I will never forget that feeling 10 years ago after paying thousands of pounds for my first website. It was all shiny and new….
Everybody said how amazing it was and complimented me on what a good job the designer had done. There was only 1 minor problem…
NO ONE COULD FIND IT!
What the designer had failed to mention was this thing called SEO or Search Engine Optimisation that would improve my google ranking and wait for it…
This was going to cost me around £1000 a month to get me to the top of Google!
Thankfully things have changed rapidly over the last 10 years. WordPress, Joomla, Shopify, Wix etc have all allowed business owners to create their own websites using their platform without needing a degree in HTML coding.
Most of this blog post will talk about WordPress as that is the platform I use and is the most popular with business owners. However most of what I show you is applicable to any platform and even old school HTML websites.
HINT – WordPress is also loved by Google!
So how does it work?
There are so many variables as to why some websites rank better in Google than others. However a Google employee recently let slip that the 2 main factors behind Google rankings are great QUALITY CONTENT and QUALITY BACKLINKS.
There is a little more to it than just content and backlinks as your about to find out but this is my top 10 steps how to improve your Google ranking for your website.
This blog post is aimed at local business owners and not advanced seo ninja experts.
In most of the examples I will refer to a new website I am buidling. I am currently testing if it is worth buying premium keyword domains and if it helps rank at the top of Google easier.
I bought the domain www.bootcampworkouts.com a few months ago for £900. Although the early signs are good it is to early to tell so I will update this blog in a few months time.
1 > What are keywords?
Do your research! Researching which keywords and phrases your customers use is critical when you want lots of free traffic from search engines.
The first step to start is to talk to your customers as they will think differently to you. Ask them what they searched for or would search to find you or your competitor. The answers are often a lot different to what you expect sometimes.
The next step is search Google yourself. If there are adverts it is a good indication that the keyword or phrase is commercial. Make a note of the keywords or phrases that are being used in the natural listings.
The last step is to use the FREE tool Google provides called Keyword Planner. You can find this tool in your Google Adwords account. Unfortunately there is no other way of using it without creating an account with Google Adwords.
Keyword Planner will give you the approximate search volume for each keyword and the suggested bid for how much people are prepared to pay for a click using Google Adwords.
Another great website I use alot to find long tail keywords that also gives you an indication how difficult it will be to rank for is KWFinder.com. It will suggest some alternative keywords you might not of thought of and show you the current top 10 websites for your keyword.
You can do 2 searches a day for free.
2 > How to track your progress
Now you know all the keywords related to your business…
You need to know where in Google you rank for each keyword. As with any changes you make to your website you need to know if it has made a positive or negative impact.
Now you could sit there everyday and search for each keyword you want to rank for. However you would get a false result unless you used a private browser as Google will always favour sites you visit regularly in your search results.
I use a website called PRO RANK TRACKER.
Pro Rank Tracker allows you to add up to 20 keywords for FREE before you have to upgrade to the next level which is around $19 a month for 300 keywords.
I pay $49 a month for 1500 keywords but its unlikely your need to pay anything like that as I track alot of websites that I own and for my 1-2-1 coaching clients.
If you are serious about getting your website to No.1 on Google I would strongly recommend you to set up at least the free account with Pro Rank Tracker. It has numerous state-of-the-art features to make sure you always know exactly where your websites are ranking on numerous search engines and not just Google and you can even track your products you sell on Amazon or videos you have uploaded to YouTube.
Once your keywords have been entered it will create a dashboard similar to the one below. It will take a few hours before it starts receiving data but over time it will tell you which page of your website ranks for that keyword, where it currently ranks today, last week, last month and roughly how many searches there are for that keyword locally (your country) and globally.
The green numbers show much it has improved and the red numbers show if it has declined.
3 > Titles, descriptions & meta tags?
What the hell are they?!
It’s not as confusing as it sounds. When you search Google your see results similar to the one above right? Now the idea is using the keywords you have researched, is now to use those phrases within your Meta title, description and page content. Here is a quick breakdown of each part.
- Meta Title: The meta title is the PURPLE title at the top. Google typically displays up to 50-60 characters. This is the first line people see about your website. In the example above can you see how I have managed to put the name of the business and a few of its keywords/phrases within a sentence?
