It's no surprise that Google is the primary tool we use to find the answers to our questions. According to statista.com, Google maintained a 92.47% market share of the global search engine market as of June 2021. So, it goes without saying that if your business is visible to Google, you're opening yourself up to the greatest audience browsing the web.
Getting your business's website on the first page of Google (and other search engines) is the goal of virtually every business owner. Luckily, there are tried and true steps you can take to climb to rank 1 on Google. Before diving in, it's important to understand what goes into ranking pages, which starts with Google's search engine and search engine optimization (SEO) to get your website on Google.
What is SEO/Keyword Ranking?
Think of SEO as a way to improve your search engine placement. By definition, SEO is the practice of improving organic content - i.e., contents on your website that are displayed on search pages based on how relevant they are to search terms. So, when you hear "SEO" or "search engine optimization," think of it as a fancy way of saying "improving my website content so that it appears closer to the top of Google." Granted, while Google is not the only search engine, it accounts for about 94% of searches on computers according to Statista.
Keywords are specific words or phrases that people typically type in a search bar when looking for information online. For example, if you wanted to buy some new gloves, related keywords would include "leather gloves" or "affordable gloves online." Keyword ranking is your website's ability to be recommended by Google for specific keywords. For example, if you were selling gloves, your website would be considered 'ranking well' if your website was the first result on Google for people searching for "affordable gloves online."
Why is SEO Important?
According to Moz (an authority on SEO), 71-92% of all clicks in Google are for results displayed on the first page. So, if your business isn't appearing on the first page of a Google search results page, you're missing out.
Getting your website to the top of Google's search pages increases the chances of people viewing your website and other online profiles and, by extension, generating revenue for your business. If you're curious about which online profiles you should create as a service professional, we've covered all the details in a previous article.
This is why there are countless search rank checkers or search engine placement software online: it translates to real dollars.
How Do You Rank on Google?
What is Google's search algorithm and how does it work?
An algorithm is a fancy way of saying "automated process." For example, Google's search algorithm is the automated process by which Google's search engine crawls, indexes, and ranks content (more on that below). There are countless articles online detailing the ins and outs of Google's search algorithm because it can be the deciding factor of whether your content shows up on the first page or not at all.
Ranking on Google is made possible by how it crawls and indexes. In short, before you type a search into Google it must do 3 things: (1) crawl, (2) index, and (3) rank the web's content.
Crawling is the first step. Think of crawling as the search engine's way of scanning the world wide web for content. Before your website can rank well on Google, Google needs to be able to find your website on the world wide web and figure out what it is before it can show it to people searching for your business.
Indexing is the second step. Think of indexing as a librarian (Google) organizing books (web pages) by their content. This is important because it helps Google show you content that is related to what you are looking for in as little time as possible.
Ranking is the third and most important step for small business owners. Think of ranking as finalists (content) at the podium for an event (keywords) at the Olympics (search results page). Crawling and indexing ensures that your content will show up at all, but ranking highly ensures that your content shows up first.
The 3 factors Google's search algorithm cares most about
In the 1990s, there were countless search engines, from AskJeeves to WebCrawler and others. But what made Google the most popular was its algorithm's ability to rank content based on these 3 things:
How frustrating is it when you can't find what you're looking for online? Since we rely on Google and other search engines to deliver us the results we want, it can make or break our day when we can't seem to find an answer. Because of this, Google heavily prioritizes content it deems relevant to display in search results for certain keywords— which is why keyword research or keyword planning is so important (more on that later).
Displaying quality content is another of Google's main priorities. If you're looking to buy something online, chances are you want to buy it from a trusted retailer so you get what you pay for. Ensuring your website looks great, functions well, and answers questions will make it stand out in search results.
When you search for an item in Google, most times you will see a link for it in Amazon at the top of the results page, similar to seeing a Wikipedia page for a celebrity or historical figure. This is because Amazon and Wikipedia are see as authorities in their respective domains. This means that other websites have links to Amazon or Wikipedia (or content mentioned within these sites), that tells Google these websites are good resources. Websites that get linked to or referenced are prioritized in search results because it is a way of peer-review - it allows Google to offload some of the quality control to make sure the algorithm is balanced.
