Getting your business to the top of a Google search result
There's a funny, modern expression that goes, "If you want to hide anything, put it on page two of a Google search." Sadly, that's true. With today's shortened attention spans, online users are less likely to click on page two of a Google search if the results on page one satisfy their needs. But how can you get your landscaping website to appear on page one of a Google search? There are many factors that determine where a website ranks in a Google search, so we broke it down to reduce some of the complexity to make it easy to understand what you can do to help splash your website across the front page.
First, let's go over a few statistics:
- 93 percent of online experiences begin with an "organic" search
- 75 percent of online users never scroll beyond the first page of a search result
- 86 percent of users look up the location of a business on Google Maps
- 61 percent of mobile users are likely to contact a business if they have a mobile-friendly / mobile-responsive website
- Leads from search engines, like Google, have a 14.6 percent close rate on sales. This is compared to a much lower 1.7 percent close rate made by cold calls, direct mail and other conventional sales tactics.
Getting started with search engine optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization is the result of a collection of factors that determine a website's value in cyberspace. The greater the SEO value of a website, the better its Google search ranking, meaning the higher it appears in a Google search result.
There are many ways to improve your rankings in a Google search, and it all starts with your website. If your landscaping website doesn't have good SEO, your competition can appear higher than you in a Google search result and likely beat you in what's called "organic" traffic to their website. Ultimately, this gives them more business calls than you. Not good.
Organic web traffic is the traffic, or users, who click on and land on the webpages that appear below the ads in a Google search result.
For example, if a prospective client looking for landscaping services in Miami doesn't know where to find that service, they can perform a Google search with generic terms like, "Landscape services in Miami." That's an organic search, and unfortunately for every landscaping service in Miami with a web presence, that search generates numerous competitive results, which is why your website needs to have the SEO value. Having greater SEO value pushes your website higher up the Google search rankings and increases its likelihood for receiving more organic traffic.
While there are many factors that attribute to your website SEO rank, here are a few you can optimize and have a direct affect your website's SEO value:
1. What keywords should I use?
Several of the following SEO success elements require knowing or choosing the right keywords to use. So, what is a keyword, which one should I use and how do I know I'm using the best one and not just what I think is best?
Keywords are the generic descriptions, words and phrases web users enter into a Google (or other search engine) search to help them find the resources they're looking for. For example, to get web users closer to your Miami Landscaping website, use keywords related to landscaping in Miami and relevant to the site's webpages in the meta descriptions for those pages.
According AriensCo web specialist, Bart Raboin, content keyword research is its own pseudo-science.
"Identifying the primary keyword for your page content is a key to on-page SEO success, but there are multiple paths to that success," said Raboin. "Your initial response may be to target the most obvious keyword or phrase, let's say 'Landscaping Professionals,' but many other businesses will take the same approach. Competition will be high - the key is to find a specific phrase people search for a lot, and write your content with that phrase in mind."
An alternative might be to identify how you differentiate your business from the rest and find a longer keyword phrase that aligns with your business. For example:
green power landscaping professionals
all electric landscaping professionals
This specific focus for your content is why blogging has been so successful over the years, as it's an opportunity to write to a very specific topic, such as answering a how-to question, helping customers choose the right product for their needs, providing an answer to a specific pain paint and more. When people search for how to do something, or what widget is right for me, your content has a greater chance of showing up over time in their search results.
Below are a couple tools to help you identify the most-used keyword phrases that people search for:
Their keyword research tool gives you insight into how often certain words are searched and how those searches have changed over time. This can help you narrow your keyword list down to the ones you really want.
Enter a URL or keyword to discover and prioritize the best keywords to target. Do better research in less time. Identify which keywords your site could rank for right now and find high-impact suggestions.
If you liked this post and want to learn more about using web tools for growing your business, keep an eye on the Gravely blog for the remaining posts in our web tools series.
2. List yourself on Google My Business
Have you ever wondered how Google Maps magically knows where all the hardware stores, restaurants and outdoor power equipment dealerships are located? Those businesses aren't magically uploaded into the database, they're put there by business owners like yourself.
Back in the olden days, our parents (and some of us) looked for services through the local phonebook. Google My Business is the same concept, just a different medium, and like the phonebook, it's free to list yourself. Listing your business in Google My Business is extremely critical to your site's visibility and SEO value. Additionally, a presence on Google My Business gives consumers your address, your phone number, hours of operation and a platform for the public to engage with you via space for them to write reviews – an extremely valuable feature in the digital marketplace.
A Google study learned that 50 percent of consumers who used Google Maps on their smartphones to find goods and services visited one of those local search results within a day. There's no time to waste. List yourself today by clicking here.
3. Title Tags
Results listed on Google appear as large blue headlines. These are called title tags. Title tags are a very brief summary of what the webpage is about. The most effective title tags are those that are reader friendly, meaning they use the correct words that are relevant to the content of that webpage. We'll use a landscaping business as an example to explain title tags.
Say you're a landscaping professional serving the greater Miami area. Some examples for your website's homepage meta title might look like:
Professional Landscaping Services in Miami – (Company Name)
Miami Landscaping Company for 25 years – (Company Name)
Why does the company name appear last?
Search engines put more weight on the first words of your page's meta title. The goal is to get the most prominent keyword as far to the front as possible. Potential new customers who are searching for a landscaper in Miami most likely don't know who you are and are searching for the service instead of a name.
