When you are visiting a city and suddenly realize you need a quick bite to eat, what do you do? Undoubtedly, you pull out your smartphone and Google something along the lines of “Pizza in Seattle.” The first page of Google appears, and you see a business listed with all the information you were seeking instantaneously: the hours, the phone number and some Google Reviews from real people verifying that the pizza is tasty and reliable. Do you choose the first business to come up? The second in the list? The third? It is a pretty safe bet that the answer to one of those questions is yes. Appearing on the first page of Google can mean life or death for a business. In order to do so, you need to improve your search engine optimization, or SEO.

Here are three quick facts to hammer this point home:

  • 75% of people never look past the first page of search engines.
  • 70-80% of people ignore paid search results, instead clicking on organic search results.
  • 87% of smartphone users use search engines at least once a day.

In order to improve your business’s website for SEO, there are some simple steps you can take without extensive technical knowledge. Once completed, your business has a better chance of being featured on the first page of Google, with readily available, easy-to-access information. This will help your business not only get discovered, but drive sales.

Woman on city streets picks up phone. Used to demonstrate that she is going to pick a shop based on the first page of Google results.

It is becoming increasingly common to use voice search to find nearby shops or services.

Step One: Improve SEO by Creating a Google My Business Account

The first step is to create a Google My Business account. In fact, according to Hootsuite, customers are 70% more likely to visit businesses with a Google My Business listing.

A Google My Business account is free, and after a few simple steps, your business will show up with all its most important information when people search on Google. The sign-up process takes you step-by-step and verifies that you are the owner. One way you can approach this is to Google your own business, then click the hyperlink with the words “Own this business?”

The best part about this process is that even creating a Google My Business account improves your local SEO, which means your business is already more likely to appear on the first page of Google.

This listing will include contact information, business hours, Google Reviews, an about section and even a space for customers to ask questions. You also have the ability to post if there are updates to your business such as temporary closure, new hours or special events.

Step 2: Improve Your SEO Through Reviews

Now that we’ve established your business’s Google profile, let’s think about how to improve SEO to rank higher. Every month, Google reports there are over 5 billion searches on Google for restaurants, 3 billion searches for hotels, 1 billion searches for clothing stores, 600 million searches for hair and beauty salons and 5 million searches for coffee shops. How do you stand out?

Woman asks man to leave her shop a review at the counter of a coffee shop. The goal is to improve her local SEO.

Ask loyal customers to leave you a Google Review and make it easy for them to do so.

First and foremost, request Google Reviews from your loyal customers. According to Review Trackers, “the buying decisions of 90 percent of consumers are influenced by reviews, and a majority of consumers view Google reviews before they will visit a business (63.6 percent).” Beyond lending credibility, reviews will improve SEO and help your business appear on the first page of Google.

A simple way to share the link with your customers is to do a Google search of your own business, click “write a review” as if you were going to write one, then copy the URL. Then, when a customer or client clicks it, it will lead them to the forum.

Some ways to incentivize your customers to write a Google review are as follows:

  1. Reach out directly, in a personalized email, explaining how appreciative you are for them as a loyal customer and how much a review would mean to you.
  2. Add a link in your business’s newsletter.
  3. Run a contest, where you are entered into the lottery by leaving a review.
  4. Give a discount code or a small prize to everyone who leaves a review.
  5. If you are a brick-and-mortar shop, ask customers in person to leave a review as they are checking out. Hand them a card with information that makes it easy for them to do so.

Make sure you respond to the reviews people do leave, to demonstrate your responsiveness and to broadcast that you have strong relationships with your customers. Remember, the more confident a consumer feels, the more likely they are to make a purchase decision. Showing up on the first page of Google and reassuring customers that you are the best choice is a surefire path to success.

Step 3: Improve Your SEO By Cleaning Up Your Website Design

According to Google’s SEO Starter Guide, the best performing websites have straightforward, intuitive and hierarchical design. A website that is exceptionally logical makes more sense to search engines and humans alike. When the search engines can interpret your site easily, it improves the chances that your business will appear on the first page of Google.

Hands holding and iPhone viewing website traffic pie chart. This photo is to demonstrate that website views are increasing because the businesss website is appearing on the first page of Google.

Improve SEO and increase views to your website by creating a clean, straight-forward website design.

Make it really easy to access the most critical information: the about section, the contact information, and a list of your products or services. Use simple, easy-to-read language. Communicate the topic of your company’s products or services so that even an algorithm could understand. Speaking in flowery or metaphorical language will not serve you well in SEO. Think of your subheads as if they were descriptive labels in a paper outline.

