In this final article of Website Ranking Factors For Small Business, I will cover factors that can get your website penalized by the search engines, hurting your chances of appearing for the keywords you want. The below information is by no means all inclusive, but covers some of the more common black hat SEO activities that will eventually hurt your rankings.Continue reading
In this article series I will cover top-level factors that search engines use in determining where a website will rank for given keyword(s), and how a small business can use these factors to propel their website ahead of the competition, driving quality traffic through organic placement.
On Page Search Engine Ranking Factors for Small Business Websites
This first article will cover what is known as On Page factors, meaning what can be done on the website itself. We will cover the following:
- Keyword Research
- Keyword Use
- Engaging Visitors
- Updated Content
- Page Titles
- Meta Descriptions
- Heading Tags
- Page/Site Speed
As I’ve written about before, website content is king when it comes to attaining rankings on the search engine results page (SERP). I can not stress enough how important it is to have a good amount of Quality Content on each page of your website. The old days of having a website with the same old, stale set-up of: Home, About Us, Services, Gallery and Contact Us are dead and gone. The web and how people use it has changed dramatically, and to keep up with this change, the search engines have changed their game too. Having quality content, with a purpose, will help any small business get to the first page of the search engine results.
For a more detailed explanation of why quality content matters and how the search engines have changed, please read my article on Google Caffeine and how it applies to small business websites.
What keywords do you want to show up for? How competitive is it to get to the first page for those keywords? Do you know what keywords will get your phone to ring or get people walking into your store? These are some of the questions that need to be answered when determining what keywords you will want to work on.
For many of my customers the first keywords they say are typically the hardest ones to achieve rankings for. For example, and automobile mechanic in Portland, Oregon may want to achieve rankings for “Auto Repair Portland”, or something similar. I typically try for rankings for less competitive, but higher converting keywords. This has proven to be very successful for many small businesses. So for an auto repair shop, I might suggest building a page directly targeting people who need to have their timing belt replaced, with quality content that explains why this auto repair shop are experts in replacing timing belts. The auto repair shop gets to the first page of the search engine for a keyword such as “timing belt replacement”, the people that land on that page can see that this shop knows their stuff about timing belts, and thus coverts more of these prospects into customers. This process can be duplicated over and over again for different services such as: transmission flushes, emissions repair, brake repair and so on. A good quality, robust website will eventually get rankings for even the most difficult keywords with this tactic. The question I ask many of my customers is “would you rather be on the first page for 150 keywords or 10?
Keyword research is a tough job that requires researching trends, search volume, and competitiveness. Hiring a qualified SEO Company can take much of the guessing out of this task.
Keyword use in your website
Do you use keywords and phrases in your website content you hope to be found for? If you’re trying to get rankings for the keyword “timing belt replacement” do you use that keyword string and related keyword strings in your content? Do you know what words Google considers the same? For example right now Google recognizes that the words “replacement” and “repair” are very similar, so serves results that are very similar for the searches of “timing belt replacement” and “timing belt repair”.
Understanding keyword similarities and using variances of these keywords on your websites text will help you achieve ranks for these desired keywords.
Do you measure “bounce rate” by page on your website? One of Google’s engineers explains bounce rate as “I came, I puked, I left”. High bounce rates point to one of two problems with your website.
Serve the information your visitors want. Is there something that is distracting your visitors and making them want to leave? What keywords is that page being found for? If a website visitor thinks they are mislead when visiting your site, they will simply back out and look elsewhere. So if you have a webpage about “timing belt replacement” make sure your information on that topic above the fold, where the visitor will see it quickly. Making a visitor hunt for what they are looking for does little more than inflate your bounce rate.
Design and layout above the fold. Is your page to busy? Is your page confusing? Page layout and message can start a prospect down your sales funnel, or can kill it. Using heat maps of web pages can help web designers fix high bounce rate issues regarding layout and design of a web page. Google Analytics also offers “In-Page Analytics” to help show click tracking on a page.
Updated Website Content
How often do you update the content on your website? Is the content new and about topics that will get your website traffic? One of the most important things that can get search engines coming back again and again to your website is creating new content. I typically recommend two new pages or posts per month for each of the small businesses I work with. Having Quality Content and constantly Updated Content builds a firm foundation for SEO success.
Page Titles, Meta Descriptions and Heading Tags
I’m not going into this as I wrote a previous article titled “Quick and Easy SEO for Small Business Websites” that covers this exact topic. I will say that Page Titles, Meta Descriptions and Heading Tags all play significant roles in helping achieve rankings on SERP’s.
How to make your website easy to index
The search engines want to serve websites that are easy for normal people to use. If your website is not easy for a search engine spider to use, they will assume it will be hard for a normal human to use also. Making it easy for a search engine to find ALL of your websites pages, using alt-tags on every picture, limited or non-use of flash and using an Xml Site Map will help the search engines index your website.
