Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is part art, part science and part guesswork. There are people -- and entire organizations -- that do nothing but try to understand how Google ranks things and what you can do to rank better.
Part of the challenge is that SEO is a moving target. Google is constantly tweaking its algorithms, meaning things that used to help your rankings yesterday may not be as effective today. Small changes happen on an ongoing basis, and every few years, there is typically a full-scale overhaul that can take the experts some time to analyze before they have an idea of what still works and what doesn’t.
So what’s a business owner in Avon or Elyria to do to keep up? Well, there are several basic steps you can take that will help, and even if they don’t always improve your SEO ranking, they are things that help customers find you.
Claim and update your Google My Business page
This page, commonly abbreviated as GMB, is the white box that shows up to the side of search results when searching for a specific company by name. The information also displays is you are one of the top three local search results for that category. So regardless of whether someone is searching for you directly or searching for companies like yours, it’s important to make sure your business is claimed on GMB and that all the information is accurate.
Start by going to the GMB page and following the instructions there to claim your business listing. If you already have claimed it, go back in and make sure everything is still up-to-date.
Make your web pages accurate
Google is a software program, and while it continues to improve, it lacks the complex understanding and reading comprehension of a human. This makes it vital that your web pages are clear about where you are located and what you do.
If you are an electrician in Lorain, then make sure your page says “a Lorain-based electrician” somewhere on the page. Don’t assume that because you listed a bunch of electrician-related services that Google knows you are an electrician.
Keywords are a big part of SEO, but are a niche within the industry that some spend their full-time jobs on trying to understand. What you can do is write clear, concise web pages that explain what you do, where you are located and the areas you serve. This will most likely give you the most common keywords anyway.
For example, if someone is searching “Lorain electrician,” you will have those keywords on your page. That doesn’t mean you’ll be the top-ranked page for that search as that are many factors that go into that, but it’s a good start.
Also make sure your business name, address and phone number are all on the page, and be consistent with how you list them not only across your web pages, but also on your GMB page and any other directories, as well. This means that if you use the format “123 Main Street” in one place, don’t change it to “123 Main St.” in another. The more consistent you are, the better. This makes it clear to Google that all the listings across various web properties belong to the same business, giving you credit for additional links to those pages.
Get links to your website
One of the ranking factors Google uses is how many relevant links lead to your site. Note the word “relevant.” Getting Aunt Genie in Tucson to link her crafting website to your Elyria-based sandwich shop isn’t going to help your rankings.
In fact, for many businesses, there really aren’t a lot of local bloggers or other sites that can help your site by linking to it, with one exception. Directory sites, such as LorainCounty.com, are seen by Google as authoritative local sites. Within the directory listing, there is a link to your business. Make sure you have a listing and that everything is accurate, and remember to enter the name, address and phone number the same way you did for your web pages and your GMB page.
If there happens to be a local web page or blogger that drives a lot of traffic, such as a local food critic or entertainment site, see if there is a way to get a link back to your site. These local sites might have their own directory listings, or at least a calendar of events that you might be able to get your events listed on, creating a link that can help your SEO.
Boosting your local search results means delving into the mysterious world of SEO, but by following these simple recommendations, you’ll be on your way to improving your chances of ranking higher with searchers located near you.
Todd Shryock is the director of content for Emerge. If you have questions about how to improve your local search results or create SEO-friendly content, contact him at tshryock@EmergeInc.com.