If you’re a small business owner, you’ve almost certainly heard the words “Search Engine Optimization” before. It’s no longer enough to have a website where potential and returning customers can find your location and hours, or even order from you directly—you need to make sure your site is doing the best it can to reach the top of the search rankings. This is SEO 101.
Appearing in the first page of search results is crucial: The top five search results get the vast majority of clicks from users. Rarely will somebody go through pages of links to find what they’re looking for.
SEO is a combination of science and art, however, that means there is no formula for rocketing yourself to the top of Google results. On the other hand, while digital marketing professionals are likely your best bet for achieving SEO success, the beauty of SEO is that almost anyone can take part in it. There are plenty of small, proactive steps small business owners can take to improve their search standing.
Here are a few easy tips for you to use to keep you up-to-date in the world of SEO
- Make sure your website is fast and “mobile-friendly”
Mobile internet use isn’t a fad. It’s just our way of life. More searches happen on mobile than desktop. Google says that 20 percent of mobile queries are voice searches.
For businesses, people’s growing penchant for mobile search and browsing is an opportunity to outshine and outperform the competition.
Digital marketers talk about a mobile-first world. This means positioning a business’s website to fit the mobile browsing experience.
Google takes “time on site” and bounce rate into consideration, meaning that if people tend to enter your site and then leave immediately, Google begins to identify you as a poor source of information.
This is especially important in regards to responsive, or mobile-friendly, sites. A non-mobile-friendly site in this day and age is unforgivable: Mobile traffic is beginning to take over the web entirely, which means if your mobile experience is unpleasant, expect people to look elsewhere.
- Put your business on Google’s “My Business”
Google is by far the most used search engine in the world. Adding your business to Google’s“My Business” section is a great way to claim your business and ensure all of the information about it—location, hours, phone number, photos, menu, etc.— is accurate. As with Google+ accounts, Google rewards those who engage with their system, and you’ll project a more professional and confident page in search results.
- Use Search Console and other tools to identify where you can improve
There are all kinds of reasons why a website might not perform to the best of its ability, including crawling errors, identifying whether your site is mobile-friendly, and security issues. Google is interested in helping people improve site performance, and you can use their Search Console tool to review errors. Check out tools like Screaming Frog to crawl your site and bring back information on how you can make improvements as well.
- Create a related blog and produce quality content
A blog that is related to your website’s business—for example, a deli with a blog that disperses sandwich and dessert recipes and changes to the menu—gives you more opportunities to be discovered by people using search engines. By creating articles that are thoughtfully named, accurately tagged, and filled with quality content, you’ll create a more involved and fun experience that people will want to return to and share with others.
- Label everything clearly and accurately
On your site, on your blog, on all your content: Label things. Make clear, concise headlines for your article posts (and use a headline analyzer to show you where you’re going wrong, such as in sentence structure, character count, word balance, and more). Create specific, accurate tags for your posts. Also add tags to your photos, which are crawled by search engines and add to your ranking.
- Create relationships with other websites and businesses
A great way to boost your social standing is to receive inbound links—links from other sites, particularly other high-quality sites, sending visitors to your page. It’s like how people love to get restaurant reviews from friends: You just trust their judgment more than faceless strangers on the internet. A good way to do that is to build relationships by making outbound links (linking to other sites) and interacting via social media.
You should also link to other parts on your site—say, two links to other pages per article—to strengthen the bonds between your pages.
- Encourage reviews and interaction via social media
It’s tempting to throw all of your efforts into getting Google to notice you, but diversifying your visitor streams is better for you in the long run and will be noticed by search engines as well. Encourage people to leave reviews on sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor, and/or to share and comment on your content via social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. A well-balanced website, which attracts visitors from all over, is search engine gold.
Without a doubt, SEO is an ongoing and increasingly more complex process. You can probably find hundreds of other tips on how to improve your ranking with a quick, yes, search. But start with these simple steps to get yourself on the right track, and remember to always be vigilant in your SEO tactics. You should always be ready to improve. Search engine rankings are constantly in flux with changing algorithms and new competition.