Marissa sets up her online jewelry store and is ready for business but how does she make sure customers can find her website? Search is how people find what they want online. For website owners this means getting discovered by search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo.
The process of search is as simple as reading and writing, as it is based on words that describe the content on a web page. And yet the mystery surrounding search-engine optimization (SEO) can cause business owners to make bad decisions or do nothing to improve the discoverability of their website.
The process of search engine discovery begins with words, like does your URL describe what your site is about? Or do the site description, page content, headings, and image titles provide information with keywords that are relevant to your target market? Search engines use this information to put websites into indexes that are then used to pull up sites that match search queries, and just like good writing, simple, direct words are a good place to start.
But even with great website content, design, and structure, no one can promise your site will achieve a specific ranking in Google search, like top 10 or even top 100. This is why website owners are well advised to be careful when hiring experts to improve the discoverability of their site.
The good news is that while there are many strategies for improving website discoverability, three of the best tools for SEO are simple and free.
Can people find my business on Google? Google Search Console is a free tool that business owners can use to make sure Google can find their business and show it for the correct search queries. Microsoft provides a similar tool called Bing Webmaster Tools to help site owners get their site indexed and discovered on Bing.
Search Console provides a number of excellent tools that allow site owners to do things like:
Check errors -This means you can see errors found by Google when reading the site. Then you can fix errors so all pages can be found in search.
See search terms - Want to know which terms lead to Google search results pages on your website? Search Console has the data, which you can use to discover your site’s most successful pages and products. Focus on what is working to increase traffic.
Listings (and Reviews!)
Back in the old days, businesses that wanted to get discovered would put their name in the yellow pages of their local phone book. Today online business listings help search engines and new customers find your business.
Start your business listings by showing people you are open for business, with your business name, hours, phone number, and address. This will ensure your business shows up, whether people are searching on Google Search or Maps.
Other listings that businesses may want to consider, especially for local search, include:
- Best of the Web
When making your listings, here are some things to consider that will impact your discoverability:
Name, address, and phone number (NAP) must be consistent across listings. If these identifiers are not consistent, it will confuse search engines and hurt the ranking and discoverability of your site.
Link on sites that rank high in traffic for your target audience. According to Alexa, an Amazon company, Google ranks number one in the world, based on monthly traffic as of October 2016. You can use Alexa to look up the top business directories and sites for your category, including local directories.
Search results are based on a variety of factors, including the number of reviews and recency of reviews that a company receives on site listings.
While there are many sites where you can get reviews, Google and Yelp are where it is at for for local businesses. This is because the largest map apps, Google, Bing, and Mapquest, include Google and Yelp reviews in search results. Starred reviews on Google and Yelp show up in map listings for businesses in your category, and this will impact your site rankings as well as customer choice.
Similar to reviews, social media accounts and activity impact search results. Set up social media accounts that will help you reach your target audience, like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, or other platforms.
How do you track your search engine optimization efforts? By using metrics, like the value of customer activity on your website.
Google Analytics is a free tool that provides this kind of data and analysis to improve SEO strategy, boost sales, and increase visitors.
Website owners want to know not only how customers found their site, but also what they did, and if they took valuable action. By understanding how customers interact with your website, you can learn how to get them to stay, purchase from, or contact you.
Google Analytics helps website owners answer questions like
- How many people visited my site?
- How much time did they spend on my site?
- How did they find my site?
- Where are they located?
- Did they purchase something or take another desirable action?
- Where did they leave the site?
With high quality feedback like this, you can make improvements to capture more potential customers to your site.
Ranking and getting discovered through search results takes time. Use the SEO tools listed above to build a solid foundation to get discovered and grow your business.