Ensure that your website is optimized for mobile. Google will interpret your mobile site, too, so ensure that your website reads well on both desktop and mobile versions for better SEO.

Lastly, ensure that the URL can easily be read and isn’t a series of random numbers and letters. The URL should read as words with dashes instead of spaces.

Step 4: Choose Strategic Keywords To Improve Your SEO

What Are Keywords?

  • Keywords are words or phrases that boil down the essence of your business. When people conduct a search, these are the words they would choose to look for your company. Choose simple, nontechnical and practical words and phrases for your keywords.
  • In the words of Moz, “Keywords are as much about your audience as they are about your content.” You need to understand the language and phrasing that your audience would use, rather than how you might describe your own business or content. After all, they are the ones conducting the search queries.

How Do You Find Keywords?

When deciding on keywords, it is crucial to choose words and phrases that are being searched for in high volumes. The caveat being that if they are too popular, you will have too much competition. It’s a balance. You want to brainstorm your keywords, then do your research to find out which ones will best drive results. There are a number of free keyword research tools at your disposal on the internet. Here are a few examples:

· Moz Keyword Explorer

· Wordstream Keyword Tool

· Google Chrome Extension: Keywords Everywhere

How To Choose Strategic Keywords To Improve Your SEO

Woman is excited looking at iPhone while outdoors. This is to show that people will be excited to find what they are looking for on search engines if your business shows up first on Google.

Capture new potential customers by being specific with your keywords.

  • Be specific with Long-Tail Keywords. These are keywords that have more than one word and are therefore more specific. For example, instead of using the keyword, “Gelato,” a generic word that will retrieve millions of pages before yours, use the key phrase “Gelato shop in Seattle.” This way, when someone enters these words, your business will appear higher in search engine results pages.
  • Once you find your keywords, use them in meta-descriptions, titles, headers, subheads, image titles, captions and paragraphs. However, do not overdo—you need to strike a balance for SEO. In the body of your content, a good rule of thumb is to use a keyword once every hundred words.

Step 5: Exhibit Expertise And Authoritativeness In Your Content For Improved SEO.

When you are searching to hire someone for a service or purchase a product, what is the number one thing that matters? Knowledge. You want to be rest assured that when you are making a purchase, it is backed by experts and therefore the highest quality possible. The search engine algorithm agrees with this notion. So, how does Google measure the credibility of your site? A number of factors determine if your business will appear first on Google.

Moz has developed a program which indicates how well your website will perform on search engine results pages (SERP). It is referred to as “Domain Authority (DA).” A score ranges from one to 100. The higher your score is, the better your SEO, and the better you are predicted to perform in search engine results.

A persons hands conducts a search on a computer scree. This is to show that people will make decisions based off the first page of Google results.

Creating valuable content makes your content shareable, gets more views and improves your search engine optimization.

Moz takes into account multiple features of your website to determine how it will perform. This can give you a general picture of how well your website SEO efforts are going, as well as some insight into aspects of your site that are particularly strong or weak. If you can tweak your website to get a better score, you are more likely to appear on the first page of Google. The tool is free and all you need is the URL. Try it out here.

Step 6: Actively Improve Your Domain Authority For Better SEO

How can you improve your domain authority score?

  1. By linking to other sites with high domain authority. This is crucial. In a blog like this very one you are reading, link to reputable sites. Think the New York Times, Google, a scholarly website or a popular marketing blog like Hubspot. This shows both users, and the search engine, that you are using reliable sources and are therefore more reputable yourself.
  2. By having sites with high domain authority linking to your site. This will come naturally if you write valuable blog articles. The more worthwhile your content is, the more others will be inclined to share it, increasing your domain authority and therefore SEO. This is why it is so crucial to not be solely self-promotional — creating meaningful content goes a long way.
  3. By getting more people to visit your website. This can be greatly helped by linking to your site on social media such as YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest; you name it! The more people you get to go to your website, the better your SEO. Additionally, every post you create will reach a wider audience if you use popular hashtags, and tag locations and other relevant businesses. Check out this article from the Three Girls blog for the most popular hashtags and social media trends according to the data.
  4. By Creating Longer Articles and Posting Consistently. Long-form content (at least 2,000 words) has been proven to outrank shorter content for SEO. Creating and publishing content consistently and at regular intervals is also key. Make a content calendar and stick to your plan, even down to a reliable day and time.

In this day and age, it is indisputable that showing up on the first page of Google will make or break a business. This guide gives you a framework to take the necessary steps to improve your outcome in search engine result pages.

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