In the world of digital marketing, your business’ success rests on the traffic that your website and other online assets receive. Similar to the real world, traffic to your website comes down to location, location, location… but instead of physical location, your traffic is significantly impacted by where your company is located in the search engine results.
In a nutshell, the higher you appear on the page for a relevant keyword, the more traffic you will receive.
Why is traffic important?
Simple. The more people you have coming to your site or seeing your information online, the more opportunities you have to complete a sale. If you’re lower on the list, that means your competitors might capture more “mindshare” and you lose out. Thus, getting a high rank is paramount.
So what are some factors that will help your company show up higher in the search results?
Let’s talk a little bit more about how the Google search engine works.
It used to be all about backlinks (how many sites link to your site) and social signals (how much your site is talked about on social media). These are still important, but there’s a new player in town that’s changing up search results.
The Google AI (RankBrain) has changed the face of search. This program is constantly working to learn more about the intent behind searches.
For instance, it can tell the difference between your search for traditional pizza ingredients as opposed to pizza available in your area and changes the results accordingly. This lets searchers use natural language questions and get a reasonable shot at getting the right answer from Google.
This means that simply having a keyword is not enough. Your website has to answer relevant questions searchers might have that you can help them with. You need to demonstrate through your web presence (which includes links, your webpage, and (increasingly) your social media channels) that you have the answers.
You might have done a search for a question recently and then had a box right at the top with an answer and a link to a page. This is a new feature called a rich snippet. If Google’s AI thinks that a small section of a page on your website can answer a question directly, this can shoot you right up to the top of everything else. Similar questions can end up in a section just below for related questions. These are all excellent places to aim for a placement. The way to do it is for your pages to anticipate the questions your target customers would ask, then answer them.
Here are some things that you want to make sure are present on your pages when doing search engine optimization. Combine these with good questions and answer sections and you might see one of your pages jump up above the organic search results:
These are the factors that are easy to control and can be sorted when you run a SEO audit (example).
However, not all SEO factors can be controlled.
For instance, most of the top pages in a Google search have been in existence for a few years. Age is a major factor in search engine placement. Even though you’re not able to readily control the age of your domain, you do have control over the other facets that are mentioned above. If you’re unclear about how you can really get the most SEO value out of your website, contact an SEO professional and they should be able to help – they’re visibility experts.
Another thing you might have noticed in your searches is a block of information about a business on the right side. You might have also seen maps showing local places related to your search above the search results. Getting a spot in these requires that your business sign up for a service called Google My Business.
Google My Business is one of the key item to check off in any local SEO audit checklist. Why? Because Google trusts businesses that have registered with Google more than it trusts businesses which have not. It makes sense that it would give more precedence to the ones that have signed up to play by their rules on their playing field.
Fortunately, signing up with Google My Business is relatively easy.
It’s free and all you really have to do is enter your location information, verify it, and add some pictures of your building to your profile. The more thorough you are with the information that you provide, the easier Google will be able to help people who are searching for your offer. Again, Google is looking for relevancy in searches beyond a keyword match. The easier that you make it for Google searchers… the more they reward you with higher rankings.
For small businesses with a physical presence trying to get off the ground, this is the number one way to start getting noticed. It can take quite a while for your website to climb up the search rankings but a Google My Business account can get you to put on the map immediately.
Google My Business is not the only game in town when it comes to ranking your business at the top of the search engines.
Getting listed with a directory can also play a part in your ranking because the directory itself might have a higher ranking than your site. In other words, you’re leveraging their marketing team to work on your behalf and expanding your reach in the process.
When you’re listing with Google My Business and the other directories, make sure that all of the static entries are the same. This eliminates the chance of Google or the other directories thinking that you’re a separate company. Each time the entry (or citation) is different and it’s treated as being different, your brand’s influence is diluted just a little bit.
Using directories and indexes is good, but that’s only a piece of the puzzle. There is the social media arm of your company, where, if you’re a B2C company, it’s extremely useful to have a presence.
Social signals (like being talked about on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, or other social channels) are taken into account by the search engines. Basically, each time someone talks about your company (whether for good or for ill), that adds a drop in the bucket of your company’s online legitimacy and presence… something that Google loves.
Encourage the people who come into your business to talk about your service to others. Better yet, create an exceptional or extraordinary experience and they will talk about it with others without your having to say a word.
The search engine ranking that you receive is simply the final result of a long process, like an exquisite stew.
The ingredients, including developing on-page SEO, trying for rich snippet placements, using Google My Business, improving local citations and social signals, and other placement factors are ingredients which go into the mix. Experiment with these factors and you just might find the secret ingredient you need to get noticed.
About the Author
Chris Hickman is the Founder and CEO at Adficient with 15 years of experience in search marketing and conversion optimization. Since 2006, he founded GetBackonGoogle.com, helping businesses and websites suspended in Adwords to Get Back on Google