When you want to find something online, what do you do?
Most of us will use a search engine like Google to tap in what we need – then wait for a list of options.
And when we get those options we tend to take them and not give a thought to what just happened.
Well, quite a lot just happened.
And what just happened could make a big difference, especially if you’re a small business competing for customers.
Four out of five people will use a search engine to find local information on businesses before they buy.
So if you want your customers to see you, you’ve got to make sure a search engine can see you, too.
But it’s a crowded internet out there (60 trillion pages and growing), so how can you make sure your website gets noticed?
One way is through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which might sound a little technical, but once you understand the basics there are a few simple things you can do to get the most from it.
Another way is through Pay Per Click advertising and we cover that in our other blog.
SEO is all about how you build and manage your website to give search engines such as Google the best possible chance of 1) finding and selecting you and 2) putting you near the top of its search results.
Understanding SEO starts by understanding how search engines work. Google offers a brilliantly simple explanation here.
The most important thing to know is how Google ranks its search results. It does this by using a formula called an algorithm to offer what it thinks the user is looking for.
It refines these algorithms regularly (and the exact formulas are closely guarded secrets), but they’re based on hundreds of factors, including quality of a website, keyword matches to the search terms and the way the site is designed.
So how can you make these factors work in your favour and boost your search profile?
It’s all about the keywords
Think about the words you might use when searching for a business like yours, then make sure you use these right across your website so Google can find and match them.
Humans are unpredictable and don’t always say – or search – exactly what they mean. Google knows this and has factored this into its latest algorithms. It’s called ‘semantic search’ and is based around understanding the context and meaning of search terms more intelligently.
To get the most from this, make sure you think like a human when you’re planning your keywords, for example, customers looking for a pizza restaurant might type ‘best vegetarian pizza’ or ‘child-friendly lunch’.
Become your customer and try to include as many of these keywords and phrases as you can across your site to increase your chances of successful matches.
Another way to use more keywords is to add relevant blogs or articles to your website. Google also loves new content, so you’re giving your visibility a double boost by adding a regular blog.
And finally, using your keywords in your page titles or descriptions is really important too, as Google will look to these descriptions first as a guide.
Go for a responsive design
Does your website have a ‘responsive’ design? By that, we mean can it change its format so it works just as well on a laptop as it does on a smartphone?
If not, it’s time to update your site. Not only is it better for customers (nobody wants to squint at a website on their mobile), Google will rank responsive sites more positively. So if your customers are searching using their phone, Google will give them sites that are responsive to phones. If your site isn’t responsive, it’s unlikely to make the cut.
Make your site super-speedy
If your site is slow to load, that’s going to have a negative impact on how you rank. If your site is super-speedy, Google will like it. It’s as simple as that.
To get an idea of how fast your website is, you could start by running it through a free online test, like this one from ecomus
If it’s not performing, it’s time for a re-build.
Don’t let them bounce!
Your ‘bounce rate’ is how many people land on your site then leave it immediately. Google interprets this bounce as a sign that the user didn’t find what they were looking for, which can lead to a drop in ranking.
To help reduce bounce, keep your key content crisp, clearly displayed, relevant and easy to find. Make sure your site is easy to navigate, too.
Think carefully about how engaging your content is and give people a reason to stay on your site. The longer a user lingers on your site, the more brownie points Google will give you.
And remember, make sure your site is responsive and fast – or your customers may just give up and bounce off.
The trust factor
The more authentic something looks or the longer it’s been around, the more you’ll trust it. And so it is with Google.
Google ranks the sites it trusts, positively. It uses lots of factors to come up with that trust ranking, like how well-established your site it, if it includes original writing (rather than copy and paste), how often it’s updated and whether it has links to trusted external sources, for example national news sites.
Take a look at your website through Google’s eyes – how much would you trust it? Is there anything you can do to increase that trust? If there is, make those tweaks.
Learn more about SEO
If you’re keen to find out more about SEO, the lovely people at Google have written a starter’s guide to SEO, which anyone can download for free.