What the Small Business owner needs to know about Search Engine Ranking:

There are a lot of experts out there on SEO, so I figured the best way to get to the truth was to read everything. After 10 years, dozens of books, hundreds of articles and a lot of personal testing, here is what I know in a nutshell. You may try any of the suggestions in my top ten list and see how they work for you.

How does Google rank sites?

Let's be honest, when we talk about "Search Engines", we're mostly talking about Google. At 70% market share., Google is a titan. So let's look at how they do it. Google cares about a lot of different factors, but supremely considers links in to your site from websites with good reputations. The internet is a popularity contest to Google, so links in show that people care. The more people care about your content, the more google values your site for a specific search. Sure, there are lots of factors that effect your ranking, but this is the core of what Google does.

Why do my competitors show up at the top and not me?

There are a lot of factors, from the length of time a site has been in existence to whether it is a properly built site to begin with. Because there are so many things to consider, I've made my top ten list. Based on my experiences of what I've seen work or not, these are the things I would do, in the order I would do them.

My top 10 SEO methods for a small business site:

  1. Get a properly built site. Above anything else, a properly built site will index better. This is not a site made with a site builder, but one made by a professional who knows what they are doing.

    Cost: Expect between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on features needed.
  2. Fresh, well-written articles & content: This takes time and energy, but content is king. People will share and read content that they find interesting. To google, fresh content means a real site for a real business. They like that.

    Cost: Your time, or the services of a really good copywriter.
  3. Castanet & Kijiji ads (or Craigslist, or whatever): These are free and these local sites index really well with Google. Just make an ad under services, include the description of your business, a link to your webpage, your logo, etc. Use the keywords you want to index for (petting zoo, Kelowna, etc). Outside of the Okanagan, use your local buy and sell / news site.

    Cost: Free!
  4. Google analytics/ Google adwords / Pay-per-click: Set up google analytics on your site so that you can see where your traffic is coming from and the results of any marketing campaign you do. Google adwords / Pay-per-click is advertising where you bid to have your ad shown when people type in certain searches. You can find what the average bid is for your keywords, and then you choose how much to spend. Research overwhelming shows that google adwords is much better bang for your buck than traditional marketing. While this isn't technically SEO because it doesn't affect your ranking, it could get you a lot more traffic, and that is why you are reading this to begin with, right?

    Cost: setup + pretty much anything you want, but could range from $30 to $1000/ month, depending on how much traffic you want and how competitive the search is. You choose how much to spend.
  5. Mobile-friendly: Google's ranking rules were updated last year to rank mobile-friendly sites more highly for mobile device users. Besides that, all sites should be responsive (show up well no matter what device they are viewed on because customers will simply leave a site if it is hard to use. If your competitor's site is legible on their iphone and yours isn't, they will use your competitor. Check your site on Google's mobile friendly test.

    Cost: Should be part of a properly designed website.
  6. Page load time of less than a second. Rarely Google just comes out and tells us what it wants to see, but this is one they published. Like being mobile-friendly, this also is a huge usabilty factor for your users. Slow loads = page bounces (when people leave right away). According to Website Magazine, 40% of web visitors will leave a web page that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

    Cost: Good hosting starts at $15/month. That's cheap for the difference it makes. Sure GoDaddy charges $1 a month or whatever. Not. worth. it.
  7. Social media integration: Including facebook like, share buttons and/or a feed from your facebook page allows your site to get a great deal more exposure. You will want to promote your site a bit as well to encourage people to like and share it.

    Cost: Approx 2 hours programming time.
  8. SSL certificate - This is what gives a site that little lock next to the url and the "https" before the site name. Google says they like it, users like it, your site is much safer from hackers, and you look more legitimate. Easy decision.

    Cost: $100/year.
  9. Competitor SEO analysis: Find out where the links coming in to your competitors are coming from that have given them their search engine ranking, and try to get links in from the same places. You can't win any races you don't have a horse in.

    Cost: 1 to 4 hours from an SEO pro, depending on your industry.
  10. Search Engine Friendly URLS: The page addresses can be changed so that they are descriptive. For example: http://savannaridge.ca/products/cat-14/index.php?id=15432 doesn't tell a search engine anything. Using a little magic, the same page can become: http://savannaridge.ca/2015-merlot-ready-for-sale. If the page address includes real words, they will index much better.

    Cost: Approx 1 hour of programming time.

All of the costs listed are averages and can vary depending on lots of factors. Need more info or help putting any of these ideas into action? Contact us and we can go over it together.

Credit Search Engine Land

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