Getting to the top of Google and staying there is an ongoing battle for most companies. However, the rewards you can gain from that kind of exposure are likely to outweigh the work involved. And, while time-consuming, the journey doesn’t have to be expensive. The knowledge you already have of your own business and industry will give you a huge advantage. Here are the first steps to getting to the top of Google.
Know your keywords
As a small business owner, you probably have a really clear, first-hand understanding of your company’s products and services. What you need to know to market yourself effectively online, though, is how your consumer understands your offering. More specifically, what words and phrases are your consumers likely to type into Google when they’re looking for something you sell?
Have a brainstorm to work it out, ask friends and family and, ideally, ask your consumers. Once you’ve got some ideas, use Google’s Keyword Planner to identify which of your keywords have the magical combination of both volume and relevancy. The tool will give you a reasonably accurate idea of the volume of searches, as the data comes from Google itself. It’s your job to work out which of those higher volume keywords is most likely to bring in the right customers for your business.
Use Google Webmaster Tools to find out which keywords your site is ranking for, and to generally see your site through Google’s eyes. Google Analytics, meanwhile, will tell you about which keywords are helping your visitors find your site, which pages they’re visiting and how they behave when they’re there.
Outwit your competitors
If you’re running a small business, you’ve probably spent time researching your competitors. When you’re trying to get to the top of Google, you need to approach your competitor analysis from a different angle.
Instead of investigating competitors on your patch, or those who you know have the biggest share of the market, look at which brands are ranking for your chosen keywords. These are the brands you need to tackle if you want to get the most out of your business online. Look at their websites, but also check out their reviews, social presence and the kinds of sites which are linking to them. Tools such as Ahrefs and Open Site Explorer can help you check the latter.
Don’t attempt to copy your competitors’ approach, though. Instead, use the knowledge you’ve gained to create true competitive advantage online. Google chooses its top ranking sites based on what will create the best consumer experience, and that means providing differentiation in its results. Doing something different is therefore likely to reap rewards when it comes to rankings.
If you do choose to use ideas your competitors have given you, for example with their onsite content or the links they’ve gained, make sure you’re able to do it ten times better than they are.
Create consumer-driven content
Now you know the keywords you wish to target, and you have an overview of what your competitors are up to. You’ve therefore got a good knowledge base from to start thinking about content. Content comes in many forms. It’s wise to ensure you have a strong base of keyword-rich, consumer-focused written content on your site.
But don’t think of content production as a one-off task. For the long term, think about your company’s top-level marketing goals and identify the areas in which content production could best contribute. Ideally, this will be an ongoing process, involving a multitude of varied projects and approaches, so don’t worry about getting it all planned out immediately. Make sure you’re constantly thinking of new ways in which content can support and enhance your business.
Find out what kind of content is popular in your industry. Buzzsumo is a useful tool for this, showing which pages from across the web, on any given subject, have received the most attention in social media. Think about what kind of content might earn you links from other trusted websites. Links are still crucial for rankings, so creating link-worthy content will be a major, ongoing challenge.
Develop a rounded online presence
As well as making your website Google and consumer-friendly, think about what kind of offsite channels might add to what you’re able to offer online. Social media is increasingly valuable for many companies. It can be used as a way to showcase your business, to deal with consumer queries and to engage with the customer base in a friendly and informal manner.
Think about which social media sites are most suitable for our business. Most brands start with Facebook, Twitter and Google+, but if your products are visually appealing, you might want to showcase them on Pinterest. While Google doesn’t officially recognise social signals in its ranking algorithm, a strong social following can indirectly lead to favourable rankings, for example by increasing brand awareness and therefore the likelihood of gaining inbound links.
Reviews are another valuable offsite signal. Encourage your users to leave reviews. As well as increasing consumer trust, these can be accessed directly from search results, adding to the success of any rankings you achieve.