Seo Tips: How To Make Your Business Golden To Google
BY: BRENT BARNHART ON THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 2013
Remember Google Panda? How can we forget?
Just over two years ago, Google rolled out its infamous Panda update that shook up the entire content marketing landscape almost instantly. Small business owners and search marketers alike were impacted by Google's crusade against poor quality content and spam. While many businesses and websites suffered in the wake of Panda, the update taught us valuable lessons about Google, the future of search and what it takes to rank. The most important lesson is this: Google means business when it comes to our content—contextually relevant content is vital and spam won’t be tolerated. Since the Panda update, many websites have taken steps to restore their rankings post-Panda and create content that Google finds appetizing.
Google recently released an interactive infographic entitled “How Search Works,” which provides technical insight about how searches are performed and how relevant sites ultimately get found. Take a look at the infographic and you’ll get a sense of just how vast the Internet truly is in terms of content, as well as how Google's algorithms affect the discovery of relevant sites in search results. As businesses focus so heavily on search engines and SEO, sometimes it’s important to take a step back and understand exactly how a search engine works. At the end of the day, Google is doing their best to match queries with what their users want.
Naturally, small businesses want as much of their industry’s website traffic as possible. We want to rank on the first page of Google. We want to rank for the most competitive keywords. We want to be superstars in the eyes of the number one search engine. Easier said than done, right?
Business owners often look to Google and ask, “What exactly do you want me to do?” It's as if we expect a step-by-step guide for how to rank on the first page and remain in Google's good graces. While such a guide is mere fantasy, Google has given us plenty of insight and clues over the years as to how their processes work. According to the aforementioned How Search Works infographic, when determining the overall quality of a site and page, Google “uses a set of signals to determine how trustworthy, reputable, or authoritative a source is.”
Let’s talk about how your site can be that sort of source. The first step is to ask yourself if you’re playing by Google's rules. Do you know what they want from you? If not, consider the following tips your Google cheat sheet:
Craft Quality Content
The importance of content creation for small businesses has been discussed time and time again. Google's Panda update solidified this, punishing sites with poor content, duplicate content or spammy, keyword-stuffed content and rewarding those with strong, original pieces that contain relevant information and valuable resources.
When we think of business content, we typically think only of articles and blog posts. Google has recently emphasized the importance of high quality content everywhere on a site, not just through new posts and blogs. When it comes to your business' website, leave no stone unturned as it pertains to creating original content. Each page on your site should do its job in telling your story and contain relevant and valuable content, using keywords that make sense. And, as mentioned before, avoid filling your content with spammy keywords, duplicate content or content that’s nothing more than filler--Google isn’t a fan of such tactics.
Focus on Freshness
In the How Search Works infographic, the term “freshness” comes up as a contributing factor to how content manages to be relevant to searchers. Historically, Google likes sites that update often and the Panda update is proof of this philosophy.
For example, news and media sites performed very well post-Panda because of their constant steam of new, time-sensitive articles. That doesn’t mean your site has to automatically morph into CNN or the New York Times—instead, it means your site should strive to create fresh and relevant content at a steady pace to ensure you're keeping up with what Google wants. And if you can capitalize your content strategy on time-sensitive news or information, do it!
Building Signs of Engagement and Trust
A year after Google Panda, SEOBook released their own infographic detailing the impact of the search update and its implications. We learned that “user engagement” was a key component for sites that managed to restore their credibility post-Panda. User engagement can be broken down into elements such as comments and social sharing. Google likes to see users interact with our sites and its content. Such engagement demonstrates value, which is not only good for SEO—it’s also a key way for your business to gain more exposure. User engagement is a key part of the puzzle when it comes to building a trustworthy, authoritative resource in the eyes of your visitors and Google.
SEO Still Matters
In the big picture, SEO still matters to small businesses. We talk at length about creating quality content and establishing ourselves as authorities; however, the technical side of search will always remain essential in establishing Google rank. While many small business owners could go without talking about site structure, keywords, URLs or anchor text ever again, it’s important to realize that SEO efforts don't go unnoticed. So make sure you’re focusing on smart SEO strategies for your small business and your efforts in that regard will be rewarded. If you're looking for a place to start with your own SEO efforts, check out Google’s beginner's guide to SEO, which might help lead you in the right direction.
Understanding Your Users
After all, Google is a search engine. And if we want our sites to get found through Google, we need to understand what our users are searching for, both figuratively and literally, and whether or not we deliver those solutions through our site and its content. By understanding the search behavior of our users, we can better serve their needs. Google gives us the tools to do exactly this through Google Analytics and their keyword tool. We can't begin to understand how to meet our users' needs if we don't know what they want. And if understanding your audience through Google’s keyword tool and your own site analytics isn’t at the top of your priority list, it should be. Your audience will tell you exactly what they want—you simply have to listen.
The Bottom Line
Google's goal is to create a better user experience and smart small businesses are doing what they can to ensure the products and services they offer turn up in search results. While we’ll never know for sure exactly how Google’s algorithm works, they've given us plenty of help and resources as to what makes a successful site in terms of search. Is your business on board with what Google wants?