You might worry that you don't have the technical skills and knowledge to get your local small business website to show up in online search results. The good news is that you do!
Approximately 97% of all clicks occur on the first page of search results and 55% of all clicks to go the top three organic (non-Ad) results. So getting to the top of those search results is critical for nearly every online business. Unlike the olden days when people would scroll through the yellow pages, now they start their search for local businesses online. Luckily, local results are favored when people search for businesses and places near their location.
SEO – short for search engine optimization – sounds hard and highly technical, but it's simply a matter of understanding what you need to do every time you publish a page to make it more likely for search engines to “reward" your page with a better position in search results.
Implementing the tips below can help your website fit Google's criteria for high quality content and move up in online search results. First, it will be helpful to familiarize yourself with a few common SEO terms:
Search ranking – the position that a web page receives in online search results (e.g., ranking in positions 1 to 10 generally means that a web page shows up in the first page of online search results for a given keyword).
Search ranking factors – the criteria that a search engine uses to rank and then place a web page in search results.
Keyword – a unique keyword or phrase that you want a web page to rank for; this could include a brand name, product, service or an informational key phrase, like “search engine ranking factors" Note: the keywords you want a web page to rank for should correlate to keywords or phrases that “real people" would use when searching for a business like yours online.
Search results – the results that are served when someone performs an online search.
There will be more terms to define in the tips below, but these are fundamental to the discussion. Before digging into the relationship between search ranking factors and what makes a local online store perfectly-search-friendly, you need to know something about search engines themselves. For instance, there are dozens of search engines (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.) and they all have different search ranking criteria. Which are the most important?
NetMarketShare.com lists the top search engines by device type for both desktop/laptop computers and mobile devices according to the share of searches that occur on their platforms. A whopping 98% + searches occur on the top four search engines listed.
It's overwhelmingly apparent that Google is by far the most important search engine regardless of device, so this article will focus on six search ranking factors that can help you improve your web page's ranking in Google searches.
6 Ways to Improve Local Small Business Web Page Search Rankings
What's at the very tippy top of every web page? The URL!
URL is short for “uniform resource locator" which is just a fancy way of saying web address. For instance, the Weebly blog page URL is “https://www.weebly.com/blog." It's a great example of a search-friendly URL because:
- It's crawlable (search engines have permission to crawl, or examine the contents of the web page, and index the page)
- It's descriptive of exactly what someone will find on the page (the Weebly blog)
You probably already know that you should include keywords that you want a page to rank for on the page itself, but you can also make it part of the URL. This tells search engines “what" they can expect to find on the page. When the search engine crawls the page and confirms that the page's content is a good match to the URL, it can positively affect the page's search ranking. Conversely, if the page content is not a good match to the URL or keywords used on the page it can negatively affect the whole website's ranking in search.
If you are a local entrepreneur in Seattle who owns an ice cream shop called “Ice Cream Treats," to make your URL search-friendly, you might want to include:
- your brand/business name (for when someone knows your business name and searches for it online)
your location (city name, neighborhood, nearby destinations, etc.) for when someone is searching for businesses in your area
- your products
- your services
- your specialties – and so on
Some examples of URLs that fit these criteria for search-friendly local business web pages might be:
Use search-friendly URLs throughout your website including on web pages, landing pages and blog articles.
2. Page Title
The page title refers to the title you type in when starting a new page or post. This is the most important headline that will be on your page, so it's the most important place for you to use keywords that accurately describe the content of the page. It should represent keywords that real people would use when looking for a business like yours in your locale.
For example, if the keyword you have chosen for a specific web page is “best ice cream in Seattle," you could make the web page URL “www.IceCreamTreats.com/best-ice-cream-in-Seattle" and your page title could be “Best Ice Cream in Seattle" or a close variation.
PRO TIP: If you publish a page titled “Best Ice Cream in Seattle" as a product or landing page, you can increase its authority by later publishing blog posts with related content that link to that page. In this instance you might publish the landing page first, then add an article to your blog 2-3 weeks later with the other title suggested above, titled, “What makes Ice Cream Treats the best ice cream in Seattle?" When a search engine crawls your site and indexes the content, the page that was published first will have additional authority because of the pages that are either underneath it in hierarchy or which link back to it – such as a blog article.