How Do I Get My Website to Rank Higher on Google? 9 Great Ways to Improve SEO as a Small Business Owner
1. Make sure each page of your website has a purpose and stick to it.
One of the biggest issues many modern websites face is deciding which content to place on which pages. While it may seem intuitive to put all of your information on one page, this doesn't make sense unless you have a single-page website (i.e., a website with a single URL/web address). The benefit of building multiple pages for your website is that you can rank very well for each page, increasing the overall amount of traffic you would receive otherwise.
For example, let's say you own a car wash. You might have a home page, a photo gallery page, a testimonials page, and a contact page. The home page will be useful for providing basic information such as where your business is located and why your car wash is the best, followed by a call to action to learn more or get in touch with you. The photo gallery page will be loaded with pictures of your best work, highlighting just how great your car wash is. Your testimonials page will have reviews from past customers who swear by your business and explain from the customer's point of view what makes your car wash the best. Last, the contact page contains all of the nitty gritty details of your business, including social media links, phone number and email, operating hours, and maybe an embedded map that lets users find your business on Google Maps.
Here is the genius part of specializing each page. If I am looking to get my car washed, I might want to look for images exclusively. Your photo gallery page will rank higher on the search results page than your home page will, because it is filled with images. Let's say I don't trust photos taken by the owner and instead want to find what customers are saying, so I search "car wash near me reviews." Guess what shows up? The testimonials page. As we discussed earlier, Google pays very close attention to relevance. If you try to include a little bit about your business on every page, nothing will stand out, making it more difficult for you to rank well. This is why it is important that each page speaks to different parts of your business while encouraging customers to give you a call to book your services.
2. Find good keywords to use that people are searching for.
Keyword planning can determine whether customers find your site. Again, relevance is important to keep in mind. There are dozens of keyword planning tools, such as Google's Keyword Planner or SEMRush. Regardless of which tool you choose, it is important to get an idea of which search terms are popular that are relevant to your business so that you can incorporate them into your website's content.
For example, if you provide cleaning services, many relevant keywords would be related to "antibacterial" or killing viruses because of the pandemic. Being able to capitalize on what users are searching allows you to better tailor your content to make your website more accessible. This why it is good practice to write out detailed descriptions of services on your product/service page, in addition to uploading images to your website with a file name and caption consistent with your business. For example, if you upload an image of a clean vehicle that your car wash business serviced, you might upload the image as "michaels-car-wash-quick-detail-package-1" along with a caption underneath and description of the Quick Detail Package on your service page. For service professionals, it is also important to include geography-specific keywords as, in the case of our car wash, the potential customers you are advertising to are likely in your neighborhood and are looking for businesses in their area.
3. Make your page URLs easy for Google to read.
While this step is more technical, making sure that your website's URL isn't too long but explains what your business does is important. While it may not matter to your customers, it matters to Google. A URL can be dissected into a few basic components: a domain, a subfolder, and a path. Your domain refers to the name of your website, such as prophone.com. The subfolder refers to which part of your website the user is on, such as prophone.com/blog. The path refers to the last part of the URL, such as prophone.com/blog/how-to-create-a-website-that-ranks-well-on-google. This is a way of organizing your website so that it is easy for Google's search algorithm to understand.
Unfortunately, many small business owners run into the issue of registering their own domain name. Using traditional web builders may make it difficult or expensive to setup your own domain name. Alternatively, there are web builders such as ProPhone that automatically allow you to use your own domain name without paying any additional fees. If you are using a web builder for your website, it's important to keep in mind the impact a custom domain name may have on your SEO performance.
4. Don't overstuff your pages with keywords.
While finding great keywords to include on your website is important, it's equally important to make sure you do so responsibly. One common misconception is that the more keywords you have, the better. This is not necessarily true.
In 2011 and again in 2013, Google updated its search algorithm to avoid displaying websites that appear to be manipulating search results by overstuffing keywords - i.e., cramming as many keywords they can into their content. This posed an issue because it cheapened the quality of search results.
So what does this mean if you need to use good keywords but not too many? Google prioritizes your main content - think headers and links. There are examples online of the 'perfectly optimized' product page. For example, if you wanted to rank well for "chocolate cake," you should have "chocolate-cake" display in your URL for the page, the website's main header (i.e., title) should include "chocolate cake," you should include a picture of chocolate cake, and you should mention "chocolate cake" a couple times throughout the first few paragraphs of the page. The key here is focusing on distributing your content across paragraphs, URL, and the headers so that Google understands what your page is about, without appearing to be clickbait, such as a website that only displays "chocolate cake" 70 times in a row.
