Ninety one percent of Internet users are searching online every month: Are they finding your small business? Deluxe SEO Manager Noah Turner explains how businesses large and small can use SEO to get found by would-be customers online.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) helps organizations boost the number of potential customers who visit their websites through search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. When users search for products, brands and information, they rarely click past the first page of results. Turner explains there are a variety of tools businesses can implement to improve their odds of “ranking” near the top of search results.
Organic and paid results
There are two ways for businesses to increase their search rankings: by investing in pay-per-click advertising or by improving their websites to increase organic reach.
Pay-per-click advertisements appear in the top three slots of search results, and are clearly marked as ads. These advertisers pay anywhere from a few pennies, to hundreds of dollars for every click their ad receives. The cost depends on the volume of searches for a given topic, and for the competitiveness in that industry.
Organic results are selected by the search engine as the websites most likely to satisfy the searchers’ need. Searchers tend to trust organic search results: These results get 94 percent of clicks.
How does SEO work?
The process starts when a search engine robot visits your website. This robot documents everything, including the structure, words, images, links and more. The search engine stores this information, and your website becomes eligible to appear in searches for relevant terms.
Search engines like Google have complex, ever-changing methods to choose which pages it delivers to searchers, and in what order. The search algorithm depends on more than 200 factors, is updated daily and depends on machine learning.
How can I improve my search rankings?
The details of Google’s algorithm are extraordinarily complex. But the formula can be summed up by three themes: search engines give preference to premium content, on-page optimization and pages that searchers can trust.
Optimizing for search
To optimize your website for search, you must prove to search engines that your website is relevant to particular keywords. For example, a bakery can determine that its customers are looking for donuts, and may focus on “chocolate donuts” as a keyword. To show up in searches for “chocolate donuts,” the keyword should appear across the website:
- Page URL: Including keywords in the URL will help search engines better understand what the page’s content is about.
- Page title: The most important SEO element. Include keywords as close to the beginning of the title as possible. Limit the title to 55 characters. The title appears in the browser tab and is the blue clickable text in a search result.
- Meta-description: The meta-description does not show on your website, but rather appears as the text underneath the blue clickable text in a search result.
- Primary headline: The primary headline is the second most important SEO element. Include keywords within the H1 tag.
- Body content: Make sure to include keywords where appropriate, but don’t overdo it. Ensure the content reads well.
- Image names: When placing important images on your web pages, include keywords in the filenames as appropriate.
- Image alt tags: Most website platforms allow you to append ALT text to images. This is the information that describes the image. Include keywords as appropriate.
Craft the right content
To improve your organic reach, you must structure your website and create content that matches potential customers’ needs. Homeowners don’t type “HVAC service” into Google–they search for a solution to their problem, like “emergency furnace repair,” or “air conditioner tune-up.” To improve your odds of showing up in the results, include a page on your website that details your services or offerings that includes those keywords searchers use. Depending on the type of business, you might consider creating a frequently-asked-questions page that provides answers to common questions about your offerings.
Capture customers nearby
When it comes to search, location really matters: 75 percent of consumers who searched on a smartphone visited a store within 5 miles. Showcasing your business name, address and phone number greatly increases your odds of getting found by nearby searchers. Include your business name, address and phone number in the header and footer of every page. Ensure it is prominently displayed throughout your website. And make it easy for searchers to call or get directions.
Leverage local listings
Google prefers websites that other websites link to. The more quality inbound links your website receives, the better you will rank in search results. An easy way to increase your exposure and generate inbound links is to ensure your business name, address, and phone number is accurately and consistently listed in directories like Yelp, Google my Business and Trip Advisor. Showing up on the majority of business listings sites should be an important part of your business’s digital marketing strategy, strengthening your local presence.
There are dozens of directories for local businesses. Start with these three:
Google My Business is the top search engine, and is crucial for customers to get directions to visit your business. Start by verifying your business, which allows you to access insights, manage reviews and edit your information. Don’t forget to include high-quality photos: Listings with photos get 2-4 times more views/clicks.
If your business has multiple locations, you can manage them all using the same Google my Business account. Claim all your locations, create new ones if needed and make sure your website is updated with all your addresses and phone numbers. If your business address is your home, Google allows you to set up your business service area and hide your home address. You must still enter your physical address, but you can check the box marked “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location” to hide the address from searchers.
Yelp is a foremost provider of consumer reviews, especially for restaurants, shopping, nightlife, active life, beauty and spas, automotive and home services. When you claim your listing, you can start managing and responding to reviews, edit your information and upload photos.
Facebook is a fantastic channel for building trust with customers. Verifying your page will improve your search engine results and unlock administrative privileges.
While SEO is complicated, there are simple steps small businesses can take to reach new customers online. To take your search engine marketing to the next level, partner with the experts at Deluxe.
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