Craft your page titles to appeal to new customers. Existing customers already know you, so if you want to grow your business, you need to catch the attention of those who don't know you.
4. Meta tags (description, image)
Meta tags add value to your Google listing. The first is the "meta description." This description also appears on a search engine results page, just below the title tag, which is that clickable link. It's the descriptive copy that tells you more about the webpage content. It's the initial marketing message that needs to entice users to click your link over all the others. Put value into your meta tags.
Image alt tags
Everybody loves images, but images have no impact if they can't be viewed. How can website owners describe an image to someone who can't see it, or provide context to search engines to verify if your content and images are relevant to a topic? By using image alt tags. An alt tag is simply a method of providing a description for an image by adding:
alt="A beautiful sunrise overlooking Miami Beach from the shoreline"
alt="Black Friday Sale! 45% OFF + FREE SHIPPING!"
The purpose of an alt tag is to provide an accurate description of your images so that they become part of the content of your site.
5. Heading tags
Heading tags are designed to help organize content within a single page and define content segments. Typically, the most prominent content is located at the top, with the least important content last. Because of this, heading tags have a numerical hierarchy of: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6, etc. Using heading tags provides a format for identifying the most important content, as well as the least.
"Content is king has been the mantra for nearly 20 years," said Natalie Nelson, digital marketing manager at AriensCo. "Having valuable, high-quality content that speaks to your audience, or customer, is vital. Whether people are learning the benefits of landscaping, the companies that provide it or the tools that help them do it themselves, web users are looking for answers to problems."
If your site content helps answer those questions, you're well on your way to being ranked at the top. The prominence of blogs started out as the easiest way for people and businesses to establish themselves as a subject matter expert, providing timely content for all levels of their audience, from beginners through experts. Google recently revealed that it is now placing preference on 'longform' content, which are articles in the 2000 to 3000-word count range.
In addition to written content, the onset of new technologies has opened the doors for podcasts and video to surge in popularity and serve as additional content types. Additionally, multimedia content provides great results with audience engagement, which also positively impacts your site's SEO value.
7. URL Structure
Much like meta title tags, heading tags and image alt tags, URL structure is another element reviewed by search engines. Take a look at the following two URL examples:
Which one is easier to decipher what content will be on the page? The first URL doesn't give you any information, whereas the second URL provides a description with user-friendly words. Additionally, your URL structure is another opportunity to use the same keywords used in the meta title, meta description, heading tags and the content of your webpage.
Create user-friendly URLs that both humans and search engines can process. The order of the keywords plays an important role as well, since search engines place a greater weight on the first word, and sequentially less on the trailing words.
8. Robots.txt file
If you're not familiar with the technical side of website things, you can forward this one to your hired web developer. The robots.txt file, is a text file that lives on your site and helps control certain levels of security. These can prevent various crawlers from accessing your site, but the downside is that it can also block the 'friendly' crawlers like Google from accessing your site and using it in a search result. It's important to ensure this robots.txt file is not blocking search bots from indexing your site. If it is, your site won't ever show up in search results.
9. Multi-device friendly
There's no argument that mobile devices are overtaking traditional computers. It's a non-question at this stage if your website should be mobile friendly. If it's not, you're losing potential customers and followers every single day. Google has also taken the stance that they are indexing mobile website content first in preparation for use of these devices to start overshadowing computers. Talk with your website specialist and ensure your site is serving all visitors, regardless of device.
10. Page speed
Ever heard the phrase, "Speed kills"? In the website world, the lack of speed is most definitely a killer. Search engines prefer a website that loads within two seconds. Unsure of how your site's speed? GTMetrix.com has a great free tool that tests your site's speed. Due to the massive rise in mobile traffic, search engines want to ensure they're providing the fastest websites with quality content to their users. If your site content hasn't been updated in a while, it may be time for a refresh.
11. Cross-page links
Cross-page links connect related content on your website. For example, if you have an article in your blog that mentions something you wrote about in another article, highlight the keywords that relate to that other post and create a hyperlink to its page. Search engines use this to build context around your site content and make connections for related content.
12. Site Security
Security is a hot topic today, especially with website that conduct monetary transactions. All of those actions should occur over a secure connection. This requires what is known as an SSL certificate. SSL certificates encrypt the data submitted when a user submits a form or completes a checkout process.
SSL certificates can range in price based on the level of security you want for your site, but you can also get a free SSL from LetsEncrypt.org. Talk with your website specialist about adding an SSL certificate if you don't currently have one protecting your site.
The number of domains linking to your website is one of the most important SEO ranking factors, but it's not just quantity that wins the day. Backlinks, or sites that link back to your site, need to be reputable sites. If not, they can have the opposite effect on your domain. Reputable sites such as Google reviews, Houzz, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, respected bloggers and businesses in the industry can all help boost your site's search engine results page rank. The key is to provide an equally worthwhile effort in return for them adding your site to theirs and link back to you.
Reviews from your past customers are some of the most effective virtual word-of-mouth content that can help build trust with potential customers. Google reviews are great for building trust during the exploratory stage because users are searching for your content topic, and reviews persuade them to click your site's link. On-site reviews are great additions for building trust and engaging web users to take that next step by contacting or visiting your location.