- Meta Description: The meta description is the BLACK 2 lines of sentences under the GREEN domain. Google typically displays 160 characters. It is a sentence or two describing your business. Again in the example above I have used numerous keywords but at the same time it needs to be appealing. If your description is boring no one will click to go to your website. Try to give a call to action where possible. I change mine alot until I get a winning formula.
- Meta Tags Or Keywords: Not seen by you or the user in search results but this is the part that tells search engines the keywords related to your website page. I wouldn’t use anymore than 5.
How do I change mine?
If you have never entered this data in your website Google automatically takes it from the page of your website, which can make it look automated and boring.
The first plugin you need to install on your WordPress website is called “Yoast SEO”.
Here you can edit your page Meta title and description. You can also enter your focus keyword for the page. Pick the main keyword or keyphrase that this post/page is about. I have read and heard numerous people say keywords are no longer relevant to search engines. However I can’t see any harm in filling them as of the other search engines do. The worst that can happen is your competitors will be able to see what keywords you’re trying to rank for.
The reason I recommend YOAST SEO plugin is because of there traffic light system. It grades your efforts on a red, orange and green for each page you have created.
- Red means you need to make changes
- Orange means it’s OK but could be stronger.
- Green means good and is considered acceptable for Google.
But it doesn’t just tell you how good your Meta title and description is. The content analysis is a collection of content checks that analyse the content of your page and suggests changes you need to make to help you rank your website better.
Google is incredibly clever and knows when you have over done it.
As a rule of thumb aim for no more than 5% of the content of your page should be keyword or phrases. If you Google ‘keyword density checker’ there are numerous free tools that will check how many times your keyword is mentioned on your page.
4 > Alt tag your photos
This might come as a shock to you but Google can not see your photos! Believe it or not but Google does not look at the photos you upload to your website and think:
“Wow, they have done an amazing job on that photo!”
Neither does it think:
“If only they had used the black and white filter!”
Quite the opposite. It only sees your photos as code and text.
Which is why you need to get in the habit before uploading your photos to your website as a keyword you’re trying to rank for.
For example. When you upload a photo from your phone or camera the file name will be something like IMG_0736.jpg right?
One of the keywords one I am trying to rank one of my websites for is ‘bootcamp workouts’
Before uploading the photo on the homepage I renamed the file to bootcamp-workouts.jpg (use a – in between words instead of spaces)
It helps Google understand what the photo is about.
If you go to the media section of your WordPress website it shows you all the images you have uploaded.
Click on a photo and it will show you more information about the image.
Your next job is to change the title and the ALT Tag to the keyword that best represents this photo.
This is so when people hoover over your photo on your page it gives them a description and as strange as it sounds it helps blind people understand what the image is about.
This will help your website rank even better in Google and is probably one of the most under used tactics in SEO.
5 > Blogging with fresh content!
Google does not like dead websites. The most common thing I see with business owners is they have a website created, might even have attempted some SEO and then….
The website is then untouched for years! It makes your website look like it is inactive.
Google likes websites that are regularly updated with FRESH content and blogging is an easy way to do that.
What should I write? The best advice I can give you is set time aside. I find it easier to spend half a day writing 1 to 4 blog posts than trying to write a blog post every week.
I use my 12 week year planner to plan what I am going to write and when so I don’t get to Monday every week and think ‘What should I write about this week?’. Your find blogging so much easier when you plan ahead. This is where the keyword planner from step 1 comes in. Look for what people are searching for help with.
It is not a coincidence that this blog post is about how to improve your google ranking!
A great way to get ideas is go down to your local newsagents and buy magazines that are relevant to your industry. The front covers will be covered in appealing titles that would make good blog posts.
You should aim to write a minimum of 500 words in each blog post and include 1-2 relevant images (don’t forget to call the file a keyword and change the alt tag!).
Add videos to your blogs. Google loves YouTube videos (probably has something to do with that it owns it!).
So if you find it easier to create a video, upload it to YouTube and embed the video in your blog post. You can easily create the content you need by transcribing the video and placing the text below the video.
