Search is how people find what they want online. For website owners, that means getting discovered by search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo.
The process of search is as simple as reading and writing, given it's based on words that describe the content on a web page. And yet the mystery surrounding search engine optimization (SEO) can leave business owners baffled as to how to improve the discoverability of their website.
Search engine discovery begins with words. For example, does your URL describe what your site is about? Do the site descriptions, page content, headings, and image titles feature keywords that are relevant to your target market? Search engines use this information to place websites into indexes that are then used to pull up sites that match search queries. Just like good writing, simple, direct words are best.
But even with great website content, design and structure, no one can promise your site will achieve a specific ranking in Google search. This is why website owners are 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.
Google Search Console is a free tool that business owners can use to make sure Google finds and surfaces their business 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, allowing you to make the changes necessary so that your pages can be found in search.
- See Search Terms — Want to know which terms drove search to 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 listings help search engines and new customers find your company. Listing on Google My Business or Bing Places for Business is simple.
Start your listings by showing people you are open for business, with your company name, hours, phone number, and address. This will ensure your business pops up, whether people are inquiring on Google Search or Maps.
Other listings that businesses may want to consider, especially for local search, include:
- Best of the Web
- Yellow Pages
When making your listings, keep these factors in mind as they will impact your discoverability:
Your company's name, address, and phone number (NAP) must be consistent across all 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 Amazon's Alexa, 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 regularity of reviews a company receives.
Google and Yelp are where it's at 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 a customer's 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, on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest.
How do you track your SEO efforts? By using metrics, such as 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 customers.
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.