Are you looking to get your business off the ground, and are a die-hard do-it-yourselfer? Then this quick guide is for you. Here’s what you need to do to focus on to get your website up and running fast and to rank highly in the ever-present search engines.
If you’re a local business, which I’ll assume you are (otherwise you should probably bite the bullet and farm this work out), you’ll be looking to register well on Google Places and Bing Places. Let’s look at how we should go about doing that.
Basic Search Engine Optimization
Without any knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO), you should still be able to operate a successful website, mainly because content management systems like Wordpress and Joomla have taken care of most of the hard part for you. For this guide, let’s just assume that your website creator has best standard practices in mind and you’re good to go. Here’s what you can do out of the box to rank better in the search engines.
Place Your Keywords Up Top
Google’s bots look at numerous things to qualify what a page is about, and heading tags toward the top are what the bots will read first, thinking that these are what the user will most likely see first. Title tags (h1) are the most important headings, and it goes down from there (h2 to h6). Don’t mix these header tags up, either; keep them in order. Google will look at your site’s pages as permanent, static things, so if you can set a page up with one of your focus keywords, all the better.
Put Your Business Citation in the Footer
A business’ “citation” is basically how the business is listed (name, address and phone) throughout the web. Submitting your business’ citation to local search directories one way to have numerous examples of your business’s name, address and phone out in the web, working its Google magic. When Google crawls these directories it’ll link your business’ info with your business. Help them do that by making your site the site with the most of these “citations” by putting it on every page of your website (usually a nondescript place like the footer is best).
Use Google’s New Data-Highlighter to Help It Identify You as a Local Business
This new tool makes it incredibly easy to help Google identify your website as a local business. Before you’d have to do some custom schema coding, but now you can just use this point and click tool available through Google’s Webmaster tools to highlight the relevant information on your site. Google will do the rest. How’s that for plug and play?
Getting another website to link to you is what it’s all about. Link-building is a tiresome process, but consider it Google’s way of authenticating a site’s authority. If you’re selling shoes, Google wants to make sure of that, so if already known websites link to your site for shoes, well, Google does the math and considers your site more worthy of better rankings. You can get links on other websites by either emailing them directly (to write a guest blog post about something industry-relevant, say), or you can just produce great content that gets shared organically.
Unfortunately, for things to get shared organically, people have to know about them, right? That’s where it pays to have an audience — something I’ll leave for another write-up.
» Don’t get caught up in site speed … yet: You might hear SEOs talking about site speed. It has been reported that Google wants the web to be a fast experience, and this is true. But at this level of the game, your site will probably neither have the traffic nor the size to make this an issue. If it’s an issue, you can check out free site speed tools like GTMetrix.com, which rank your site’s speed based on Google and Yahoo!’s variables for free and without hassle.
» Go responsive, go mobile: 40 percent of search traffic is through mobile devices. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you’re losing out on a huge market share.
» Get content: Content, while also serving as a great promoter of your site, also helps Google rank you for the target keywords you’re using in your pieces. Several companies, including the one I work for, specialize in creating that content for you.
— Hudson Hornick is a content marketing expert and copywriter for Santa Barbara-based Alchemy On Demand.