1. Research Your Keywords
Every time someone online searches for a product, service, or more general answers to a question, they’re using keywords to find what they need. Keywords are words or phrases which a user will input into the search engine to perform the search. Keywords are specific, meant to find exact pieces of information with the fewest words possible. This is how the search process begins for everyone, no matter the topic. With this in mind, your company needs to learn and understand what your clients are searching for at any given moment. This process is deceptively complicated, as you need to know who your clients are, what they need to be fixed, and potentially the reason why.
To answer these questions, you should know your customer base inside and out, performing extensive research on their living habits, demographics, and overall customer profile. You can start small, by thinking up a problem your customers have that would lead them to search for your product, to begin with, then jotting down some keywords that they might use to find your company. Assess how this preliminary search goes then move onto a more in-depth process. Many websites today, both free and premium, offer tools to carry out your keyword research; these analytics are a valuable asset in your quest to determine who knows your customers are and how they think.
One such website which is free to use is Ubersuggest. The Ubersuggest site is straightforward and simple to navigate. First, input a keyword or phrase which you think your customers would come up with. The website will then generate the monthly search volume of your keywords along with the cost per click metrics and difficulty of ranking websites with your chosen keywords. Websites with a higher cost per click will be charged a higher dollar amount the more customers click through their website. The keywords which are most valuable to you are those which are “easy” to rank for Google’s algorithm. Usually, the more specific and specialized to your business the keywords are, the more effective they’ll be in bringing customers to your website.
2. Utilize Existing Rankings
It’s important to not make any changes to your website until you know where you sit in Google’s rankings for the keywords you’ve compiled. After you’ve looked through the rankings for your current keywords, you can start to expand the list and focus your attention on those keywords which consistently rank your website highly. Changing your website without testing keywords first could potentially be a massive waste of time, as you could see no change in your rankings or, even worse, slide down the rankings with the new website.
There are many ways to determine your website sits in relation to each keyword. The most difficult of these methods is to manually type in each keyword and search through endless pages of results until you see your website. This is highly time-intensive and mostly a waste of time and resources, as there are a number of tools designed for companies to search their keyword rankings quickly and efficiently. One of these is SerpFox, a tool that allows you to monitor your website in relation to keywords. The free version of the site lets you keep track of ten keywords, which is a great value. The paid site boosts this number to one-hundred keywords for only ten dollars a month, which is also stellar. After creating an account, input your keywords into SerpFox and the site will let you know shortly where your page is in the search results.
Any pages which are not in the first ten positions on Google are not shown on the first page and therefore far less likely to be seen. At this point, you should focus on your keywords which give you the best search result position while trying to enhance those which don’t lead to your company’s page as quickly. You can also work on your website, tailoring it to keywords you like, and think will be effective. In addition, SerpFox has an automated report feature, which will detail your website’s results every month or so. Now that you know what keywords work which don’t, you can move to the on-page SEO process.
3. On-Page SEO
Keywords are great to know and augment to modify results from the perspective of prospective customers and clients. But you can also increase your SEO presence by changing your own website. This is where on-page SEO comes in. On-page SEO is simply the process of augmenting your webpages to enhance their relevance to multiple search engines. If a search engine such as Google believes your page is more relevant or holds more authority than other pages, it will place your page near the top of its search results. On-page SEO is equally if not more important than keywords, as it drives the placement of your webpage from the perspective of the search engines; for less competitive keywords, on-page SEO alone can be enough to achieve a higher ranking in search results. There are twelve critical components of on-page SEO which are important to learn and understand.
- Focus Keyword: Each page of your website should have its own, unique focus keyword. If you have a lawn care business and one page is dedicated to “weed whacking,” no other page should use “weed whacking” as a focus keyword – there should only be one per page, and each should focus on the topic of its particular page.
- Content: What’s actually written on the webpage is one of the most important factors for the search engine determining where to place your page in search results. Your chosen keyword should be visible within the first one hundred words of the page and your pages should be longer than your competitor’s, as page length is heavily weighted in search results.
- Title Tag: Your title tag will be present in the browser and acts as the main headline in the search results. Try to make your title tag fifty to sixty characters long and start it with your main keywords. Title tags are best written as a sentence.
- Meta Description: These are used by search engines as the description for results in their main indexes. Meta descriptions should be one-hundred forty to one-hundred sixty characters and your focus keyword should be used within the first sixty words of the meta description.