In addition to the main title, you should also use the unique keyword or phrase chosen for the web page in at least one other subheading on the page. This should be a subheading designated in source code (H2, H3, H4, etc.) or as a title if you're using a click-and-build type of platform. You should also try to use it in text copy on the page so that it comprises about 0.5 to 0.9% of the page's text. On a typical web page of about 800 words, this would mean using it 3-4 times in the text. That ensures adequate keyword placement without overusing it (a practice called “keyword stuffing" that search engines penalize rather than reward).
Just as with URLs, when Google's search engine crawls and indexes the page, when the title and subheadings are a good match to the rest of the content on the page, this can positively impact your page's ranking in search results.
3. Producing Content for Engagement
Site visitor engagement might not sound like an SEO ranking factor, but it is. If a web page has a high bounce rate (site visitors arrive on the page but quickly leave) then Google perceives that it is not relevant to the search and/or that while relevant, it's not engaging. On the other hand, if a web page produces user actions on the page and/or leads people to other pages on the site, that sends Google a signal that the page is relevant to the search results and has high-quality content.
Think of this like a brick-and-mortar business in the olden days. Someone opened the yellow page section of their phone book and looked up ice cream shops (the “search"). They found one they wanted to try so they got in their car and went to the ice cream shop (the “click").
If they walk up to the shop but don't go in based on what they see from the outside or they walk in and quickly exit, that's a “bounce." For whatever reason the shop wasn't relevant to their original search and didn't interest them enough to find out more.
However, if they walked into the shop and spent several minutes looking at the menu, checking out the ice cream selections, sampling a flavor or two, talking to the clerk and (hopefully!) ultimately purchasing some ice cream, it's safe to assume that the ice cream shop was highly relevant to their search.
Search engines use engagement factors to rate a web page's quality. Lots of site visitor engagement signals high-quality content on the page, which in turn can result in the web page moving up even higher in online search results.
Relevance is just one – but a very important – factor in terms of visitor engagement. The best web page in the world won't be engaging if it's not relevant to the site visitor. To increase site visitor engagement on a web page:
Write really good copy – be entertaining, passionate, educational, unique, authoritative, etc.
Include high quality images
Infuse copy with graphics, infographics
Use color, headlines and photos to draw the site visitor's eye so they scroll down the page
Add forms – subscription forms, lead forms, contact forms, polls, surveys
Include video – did you know that one third of online activity is spent watching video?
Link to other pages on your site that have similar or related content
Content that keeps a site visitor on the page longer, gets them to click through to another page on your site, gets them to fill out a form or do something else (besides leaving or hitting the back arrow) creates engagement signals search engines use to determine the web page's quality.
PRO TIP: Great content is also the key to earning backlinks. Backlinks are one of the few ranking factors that you can't do on your own. You can't force someone else to link back to your website. But if you have engaging content, you vastly increase the likelihood that someone else will link back to your website, and backlinks to one of your web pages increases the authority that search engines then assign to the page, which can result in the page moving up in organic search results.
4. Loading times
But wait, all that great content might slow down your site! In particular, images with a large file size can cause a web page to load slowly. Make sure you prepare your images, graphics and similar content for internet use by reducing file size as much as possible without compromising the quality of its appearance for the site visitor.
In addition to size, you also need to be aware that search engines can't “see" what's in a photo, graphic or video. These elements need to be optimized for search too – which is as easy as putting keywords describing the element into its title, caption or the “ALT" tag that is part of the source code. In most cases, when you upload a media element you will have the ability to add descriptions at the same time for captions, alternate or “ALT", element title, etc.
SEO experts agree that having social signals on a web page is a search ranking factor. This is as simple as ensuring that links to your social media pages are included in the top or bottom menu bars of your site and that social sharing buttons are on the page.
6. Behind the Scenes
Before publishing a web page, add a Meta Title and Meta Description. Meta tags are there specifically to tell search engines what the content on the page is about. Meta titles and descriptions appear in source code but not on the page; however, they do appear in search results when the page is included among them in an online search. Use the unique keyword that you chose for the page and are using in the URL and title in both the Meta Title and Description.
“Weebly Website Builder: Create a Free Website, Store or Blog" (in royal blue) is the page's Meta Title. Underneath that is the page's URL and underneath that in gray is the page's Meta Description. You can see how incorporating your keywords here can help the person who is searching online, as well as the search engine, realize that your web page is just the page they were looking for!
If getting found online is important to your local small business, then these ideas can help you improve your web page's search rankings, especially if you follow these guidelines and continuously add to your website over time.