For many years, small businesses have understood the power of strong rankings in the search engines.
Indeed, achieving a strong page 1 ranking can boost the number of customers for any business with an online presence.
But how exactly do you score a great ranking in Google?
With more and more businesses turning to digital marketing the competition has gotten stronger. The tactics have evolved from what they were just a few years ago. In this article, we outline 5 important strategies for small businesses trying to improve their exposure online.
Technical Onsite SEO
5 or 6 years ago, SEO was more of a technical exercise. Today this is still an important component of a small business SEO strategy. In fact, many of the same components are used.
Overall, you will not rank for a keyword that is not physically on your website. We know this sounds obvious, but many small business owners don’t have strong content on their homepage, and can’t figure out why they don’t rank well.
Keywords needs to be strategically placed in the Title Tag and H1 Tag. If you don’t know what these are, learn them. It isn’t rocket science. This will also make you better able to communicate with your developer. Or if your website is on the WordPress platform, you can adjust these yourself with one of many SEO plugins available.
Having a website that looks good is important. Many people believe that Google is monitoring bounce rates and dwell times as indicators of user experience. An outdated website or one that is just confusing will repel users, and may hurt rankings.
Ensure that your website is fast. Google explicitly told us it does not like to rank slow websites. This hurts user experience, and rankings too.
Also build a mobile-friendly website. More and more users view websites on mobile devices. Your business needs to be well represented on any digital device platform.
Google My Business
Google presents a map for many keyword searches. They do this for keywords they believe to have local searcher intent, where seeing the business in a map is more helpful. The catch here is that Google is not presenting the business website itself, but rather the Google My Business page listing for that business.
Because of this dynamic, it is important that small business owners claim their business listing and ensure all the information is accurately updated. Business phone numbers, addresses, hours and other relevant information is critical. The way this information is entered in the Google database has been shown to impact rankings.
Additionally, the number of times the phone number on file with Google My Business is seen by Google’s spiders around the internet has been identified as a ranking factor. These are known as citations, and sometimes NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). To give your business an edge over the competition, post your NAP everywhere you can. There are also numerous services that can help you with this SEO process known as Directory Listing Services.
Over the last few years, the world of SEO and Content Marketing have been merging. This is because Google has a strong preference for long-form, well-researched content. For this reason, it pays to write very long blog posts on your website. However, the content needs to be informative and helpful for users.
Many small business owners claim they will have time to write blog posts themselves. However, after a month or two, they stop blogging (if they ever started in the first place). This is a critical mistake. If you can’t produce the blog yourself, hire a service to do it for you.
Content published on the website needs to be visually appealing as well as well-written. This means many pictures and graphics – sometimes called visual assets. These visual assets should give the reader a visual representation of the main concepts of the blog post. This will help keep lazy readers engaged.
Many of the top bloggers recommend something visual to break up the words between every fold of the screen. This technique is strong because readers have something appealing to look at as they get tired of reading.
For many years, backlinks have been known to be a critical ingredient in search engine ranking success. This is no less true in 2019 than it was a few years ago. Great content will not rank without strong backlinks to the content from highly authoritative and relevant websites.
Adam Stetzer, Ph.D. has been in the SEO business for 10 years and says: “Backlinks are one of the hardest concepts for small business owners to understand and execute. They understand on-site SEO and writing great content. They have a hard time committing to a great backlink building strategy because of the mathematical and conceptual nature of backlinks in the Google algorithm. Nonetheless, there are great places on the Internet to earn backlinks for free.”
Search engine optimization experts generally agree that there are 2 major components of a backlink that determine if it will help you rank: Authority and Relevance.
A backlink is considered to have authority if it comes from a domain with high Domain Rating or Domain Authority. These factors are easily queryable using free SEO analytic tools. In generally, you want a link from a high domain authority website.
Furthermore, the backlink will help you more if it is on a specific page on that website that also has strong authority. Several years ago, Google started distinguishing which pages on a particular website were the strongest. This, again, is determined by how many backlinks are feeding into a specific page on a domain. So while a link from a high authority domain is good, a link placed on the strong web page on that domain (usually the home page) is the best.
The second criteria for a backlink is the relevance of that link. You want links from websites that are about the same subject matter as your website. If you are trying to rank a website about cars, a link from another automotive website would be much more valuable than a link from a foodie website.
How to weigh the relative importance of categorical relevance vs domain authority nobody can really answer except the engineers at Google. Most SEO’s go for relevance over authority. Both is ideal.
Relationships and Reputation
The final parts of the small business strategy are relationships and reputation. This is a very important part of any SEO strategy as negative reviews often rank very highly in Google. Additionally, the more relationships you have the stronger your ability to earn great mentions, reviews and backlinks.
Many small business owners overlook the idea that building relationships will help their online presence. Indeed, it feels old fashioned. However, human relationships are at the heart of all business, and it is humans that place great backlinks into powerful stories online.
Small business owners need to be active in their communities, regularly attend meetups and maintain ties with those who can mention them online.
Earning a top position for your small business in Google will bring in customers. Because these positions are so coveted, they are also extremely competitive. The 5 strategies outlined in this article represent an outstanding opportunity to move search engine rankings up and get the phone ringing.