Online is a channel that no business can afford to ignore, whether you're selling through your website or just looking to introduce yourself to new customers. But getting noticed among the crowd can be a real challenge, particularly for smaller companies where resources are limited.
Therefore, having a strong presence on Google is vital to the success of any business. In such a highly competitive space, it's never been more critical for businesses to commit to putting a robust search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy in place. In the past, this was all about having the right keywords and links to convince Google's algorithms your website was relevant to a user's search, but these days it's far from simple.
Google is constantly refining its algorithms to filter out companies that try to game its rules and make sure only the best, most relevant sites are shown to its users. With this in mind, here are five things you need to be thinking about to make sure your SEO works.
1. Be local
These days, people don't just check out your website before they leave the house - they'll also search on the move using their mobile phones. This lets them tap into location-based services to find companies that are near to them - and it's something you're missing out on if your business isn't seen as local by Google.
That's why it's vital you register with tools such as Google Local, Yelp and similar services. Make sure you include details such as your physical address and opening times, as this will help Google to direct local customers on the move to you.
2. Go mobile
While on the subject of connecting with customers on the move, an effective mobile site is an increasingly important part of good SEO practice, after Google announced last year it was updating its algorithms to favour sites that are easy to navigate on a smartphone.
If your website isn't mobile-friendly, you can now expect to take a hit in the rankings when users search on their phone, as well as making it more frustrating for customers who do manage to find your site on the move.
3. Build your content
'Content is king' is an old adage in the marketing business, and it's as true today as it ever was. Google has long-favoured websites that produce a steady stream of new and interesting content, whether this is a blog, product page updates or a newsletter.
You don't have to be churning out several posts a day, but for a small firm, something like blogging a couple of times a week is a great way to improve search visibility. This also creates a more personal connection with your customers - but don't forget to share other content to take advantage of any backlinks to your site these generate.
4. Use the right keywords
Keywords may not be the be-all and end-all of good SEO anymore, but this doesn't mean they're not still hugely important in getting your website in front of the right people. However, it's important not to go overboard. Google frowns upon pages overstuffed with too many obvious keywords.
Think carefully about how you'd describe your business and draw up a short list of five to ten primary keywords you can use naturally throughout the site. Google Analytics can be a great help here in pinpointing what your customers are actually searching for.
5. Tidy up behind the scenes
A lot of what makes SEO successful won't even be noticed by most visitors, but Google's crawlers will pick up on things like page titles (and if they contain keywords), meta descriptions and headings, so it's important these are present, relevant and error-free.
Similarly, factors like how long it takes your site to load are also included when Google's determining your rankings, so if you've got a lot of things running in the background that will affect this, such as bandwidth-intensive media, consider streamlining it or removing these elements altogether. Google - and your customers - will thank you for it as they get to enjoy a faster-performing website.
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