The vast majority of businesses would benefit from being more successful in search, but many are put off by the perceived complexity of algorithms, code, content, links, social strategy and pay-per-click (PPC). They needn’t be.
If I were Google what would I want?
In this industry, many people attempt to get to the top of Google’s search results by trying to figure out how the search engine works. Unfortunately, most of these people will fail miserably.
Instead, put yourself in Google’s shoes. What would you want to see? Would you want to offer good businesses and strong websites at the top of the search results? Yes? Excellent. Now give those shoes back.
To get ahead in Google’s results, do not give yourself a headache by trying to outmanoeuvre a complicated algorithm.
Simply ask yourself what you are doing to be a good business and how you are letting that reflect in your digital footprint. For example, make sure you reference beneficial offline partnerships online.
Got good content? Get your users to agree
Writing great content is still paramount but in today’s competitive market it is not enough. Google changed its guidelines a while back to recommend creating great content that people want to use and share, rather than just link to.
So make sure you integrate social sharing buttons around your content in a way that genuinely gives readers a reason to engage. Do not just stick a few icons around it, though – ask what you can do to maximise the likelihood of it being shared or liked. These signals will help Google understand that your content is helpful.
To help find new areas of content, use Google’s keyword planner and analyse onsite search queries. Developing your offering around real demand makes sense but it is surprising how few businesses use the data they have to do so.
Let your customers be your sales team
Users are wise to some marketers being all mouth and no trousers. This is why they repeatedly turn to reviews to get the real story on a company.
Have a look for online reviews of your product or service to see what users are saying. Do not shy away from difficult discussions but learn and engage. It often does not take much to turn an okay experience into a great one and the more you do it, the better your review footprint will become.
When you are ready, look at integrating these reviews into your PPC ads and search engine optimisation (SEO) listings through a company such as Trust Pilot. Displaying positive customer experiences in the form of star ratings can significantly improve your standout and click-through rate (CTR) in the search results.
HTML doesn’t have to be hell
If trying to understand and improve your website code brings you out in a cold sweat, you are not alone. Fortunately, there are a number of online tools to help you navigate this area.
The SEO Toolkit from Microsoft will help you isolate errors on your site and explain what they mean and how they can be fixed.
Also useful is the Screaming Frog website crawler, which can tell you in minutes if you have missing or duplicate page titles or tags. It is also great for sniffing out dead links – links to sites that have moved.
Free online website spell checkers will highlight those pesky typos, and the W3C Validator Suite will tell you about any geeky code issues.
Finally, a speed checker will tell you how long your site is taking to load and suggest improvements. All these tools are as simple as putting a URL in a box and hitting go. You can then take the findings to your web design firm and discuss what can be done.
Do not get linking paralysis
Analysing how your link profile measures up is easy, quick and insightful, and is a great way to see what your competitors are up to. There are three suppliers which offer a limited view of your link profile for free or a fuller picture for a cost.
Link intelligence tools such as Ahrefs, Majestic SEO and Moz allow you to enter your site’s URL and those of your main competitors to see which is deemed the most authoritative and why. Try the Moz keyword difficulty report too, which gives you information on the top-10 ranking sites for your target terms and lets you compare your own site against those that rank above and below you.
This sort of analysis is crucial in informing your online marketing strategy, allowing you to identify what is working for your competitors and discover new opportunities.
Stand out from the crowd in PPC
When is best practice not best practice? When using it means you will just blend in. PPC best practice dictates you should use the search term in your ad text, but think about how you can stand out by saying something different. Try using site links and ad extensions to make users take notice. A strong call to action will entice users to click but try to think outside the box when writing it.
Be more social in social
Social media struggles are common for businesses – everyone knows it is increasingly important but many are confused about which metrics they should be trying to improve, or are just doing a bad job of it. The secret is simple though – just be more social.
Rabbiting on about your latest product or service will bore the hell out of customers. Keep sales messages to a minimum and focus on engagement and conversation. Ask questions and talk to customers about the things that interest them.
Ask customers for feedback and ideas on how your product and service could be better. If you stop bombarding customers with sales jabber, you will be amazed at the value you can unlock.
Try creating value rather than just maximising it
Marketers often get a bit obsessed with how they can maximise value from their customers or market, rather than how they can add value. Adding value can reap untold rewards if done well, so ask yourselves:
- What value could my business be adding to its consumers’ lives or the ecosystem it operates in?
- How can I integrate this into my website and social assets in such a way that Google can see how much value I am adding and treat me like the authoritative site that I am?
Hopefully these tips will help you unlock greater success online.