The Ultimate Guide to Ranking Your Small Business on Google

BY: ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2018

Is your website in the top 10 results when you search Google for keywords associated with your business? How about the first page?

If you’re having difficulty getting noticed on Google, don’t worry.

There are several techniques you can employ to improve your ranking and ensure your customers find you — not your competitors — when their searching for a business in your industry.

Let’s begin with breaking down the basics, beginning with the three basic types of Google search results.

Three Ways You Can Improve Your Business’ Ranking on Google

Google provides three ways for your company to rank:

  • Organic results
  • Paid results
  • Local results

You can use any — or all — of these search results to boost your company’s profile, although the mix you use is completely dependent on your overall marketing goals.

Let’s look at what these three areas look like for an accounting firm. Here is an example of a paid result:

These typically show up at the top of your search results page. Just below them are local results, like these:

And below the local results are all the organic results. Here are the first few:

Let’s talk first about paid results.

Because these are the result of paid ads, they appear first in all search results, giving the companies buying the ads an extra boost.

In fact, they might be getting more than an extra boost. According to a study by Varn, 60% of consumers couldn’t tell the difference between organic and paid search results.

Granted, the small box that says “ad” near the paid results is subtle, but it’s noticeable — just not noticeable enough.

The problem is that the blurring between paid and organic results gives businesses using paid search somewhat of an advantage, since people think of them as the “first” results.

Does that mean you should invest in paid ads? Not necessarily. Let’s take a look at the other results types first.

Local and Organic Results

The local results section lists businesses that have a presence in the website visitor’s area.

For example, if you type in “fast food austin,” you’ll get a handful of fast food restaurants in the Austin, TX area. If you’ve got your location services enabled, Google can fine-tune these choices to give you the closest fast-food restaurants to you.

Organic results, on the other hand, include websites from all over — ranking them from most authoritative to least. Location is a factor, but your site’s authority is the real key.

Got a Brick-and-Mortar Small Business? Focus on Local Results

Focusing on ranking high in local results can help brick-and-mortar businesses in two ways:

First, you’ve narrowed your competition to only other businesses in your area, allowing you to rank higher with less effort.

Also, people who get local results in their search page are intending to buy — and buy locally. They’ve searched using an area, such as “hair salon santa fe” or “landscape contractor houston” to get what they’re looking for.

Let’s look at what happens when we try this. If we search “pizza san marcos tx,” we get these local results.

These are small, locally-owned businesses. In the organic results from the same search, we get:

Here you see we find large, nationally-known websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. This doesn’t mean your business can’t rank on the first page, however, as long as you concentrate on building your organic traffic.

And, as we’ll discuss later, your local business can show up in the metadata for these big review sites, encouraging higher ranking by association.

Building Organic and Local Ranking Takes Time — Here’s How to Do It

Organic ranking is important. It may take a while to generate good results through organic search engine optimization (SEO), but the results are well worth it.

Generally, it takes months or years to build your rank organically. However, about 22% of pages do manage to get into the top 10 results within a year.

Don’t let these numbers get you down. The point is to make sure your expectations are set correctly. If you follow these tips, you’ll get there — it just takes time.

So, let’s get started improving your local and organic search rankings.

1. Find Keywords Your Customers Use

To focus your content and web pages for targeted SEO, you’ll need to discover what keywords your customers use to search for businesses like yours.

You can do this using a free Google Adwords account and the associated Google Keyword Planner. The Planner will outline the number of searches per month for each keyword you input.

You’ll want to choose a keyword with a good search rate, but low-to-medium competition.

2. Develop a Google My Business Page

Your Google My Business page is an important way to increase local ranking in Google. It allows your business to show up in Google Maps searches, on web searches for local businesses like yours, and it can be linked to your Adwords account for easier optimization.

With a My Business page, someone searching for your particular business can see a side panel that you create. Since you might not be getting exposure on the front page yet, this side bar allows you to give potential customers a quick overview of your business, along with contact information.

A typical side bar looks like this:

To get started with Google My Business, “claim” your current business at google.com/business. If you need detailed instructions, you can find them here.

To keep your My Business page ranking high, use these best practices:

  • Use the keywords you want to rank for in your My Business page using natural language.
  • Use alt-text descriptors for images and videos on your page using your relevant keywords.
  • Make sure you choose the correct category for your business, so customers can find you.
  • Ask for reviews and respond to them — even if they are negative — to increase your ranking and build trust.

After you’ve secured your My Business presence, it’s time to make sure your website is optimized for SEO.

3. SEO Optimize Your Small Business Website

Search engines “crawl” your website pages to look for keywords that represent what your page is about. You’ll want to attract their attention using the keywords you researched earlier or use others that you’d like to rank for.

Being specific is important — with “long tail” keywords being an important part of your website optimization strategy. A long-tail keyword is more than three words in length, and it allows you to more accurately target searches.

You can put your keywords in the basic outline of each page and also use them in any content you supply, like blog posts, white papers, cheat-sheets, and more.

Your website has got to include a mix of keywords for best results. While long-tail keywords have higher conversion rates, there’s a lower search volume. Short-tail keywords (less than three words) have high search volumes but lots of competition, making it hard to get leads.

