As more and more consumers look online before buying products and services, basic search engine optimization is essential for your business. If you don’t prioritize your company’s visibility in online searches, you could end up at a competitive disadvantage.
According to a consumer survey by BrightLocal, “97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017.”
SEO is a complex and multifaceted discipline, but by following just a few best practices, you can help boost your business’s chances of getting found in searches on Google.
1. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly yet, make it so.
Fifty-seven percent of all online traffic comes from smartphones and tablets. Google has estimated that 9 out of 10 people will leave a website if it isn’t easy to use from their mobile device. So, even if your company has better products and services than your competitors, you could miss out on business opportunities if you don’t have a mobile-ready website.
Mobile-friendliness also affects your website’s ranking in Google searches. Beginning in April 2015, Google began giving mobile-ready websites an edge over sites without mobile support on the search engine results pages.
Adding to the importance of having a mobile-ready site is the rollout of Google’s mobile-first indexing, which began in March 2018. In Google’s own words, “Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.”
Although mobile-first indexing has not rolled out to all websites yet, Google is encouraging webmasters to make their content mobile-friendly to perform better in mobile search results.
You can check to see if Google considers your site mobile-ready by using Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test. If your site has room for improvement, talk with an experienced web development resource to discuss your options.
2. Establish a business profile (or claim your business listing) on online directories and review sites.
Well-known sites such as Yelp, Facebook, Citysearch, and TripAdvisor, often rank higher than business websites in search results. If you’re listed on them, prospective customers will have an easier time finding you. Also, the links to your website from these sites (“backlinks”) can help improve your website’s ranking in search results.
The benefits of better visibility and backlinks also apply to listings on local directory sites like those provided by your chamber of commerce, tourism bureau, and other organizations.
If you operate your business from a physical location, you’ll also want to make sure you appear on Google My Business. Doing so will help your business show up higher in local search results, including on Google Maps.
Important Note: Wherever you list your business online, make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) information is consistent. If you’ve moved or changed your name or phone number, you’ll want to update that information on every website that lists your company. Most SEO experts agree that search engines look for uniformity to validate that a business is legitimate. Inconsistency can result in your business information showing up incorrectly—or Google might choose to omit your business from the search engine results page altogether.
3. Have a keyword strategy that goes narrow rather than broad.
Keywords remain critical for helping Google determine what your website pages are about. However, they need context and must appear naturally in content that satisfies what your audience wants to know.
Rather than use keywords that consist of only one or two general words, focus on long-tail keywords that more closely resemble—in your customers’ words— the exact types of products and services your customers are looking for and the area where they hope to find them.
So, say you have a dog training business in Portland, Maine. Rather than using the general keywords of “dog training” or “dog trainers” (which have a tremendous amount of competition in search results), consider using wording that’s reflective of what your customers will be looking for online. For example,
- Dog trainers in Portland Maine
- Aggressive dog training Maine
- Therapy dog training Portland Maine
While these don’t have the same amount of monthly search traffic coming to them as “dog training” and “dog trainers,” they have far fewer businesses competing for them and will better your chances of ranking higher in search results. Also, they will help ensure that the people who do find your website are potential customers for the services you provide.
Bonus Tip: As you’re deciding which long-tail keywords to use, also consider the increase in voice-activated searches. Think about how people talk, not just how they type!
Where Can You Find More Information About SEO Best Practices?
If you want to learn more about ways you can improve awareness of your business online, consider following SEO and digital marketing blogs like Yoast, Moz, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal. Also, contact SCORE to talk with a mentor who can direct you to reputable SEO specialists in your area, and who can advise you on all aspects of your business’s marketing endeavors.