The Small Business Guide To Google: 2018 Edition
This is a plain-speaking piece aimed at small business owners who wish to boost their Google rankings. I’ll refrain from using jargon wherever possible.
When you launch a website, you want it to sit high on search results. When we begin a project together, almost every client asks “how do I get my site to the top of Google” and for a good reason.
If only this could be answered as simply (and innocently) as it is asked.
Rankings Aren’t Reached With A Click!
No magic wand will jumpstart your website to the top spot. If that were the case, everyone would do it, and no-one would benefit.
Ranking on Google is a marathon, one that many businesses abandon after the first couple of miles. The winners are those that have stuck at it. They’ve pored through evidence, research and analysis in their quest to reach the finish line. So the “best” (i.e. highest) search engine listings come from those that have trained.
How Is Google Search Determined?
People use Google to find stuff. Therefore, Google wants to serve their customers the best, most truthful answer to their question.
That’s the nuts and bolts of it. SEO hinges around convincing Google that you offer the most helpful solution to a query: you’re an expert, you communicate well, the community likes you etc. By visiting your website, the customer will get the information they’re searching for.
Boosting Search Results: The Broad Steps
Knowing that it’s not done overnight, how do you boost your website higher on Google results? The answer lies in practical, well-researched and meticulous steps. Broken into chunks, these are:
- 1. Set Real, Long-Term Expectations (this article)
- 2. Proper Website Architecture
- 3. Correct, Clutter-Free Code
- 4. Optimised For All Devices
- 5. Fluent, Persuasive Content
- 6. Fast Loading Speed
- 7. Regular Analysis & Strategy
- 8. Earn Legitimate, Useful Links
- 9. Rinse, Reexamine & Repeat
This article covers step 1: getting into the mindset and setting expectations. Though this step doesn’t lead to tangible results, I’d argue it’s the most important.
As informed as marketers might be, the buck stops with you: the business owner. It’s crucial that you understand the broad strokes of SEO before hiring someone to help you.
Expectation #1: Improving SEO Is For The Completists
There are hundreds of tedious, detailed tasks required to improve SEO listings. Some you might be aware of, others not so much.
These tasks range from ways in which the website is coded to the quality of your hosting, links to your website and the range of keywords on a page. Google is ever-changing, so what’s relevant one year could be redundant the next. You don’t necessarily need to know all these tasks, but you should be aware that they exist!
Ranking high therefore requires a completist, perfectionist mindset that doesn’t give up at the first hurdle. You must remain interested in your website long after the day it is launched.
That means that as the business owner you must either:
a) be tireless in your quest to learn about SEO or
b) be willing to pay someone to do it
A combination of the two – where you test and collaborate with an expert – often gets the best results.
Expectation #2: SEO Takes Time
It is physically impossible for a new website to shoot up the day it launches. If someone claims it is, they’re up to no good. Take that as gospel and you’ll save a lot of time and money bartering with dodgy SEO consultants.
Be patient. Getting your website to the top of search results is a drawn-out process. Know that it takes months, not days, and you’ll be better equipped to strategise correctly.
This can work in your favour. SEO is a steep learning curve, so it’s good to have breathing space and learn it in bite-sized chunks. Over the weeks and months following your launch, you can tackle tasks at your own pace. You can begin with the more natural keywords, and over time you’ll improve your Google ranking for the primary, meatier terms for your industry. As weeks turn into months, you’ll become a perfectionist that gets excited at shaving milliseconds off your page load speed.
Expectation #3: Curiosity Is Encouraged
The great thing about SEO is that those who do it, write about it. With ever-changing rules to Google’s algorithm, people are continually analysing and blogging about the latest trends.
There are articles, podcasts, videos, infographics, e-books, webinars and more. They cater for all sorts of websites and all manner of audiences. If you claim to be ignorant about SEO, help is on your doorstep. If you’re an expert, there’s always something to learn.
Be curious and consume whatever format fits your schedule. For those on a tight timeframe, I’d recommend Whiteboard Friday (YouTube, 8-12 minutes) and Marketing School (podcast, 5-10 minutes). These are run by industry experts and can be enjoyed over a quick coffee break.
Expectation #4: Dishonesty Is Discouraged!
In the endless mist of tactics, algorithm changes and strategies, you’ll inevitably run into dodgy-sounding proposals. These range from paying for links (no!) keyword stuffing, buying social media followers and all sorts of black-hat offers.
Here’s the thing: small business owners don’t “trick” an all-powerful, multibillion-dollar search engine. If you get an email promising to boost your website to page 1 of Google within a week, bin it.
Search engines are transparent about their guidelines, and there’s plenty of chatter online about recommended versus dodgy tactics. If a method is unheard of – or the top blogs don’t say anything good about it – you should be cautious.
Today we learnt:
- Boosting search rankings requires multiple skills and disciplines.
- SEO takes time; you must be patient and match your expectations accordingly.
- You can get help from an expert, but as the business owner, you must take an active interest.
- An in-depth, rightfully cautious analysis of SEO by Hobo Web. This goes into far greater detail and will satisfy those of you that crave graphs!
- The “Basic SEO” section of Moz Blog has lots of digestible info. Other categories explore advanced techniques and wider marketing techniques.
- Yoast’s “Ultimate Guide To Small Business SEO” post has a bunch of useful tips.
- Google’s own SEO Starter Guide – get answers straight from the horse’s mouth.
If you feel deflated that this article didn’t instantly launch you to page 1, good! We don’t control Google’s inner workings, so it’s essential that we set realistic expectations and approach this with patience and an open mind. The next article – website architecture – will cover real, practical things you can do. I promise!