When you enter a search term into Google, how does Google decide what results to give you? How does it rank the pages? It’s all handled by an algorithm that looks for certain things on a page that suggest the page has the information you’re looking for. So to get your website to rank highly for the right search terms, you need to make sure the site is giving the right signals. That’s called “SEO” – search engine optimization.
For example, say you’re running a bakery in Des Moines. Someone sits down at their computer and searches for “red velvet cupcakes Des Moines.” You want your website to be the number 1 result – that’s the one people are most likely to click on. Search engine optimization (SEO) is your small business’s key to online success. SEO drives traffic to your site, helps you expand and reach customers, and at the end of the day, makes you more money.
There are plenty of professional SEO firms out there and, depending on your budget, it can be worthwhile to outsource the work. Some of it is tedious and some of it takes time to learn and monitor. That said, you can certainly give your SEO a boost on your own.
So what makes for good SEO? A decade ago, SEO was about sheer volume, who had been online the longest, and who had the biggest library of content. That’s no longer the case. Content is still king, but the evaluation has gotten a lot more complex. The search algorithms are looking for:
1. High Quality Content
Search algorithms are getting better and better at judging the quality of content on your site so they can give people the most useful possible results. That content includes your regular pages, blog posts, and other elements of the site. They’re looking for a reasonable density of the right keywords – the terms people are searching for – and genuine, original writing. Copied text, text that’s just filled with keywords but no meaning, and text that contains false information or typos is going to hurt your website.
For pro tips on how generate content which will keep your web traffic coming back to your site, visit Forbes’ The 12 Essential Elements of High Quality Content. With some know how, and practice, you can create your own pro web content, even if you’re an online newbie.
2. Images, Videos, and Other Media
Data shows that visual content outperforms text-only content in SEO. Some research suggests that 40% of people respond more favorably to visual information than to plain text. Moreover, content with multi-media photos or videos may be shared more than 12X more than text content.
Bottom Line: Use photos, videos, and infographics on your site to boost your SEO numbers. People respond to visual elements, so focus on those elements to generate better web traffic.
3. User-Generated Content
One way to boost your SEO is by asking your audience to generate their own content. Everyone loves to be heard and this applies to those frequenting your small business site. You can boost your SEO by asking your audience to post their own content with either CTAs (call to action) or by asking what they want to see online. That shows the search engines that people think your site is valuable – meaning other searchers might think the same thing.
Don’t Forget The Technical Side
Content is king in SEO, but it’s not enough on its own. In addition to all that juicy content, you’ll need to deal with some technical aspects of SEO. Some of the most important issues to address are:
- The Structure of Your Site: Search algorithms judge a website in part by how well-designed and easy-to-use it is. That means users should only have to click a couple of times to get to what they’re looking for.
- Content Nuts and Bolts: The algorithms aren’t just looking at the text of a given blog post or page; they’re also looking at certain technical elements. Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure your URLs are short and have the right keywords, that you use header tags to organize the content, and that you have an appropriate meta description. You can manage all of those things as you publish posts and pages. They provide extra signals to the search engines that you’re putting time and effort into your content and that this particular content deals with the right search terms.
- Citations: When you Google a company, the first thing that comes up is usually a blurb from Google itself and a map. That’s called a “citation” and you’ll need to claim it. There’s a button right on the citation that you can use to do that. Make sure all of the information is correct, especially your website. You’ll also want to update the citations on review sites like Yelp.
First Page or Bust
It’s a digital world – we turn to the internet immediately whenever we need something. That makes the web a powerful source of customers, but only if they’re actually finding you when they search for the things you have to offer. So brush up your site’s SEO and get to that first page of results!