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Make “the Google” Work for Your Business

It has become a thing in my house. A question comes up and someone recommends that we “ask the Google.” You can ponder the implications for mankind now that we count on technology to answer every question, but I am focused on what this means for brand marketing.

Search Engine Result Page Not About the Top 10

Search result pages have changed. Being in the top 10 of organic rankings for a keyword, phrase or question does not get you to the top of searches.

Today, search engine results pages (SERP) have (in this general order):

  • Google Ads – paid placements at the top of the page. There can be none, one or several, depending on the keyword searched.
  • People also Ask – a feature that includes related queries to the original search phrase
  • Knowledge Graph – boxes that include data ranging from companies to celebrities on the right of search results page
  • Local Packs – several local listings appear together, often under a map marking the location of each one
  • Image Packs – often a single row of images appearing on the results page
  • Organic Results – web pages that match the search keyword or phrase in value order

Having fresh, accurate content in multiple locations across the web gives every brand the best chance of winning space on the first SERP page.

Google My Business Matters

In the quest to provide the most relevant search results to all customers, Google has put increasing emphasis on validating businesses online with the Google My Business tools. To rank well, businesses must claim and complete their listings.

Listings need active maintenance to stay relevant. This includes adding images and other content so that Google knows the brand is actively in the game.

Also important is getting Google reviews. I have seen several cases where Google My Business listings with reviews get priority over similar listings without them.

Search Engine Marketing Tips

You want your business to appear in searches when your target customer is looking for you or your services. You need to pay attention to search engine optimization (SEO) rules to make that happen.

Like other online activities, SEO needs its own marketing strategy. You need to have a plan for ongoing activities to monitor and improve your SEO.

Search Result Pages Have Changed

A keyword or phrase that cranks first organically is no longer the top result seen by searchers. Google has changed search engine results pages so that organic results are no longer at the top.

Today’s results pages can have one or more of these elements before any organic results:

  • Google Ads – paid placements at the top of the page. There can be none, one or several, depending on the keyword searched.
  • Featured snippets – summaries for the searcher’s query that appear just below the ads
  • People also ask – a feature that includes related queries to the original search phrase
  • Knowledge Graph – boxes that include data ranging from companies to celebrities on the right of search results page
  • Local packs – several local listings appear together, often under a map marking the location of each one
  • Carousel listings – interactive visual display of results for things like movies, songs and restaurants
  • Image packs – often a single row of images appearing on the results page
  • Sitelinks – multiple links to subpages within the website result visible below the primary website
  • Reviews with star ratings

In addition to these items, organic results are now longer. This pushes even the second result down further on the page or even to the next page.

Create Your SEO Marketing Strategy

You can manage and improve your regular organic results.

First, set your target. Unless you are a very large business, you cannot rank well for every keyword related to your business. You need to target your efforts.

Narrow to less than five keywords and phrases. You want to pick them based on their relevance to your business. Verify that they are actually searched, but do not have high competition.

Look at how your website ranks for your keywords today. Set realistic expectations. Your best chance of success is in taking words you already rank for and optimizing to rank better.

For every word or phrase you want to target, you need this at your website:

  • A web page with a title that has the keyword
  • A page URL with the keyword
  • Content that features the keyword

Create Page Titles for SEO

Keywords should be at the beginning of SEO page titles. (These are the titles that appear on search results pages.)

Many companies have their name at the start of the title, followed by the name of the page. Flip this. The first words tell search engines what to rank the page for.

Work Keywords into Your Content

You need to strike a balance with page design, clarity, and SEO strategy. You don’t want to ruin content by putting keywords everywhere and ruining flow and meaning. Find opportunities to naturally work in your primary keywords and close variations:

  • Headlines and subheads
  • Image captions
  • Image names
  • Image alt text
  • Use for link text
  • Expand page content

Set a schedule to revisit and revise content regularly. Search engines generally rank older content lower than newer content.

Leverage Factors Beyond Content

Website design, technical considerations, and sufficient responses to questions (i.e., voice search) can all help your keywords rank better. Important factors to consider include:

  • Links to your site from other sites
  • Functionality on mobile devices
  • Page load speed
  • Voice search
  • HTTPS encryption

Use Strategy to Stay in the Game

SEO is not easy or fast. You’ll always have an organic presence. It’s just a matter of how good your visibility is. You need to stay attentive to the details to do better than the competition.

SEO Strategies that Matter

Search engine optimization (SEO) requirements change over time. If you are working to achieve SEO today, here are five items to keep in mind:

Have a Focus

Just about every business has multiple offerings. Most can do many things for clients. But you have to put your stake in the sand for SEO. What is THE thing you do best? Focus your SEO around that.

Questions More than Words

Today’s searchers like to ask questions. This is typical when using voice search tools like Siri and Alexa. It is also becoming more common for text searches in Google. Expand your thinking beyond keywords to the questions people commonly ask to find what you offer.

Content Worthy of High Ranking

If you want to rank well, your content has to be worthy. Provide quality information to searchers. Offer helpful information. Connect them with valuable resources. Search engines want to connect people to content that helps them. Be that content.

Structure for the Reader

Excellent content that is hard to read online won’t work. Structure your content so that the title and the subheads alone offer valuable information. In between, offer short sentences and brief paragraphs that offer more detail.

Meta Descriptions Matter

Meta keyword tags died a long time ago from misuse, but the meta description tag is still important for search. This is the brief text that comes up on the search results page. Make sure it says something that will earn you a click through.