Of course you want your small business website to rank high in search engine results. Everybody does. A vast number of the small biz owners we talk to over the phone, at trade shows and during webinars ask the same question: “How can I get onto the first page of Google?”
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a guarantee you’ll secure the holy grail of search engine results. Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo use complex, evolving algorithms to call forth relevant results for search queries. And there’s a lot of competition.
That said, there are a number of fundamental things you can do to make each page of your website more appealing to search engines. This is called on-page SEO.
Define yourself with relevant keywords
You want your business to show up on Google when people search for something, but what? The first step to SEO success is to decide which search terms (keywords) are the best fit for what you do and if anybody out there is using them now. For most small businesses, it’s usually three or more targeted, ultra-relevant words that describe what you do. For example:
best pet groomer san francisco, pet grooming russian hill, dog groomer sf
Take 10 minutes and jot down all the words you think people might enter into a search engine to find your business. When you finish, it might look something like this:
Now it’s time to figure out if people are searching for any of those words. A solid place to start is Google’s free Keyword Planner. (The tool is part of Google AdWords to help set up effective online advertising campaigns, but you also can use it for on-page SEO research.) Your results might look something like this:
Create remarkable content
Remarkable content is king. Whether it’s an image, video or words on a web page, great content -- content that’s unique and useful and that meets page visitors’ (and search engines’) expectations -- drives search rankings.
Conventional SEO wisdom holds that each page should include 300 to 1,000 words of content that includes the primary keyword or phrase in the page headline and five to 10 times in the body copy. The rule of thumb is one keyword per 100 words of content. You’ll want to avoid an SEO no-no known as “keyword stuffing” by remembering to write for people, not search engine bots. Keep it natural, like this:
Great images serve as a natural companions to great website copy -- and, since millions of people search for images online, they play an important role in your on-page SEO. Look for opportunities to include photos, infographics and other strong images that bring added value to page viewers. And help your images catch the attention of search engines by following a few best practices for optimizing images on your website.
“Search engines can't read pages like humans can, so we incorporate structure and clues as to what our content means. This helps provide the relevance element of search engine optimization that matches queries to useful results.” ~ Cyrus Shepard, The Moz Blog
Often invisible to human site viewers but like a homing beacon for search engines, metadata makes finding and linking to relevant website content easier. That’s why it’s important to include image tags, title tags, description tags and a few other important SEO HTML tags, aka metadata, to your website to help search engines know what your site's about.
A few useful SEO tools
Some templated website builders include tools that walk you through on-page SEO. While they won’t do your homework for you, they’ll make it a bit easier to execute on the fundamentals. For example, the business-class version of GoDaddy Website Builder offers step-by-step assistance to optimize each page of your site.
If you built your site using the popular WordPress platform, WordPress SEO by Yoast is a jewel among the many plugins available to help with SEO. The tool helps you create SEO-friendly content with a focus on keyword usage and a handy page analysis function. It’s awesome.
We’ve just touched the surface of on-page SEO. There’s always more to learn and do -- both on the page and beyond -- to improve your site’s ranking potential. Search engines are constantly adjusting their methods to answer queries with the most up-to-date, relevant listings. Stay in-tune with SEO trends, tips and tricks via educational resources like The Moz Blog, Searchmetrics and Search Engine Land.
You’ll soon find that getting your business found online extends beyond the page to a larger community -- social media. You want people to link to your business and talk about what you do. To search engines, all those mentions and linkbacks indicate trustworthiness and relevance -- signs of a site or business that merits higher ranking. In fact, seven of the top 10 ranking factors now involve social media. It’s time to start making friends.