3 Ways To Improve Your Search Rankings. By Pippa Haines, Pippas Web.

If you run a small business, chances are you already have a website or have thought about investing in one, so now you want everybody to see it. I’m going to share with you 3 ways to improve your search rankings.

What is a website and why is it important?

Websites are an online source of information all about your business. They can be used to showcase or sell your products or services to prospective customers, at a time that’s convenient for them – so you can even sell, while you’re asleep.

A website has the benefit of not being owned or governed by the Social Media giants (Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/etc.). The rules set by the platforms can change quickly, did you know the members of your page list belongs to them as does the data they generate? There’s always a risk that something goes wrong with the platform or they delete your account or page. Could you still run your business? Or would you need to start again, from scratch?  

A website should be the central hub of information, with all the info for your business and your social media posts should drive people to the site. With a website, you’ve still got something that can be found by potential clients, via search engines etc. You should also build a mailing list that belongs to you, so you can still communicate with your customers whatever happens.  

A website can be a big investment – whether that investment is of your time (if you’re doing it yourself) or your money (if you pay someone else to do it for you). 

But having a website on its own is not enough. Your site needs to be able to tell search engines (like Google) what your business is all about, so it can use that information to know when to show your site in search results and it needs links from other websites to yours. These techniques are called SEO (search engine optimisation). Not all web designers include SEO in their design, so it’s always useful to have some understanding of what’s involved so you know what you should expect to see.

Depending on your business and how many other people are offering the same services as you, SEO could be a huge job or ranking on the first page of the results could be achieved quite easily. For example, tough if you’re competing against big companies like Amazon to sell books but slightly easier if you’re the only hypnotherapist in your town.  

Google uses over 200 ranking factors to give every page, on every site a score – you may have heard about Google’s Algorithm? This helps Google work out the best-fit search results for its users. SEO can feel scary or seem too big a job, it should be an ongoing project and not a quick fix. However, there are some basics that as business owners, you should understand regardless of whether you are doing your SEO yourself or if you’re paying someone else to do it for you.

Firstly NO-ONE except Google employees knows all the ranking factors, so all the advice out there is based on peoples experience and their research – what they found worked. 

Google will occasionally drop hints and say we do this, or we don’t consider this to be an important factor, but they don’t tell anyone all of it. 

So what areas should you look at first?

Keywords.

You will, I’m sure, have used different search engines to search for;

  •  A service.
  • How to do something. 
  • A product.  

The phrase you typed into the search engine (or that you asked for if you used a voice search) is called a keyword or key phrase. The higher your page scores using the algorithm, the higher in the search results you appear for that keyword. 

So the first tip for your SEO, if you want to rank for a specific word or phrase then that needs to appear on your site. You will never rank for “rug cleaner” if you only ever mention “carpet cleaner” on your website.

How do you decide which keywords or phrases to use? Start with a brainstorm – write down everything you can think of about your business. Ask friends and family to add their ideas or even social media followers.  Then go to Google – type in one of the keywords from your list and scroll to the bottom of the page where you’ll find Google makes suggestions about related searches, these could all be additional phrases that a potential user could use to find your site. 

screenshot of a Google search for a carpet cleaner in Gloucester and the related searches.
Wide Area Google Search Results.

I admit not all keywords and phrases are going to be as profitable to your business, likewise, the amount of competition (other web pages) is going to vary depending on the phrase. Go back to Google and search the first keyword on your list (I tried carpet cleaner in Gloucester see pictures), how many search results did it bring back? 

Screenshot of a Google search for a carpet and upholstery cleaner in Churchdown taken from the related searches suggestions.
Local Area Google Search Results.

Now try one of the related keywords that Google suggested, make a note of all your results. Ranking for several less competitive terms may be easier to achieve, than ranking for the top keywords.   

Now you are armed with this list of keywords you’ll want to understand what to do to add them to your site.

Keywords/phrases can be added to page or blog posts on the website. You’ll want to use them in the main body of the text on the page or post, but there are two other important areas you want to add them to.

Alt Tags.

Have you ever seen a site where the pictures didn’t load or there were just a few words, where the picture should be? That was the sites alt tags; they should be placed with the image (in WordPress you can add them in the media library) to provide a written version for those who can’t see the image.   

Alt tags have two main uses:

  • Google spiders can’t read pictures, so the alt tag can help understand what the image is about. 
  • Site users with visual impairments may have special software that will read the site to them. The images alt tags are readout too, to provide a complete overview of the site.

Alt tags should be relevant and describe the image. They should be written as sentences, not just be stuffed full of keywords.

Headings and Sub-headings.

 Another location you want to include your keywords or key phrases is in titles on your page.

On your site, you want to use a mix of headings and sub-headings. 

Headings should be tagged with a different code, to the body text. The headings should be used to highlight different sections of the page.  

The main title (or heading) on the page is usually set with an H1 tag. The H1 tag tells Google that this is most important heading (so gives it more weighting).  

Any other headings on the page are tagged with H2 – H6 and should be added when writing a page or blog post. You could just make the text bold to make it stand out, but by using the right tag Google understands your site a little bit more.

If you have a lot of writing on your page, you can make it easier for users to read by breaking it up with Headings and Sub-headings.

It’s important to include the keywords your customers will be looking for as they skim-read the page – it will help users find the information they want quickly. However, don’t go mad! Adding the same keyword to every sub-heading won’t help either. Depending on the length of the page (a “regular page” is around 300-500 words), placing the keyword once in the main title and once in a sub-heading is probably enough.

Using your list of keywords and phrases, why not write some blogs based on them. It’s a great way to add lots of new content to your website as well as expanding the number of phrases you could be found for, which is a win-win situation.

Summary of 3 Ways to Improve Your Search Rankings. 

I hope this gives a bit of a background into why you need a website and what you need to make sure is on there.  

  • Do your keyword research and make a list of phrases you can use on your site.
  • Add keywords in your Alt tags (as long as they’re relevant).
  • Use keywords in headings and subheadings on pages and blog posts.
Pippa Haines of Pippas Web - Web Design.
Hello Pippa!
About the Author.

Pippa is a web designer with over 10 years’ experience. She runs Pippas Web, helping small business owners get their sites online allowing them to get back to the business of running their business.

You can find Pippas Web on Facebook or Instagram where she shares lots of helpful tips to help get your website seen online. 

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