Search is still one of the best ways to reach your prospective and current customers online. Google is the overwhelming owner of the majority of the search engine traffic in the United States and most world markets. Mobile search is growing at an unbelievable rate with more and more people searching on their smartphones and finding results in their area that are driving them into local businesses.
Your organization’s ability to show up in the first page of Google organic search results (the listing you don’t have to pay for), is imperative for your success.
In 2013, Catalyst Search Marketing published a study that found the top 4 Google search engine results positions received 83% of first page organic clicks. But just how does a small business get in one of those top four spots on Google?
There are over 200 separate elements, or ranking factors, that Google uses to determine which web pages are returned in the search results in various positions. There are On Page ranking factors, that are the easiest for you to control, and there are Off Page ranking factors, that tend to be more difficult because they are not in your direct control. Let’s discuss the On Page ranking factors first.
On page ranking factors help search engines determine what a web page is all about. Your web pages must be relevant to the search being conducted. If your page contains words and terms that are relevant to the phrase that was searched, the relevance of your web page increases. Unfortunately, the search engines keep the exact algorithms for search ranking a secret. But every two years, Moz.com surveys the opinions of over 150 of the most respected names in search marketing who provide their opinions of the what they think are the most important ranking factors.
In the 2015 survey these included:
–Keyword Use: Putting your keywords in the title tag, in the main content of the page, using synonyms and close variations of the keyword, keywords in the page’s URL, in the headers on the page, in the anchor text, and in the image names and alt tags are all important in telling the search engines what your web pages are about. Keep in mind that every instance of the keyword on the page doesn’t need to be the same. You can use synonyms and connected terms to add value.
–Content Quality: The search engines also put a great deal of weight on the actual content on each and every page of your website, as well as the overall theme of each page. Google looks for content that is unique to your site. It looks at everything from spelling and grammar mistakes, to whether or not your are unnaturally repeating keywords over and over, to establish the quality of the content of your page and determine whether you are a trusted site. And, are you giving a visitor all the information that they need on the page or do they have to go looking around your site for more information? Your content needs to be comprehensive, clearly written, easy to scan, and it must include your keywords.
–Mobile friendliness is now a search ranking factor. If your website does not have a responsive design, this can hurt your search engine ranking.
–Page load speed is another search ranking factor that Google is paying more attention to. Page speed is so important to Google that it’s created a free Page Speed Checker for businesses to use to test the speed of their site.
But just having the right keywords on your page isn’t enough for the search engines anymore. The search engines must deem your page to be important, as measured via citations or incoming links from other websites. Every site that links to yours, that the search engines trust, helps to increase your importance to the search engines and thereby your search rank. Let’s discuss the most important ranking factors of Off Page Elements, according to Moz.com’s 2015 survey.
–Domain level link authority came in as the most important. This includes external links and how many different websites link to your overall website, the trust and authority of those websites as determined by the search engines, the rate at which new inbound links were added to your website, and whether or not the linking websites were relevant to your site. Were the sites in the same industry? Did they have the same general theme or did they have some similarities? If they did, Google will look more favorably upon them and value those links more than if the sites linking to you had nothing to do with your industry or website’s theme.
There are many, many other factors that effect search ranking, including what people do when they land on your website. Do they stay and visit other pages or do they hit the back button and leave immediately? Believe it or not, the search engines keep track of that behavior and use it as yet another ranking factor.
No two companies will have the same SEO strategy. Search engine optimization efforts are unique to every company, big or small. As with any business effort, developing an SEO strategy for your website should start with planning.
- Factors to take into account include:
- What product or service is your company trying to market?
- Who is your customer?
- Your brand
- Your unique selling proposition
- Current condition of your website
- Current content you have to work with (text, video, images, printed materials)
- Content you and other team members plan to create
- What keywords do people use to find products or services like your company offers
To find out more about how your small business website can get found online, watch our course on website design best practices and search engine optimization (SEO), “Why Can’t Anyone Find My Website.”
How has your small business been impacted by Google search results? Are you getting found? Tell us your story.