- URL: Website owners actually have a fair amount of control that they can operate over their URLs. Though most URLs are messy and not meant to be read by humans, they’re important to search engines. Clean up your URL, using a coherent, easily read line like “example.com/your-keyword.” Keep URLs to a minimum length.
- Header Tags: Header tags usually consist of the “<h1>” type symbols and they should be utilized by every page of your website. The page title should use <h1> tags while the sub-headers should use <h2> and, if possible, the remaining information should use <h3> tags and beyond.
- LSI Keywords: LSI stands for “Latent Semantic Indexing” which is coding jargon for “related keywords.” These are keywords that are closely related to your main keyword and are associated with the topic of any particular webpage. Sprinkling in these types of keywords will help increase the relevancy of your webpage.
- Internal Linking: Internal links are links that direct the user to another webpage on your site. It’s smart to have two or three of these on any one page, as they’ll be weighted highly by search engine algorithms.
- Outbound Linking: Like internal linking, outbound linking will be weighted favorably by Google and other search engines, so you should pay attention to how many links are on the pages of your website. It will be far easier to do this organically in some professions and sites more than others, but if it’s possible to include outbound links, don’t hesitate.
- Visual Cues: Images and videos will usually increase the time a user stays on your page. Increasing the time a user spends on your page will be interpreted by Google as enhancing engagement, which will be seen favorably in your search results. Make sure that the images or videos you include are web optimized and won’t slow down your website.
- Speed: Speaking of speed, it’s always best to minimize loading times, as search engines will reward those sites which load quickly and punish those which take an exorbitant amount of time to load. The benchmark here is two seconds – if your website takes longer than this, Google will penalize it when compiling search results.
- HTTPS: Whenever possible, use an SSL certificate. The certificate will create credibility for your visitors and make them feel more secure, which will increase the time they spend on the site. The certificate will create a padlock in the browser line, which signals to users that the website is safe to use for extended periods of time.
There are more factors that can enhance – or demote – your on-page SEO, but these are by far the twelve most important.
4. Local SEO
Coming up in the top results of Google is great, but it’s even more important for your company to be found easily by local customers. Enhancing your visibility just within your community can often be more valuable than achieving SEO success on a larger scale. There are many simple tricks to help your company achieve great SEO locally. The first is utilizing a Google My Business page.
To ensure you don’t already have a page, go to https://www.google.com/maps and type in the name of your business and location in the search bar. It’s possible that you already have a page and just didn’t know it, but if you don’t, you can always set one up for free. To do this, go to https://www.google.com/business/ and click the “start now” button. If this is the first time setting up your page, you’ll need to follow a verification process Google uses to prevent fraud. Once verified, fill in your page with all relevant information; don’t be afraid to overshare, as any information input can lead to better search results and more local visibility for your business. There are several pieces of information which will be more relevant than most, including:
- Business Name
- Business Description
- Phone Number
- Website URL
- Opening Hours
Don’t skimp on any details, add in as much as you can about your business to create a sense of intimacy and trust with those who visit your page. This is for your local customers, after all, your regulars who will be coming back into your business again and again and who may get to know you personally.
5. Content Creation
Alright, you’ve almost maximized your SEO potential. There’s one more component to creating great SEO, the most hands-on and involved component left – your content. The quality and relevancy of what’s actually on your website are going to be the most important indication of where you land on the search results page. SEO was once determined by how popular and linked to your website was, but Google has modified its algorithm several times to favor great pages as opposed to those which simply draw in the most traffic.
Engaging, helpful content is important because it encourages others to link back to your website and share your site on other platforms, such as social media. The best type of content is updated regularly and actively monitored to ensure users are satisfied with the quality and helpfulness of that content. The best content will directly answer the questions users want answers to at the time they type in their question. Your business description and hours operation will both be important in determining your SEO. This means that your content should revolve around those keywords you brainstormed at the beginning of this process; the more relevant your site, articles, or blogs are to users, the higher your site will be ranked in search results.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the length of your content is crucial. Google and other engines favor those sites with lengthy posts, meaning you want to add as many pages of content as you can to capture Google’s attention. Most small business websites flub the length component of their website, getting passed over even if they’re relevant to local searches. A good rule of thumb is that your pages should have at least five hundred words each of the content. Any less and search engines will be less apt to rank you high on the search results page.
Great SEO is a must to improve your business and attract customers to your website. It can be a tricky process, but as long as you pay close attention to keywords, know and track your rankings, and tailor content to fit SEO purposes, your website will consistently rank near the top of search results.