5. Create links to your website.
Linking back to your website increases your website's authority. This is why setting up different online profiles such as Facebook for a Google My Business listing for your business that then links back to your company's website is so important. For example, if Google sees your car wash business being mentioned in forums about "best car washes," positive reviews on Google Maps and other places, and other content that links to your business, the algorithm will understand that your business is authentic and relevant to people search related topics.
If you don't manage many social media profiles but still want to link to your site, a great way to do this is by creating internal links. Internal links are links that you can include in your website that direct users to a different part of your website. For example, this could include providing a link to your contact page in your home page so that customers know when your operating hours are.
6. Display important content above the fold.
"The fold" refers to content that is displayed on-screen before you begin scrolling. Moz published an article about this that covers user behavior on Google search pages. The key takeaway here is that while the quality of your content matters, so does its placement. This is really important for calls to action, such as buttons on your web pages that prompt customers to give you a call or look at something specific.
You may want a phone icon that displays in the bottom-right corner of the screen that stays there as users scroll. Alternatively, you can have "learn more" links or similar content that displays towards the top of the page. This ensures users can easily reach out to you with questions to improve your chances of winning new customers.
7. See what your competitors are doing.
The blessing and curse of SEO is that there is constant change. Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, customer demands are constantly shifting based on trending features or practices, and businesses are constantly adjusting the contents of their online profiles to best align to what customers are searching for. This can be daunting as a small business owner amidst all the noise.
Putting yourself in your customers' shoes is a great place to start, as you'll very quickly see what is and isn't working regarding web content. You will see which ads are displayed and which businesses' websites rank well. This can be great for you to get an idea of what content or which keywords you should include in your website.
8. Improve page load speeds.
Improving your page load speeds works two-fold: for Google and customers.
Loading times for your pages are important for Google for the sake of crawling. Since Google's computers crawl billions, if not trillions, of websites every day, each website gets what is known as a "crawl budget." A crawl budget refers to the number of pages Google has the capacity to crawl. However, the crawl budget also depends on how long it takes pages to load. The longer each page takes to load, the less time Google spends crawling your website, which means the less content that gets indexed, and the less content that ranks in search results.
Decreasing the time it takes for your pages to load is also beneficial for users because, as you've probably experienced yourself, it's extremely frustrating when a page takes seconds - or minutes - to load.
9. Make your website mobile-friendly.
In 2015, Google released the "Mobile" algorithm update, which shifted focus to websites optimized for mobile devices. Since then, websites that are optimized for mobile devices rank considerably higher than their desktop-only counterparts. This was due largely in part to the massive increase in searches coming from mobile devices with the uptick in smartphone usage. When you're not sitting at your desk working, you're using your phone to check game scores, finding something to eat, or other everyday activities.
The most common solution to this is what is known as responsive web design (RWD). This refers to the ability of a website to automatically adjust for different viewing sizes across devices. While this sounds like a lot of tech jargon, the bottom line is that when you are shopping the market for companies that help you build your website, make sure to select a company that designs websites that are mobile-friendly. Popular options include Weebly and ProPhone.
Constantly evaluate your pages for user experience.
Scanning your website from a customers' point of view is a great way to figure out what content should stay and what content your website could do without. This improves the quality of your website and increases your site's ranking. For example, filtering out sections that make less sense or rearranging content can mean the difference between a lead and a passive reader.
For service professional business owners, ProPhone also offers a mobile editor that allows you to easily upload images on the go, which helps keep your website up to date and relevant in search results.
- SEO stands for "search engine optimization," which means crafting your website in a way that appeals to your potential customers and Google's search algorithm. This means making your website rank higher in search results and increase the amount of customers who find your business online.
- Google (and other search engines) have a 3-step process: crawling, indexing, and ranking. While ranking is important in terms of your website being accessible to potential customers online, crawling and indexing are just as important because making sure your website is legible to Google by being easy to crawl and index makes it possible for your website to rank.
- Google's search algorithm cares most about relevance, quality, and authority. Making sure that each page of your website has a specific purpose, has been created thoughtfully, and is referenced in other parts of your website improves your search rankings.
Moreover, SEO is a constant process. Staying up to date with search trends and algorithm updates can be a headache, so ensuring that you use a trusted website builder for your website is recommended to off-load the more tedious aspects of running your business.