If you are like most local business operators, you are wanting to boost your position in Google’s website rankings. Ideally, you want to be on page one of search results but that’s no easy task – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is highly technical, there are many influencing factors and it’s difficult to know, for sure, what you need to do to improve your rankings.
Google is certainly not transparent in this regard, & it’s not surprising – after all, the way in which they rank websites is the basis of their revenue generation & they are not about to let their competitors in on the way they do this.
Sure, they do provide information to website & business owners as to what they look for (check out https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6001170?hl=en to see what I mean) but with more than 200 elements to consider (& no hints as to which are the most critical), it’s a daunting task. However, while it is difficult to understand every element, there are some simple things you can do to ensure you’re maximising the SEO opportunities for your website.
Here are five elements to focus on as a start:
1. Answer audience questions
The basic premise of SEO is that people go to Google with very specific questions in mind. The page that can best answer each question is the one Google wants to link them to.
Because of this, it’s important to consider what questions people most commonly ask relating to your products and services. Your team likely knows many of these, having worked with your clients and customers, but it’s worth noting them down and working to ensure the content on your website directly answers those queries.
In order to be able to come up with those questions (& their answers) you need to know who your most important (or profitable) customers are – this is your target market & It is their questions you want to have the answers to.
Here’s the big challenge for most local businesses – they believe that more is better, when Google is, in fact, looking for less. That is, Google is not looking for businesses that have answers to every question of every customer. Google only cares about the current question (from the current searcher/customer).
So, if you try to be all things to all people, Google will not like you as much as they will a specialist.
2. Use keywords
While Google’s algorithms have evolved significantly since the early days of search, & keywords aren’t the only factor in search results, SEO still requires keywords as they focus attention on an area of specific interest.
The words people use to ask their questions of Google (& other search engines) are, in fact, keywords & phrases. These are the words that need to be incorporated into your website’s content & blog posts.
You shouldn’t try and force them in – user experience is more important than keywords, so if they don’t fit in the natural flow of your content, it may be better to leave them out. But including key focus terms in your content (including your headlines and meta descriptions), helps Google understand what your page is about.
3. Optimise for mobile
More and more people are on mobile, and you need to align your website with that trend. More than 60% of all Google searches are done on a mobile or tablet device now. This is why Google actually penalises non mobile optimised content, giving preferences to better performing pages to ensure mobile users are provided with a good experience.
You can test the mobile responsiveness of your page using Google’s own “Mobile friendly test”.
How fast your content loads into a user’s browser also counts! Let’s face it, when people are on the move they don’t want to wait too long for a result to show up – they are looking for the information now!
You can test site speed using Google’s “PageSpeed Insights”
4. Share your content
If Google can see that your website content is shared on other websites & sources it figures that the content is more credible (& therefore more valuable). So you need to get your content shared around by having it appear on other websites.
This is where backlinks become important. Back links are links from other websites – the more authoritative the website providing the link, the better. For example, if there was an article on the ABC’s website that linked back to you, that would give your website significantly more authority, because the ABC is one of the biggest websites in Australia.
Think of a backlink as being similar to if a noted expert were to endorse your brand on TV – awareness and trust increase because that person is a prominent figure. This is similar, in principle, to how backlinks work.
Do not make the mistake of “Buying” backlinks from external services – Google has ways of identifying this type of activity & does not take kindly to people trying to “Spoof” the system. You are likely to end up being blacklisted by Google for this type of activity (referred to as “Sandboxed”)
Getting backlinks takes time & effort & is an important step is getting your content out there, getting people to visit your page. You can do this by sharing your posts out to people on your e-mail list or on social media.
You could also consider press/media releases online as these have a similar effect. If your content is good and it helps, those people will share it with others, increasing your traffic, while also boosting your chances of getting backlinks from other sites.
5. SSL Security Certificate
Up until recently (as of the end of 2016) only websites that were processing payments online required an SSL certificate to be able to do this. However, Google has announced that it will start to penalize those websites that do not have an SSL certificate by the end of 2017 – starting with those that process payments online but moving through to include those that gather data also.
You will need to talk to your webhost about getting this done, but if they want to charge you more than $200.00 for it you may want to look around for a third party provider that will do it for you.
Once you have these five elements covered see how your rankings with Google go – you should see an improvement. How much of an improvement will depend on the degree of competition in your field. If the level of improvement is not significant enough, you may need to engage the services of an SEO professional or digital marketing professional.