If you have an online presence (corporate website, blog, eCommerce site), you have probably spent some time thinking about how to improve search engine rankings.
After all, 97% of all consumers do research online prior to buying products and services, so being visible in the search engines is incredibly important.
In this post, I reveal five key steps to improve search engine rankings. It won’t happen overnight, but with patience and practice, you will see results.
1) Keyword Research
Keyword research is the practice of figuring out what people are searching for, what competitors are targeting, and determining the best keywords to target on your website.
In order to improve search engine rankings, you need to find keywords that people are searching for, but which are not too difficult. As a general rule of thumb, single words (e.g. “camera,” “Nike,” “yoga”) are difficult. Really long key phrases (e.g. Best Nike shoes in my small town) are easy to rank for, but very few people are searching for that particular phrase.
Just like in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, there is a just right: A medium-length keyword that has decent traffic, but not too much competition.
One great tool for determining relative search volume and level of competition is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. If you have an AdWords account, you can access it in the “Tools and Analysis” section. Otherwise, access the external keyword tool here.
If we do a search for “dog grooming,” we’ll find that this phrase is searched 246,000 times per month in the US:
Another popular tool to help with keyword research is SEOmoz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool. However, you must be a PRO member to access.
2) Incorporate Keywords Into Your Writing
Now that you have your amazing keyword phrases, it’s time to put them to work. This means writing amazing content that includes your keyword phrases.
Pick one keyword phrase per page.
Write an article or blog post for human readers. This means giving your audience what they want. This could be answering a question, explaining how to do something, or writing something inspirational to get them through the day. Make sure it’s something you’d want to read!
Try to include the keyword phrase in the first paragraph of your text and make it bold. Include the keyword phrase several time in your article, but not so many times that it destroys the readability of the content.
3) Optimize Your Content for Search Engines
Once you have your amazing article written, make sure the search engines can find it:
- Include the keyword phrase in the <title> tag: “Dog Grooming | Pampered Pets Grooming”
- Include the keyword phrase in at least one header (<H1>, <H2>) tag: “Dog Grooming Experience”
- Include the keyword phrase in the URL: www.pamperedpetsgrooming.com/dog-grooming/
- Include the keyword phrase in the image alt tag: “Dog Grooming Example – Bichon Frise”
- Write a unique meta description to summarize the article: “Visit Pampered Pets Grooming for all of your dog grooming needs. Your dog will love our friendly staff and look amazing!”
4) Make Your Content Shareable
Between Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and a host of other social media communities, today’s consumers are sharing more than ever.
Throughout history, word-of-mouth sharing had a limited reach. Until now. With one click, consumers can share their likes with hundreds to thousands of their friends and acquaintances.
On top of this, search engines are now starting to take social sharing into consideration when determining relevance and ranking.
You must give your audience an opportunity to share your amazing content:
5) Claim Your Google Places Page
If you have a physical location (like a dog groomer), perhaps the single most effective thing you can do to improve search engine rankings (in Google, specifically), is to claim your Google Places page.
Why is this important? Search engines are increasingly paying attention to who your are and your preferences (this is called “personalization”). As such, they try to present users with information that is related to where they are located, which language they speak, and social sharing history.
So if a potential customer is searching for “Dog Grooming” in your town, they are likely to see results like this:
By claiming and enhancing your Google Places page, you show Google that you deserve to be in the 7 pack!
NOTE: Improving search engine rankings is only part of the puzzle. You must be able to follow-through on your website when you do get the traffic to convert your visitors. This requires having a website designed for excellent user experience and clear calls to action.