Conversely, disabled back buttons, pop-ups, hidden pages, doorway pages, certain types of redirects, heavy use of flash, text in picture format and others make it hard for a search engine to index and will hurt your rankings.
This is defiantly one where you get what you ask for. Your website speed and page load speed are factors that the search engines grade heavily on. Pages that are loaded with lots of pictures, big header pictures, picture sliders with to many pictures, self hosted videos and flash laden websites all slow load speed of a website. Search engines want to serve up websites that are quick and give their customers the information they seek quickly, and a slow website is counter-productive to that.
Cheap, inexpensive web hosting can hurt the speed of your website. Google offers a free on-line website speed tester to see how fast your website is. The tool also offers advice such as: browser caching, image optimization and others to help fix your speed issues.
URL Keyword Tagging
There is a little controversy these days over url’s with keywords in them getting better rankings. There has been a lot of speculation over the last year that Google would be dropping this from their ranking algorithms, but since it hasn’t been announced, I will cover it here. URL Keyword Tagging is the practice of buying highly sought after url’s with keywords or keyword strings in the url. For example, a carpet cleaning company in Portland might be interested in buying the url PortlandCarpetCleaning.com to try and target people searching that phrase. The hope here is that the search engines will give added weight to that website since the url contains those keywords.
I typically don’t recommend spending the money that many of these highly sought after url’s cost for two reasons.
- Since there is speculation that Google will be dropping this from their ranking algorithm, the SEO boost for the time being versus the cost of the url may not bring a good return on investment.
- Keyword URL Tagging can be done by adding the desired keywords into the page slug, giving almost, if not the exact same effect. I have used this on many of my customer websites, with excellent SEO results.
However, there are studies out there that point to these types of URL’s getting more SEO traffic, so ultimately I leave this decision to the business owner after weighing their options.
Next article in this series will be: Website Ranking Factors for Small Business – Off Page SEO
According to Google there are over 200 different factors that they grade on to determine how a website will rank within their Search Engine Results Page for any given search. Given that they grade on over 200 of them, and the fact that most small businesses don’t have the resources to hire a team of SEO experts, I will list the 6 factors that I have found are a must for any small business hoping to achieve rankings in their area, and more importantly, results that turn into sales.
The below list is by no means all inclusive…
On Page Search Engine Optimization
On page search optimization is the practice of getting your site ranked though changes to your website. There are many ways to accomplish this, some good, some bad, a.k.a. White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO. Generally writing good quality content with frequently searched keywords (careful to much keywords also known as “Keyword Stuffing”), cross linking, adding relevant keywords to meta-data, and providing fresh & updated content will increase the frequency of the Search Engines Indexing your site. Having a good understanding of how the search engines index your website also helps with your website optimization. You can read more about this in my prior post about Google Caffeine.
Off Page Search Engine Optimization
Off page search engine optimization conversely is everything you do to raise your ranking with the search engines outside of your website. Link building is a popular strategy for this. Another tactic is submission of correct content and information about your business to sites that the search engines consider “authoritative”, ensuring you have links to your website posted on these sources. It’s a good practice to make sure you link to sites with a good Page Rank. This will ensure the search engines look at your website favorably.
Developing good quality inbound links to your website is probably one of the most effective ways to improve rankings with the search engine. This is often the most time consuming component of SEO, but can yield large measurable results. Directory Submissions with differing anchor text on each, Link Searches is another useful, but advanced exercise in which we let the search engines find the sites for us to link to. Article writing, forums and blogs are also quality ways to get inbound links. Often, many small business owners skip this as it takes time, patience and work.
Ratings & Reviews
Never under estimate the power of consumer reviews. A study done by ComScore showed that up to 87% of consumers purchase decision was based upon reviews, and 97% of those said that they made a purchase based their decision a review. Also notable was the fact that consumers were willing to pay up to 20% more for quality services based upon favorable reviews. It is essential for businesses to generate positive reviews from consumers for local search ranking. Read here why Google changed its review index
Local Search Optimization
Local Search, in my opinion is the best search optimization technique for small business. Local search is nothing more than a query that includes a local factor, such as “Plumbers Portland OR”.
According to Google 20% of the searches they receive are local. Want to know how big this is? Every day 600 million local searches are done on Google alone. Try to get that kind of traffic anywhere else, it’s not going to happen. Clearly Local Search should be a priority for any small business.
Fresh Content, Blogging, Article Submissions and Forums are all great ways to promote via the web, and can spotlight you as a trusted industry leader. They’re also excellent ways to get your business indexed for obscure searches or front end keywords related to your business. Blogs, Articles and Forums are also great ways to generate inbound links to your web property. Blogging takes work on the business owners part, as such commitment and dedication are keys to it ultimate success.
How to build a small business website that’s blown out for Google Caffeine…Continue reading