Blogging is also a great opportunity to become the expert in your niche. It allows you share your knowledge and become the go to expert.
On the next step were going to talk about backlinks. Blogging gives you a great opportunity to talk about a product or service you offer and then linking it back to the page where you sell it.
This creates an internal backlink. Don’t get too bogged down with the reasons behind it, just understand this is a good thing!
6 > Backlinks are KING!
The core of SEO is link building – This is the signal to Google that your website is authoritative and popular. Once Google sees your website is authoritative and popular, it ranks you higher in the search engines where all the traffic is.
Years ago it was all about who had the most backlinks wins. This can now cause you more harm than good and can be quite expensive to fix removing old backlinks that are spammy on dodgy websites.
Just ask BMW who years ago were removed from Google search completely because they tried to manipulate Google with loads of dodgy SEO, including spammy backlinks. Over night they lost loads of traffic and had to practically sleep with the Google gods to get back on Google.
So if you have bought dodgy backlinks off websites like Fiverr in the past you may be in trouble and why your website might not be ranking that well.
Good quality backlinks are created in places that humans are likely to look. These links take time to build and cannot be automated.
Backlinks are very much all about QUALITY over quantity
To check your website use the FREE tool by Moz.
Once you have done your first check of your website, on the left hand side of the menu it offers the ability to COMPARE LINK METRICS.
This allows you to compare your backlinks with 4 of your competitors and this might show you why they are above you in the rankings.
Can I trust anyone to build backlinks for me?
The only people I trust to build backlinks for is www.thehoth.com and I have used them for my own websites and my clients for over 4 years.
I have had some amazing success using the backlinks they create. You simply submit the keywords (you know the ones you researched in step 1) & URLS that you want to rank for. Thats it!
So you don’t over do it and it make it look really spammy choose a few phrases like ‘click here’ or ‘for more information’ otherwise it can look a little bit obvious.
You don’t need to go crazy either. I only usually start with the cheapest mini package at $60.
The Hoth is has some great tools within the Dashboard to help you and the team are super helpful at helping you achieve your ranking.
The best links you can get are often the ones you cannot build yourself. Every website domain has a rank of 1-100 (you might of seen yours in the Moz Tool)
Big news websites like the BBC, The Daily Telegraph, etc that have loads of content will have a DA of 90-100.
Links from these websites are like GOLD. This is where you need to utilise authority publications to get links posted to your website for free.
They have 2 things we need:
- High domain authority
- A targeted niche audience
This has been made so much easier thanks to Twitter. Using the following hashtags you can search for journalists looking for comments or help with editorial.
You do have to do a bit of digging into who they work for but a look at their profile shows you who they work for and what role they have.
No need for meeting for a coffee just a simple reply to the tweet offering your comment / or help and asking them to follow you so you can send them message or where to email them.
This is still quite a new technique for me having only recently learnt about it on a course, but I believe it will be worth it once I have finally nailed it.
These guys are HUNGRY for things to talk about. They like linking up with brands as it gives them credibility.
If you sell products you can send them items for a review or you could run a giveaway on their blog.
If you sell a experience or service you could run a event you can invite bloggers to try in exchange for a review.
You can also find bloggers using the same method as PR SEO on Twitter. This time use the hashtag:
Before you start working with bloggers check there website and make sure it is relevant to your niche. You also need to check the DA (domain authority of there website). It needs to be a minimum of 20+ to be even considered.
- Domain authority of 20+ do not pay to work with them.
- Domain authority of 40+ you may need to pay to work with them.
- Domain authority of 60+ they probably know what they are worth, your need to pay to work with them and they probably have a team of people around them.
I have recently used an website called Blogger Required to find UK bloggers. I paid £35 to have my advert put in front of bloggers looking to do reviews or features.
7 > Directory submissions
A great way of getting some extra backlinks is to submit your website to directories.
There are a number of directories that I would recommend using and the best part is there all FREE! Don’t get sucked in by the sales reps calling you up offering to boost you’re listing for several hundred pounds a year.
Before you add your business to each directory you must use the same address, phone number and website for each listing to create consistency.
