Search engine optimization is a must for any business that wants to survive online today, and let’s face it: surviving online means surviving in the physical world. However, if you’re like most business owners, SEO is a world in and of itself, of technical terms, complex processes, and confusing steps that you don’t have the capacity for. Yes, SEO is complicated; but no, it’s not entirely out of your reach. In fact, there are many things that you as a general internet user can do to help your website’s rankings. Below are 11 SEO hacks that you can perform on your own to help more people find you online.
There are many marketing benefits to be had from online directory listings. Consumers use these sites to search for products and services near them, and your profile on these sites can show up in search engine results. If you don’t have any listings, start with these three musts:
Including your geographical location is important whether or not you have a brick-and-mortar presence.Without a physical address, Google may deemphasize your listing when a search is conducted, decreasing your overall visibility. Having no physical address will also prevent you from showing up on local search results.
Most review sites, directories, and social media platforms have a setting by which links to your website from their app do not get counted as backlinks, a valuable off-page SEO factor. However, this doesn’t mean that the link in your listing can’t help your SEO. If you rank among first results in a search but users don’t have the information they need to engage with you show up, your ranking won’t do much for you. Having an easy way to access your website from your listing is essential for benefitting from SEO.
Keep in mind also that your listings create opportunities for online users to get familiar with your business and your website, making them more likely to click on your pages they may see later on in other search engine results pages.
With so many directories online pulling data from one another and automatically generating listings, your business is highly susceptible to inconsistent information. While you can’t control which sites generate your listings, you can reduce the chances of errors by staying as consistent as possible with the listings you do create and claim. You should also monitor and update your listings as much as possible. The more uniform your business information is across the web, the more Google will trust you. The more Google trusts you, the more favor it gives in ranking you.
Being consistent in your listings means checking out every last detail. For example:
• “The Cookie Co.” vs “The Cookie Company”
• “Street” vs “St.”
Getting listed online is one SEO hack but it doesn’t stop there. Optimize your business listings by getting positive reviews from happy customers. In order to maintain the level of trust it has earned from its users, Google takes into account user reviews on a business when ranking its website.
It used to not matter where in the United States someone was performing a search. The top ten results for someone in Idaho would be exactly the same as for someone in Massachusetts. This made it hard, if not impossible, for local businesses to compete with corporations and chains in search engine rankings. Since Google now serves up results based on a searcher’s location, small businesses can now rank for relevant keywords such as “florist”— as long as their website informs search engines that they are a florist in a particular location.
This SEO hack is essential for local businesses looking to get found. Make sure you insert location-based keywords into the titles, URLS, meta descriptions, headings, subheadings, body, and image alt tags throughout your website.
Keywords help Google to understand what your website pages (and your business) are about. However, this doesn’t mean you have to use industry jargon or super fancy terminology. In fact, this likely to hurt your SEO. Google’s goal is to provide helpful, digestible, understandable information to those who need it. Aim to rank for words and phrases that a typical member of your target audience might type into a search engine.
SEO hack #s 6 and 7 both emphasize that Google caters its results to a user’s location and language. You should be targeting terms your ideal customers would use to perform searches not just related to your industry, but to what your business offers specifically. To come up with modifiers that will enhance your keyword effectiveness, think about what sets your business apart from competitors.
For example, you may be a carpet cleaning business in Chicago that uses eco-friendly products. Instead of simply trying to rank for “carpet cleaning service Chicago”, you should also target keywords like “green carpet cleaning Chicago”, “organic carpet cleaners Chicago”, and “eco-friendly carpet cleaning”. Modifiers are an SEO hack because they help you to rank for competitive search terms.
Choosing great keywords won’t help unless you know where to put them, and the body of your web pages is just one of many important places to insert keywords you are trying to rank for. Some of these places aren’t visible on the web page itself, but rather form the description of the page as it appears in search engine results pages. To make sure you are fully capitalizing on keywords, be sure to include them in the following:
• Title tag (learn more in SEO hack #10)
• Meta description (see SEO hack #11)
• URL of the page
• Image alt tags
Check out this post on on-page optimization to learn more.
The title tag is the title of your page as well as the name of the page search engines display in their results. Including keywords in the title helps Google to index your page properly, and also affects how frequently people click on it. The more clear they are on what the page is about, the more likely they are to click on it. To optimize your title tags:
• Keep them to 55 characters or less to avoid being cut off.
• Minimize the use of stop words like “the” and “is”
• Stick to the preferred format: put keywords first followed by a pipe and the company name
Meta descriptions are the text that shows up in search engine results below the title tag and below the link to the site (see above). The description is not critical for how well a page ranks in search engines, but it does play an important role in determining whether or not someone who sees you in the search results will actually click through to the page. The more traffic you get, the better your SEO, and the better your SEO, the more traffic you’ll get. Use keywords to succinctly describe what the page is about—155 characters or less.
Sure, the SEO pros know everything that your website needs in order to rank, and they can do it all. Then again, that is their profession and they’re not preoccupied with marketing and running a business. Use these 11 hacks to get started on some SEO of your own that can improve your web traffic.