Companies are fighting for the best spot on search engines for good reason. There are 3.5 billion searches performed per day on Google: this is how people hunt for the products and services they’re about to buy.
Getting websites to rank higher on Google, through a process known as search engine optimization (SEO), can sound more difficult than it often turns out to be. Yes, there are a ton of technical items to address, but by getting the essentials in place, you’ll actually begin to take care of the big stuff.
In plain language, say what you are
If you make running shoes, your website should say that you make running shoes.
You would be shocked at how many times I have given this advice over my 15-year career. The response is usually “That makes sense. We must have overlooked that.” The rationale for using plain language on your site is that people search using those words. Google will make that match easier and give you a better ranking, resulting in more traffic.
Why don’t people say what they do on their website? It’s because we are too familiar with what we do and we work in professional silos. Considering the words other people use to describe what you do is tough until you’re forced to at a family gathering. As an SEO expert, I say that I “work on Google.”
Professionalism is another understandable reason. The fear of sounding “pedestrian” on your website doesn’t instil trust. Who wants to sound like a four-year-old when describing their business? The problem is that people actually do search on Google like four-year-olds. Roughly 200,000 Canadians search for “food near me” per month. But restaurants like Chambar and Savio Volpe don’t want to write about how they sell food. Yet that’s exactly what Yelp is doing, and with great success. Yelp is fearless in its online growth because it has investors to please, which is why it created the Food Restaurants Near Me page.
This applies to all companies, regardless of size. Giants of industry such as Nike will need to optimize their pages for “running shoes” or their competitors will sneak in and take those customers away.
Say where you are
Google prioritizes the location of its users as the No. 1 factor in which pages show up first. This doesn’t apply to every business, but it’s crucial for most.
Many people forget to emphasize their location or leave it to the contact page of their website because to them it seems abundantly obvious. But is it to your potential customer? If Google has low confidence about whether you’re in Vancouver, B.C., or Vancouver, Washington, there’s no way it will present your website as an option. A recent website I’ve been working on ranks in Washington, D.C., but the business is on Washington Avenue in Racine, Wisconsin. Sometimes Google gets confused, and only knows what it sees. Long story short: don’t let Google do the deciding for you. Ensure your location is very visible throughout your site’s content, fill out your Google My Business page (google.com/intl/en_ca/business) and take charge on other websites getting your address correct. Google checks other sites as well to know you’re legit.
There are a few things that can flat out kill website traffic, and a bad redirect is the most common one.
You have probably seen a website redirect. It’s when you visit a site and it quickly flips over to another one or another page. Facebook is using one to switch from internet.org to info.internet.org. Problems can, and most likely will, arise if you don’t get this redirect right.
A temporary direct, known as a 302, tells Google, “Don’t actually follow this and please devalue this page.” That’s the bad one, and who knows why it’s so common?
What you do want to use is a 301 redirect. It’s a permanent redirect and tells Google to have complete faith in the new page and to not strip anything away from it.
All you have to remember here is: 301 good, 302 bad.
These are the three key starting points for SEO success. You’ll also want to do research into SEO for your specific industry of course, but if you start by following the points above, you’ll be well on your way to getting more traffic and even more business. •
Josh Loewen runs the Status Bureau, a boutique digital marketing agency in Vancouver that specializes in SEO and analysis. It has been around since 2006 with a client list that includes Telus, London Drugs, Vancouver Fringe Festival, Vancouver Mural Festival and Destination Canada.