As a small business owner, you know that getting your company highly ranked on Google’s search pages is frustrating, at best. At worst, it’s a mind-boggling mystery.
We can help. First, Google is pretty good about sharing what it doesn’t like seeing on websites. Take a look at Google’s content guidelines here, if you’re OK with techno talk.
For instance, Google isn’t crazy about sites that use Flash or AJAX, which are heavy on visuals but short on content. Your customers want to read useful information more than watch flashy graphics.
When it comes to figuring out what Google likes, its criteria for ranking sites highly is trickier to figure out. Google is always changing its search criteria and tweaking the mathematical algorithms it uses to rank webpages.
Plus, why would Google give away its secrets?
Fortunately, Google has said enough over the years for us to share three tips with you. Follow these tips to boost your small business’ website on Google’s search results. (These are our best pointers, but remember that we can’t guarantee results.)
1. WRITE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS, NOT FOR GOOGLE
Google has been very clear about one thing in how it ranks websites.
“We encourage webmasters to create pages for users, not just search engines.” That’s directly from Google’s search guidelines.
What it means for you is a few things. First, don’t get bogged down with keywords. For more about keywords, check this out.
For years, Google has dinged websites that overuse keywords that they think Google is looking for. Google rewards content that’s conversational.
Note: Your website should have a casual tone, but use your company name a lot. Google will eventually start searching for it. But it won’t be searching for “we.”
Google likes long content, meaning articles or posts that are up to 1,000 words long. If you really need to post something longer than that, turn it into a .pdf file. Then, post a link to it on your site. Need help creating a .pdf? Read this.
Giving your customers a good experience also means using lots of photographs, including slideshows. But don’t go crazy. As a general rule, slideshows should have 15 or fewer photos for your customers to click through.
Note: You can boost your site’s ranking by including photo captions. Google has an easier time finding words than pictures.
Google also rewards sites that have videos because readers like them. Keep videos shorter than five minutes, though. Remember, Google owns YouTube, so it’s not a bad idea to make YouTube your go-to site for videos.
2. FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMERS’ MOBILE EXPERIENCE FIRST
If you’re thinking about your small business’ website in terms of how it looks on a computer first and on smartphones second, you’re not alone. Many of us are preconditioned to think that way.
But, when it comes to ranking highly on Google’s search pages, you’ll improve your odds by making your site mobile friendly. We told you earlier this year that Google changed the way it ranks search results on mobile browsers.
This is really important: Today, more people are searching the Internet with their smartphones than with computers. Plus, mobile sites load a lot faster than websites. That plays right into the way Google favors websites that focus on their readers’ experience, rather than just keywords.
One study found that mobile sites take about 0.1 seconds to load. That compares to top-ranked websites taking 1.2 seconds.
3. HAVE CONVERSATIONS ON SOCIAL MEDIA ABOUT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS
Everyone is on social media, so your small business may have a tough time standing out from the crowd. In fact, Facebook alone has 1.5 billion monthly users.
That’s just for starters. Hundreds of millions of people use other social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest.
Not surprisingly, huge corporations and countless small businesses like yours are on social networks trying to reach those millions of people. Ready for a few ideas to help your small business stand out?
First and foremost, remember that we’re talking about your small business’ social networking, not yours. This isn’t a time to post videos of cats playing the piano, unless that’s somehow helpful to your customers.
But it is a great opportunity to forge relationships with your customers, existing customers and, hopefully, some new ones.
You do that online just about the same way you do it in face-to-face meetings. You have conversations with your customers. And you initiate conversations with potential customers.
Doing that well on social media sites like Facebook requires something small business owners like you know a lot about: time and effort.
If you don’t mind a tip about what not to do on social media sites, it’s this. Don’t post a comment on social media and then just leave it hanging. To grow your small business, post often. Keep conversations with customers going, especially when a post ignites a lot of chatting. That’s free advertising to potentially millions of people.
Another way to get results is to be an authoritative voice in your small business’ industry. Your customers are looking for an expert, just like they do when they call your office.
Let’s say you’re a driver with Uber. When a customer texts you, there’s a chance they don’t know how Uber works. They may not know how to use the app or how to rate drivers.
As an Uber expert, you have a conversation with them, right? That’s exactly what you do on social media.
But there’s a big difference between texting or talking on the phone and chatting on social media. On social sites, your customer’s friends and friends are listening in. That’s great.
You’re advertising your small business to all of them. Plus, your conversation will live on after you’re onto the next thing. It’s highly likely that your posts will be reposted by your potential new customers, their friends and their friends’ friends.
Google likes that. To rank near the top of Google’s search rankings, it helps to have an active and engaging social media presence.
Just last month, the Huffington Post reported that top-ranked sites on Google have lots of social media activity. That includes Like buttons for sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, just like the ones you click on when you’re on Komando.com.