Whenever I talk to someone about his or her business website, the conversation inevitably goes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Business owners receive countless emails from individuals claiming they cannot find their websites. What follows is usually a list of services, including a guarantee for first page Google rankings. This sets up an unrealistic expectation of how internet search and SEO works.
Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry solution to getting on the first page of Google, let alone achieving the coveted number one spot. Google determines what websites to serve first in a search based on algorithms that take into account a number of factors, including relevance, domain authority, and content quality. In order to make your website successful, you need to create and maintain a presence that your customers find valuable.
Quality Content above All Else
Do not phone it in when it comes to your business website. Treating it as an afterthought, or looking for the cheapest option available, is going to cost customers. Having a minimal web presence with your name and contact information, and a few keywords sprinkled into a brief list of services is not going to encourage anyone to do business with you. In order for Google to consider your website relevant, and in turn your customers, your website needs to serve as a source of information.
Write Informative Articles
Customers nowadays are well informed and they are going to do their research before they invest in any product or service. Instead of coming to your business, or calling you, customers are putting their questions into their web browser. You know your customers best. Think of the most common questions your customers ask for or the services they are primarily looking for. Use those questions as topics for articles, or post step-by-step tutorials on how to use your different products or services. According to HubSpot, businesses that update their blog with new content 16 or more times per month get almost 3.5x more traffic than those who post 0–4 times per month. Build up a database of valuable information, and you will see an increase in quality traffic on your website.
Outline the Benefits
Customers want to know one thing: what is in it for them. If your customers are not able to see themselves using your products or services on the first page, they are not going to click through the rest of your website. Too often business owners want to talk about their company history, experience, or awards they have won. Save that information for an interior page, and let your customers find it when they are ready. Engage your customers by marketing how your product or service can enhance their lives, as well as what they can expect when they choose to do business with you.
Optimize for Local Search
Your business would need to have significant brand awareness (think Target or Best Buy) to rank above every website on the internet for general search terms. Search engines take into account your physical location when they serve you search results, so it is common for a search phrase to include “near me.” Google has stated that 28% of searches for something nearby have resulted in a purchase. Make sure your city is in the page title, you have a local number prominently displayed, and that your address is in the footer of every page so Google knows where your business is located. Claiming and filling out your Google My Business listing will help as well.
Encourage Customers to Review You Online
Online reviews are the modern day word of mouth. Your customers will be reading those reviews and using other people’s experiences, and your responses, to decide if they are going to do business with you. The only problem is people are more apt to leave a review if they had a negative experience with your business than if they had a positive one. If someone compliments your service, ask that person to consider posting his or her review on Google or Facebook. Just stay away from offering rewards for reviews. You want the feedback to be authentic.
Make Your Business Website Responsive
Mobile search has outpaced desktop search, so having a mobile-friendly website is necessary. Google also gives priority to mobile-friendly websites in mobile search. With the variety of devices, and subsequent screen sizes that are available, having a responsive website will ensure that your website adjusts to any screen without the need of a separate mobile website. This gives customers the best viewing experience and prevents them from getting frustrated and leaving your website.
The important thing to keep in mind is that SEO is all about the long game. If you set out with the goal of ranking well, you are selling yourself and your customers short. Your business website requires regular attention in order to be successful. Focus on creating a website that offers value to your customers, and you will set yourself up for success.
This article is also featured in Business in Savannah.