If you’re seeking to rank for local search, consider these techniques:

  • Put your business’ details including address, phone number (with area code), and full name on every page in text form to make it accessible to Google’s search engine.
  • Use meta titles that spell out what your business does and where it’s located, like this:

“Brake Repair in San Marcos, TX – Quick Align is the meta title. The short sentence-and-a-half afterward (gray type) is the meta description.

  • Use the meta description to attract visitors — and search engines — by using your primary keywords.
  • Use a Google Map on your contact page to show your location.

All of these actions will help alert Google to your business’ web presence and get you noticed by their web crawlers.

4. Get into Directories and Cultivate Backlinks

Another way to combine organic and local search strategies is to get your local business featured in as many online directories as possible (structured citations), as well as get linked to from other businesses or individuals as an authority.

Let’s look at the advantages of both for your ranking with Google.

Three ways structured citations help your small business are:

  • Directory listings indicate that your business is drawing a lot of local attention, a factor in Google’s rankings.
  • Customers who use these directories will be able to find you easily.
  • Most directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, and others have high authority with Google, so they rank high on search results pages. Your business can “tag along” on these high rankings through a directory listing, even if your organic ranking isn’t high.

Make sure your business is listed with a full name, address, and complete phone number in each directory for best results.

Here’s a citation finder tool you can use to see what the best directories are and get your business into them.

Now, let’s look at backlinks. You can get backlinks by producing valuable content that other sites link to and customers share online through blogs and social media.

Other ways to get high-quality backlinks include:

  • Press releases to online media sources
  • Providing interviews
  • Contributing to podcasts
  • Guest blogging
  • Putting your bio information in social media
  • Commenting in forums and online discussion sites
  • Linking to other sources in your content

You can also get backlinks by providing press releases to online press sources that will link to your site, doing interviews and podcasts, guest blogging, and more.

Backlinks help your small business site by letting Google know conversation is happening online surrounding your business. This is a vital part of the ranking equation, and it works — giving websites a significant increase in ranking after quality backlinks are created.

Getting those backlinks takes time, but they can contribute greatly to good ranking in organic search results.

5. Concentrate on Reviews

Reviews are critical to bring in the customers and to give you a higher ranking in both organic and local search results.

While Yelp and Google tend to be the most common review sites, there are many more to choose from. Here’s a list of some of the best. Concentrate on the ones that fit your business’ profile the closest.

For example, if you run a pizza parlor, Amazon reviews won’t be on your radar. But if you’re selling custom-made pizza peels, then you may want to consider selling on Amazon to get some online reviews of your product.

Some people write reviews easily — others not so much. Here are a few ways to encourage your customers to leave reviews:

  • If you meet your customers in person, just ask for a review.
  • Running an email campaign? Include a link to a review site in each email.
  • Conduct a feedback survey and target the customers who are happy with their experience to give you a review online.
  • Create your website to that links to review pages appear organically to make it easier for customers to leave reviews.

Be wary of incentivizing reviewers with free products, services, or discounts. This can backfire if word gets out that reviews of your business weren’t entirely unsolicited.

6. Keep the Content Flowing

Not only should you provide visitors to your site content that’s unique, high-value, and relevant to them, it should be fresh for optimal ranking.

That means you need to keep your blog — and your website — updated on a regular basis. Here’s why:

  • When you blog or post on a regular basis, you establish that you’re reliable — something that goes a long way toward establishing consumer trust.
  • If your site is being updated and your competitors’ sites are not, you can experience a jump in ranking.
  • More content means more keywords and more chances to rank for your keyword choices.
  • More content also means greater authority, which can lead to more organic shares on social media and other platforms.

Small businesses have an even better chance of gaining authority and organic and local search ranking boosts from an updated site, since many competitors post and update randomly.

Ready to Rank? Get Started Now!

Google’s algorithms are constantly in flux, so you need to stay current on trending techniques and keep your website up-to-date for best results.

Staying in tune with your website’s statistics gives you two-fold benefits that make it worth doing.

First, tracking your ranking and other metrics gives you a good idea of how your other marketing strategies are affecting your business, allowing you to allocate precious marketing dollars where they’ll contribute to a higher return-on-investment.

Second, paying attention to search ranking, reviews, and interaction with customers through content discussion and social media platforms puts your finger squarely on the pulse of your target audience.

This knowledge can help you more accurately respond and market to your prospective customers, as well as provide you with feedback on how well your product or service is working.

If you have the budget, you can also explore Google paid advertising alongside your local and organic search efforts to get more exposure quickly.

Whatever mix of techniques you employ, remember to be consistent, diligent, and proactive to get the best Google ranking results for your small business.

About the Author

Austin Andrukaitis

Austin Andrukaitis is the CEO of ChamberofCommerce.com. He's an experienced digital marketing strategist with more than 15 years of experience in creating successful online campaigns. Austin’s approach to developing, optimizing, and delivering web based technologies has help businesses achieve higher profit, enhance productivity, and position organizations for accelerated sustained growth.

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