Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing the content and navigation on your website to improve its ranking on search engine results pages. Whether you run a restaurant, retail shop or service-based business, effective SEO can help your business rank highly in search results when people search for the items or services you offer using Google, Bing, or other search engines.
Why is this so important? Searching online is a predominant way that consumers find restaurants, shops and services in their locale. And according to Advanced Web Ranking, the website in the first position on Google’s desktop search results enjoys a 34.36 percent click-through rate—that is, more than one in three people who see the page will click on that result—which can mean a significant increase in traffic to your business’s website. Google’s research reveals that local searches lead 50 percent of mobile visitors to visit a store within one day. Effective SEO can be a powerful way to capture some of the foot traffic that results from those online searches.
In general, search engines reward websites whose content is highly relevant to online users and that is easy to use and navigate. Factors they use to make that determination about your website include:
- How long people stay on your website and how many pages they view per session
- Whether people are sharing your content on social media
- Your website’s load speed
- Whether other websites link back to yours—a measure of your online “authority”
- Whether your site is mobile responsive: that is, whether the pages are optimized to be viewed on a mobile phone
Here are a few ways to improve SEO for your business’s website.
Get into the minds of your customers.
Much of the advice for SEO can be distilled into this single sentence: think like your customers. If your website is useful to consumers, their behaviors will earn you good SEO rankings. Ask yourself: what phrases will potential customers use when searching for my 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. “Long tail” searches refer to search terms that include more words and detail. “Coffee shop” is a generic keyword. “Best coffee shop in Haworth, NJ” is a longer tail keyword. In general, there is less competition for long tail keywords, increasing the likelihood that you will show up first on the search results page for these less frequently searched, but much more specific, phrases. What’s more, if you include the phrase “best coffee shop in Haworth, NJ” in your website, you are also optimizing your site for shorter search terms like “coffee shop” and “Haworth, NJ.” Think about which keyword phrases people might type in order find your business, and what additional words people might use to search for what you offer. For example, “fast coffee shops in Haworth, NJ” or “organic coffee shops in Haworth, NJ” might be strong options to include on your website.
- 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 works best if customers are inspired to share your content. People (and other websites) share content for all sorts of reasons, and you don’t have to include slick or gimmicky content to make it 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, you can increase your likelihood of receiving backlinks from other websites. You can also create shareable content by offering a tempting promotion, beautiful photographs, funny videos of your staff, or contests. The key to being shareable is creating content that is valuable and/or interesting 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. Customers are often 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. Some tools 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 that can negatively affect search results and frustrate potential customers into choosing a competitor.
- Include all contact information on directories and review sites including your phone number, website, address, directions as well as links to things like menus or other popular content. You should also make sure that your telephone number is prominently listed on each page of your website.
- 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 liable 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 a visitor doesn’t see anything relevant to that promise when they visit your site, there’s a good chance they will leave your site. Take a hard look at your ads and content—do they match? Will visitors get what they expect when they visit to your site? Make sure your ads are relevant and deliver on user expectations to improve overall user experience. Also consider whether the site is designed in a way that encourages visitors to explore it, and whether it is 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 it easy.
- 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. Many website builders automatically optimize the mobile version of your website.