I know this will sound strange but when someone searches online for a local business, search engines and many mobile apps rely on location data from these data sources to provide search results.
If your listing data is incorrect or inconsistent between all these data sources, your listing might not show up in the search results.
Although the postman would find you it confuses search engines.
It is far easier to get this right from the beginning then trying to get directories to fix it later. It can take months before they update you’re listing again.
I have learnt this recently when trying to get my clients listings updated. It is such a painful time consuming process.
You can check you’re existing listings on Moz’s free tool at moz.com/local. It will tell you if there are any duplications or discrepancies.
They do offer a service for $84 a year to fix existing listings for you. I have have used it a few times for clients and it makes the changes much easier and quicker.
Who to list with:
- Thomson Local
- Four Square
- Free Index
Remember you do NOT need to pay for the premium listings.
There are numerous directories on the world wide web. But the ones you want to be listed in are the ones that require human approval.
Automated listing tend to be spammy. Human approved directories tend to be organised by market niche or location and the link to your website is not the main call to action.
A word of caution, after creating your listings with directories you will probably find you have numerous phone calls from sales people trying to sell you something so where possible I would use a landline number rather than your mobile.
8 > Having a social media presence
Social media has taken the world by storm!
Google uses various social signals as ranking factors, such as authority, viral content and popularity. Many business owners do the hard part and take time to set up all these social channels and link them to there website only not to touch them again due to every day tasks of running a business or not being sure what to put.
A bit like your website Google likes social channels that are active, have content shared and engaged with on a regular basis.
As local business owners were just not in a position to have a team of people manning our social media channels so it is all part of the PLANNING by setting up your social media posts in advance and the introduction of the POWER HOUR.
The key is to not just post links to your products or services as this becomes boring and makes you look like your just interested in selling to them. This is where your blog posts come in by sharing them on social media you can build yourself up as the expert and drive traffic to your website. The mistake most of us make is to only share our blog posts once. They can be posted again and again IF they provide valuable high quality content. Remember not everyone will see them first time round.
I wouldn’t use Hootsuite or any of the other various software out there to post your social media for you. Facebook doesn’t like it and it will reduce how many people see it. Facebook allows you schedule your posts in advance, just press the small blue triangle on the right of the publish button (see below). If you set up a Twitter Ads account you can do the same thing.
The power hour prevents you from spending all your time on social media. Mine is usually at 8AM and/or 4PM to engage with customers, schedule posts and reply to messages. I go through stages of deleting social media apps off my iPhone so I don’t get distracted.
From a SEO perspective you must remember to put http:// before your website address otherwise most of the time it just be seen as text and will not make it a clickable backlink to your website. E.g
I would need to use http://www.localbusinessdomination.co.uk and not www.localbusinessdomination.co.uk
Videos are awesome!
If I can get a 10 minute countdown clock to be viewed 100,000+ times I am sure you can create something too!
It provides a great opportunity for your website to not only be no.1 on Google for your keyword but to knock your competitors down with your YouTube videos. The idea is you own the whole of page 1 with your website and different social media channels.
Videos also allow you in the description to place a link to your website which will help with your websites authority (especially the more popular the video)
Optimize your videos just like your website with a good title, description and keyword tagging. But don’t just stop at YouTube. There are number of good video platforms out their like
Vimeo, Dailymotion, Viddler, Metacafe, Flipagram and Photobucket.
I wrote a blog post about How To Get More Views On YouTube In 14 Easy To Follow Steps that goes into more detail.
9 > UXO!
UXO is geek language for website user experience.
But believe it or not website SEO is not just about tweaking your website with keywords, content, backlinks and social media.
Your website is also judged upon how users experience your website and how fast your website loads.
We live in a world where everyone wants everything NOW and people aren’t prepared to wait for your website to load if it is slow. I can’t remember the exact figures but Amazon conducted a experiment where they reduced the speed of there website. For every 0.5 of a second delay in page speed it cost them £10,000 a minute in sales. These might not be the exact figures but you get the point I am trying to make right?
So a fast server is important. I use KRYSTAL hosting as there servers are fast and are based in the UK which I believe is also a potential ranking factor.
