine optimization (SEO) — the discipline that helps website owners stand out more easily online — is rapidly changing. The good news for entrepreneurs and business owners is that it has become far less technical.
It’s possible to rank well in Google by following just a few essential steps and a minimalistic approach to small-business SEO. Here’s a closer look at seven strategies to help you get started.
1. Sign Up for Google My Business
Google remains the leading search engine in the market today. More people use Google to find information than any other source on the planet. As a result, it’s in your business’s best interest to be easy to find on Google. Registering for Google My Business is a first step. It helps ensure that your website is in Google’s index. Your information will also appear on Google Maps when users are searching for local business options.
To get started, visit the Google My Business page. You’ll be asked to log in and provide contact information and other details about your business.
Signing up for this free service is the easiest way to ensure that your contact information is accurate and up-to-date at all times. When your details change, simply log back into your account and update them.
2. Claim Local Listings for Reviews and Accurate Contact Information
Customer reviews play a more important role than ever before in helping you attract new business. 90 percent of customers today say that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. Review sites ranging from Yelp to TripAdvisor to CitySearch all provide a platform for consumers to share their experiences. These review sites can often rank on the first page of search results for your business.
Each site lets business owners to claim their profile. Claiming your profile allows you to update your business description, add pictures, hours of operation, menu details, and more. Your company’s name, address, and phone number (often referred to as NAP data) should be the same across these websites.
Many sites also allow you to respond to reviews and offer coupons to promote business. Moz Local is a great place to start to understand your footprint on local websites. The site helps you understand which sites you’re currently present on and what steps you can take to improve your performance and visibility.
3. Promote Customer Reviews
Taking control of your online profiles on review sites is the first step. It’s also important to populate those sites with reviews. Take the time to ask your customers to leave you a review. It’s okay to choose one site that you prioritize, such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. For example, hotels will often have a small placard at check-in asking guests to leave a review of their experience on a travel site.
It’s also possible to include a request for reviews on receipts or via postcards. Some businesses have had success by asking past customers or reaching out directly through their mailing list. The goal is to get some buzz going on these sites about your company.
4. Have a Keyword Localized Strategy
Does your business have a keyword strategy? Keywords are important because they’re what searchers use to find information in search engines. Each business has keywords associated with them, including:
- Business name (E.G. “Bob’s Barbershop”)
- Product names (for example, “Nike sneakers”)
- Service or package details (such as “manicures” and “pedicures”)
- SKU numbers or specific brand names
- Geographical details for local businesses, including city, state, and even neighborhood
Your keywords should be included in the content and metadata of each page on your site. The most important are your page titles, which show up as the primary text and link pointing to your site from Google’s search result pages.
The second place to use keywords is in the textual content of the page; which is traditionally called the body content. Use keywords in an organic way, but make sure that they’re consistently reflected throughout your website. An SEO agency or Web designer can help you make these updates if needed.
A third useful place is the meta description that tells the potential customer what the Web page is about, and is what shows up as the description text below the link in Google during a search.
5. Regularly Publish New Content
Regularly publishing new content is an essential component of having a website that ranks well in search engines. Google looks at freshly posted content is a sign that your business is healthy and active.
Blogging is one of the easiest ways to achieve this goal. Companies that blog regularly generate 66.7 percent more leads from their websites. What’s more, companies that blog receive 97 percent more links back to their website. Links are one of the most important factors in how well you rank.
Once you’ve set up a blog, focus on publishing high-quality content that speaks directly to your customers, ideally with titles that contain your target keywords. Some easy places to start with generating content ideas include:
- How each of your products or services can help customers
- Commonly asked questions and answers
- How-tos or advice for solving common customer problems
- Recommendations or expert suggestions related to your industry
- Tips for what to look for in a product or service
- Commentary on current events relevant to your business
6. Build Links From High-Quality Sources
Links are an important part of the SEO equation. Search engines assume that when links point to your website from high-quality sources, it’s an endorsement of the quality of your business. Yet, business owners don’t have to resort to complex link-building schemes.
Start with real-world organizations that you’re already part of. For example, are you a member of the Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce? Look into potential links from trade organizations and industry associations that you belong to or support. Have you been invited to speak at an event or partner with other organizations to sponsor a cause? Often these opportunities represent quick wins for building links back to your site.
7. Add a Call to Action to Each Web Page
Once the traffic starts arriving at your website thanks to organic search results, will these prospective customers know what to do next? Make it easy for first-time visitors to find information, buy your products, or get in touch. Each page on your website — whether it’s an information page or an educational blog post — should have a clear call to action (CTA). A CTA simply states what a person should do next. It can be a link or an image button.
A call to action should be a clear action statement that immediately tells the user what they’ll get if they follow your instructions. For example, in the screenshot below, Square asks for a bit of information and then tells users to click the button to “Get Free Card Reader.” It couldn’t be clearer than that — and if the rest of your website is doing its job, users will convert.
SEO is a critical part of building your business’ visibility. The good news for entrepreneurs and small-business owners is that optimizing your website doesn’t take deep knowledge or serious technical skills. By following a few steps outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to a top ranking for your target keywords. Of course, if you don’t have the time, do business in a competitive industry, or want to get the best possible results hire a professional digital marketing company that handles small-business SEO services.