Small Business SEO: Your Questions Answered

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is complicated and competitive. Everyone with a website has the same question: How do I get my content on the first page of the Google search results page so that I can garner the most possible traffic. The answer is not straightforward, and because of the way Google’s algorithm changes it is a moving target. To help you get a better understanding of what search engine marketing is about, here are answers to five of the most common questions we hear.

How long does it take to see results from SEO efforts?

A well-optimized website typically starts to gain in Google’s rankings after a few weeks. Having said that, it’s an ongoing effort. You can’t just optimize a site once and leave it. There’s a feedback loop that needs to be recognized and respected to get to top rankings. There are so many facets of SEO that there is always more to do. Keep in mind that some of the more competitive phrases can be difficult to rank for, and it can take more effort and time to gain traction in those cases.

How does Google determine how to rank a given web page?

There are probably more than 200 secret factors that Google uses to determine how to rank a given piece of content when a relevant search is performed. Many of the factors have been reverse engineered to some extent, some have been gleaned from Google’s patents, and a handful have been announced publicly by Google. Some of the factors might seem obvious, for example having content that contains the terms that the search is about; others are less obvious, for example the length of time a domain name is registered for may indicate a degree of legitimacy.

How do I get my listing into Google’s local search results that I often see when I search for brick and mortar businesses?

Google’s local pack showcases 3 or 4 nearby business and appears for queries that Google believes are being carried out by people who are looking for companies that they can visit in person or that service their location. The results are based on information from Google My Business, a free business listing service from Google to help companies and organizations manage their online presence in search results and in Google Maps. Every small business should claim and manage their listing. Google combines information from Google My Business and other ranking factors to determine when to show your information in the results.

My business has received a bad review on Google, can I get it removed?

The short answer is probably not. In some cases, if the review violates the terms of service and guidelines it may be removed. One-sided and unfair reviews can damage a business’ reputation, so what should you do? The best answer is to be proactive.

First, try to get good reviews. Remind happy customers to give honest reviews of your product or service. This not only helps balance out negative reviews, but evidence suggests that having a number of good reviews is a ranking factor.  Having said this, never try to pack your listing with fake reviews from friends and relatives or paid services. Google can detect this, and at best, it will not help you. Also, try not to get many reviews on the same day. Google may see this as fraudulent and not show the reviews at all, even if they are legitimate.

When you receive a review, be sure to respond to it. This is especially true of negative reviews. See what you can do to make it right, when you do, occasionally someone who left a bad review may decide to update it. Even they don’t, it still shows well when future customers read a poor review and see that the company is responsive and tries to make it right.

Just tell me how to get my site to rank well.

That’s a toughie, I’ve been doing search engine optimization for over 15 years, and it is difficult to point to one thing that will get your website to the top of Google’s search results. SEO is a long game where the rules aren’t completely certain. Tricks and techniques that are touted with promises to get you quickly to the top of the search engine listings tend to be false promises.

If you are in a hurry for results, my best advice is to start with some Google AdWords advertising to supplement your organic search results with paid listings. Since you only pay when someone clicks your ad, it’s a fantastic way to get value from your website while you improve your natural listings.

Meanwhile, there are definitely a few common factors that seem to be associated with high ranking sites:

  • Good quality, helpful content. This may seem obvious, but thin, spun content that doesn’t stand out and doesn’t answer would-be customer’s questions isn’t going to rank. There is way too much competition in just about any topic area for low-quality content to gain traction. Just keep in mind that Google is by far the most popular search engine for a reason—it quickly presents the best possible search results. Ask yourself if your content could be improved to make it stand out as unique and comprehensive. Improve your content to the extent possible to make it the best it can be.By the way, short pages probably will not do well. Recent studies have shown that pages that are more than 1,800 words more commonly rank in the top 10 than shorter pages. Although it isn’t certain exactly why this is so, the effect is strong enough that content creators should consider writing long-form content where appropriate and feasible.
  • Get links from reputable sources, especially those that are relevant to your organization. Getting a link from another website to your site is like a vote for your site. If you can garner links from high-value sites that are in your industry, that’s going to help you rank. Getting non-paid links from newspapers, universities, and community organizations can also help. Just make sure you don’t buy links, and it’s best if they are truly relevant to what you do.
  • Make sure you site uses up-to-date techniques. Your site should be coded with modern mobile-friendly technology and should be secure. Test your site with Google’s mobile friendly tester, and make sure you have an HTTPS certificate so that your web traffic will be encrypted.
  • Mind your name, address, and phone number (NAP). Certain details of your company need to be consistent wherever they are listed. This includes local directories, business data clearinghouses, and any other websites your company may be mentioned on.
  • If you want to do well in local listing results, optimize your site for local. As mentioned earlier, you will want to register and tend to your Google My Business site, but beyond that, you need to culture local content on your website.

Was your question not answered here? Feel free to drop us a line to get advice and more information.