There are a number of sites that will test the speed of your website for you:
The 4 WordPress plugins that are worth installing to increase website speed
- Better WordPress Minify – Allows you to minify your CSS and JS files for faster page loading for visitors
- ShortPixel Image Optimizer – Compresses images to improve page speed. I paid $10 for 10,000 images to be reduced.
- Wordfence Security – Anti-virus, Firewall but under the performance section there is a High Speed Caching option
- WP Super Simple Speed – Super Simple Speed is a stable and powerful plugin that dramatically increases your page speed and performance without any hassle
and if you’re not using YOAST SEO plugin as it does not work with your theme.
You don’t need to understand how and why these plugins work. Just insetall one at a time and test the page speed and you should see an increase in page speed.
Next step is to create an account with another of Google’s free tools called Google Search Console (used to be called webmaster tools). It is kind of Googles way of showing you whats right and wrong about your website. It allows you to check your indexing status and optimise visibility of you’re website.
It tells you what links it is recognising to your website, pages that are missing, if there are any errors, any duplications, you can ask Google to visit your website because you have many some changes and add a sitemap so Google can read your website easier.
Your YOAST SEO or Google Sitemap Plugin will generate the XML Sitemap for you, you just need to submit it to your Search Console account.
9 > Being mobile friendly
In April 2015 Google announced the importance of websites being mobile friendly and your website would be penalised if it wasn’t.
Since then Google has announced that for the first time mobile searches have over taken the number of desktop/laptop searches on Google.
The bad news is if your website is not mobile friendly it is unlikely to appear in mobile searches on Google.
It’s not quite so simple as just viewing your website on your mobile phone. It has to be compatible with all mobiles and just because it looks OK it doesn’t mean it has passed Googles strict protocol.
First step is to visit the free tool Google provides to test your website. This test will analyse your URL and report if the page has a mobile-friendly design.
It will give you a simple ‘Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly’
If you fail the test you get ‘Not mobile-friendly’ in red letters and the changes you need to make to satisfy the Google gods.
10 > The bonus tips that make those 1% differences
A few extra steps you can take to make a small difference
Install a SSL certificate on your website
A SSL certificate provides peace-of-mind to your site visitors that they’re using a secure website, perfect if you plan on taking payments online or want to provide a secure login/register process for your members.
Even if you’re not taking payments or providing a login area for members I would recommend installing a SSL certificate.
One of the things I love about KRYSTAL hosting is they provide a SSL certificate as standard as part of the hosting. You just have to install it.
I have seen some instant progress with websites straight away after installing a SSL certificate. You might expect to pay around £50 a year with your hosting provider for this. Once your hosting provider has installed your SSL certificate your need to update your settings in your WordPress Dashboard.
Go to the menu on the left hand side of your dashboard and hit > Settings > General
Your need to change the URL from http:// to https://
E.g http://www.localbusinessdomination.co.uk to https://www.localbusinessdomination.co.uk
This will then give you a nice green padlock, when people visit your site they know your website is safe and secure.
Create a better URL structure
Under the Settings menu is another option called Permalinks.
This gives you the ability to create a custom URL structure. The option you want to choose is Post Name.
This enables you to use keywords in your page names. Which do you think Google will understand better and make life easier for your users?
Redirect old pages using a 301 redirect
In the Google Search Console you may notice something called Crawl Errors where people (or Google) have not been able to find the page they were looking for and have been redirected to 404 page.
This isn’t great for customers and is incredibly frustrating. I use a plugin called ‘Simple 301 Redirects’ or ‘Eggplant 301 Redirects’.
Within this plugin you can enter the page where the error is occurring and where you would like them to go instead.
It might be an old page you no longer use or you have just changed the name of the page using the tip above. It won’t improve your SEO a huge difference but it does means people are finding the right page they are looking for, which should improve your UXO.
Did this blog post help?
I could of gone on forever with how to improve your Google ranking but I believe this is the 10 most important things you need to understand and implement especially with local business websites.
I would love to know if any of this helps you or if any of the tips helped you improve your Google ranking.
Please do leave me a comment below with your progress or if you have any questions.
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