Nothing so important to your small business marketing is as mysterious as the ranking your website gets in search results. And with firms like Google as close-mouthed as they are about what factors they use to rank sites, it’s no wonder.
But there are things that all search engines consider important, and there are things you can do to be sure your site ranking is as good as it can be.
The experts say there are literally hundreds of factors used by search engines to rank websites. We like to think of them in four large groups:
- SEO—a good SEO title and meta description, proper use of keywords in headlines, content, and in ALT tags for media
- Content—relevant and current content, use of relevant and properly tagged media
- Authority—the reputation of links in the content, strong social media presence
- Performance—site load speed, page speed, mobile responsive
The good news is that, even though there are lots of factors at play, you can make a positive impact on almost all of them.
With a small amount of effort, you can really make a difference in SEO. Small business marketing is all about getting prospects into the funnel. SEO helps your site earn a good search ranking AND motivates prospects to click through.
A good SEO title and meta description certainly help with search results, but they also control what is displayed in the snippet. Good, exciting writing here—with a call to action—gives you the best chance of a click through.
As you’re reading this post, you’re probably thinking: ‘I don’t have time for this, I have a business to run.’ The reality is that you can’t be everywhere all the time. If you have to choose a focus for your efforts to improve your search rankings, focus on content.
There’s a reason to start with content. Even if you win the search ranking battle and earn that coveted click-through, your prospect will be gone in seconds if your content is stale or boring.
Prospects are literally bombarded with information. Yours has to stand out. Remember, it’s not like driving to a store to browse: your prospect has literally zero invested in coming to your site and will be gone if what they find there isn’t compelling.
Great content should be the #1 priority in your small business marketing.
Understand how authority plays a role
If you had to write papers for college like many of us did, you probably hated citing sources more than anything. Turns out it’s important for your site’s search ranking too!
When you link to external content from a page on your site, search engines look to see what the link is to. The authority of that site adds to the authority of your page.
Plus, expert content from great sites that supports your writing—well it doesn’t get better than that.
Links have always been a big part of search ranking, but the newcomer is social media. As your firm integrates social media into its small business marketing, that activity (the number of followers you have, how often your posts are liked, shared, etc) counts toward your search ranking.
Until recently this was the only real SEO benefit from social media, as far as website search ranking was concerned. Starting in early 2015, Google started indexing posts on Twitter and now includes Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts in its results.
With a broad and active social media program, now your business not only gets better ranking for your website, your social media posts will help spread your brand all over the search rankings.
No one likes a slow site. And now Google penalizes slow sites with poorer search rankings. You’ll want to make sure your pages load fast.
Here are some things to check that affect site performance:
- Large graphics—make sure graphics are the right size and resolution, you want the smallest file possible
- Media content—media like audio, video, and slide shows can require a great deal of bandwidth; again, if you use them, make sure there are as small as possible
- Site animations—make sure that on page animation like slide shows are paced well enough to hold the prospect’s attention
- Unnecessary software—unnecessary software can also slow down your site; if you’re not using it, consider getting rid of it
Your site also has to work well when displayed on a mobile device. Sites that are not “mobile friendly” are penalized by search engines. And remember, more users access the Internet through mobile devices than on traditional computers now, so you can’t afford to have a site that doesn’t work for them.
Local business count on the “local results” as a key part of their small business marketing. And, it’s been a tough year for local search ranking. In August, Google arbitrarily and without notice reformatted the local search results so that three local results are being shown instead of seven. In other words, with no changes to their sites, social media programs, performance, or anything, in one fell swoop almost 60% of the local listings were gone.
The only advice we can give to firms trying to get into the local listings is: it’s hard. Follow all the advice above. Make sure that the localities you serve are listed on your website
Wrapping it up
A focus of your small business marketing is your website. If it tanks in the search rankings, it’s like having a store no one can find—not a good thing.
Luckily there’s quite a bit you can do to help your site enjoy the best possible rankings. We’ve outlined many industry best practices in this blog.
What happened to your site? What did you do about it? We’d love to hear from you.