The biggest misconception of search is that there’s something you can set up, pay for, or turn on to rank #1 in search.
The truth is there are a lot of things you can do to improve search but it’s not as simple as flicking a switch.
Search engines are constantly changing and updating their search parameters to ensure the most relevant results appear while trying to prevent those less deserving from taking advantage of the system. These parameters are not public but there are best practices known to improve a legitimate search result.
The main things to keep in mind are:
- Help search engines find your website
- Show that you are a relevant search result
The tips listed below are mostly to help search engines find your website. Showing that your website is relevant is primarily based on whether or not people click on your link when you appear in search rankings.
When executing these search strategies keep in mind that a high ranking can disappear quickly if people do not click on the result because they do not think it relevant, or even worse complain about the result because it is not relevant and all your time and effort will be wasted so always focus on relevant search results.
For example, if you sell “gourmet” “chocolate” focus your efforts on attracting those results and not “cheap” “chocolate” results, unless you use “cheap” “chocolate” keywords just on your sale page.
For each search effort, consider if someone typed in those keywords would the page they land be what they’re looking for and will it make sense. And keep in mind, search results often land on specific pages and not necessarily your homepage so make sure you use keywords specific to each page.
Clear abuse of search techniques could result in a search engine blocking or flagging your website without any notification and it can be hard to undo. It can also result in a negative impression of your brand from potential customers so it is better to always act with integrity.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Best Practices
Use Search Keywords
Use the keywords you wish to qualify for in search in your website copy, tags, links, and image descriptions. The more you use keywords, the more likely your site will qualify for those keywords in search rankings.
For example, if you want to be found under “chocolate” and “gourmet” be sure to use those words in your copy, link address, image descriptions, whenever relevant.
Avoid using images as text and flash as much as possible, because search engines cannot read the text when it’s an image or flash.
Link to Other Sites
Search engines regularly scan websites to find new websites. They start with known sites and look for new external links.
Linking your site to external sites is a great way to ensure your site is picked up as quickly as possible.
Update your online profiles (facebook page, twitter, yelp, linkedin, google business) with your website, contact any listing, reviews or other online postings about your business to see if they can update your information, partner with other sites to link to each others site, reference your website in posts where relevant. The more times your site is linked, the more likely search engines will find you.
Posting to your site regularly is essential to keeping a good search ranking. Regular website updates with with timestamps can assist with search by showing your site is active. Not only does it increase your content and potential for keywords and tagging but it also shows that your site is up to date.
With so many sites, some old and neglected on the internet, search engines need to determine what sites are active to provide relevant results to their users and a recent timestamp is an easy way for them to determine the site is still active. Posting often means more recent timestamps.
Link Back to your Site
When possible, link back to your website. This can be in your social media posts, and in your comments or other online activity.
For example, if you participate in an online forum on chocolate, consider posting a short answer but a long answer on your site. “Yes, chocolate does come from the cocoa bean. We have a great description of the chocolate making process on our website [link to your website].”
And whenever possible, link social media posts back to your website or share your website links on your social media. Even when sharing links, consider adding a bit of your own information or perspective on a post to your site and embed the link to your post.
Consider Less Common Keywords
Using less common keywords can also help attract traffic with less competition than commonly used keywords at no additional cost.
For example, it may be difficult to rank first in search for “chocolate” with so many large chocolate brands but “praline” or “ganache” may also attract chocolate enthusiasts with less businesses fighting for those words.
For smaller businesses, ranking high on search can be an even harder challenge when competing with global and national businesses. Consider including location in your optimizing strategy.
For example, consider “Yorkville” “Toronto” “Gourmet” “Chocolate” as keywords instead of just “Gourmet” “Chocolate”.
Do not try to list all areas because when people search by location they expect to find something in their area and are much more likely to complain about results that are clearly not in their area.
And if you have a physical store front be sure to add your location on business listing sites like Yelp, Google Places, Facebook Places.
Use Non-Digital Channels
It would be nice if we could just sit back and have people find us online but the truth is it’s not that easy. There are a lot of businesses paying big money to rank high on search which creates a competitive and therefore complicated system.
The good news is search engines spend a lot of money to ensure the most relevant search results are displayed and the key to good search is to be relevant to the reader and be patient.
In the meantime, help people along with business cards with your web address, tell people to visit your website, and include your website in signs and posters.
Even if these users type in your business name in search it can help improve your ranking because they are looking for your business. So even if you are on page 3 they are more likely to click to the 3rd page and click on your site and the more people search for your business and click on it, the better your search ranking.
Monitor your website
Tracking web traffic is a great way to learn how to improve search. See what keywords are popular, where are visitors to your site coming from, and what are they interested in. Monitoring traffic can not only help with service but can also help with product offering. If you’re considering carrying a new product, add a post on your website, use keywords and tag and see if there’s enough interest through web traffic. It’s not perfect but it can be a helpful additional indicator.
And remember, More is not always better
Focus on quality leads rather than the quantity of leads, especially if you’re a small business with limited resources.
It is rare that an online lead will result in an immediate sale unless if maybe you’re an online store so chances are all that web traffic will result in an increase in calls, emails, and other things that require your time and attention.
Too many leads at once can often result in a negative customer experience before you’ve even made the sale.
Narrowing your search optimization focus to the most profitable or most likely leads is better than trying to get as many leads as possible.
A slow but steady stream of profitable leads is the best way to expand your business and using your website to help manage those leads through setting expectations and providing information can help improve conversions, but that’s another post. 🙂
If you would like assistance with your specific search strategy or for more information about our services please contact Alice at firstname.lastname@example.org.