It is the summer of 2018 and though Google says they try to simplify things, SEO gets more and more complicated. I wanted to do a quick overview for the small business owner to at least have a basic knowledge of what is important to ranking for that phrase they want to show up for. Ranking isn’t easy or everyone would do it, but if you have a decent website and are realistic with your targeting, you can get some search presence and get a taste of what good SEO can do for you. Sometimes that little taste is enough to realize the value of investing in a real SEO plan that gets you much, much more.
So I will take a quick look at some of the things that are important to look at when trying to rank for your important phrases. Then you can address the easy and more difficult aspects of improving your position.
What Is Your Target Search Keyword Phrase
It all starts by looking at the competitive landscape of what you are trying to rank for. Be realistic here. If you are just getting started, it is going to be very tough to rank highly for nationally competitive keywords. You will see as you start digging deeper and may have to adjust your expectations. For small businesses, I typically recommend starting very local and you can expand your focus as you get stronger. Start by showing up for searches in your own town. For example, it will be easier, and your site will be more relevant for searches in your town than in general. A site trying to rank for “personal trainers” will have a quicker path to show up for “personal trainer” combined with the town where they physically work than for generic or even county or state searches. Be realistic and be prepared to get more specific as you find the competitors are too strong for your current situation.
What Type of Search Results Does Your Phrase Trigger
As I mentioned above, you may want to start with a hyper-local search involving your town name. It is important to see what Google shows in the results for these searches. Not just which sites show up, but what types of results are shown. Does the search trigger a local maps result on top of the organic listings? Does it trigger videos? These are all ways to show up in search that you may not have thought of and they all have their own ranking factors. We are primarily going to talk about the standard SEO rankings for this article, but local maps listings have factors like reviews, posts, and Q&A that you can use to make up ground and get more search presence. If you are a local business, claim your Google My Business listing and get posting and asking for reviews. These will definitely be important parts of your search presence as Google tries to keep more searchers on the search results page and keep them from your site. Make sure your My Business page is accurate and you keep on top of it.
Start to Dig Into Your Competitor Page Strength
Once you see what Google is showing in terms of types of listings, now you can actually look at who is showing up on that first page. With local maps results, the strength of the site is also important for their ranking strength, so it is worth looking at site strength for them too. Find a tool like the Moz tool to tell you how strong the competitor pages are. As a hint for Moz, check the page strength because it will give you the domain strength too, and you can see both. The free tool only allows you 10 checks per month, so be careful. You will want to know your own page strength too as a comparison. If you aren’t even close to the top ranking sites, you may want to adjust your target phrase to something else, or really start working on building link strength.
If you are in the ballpark with strength related to those ranking, you can start moving on to more specific page elements like content, tags, and speed.
In 2018 Make Sure Your Page is Fast and Mobile Friendly
GTMetrix offers a free tool to show specific page load speeds. Check your page related to other ranking sites. It is always better to get faster here. Top ranking sites tend to be under 3 seconds load time in July of 2018 and probably even faster if you are reading this later. You should be mobile friendly by now, but the Google test can help you find out if you are. This is an important aspect of ranking these days and if you are loading really slowly, even with a strong site, that can be preventing you from ranking.
Make Sure You Are Indexed and No Errors
Make sure you set up Google analytics and Google Search Console. Google Search Console will help show you what Google sees on your website so you can find errors there or other issues that are going on.
Dig Into Content of Top Ranking Pages
What are the top ranking pages offering that you are not? Are they image heavy? How long is the content? What other concepts are covered in highly-ranking pages that yours does not?
On average, the top ranking pages have over 2,000 words, so often small businesses find themselves struggling to rank because they have very short content. Content under 250 words tends to be viewed as “thin” content and the algorithm will not look kindly on sites that are loaded with thin content. Keep an eye on issues like many very short blog posts and other issues that can pull down your whole site, but in general, try to have nice thorough content that explains the product or service offering and how you are helping the searcher resolve an issue they may be having. Also include why you are the best choice for them. Most small business search result pages don’t need to be 2,000 words, but they need to be long enough to rank.
Think through other important concepts that searchers may be looking for and use the other sites as your guide. You can see in the example that personal trainer pages that rank highly also touch on “training”, “fitness”, “health”, and others. In this case, every page in the top 10 used these other words. Be aware of this. It will actually help you with expanding your content and making it better.
Once you have fixed your page and put it in a better position to rank, go back and tell Google to come index it again, or wait for it to get indexed again and you should definitely see a boost in the pages ranking. Then you can make adjustments from there. Most likely you will still want link strength to move up, but you will see what doing some SEO can do to move you up and get some exposure in Google. Give us a call if you would rather focus on what you do best and want us to take care of this for you.