What can you do to make sure your business pops up in a Google, Bing, or Yahoo search? Knowing the essentials to improve your search rankings, also called search engine optimization (SEO), will go a long way toward making your web presence successful.
Here are some common questions and answers around optimizing your online store for search.
What’s the number one thing you should do to help your business show up in search?
Create and optimize your website with the audience you want to reach in mind, not the search engines. Offering a great experience for the people who visit your site will help your organic search rankings (meaning search results outside of paid advertising) tremendously. Having a content-rich site with a blog is one of the most effective techniques.
You’ll want to post fresh, engaging content regularly. We recommend 40- to 500-word blog posts three to five times a week. If you don’t have time to do that, start with something less intensive — a quick video of your store or an update about what’s going on at your business. It’s all about providing fresh and engaging content that’s interesting and helpful to your target audience.
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What type of content should you post?
Figure out the most relevant topics for your present and prospective customers. Talk to people in your place of business and observe what social media platforms your customers are using. Let that information guide your blogging and content strategy. It’s helpful to group your content into certain themes.
Also, think of the questions people are typing in to search engines. What type of searches would you want your business to pop up under? For example, if you’re a local flower shop, you might want to show up when someone searches for “What are the best flower choices for Mother’s Day?” or “What are the latest trends in wedding flowers?” Then, write posts that integrate and answer those questions. Images also make posts more compelling and help SEO. You can add extra SEO power by including captions, as well as image alt tags, file names, and URLs.
How do search engines actually determine your ranking?
In the 20 or so years that search engines have been helping users find websites, ranking factors have changed a lot. In the beginning, your website’s general popularity was all that mattered. Today, search rank depends on a variety of factors. This includes relevant, high-quality content; user behavior signals (like the time people spend on your content); and links back to your content from topically related websites or social media. But these ranking factors, much like the SEO industry itself, change constantly. For example, Google makes regular changes to its search algorithm. Staying up to date with SEO trends is crucial to knowing which techniques can have the most impact.
What lowers your ranking?
If you never update your website’s content, you’ll lower your ranking since search engines reward sites with fresh content. Also, if people just read the first line or two of a post and quickly leave (what’s called a “bounce rate”), search engines notice. Create content that holds people’s attention. Steer clear of practices that violate the search engines’ rules, like “keyword stuffing,” which means overloading your content with keywords, and participating in “link farms,” which serves no other purpose than linking back to content to try to boost rankings. Your site will get pushed down in search — or even banned — if Google or Bing detects those things.
It’s also a good idea to optimize your website and content for mobile users, as failure to do so will hurt your search engine rankings, too.
Are there other ways to optimize each page?
Each page of your website offers a few opportunities to boost search engine rankings. First, write a relevant 50- to 60-character description of the page topic, called a title tag. Include your main keywords, but don’t engage in keyword stuffing. Then, create a custom meta description on each page — a relevant description of the page topic. Adding these tags helps search engines identify the most relevant content for any given search.
Should you become an SEO expert?
SEO is something every business owner can learn. Take a local class or workshop, and check out some online resources. Google has a very helpful SEO guide for beginners. And take a look at SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), one of the industry’s most respected resources on the topic. Since you’ll get the best SEO results through a long-term strategy and constant site updates, it’s important to map out a plan for which keywords you want your business to rank for, and continually revisit that list depending on your results.
To boost your search rankings, regularly update your site with shareable, engaging content that’s relevant to the audience you’d like to reach.