Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of periodically making adjustments to your website to improve its ranking on search engine results pages. In other words, practicing good SEO habits will help your business appear on the first page of results when people search for products using Google, Bing, or other popular search engines. Why is this so important? According to Advanced Web Ranking, the first position on Google search results on desktop has a 34.36% click-through rate—which can mean a increase in significant traffic to your website. Google’s research shows that when customers search for something nearby, 28% of those searches result in a purchase, and local searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit a store within one day. Think of SEO as a free way to capture some of the foot traffic walking by your shop.
One of the first things to understand about SEO is that search engines get revenue by selling more ad space. The more popular the search engine is, the more money that search engine makes over time. It’s crucially important to search engines that the content they serve up on those search results pages is relevant and desirable to users so that people will continue to use them. Therefore, if search engines see evidence that users like your content, they will serve your website up more frequently in the search results. Search engine algorithms measure things like:
- Whether users click on your ads.
- How long people stay on your website and how many pages they view.
- Whether people are sharing your content on social media.
- Whether other sites link back to your site.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to improve your SEO.
Think like a customer.
Much of the advice for SEO can be simplified into this one sentence: Think like your customer. If you’re making website visitors happy, their behaviors will earn you good SEO rankings. Ask yourself, what phrases will your customers use in searching for your business or products? What kinds of searches will they perform before making the decision to buy? If you were your customer, would you find the content on your site so irresistible that you’d share it with your family and friends? Let’s break this down:
- Choose “long-tail,” search-friendly keyword phrases. If you optimize your website for the longer phrase “best coffee shop in Haworth, NJ” you are also, perhaps inadvertently, optimizing your site for shorter search terms like “coffee shop” and “Haworth, NJ.” So brainstorm with your staff on what keyword phrases people might type in to find your business and consider phrases like “fast coffee shops in Haworth, NJ” or “organic coffee and vegan food in Haworth.”
- Make your content sharable. Social media is here to stay—and a relatively cheap way to get word of mouth going about your business. But a social media marketing strategy only works if customers are inspired to share your content. People (and other websites) share content for all sorts of reasons. You don’t have to have super slick content for it to be shareable. If your website offers the best article on how to choose a particular product, how to use products safely and effectively, or is just the best collection of curated links from other resources, your site may become extremely popular and receive “backlinks” from other websites. You can also create shareable content by offering a really tempting promotion, beautiful photographs, funny videos of your staff, or creating contests. The key to being shareable is being valuable to the viewer.
Given how many websites there are in the world, it can be difficult to compete if your SEO strategy is too broad. Don’t try to be everything to everyone—you’ll be expending a lot of effort and not necessarily getting the return you’re looking for. Instead, focus on being discovered by those people most likely to purchase from you—those potential customers looking at their phones right on your block. According to research from Google, more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the United States. Often these customers are looking for nearby businesses or researching products while out shopping. Make sure your business is found locally using a few quick tips:
- Register your business with the most common search engines and map services like Google My Business, Apple Maps, and Yelp! With 142 million users every month, Yelp! and other review sites should be an important part of your strategy. This is much easier to do with a tool. For example, Clover Online Listings can help make sure small business information is up to date on the most popular online business directories like Yelp! and TripAdvisor, all from a single dashboard. By centralizing your updates, you can avoid inaccuracies between one site and another that can negatively affect search results and frustrate potential customers into choosing a competitor.
- Include all contact information on directories and review sites including phone number, website, address, directions as well as links to things like menus or other popular content.
- Emphasize location in your keywords and metadata. Use your location in your title description and in metadata on your site. It will help bump your site in local searches.
Some researchers claim that you have about 15 seconds to capture the attention of the average visitor online. Customers want what they want, they want it now, and they are not afraid to click away if they don’t immediately see something of interest. With that in mind:
- Invest in a good user experience. Search engines take note if they send traffic to a site and the visitor immediately clicks away. So if you created content advertising the best celebrity tattoos, but when visitors click to your site they don’t see anything relevant to that ad they will click away immediately. OK, you probably didn’t make that mistake…but take a hard look at your ads and content—do they match? Will visitors get what they expected when they clicked to your site? Making sure your ads are relevant and deliver on user expectations are the first steps to improving user experience. Also consider: Is the site designed in a way to encourage visitors to explore the site? Is it easy to browse products and to make a purchase? Remember, your first goal is to get potential customers to discover you, but your immediate second goal is to get them interested in buying from you.
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. If someone searches for a shoe store on their phone, Google knows that search was made on a mobile device. Because Google wants that user to have a good experience, they prioritize shoe store websites that are optimized for mobile. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you may be losing an important segment of potential customers. Make sure simple things, like your font size and button size, are easily visible and clickable on a mobile device. Clover Online can help you design a mobile-friendly, e-commerce site with the right architecture to improve your SEO. If you go through Clover Online your ecommerce site will also have the advantage of being fully integrated with your Clover POS system, so things like tracking inventory and collecting taxes will all be automated.
Clover is sold by leading U.S. banks including Bank of America, BBVA, Citi, PNC, Sun Trust and Wells Fargo. You’ll also find Clover at our trusted partners including Ignite Payments, Restaurant Depot, and Sam’s Club. For more information, visit us at clover.com.[image: Soul train by Gauthier DELECROIX on flickr]