Getting a good placement in Google search results may be tough, but you can make life a lot easier for yourself and your website by taking some simple, Google-recommended, steps to help the search engine giant know you’re there.
In this article, we give you some key tips to make Google sit up and notice your site…
1. Register your site with Google Search Console
Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is a free service from Google that allows you to submit your website (and its sitemap) to Google for indexing. That’s not all though: you can use the tool to do a lot of other useful things including:
- check important backlinks to your site
- ensure that Google is not experiencing any crawl errors with your site
- let Google know if different versions of your websites exist for different countries
- view the kinds of search queries that are driving traffic to your site.
Most importantly, by registering your site with Google Search Console you are telling the search giant that your website exists. Which of course is the starting point to appearing in search results.
2. Link your site to Google MyBusiness
By registering your business on Google My Business (essentially the successor to Google Places) you can help it appear in relevant geographic search results. When you do this, Google will send a postcard containing a pin to your business address – you can use this to ‘verify’ your business with Google.
This verification lets Google know that your business operates in the physical location you stated, meaning that you have a stronger chance of appearing in search results – and on Google Maps – for people who are searching for a business like yours in the area in which you operate. If, for example, you run a web design business in Hackney, London and somebody with a Hackney IP whacks ‘web design Hackney’ or even ‘web design’ into Google, you may surprise yourself by popping up in a higher-than-expected position in search.
3. Start using Google+ properly
When you register your business with Google MyBusiness, you will be provided with a Google+ page (if you don’t already have one). Use it! When you post links to your site or blog articles on your Google+ page, these get indexed by Google (and the links in question are taken even more seriously if you have a truckload of Google+ followers who subsequently +1 your posts).
Furthermore, Google are increasingly showing business’ Google+ pages in search results when people search for that that business' name (usually in a big, hard-to-avoid box on the right-hand side of the results). This means that potential customers are now quite likely to click on the Google+ page and not your website – so if your Google+ page isn’t updated or contains incorrect information (like an old telephone number), then this is going to work against you.
Finally on the subject of Google+, because of the increasing value Google is attaching to ‘plus ones’, it’s really important that you make it very easy for people to +1 pages on your website. You can do this by adding sharing icons on your website (via a service like Addthis), or simply by grabbing a plus one button from Google direct (they give you a snippet of code you can add to your site’s HTML). You should also encourage your readers to follow you on Google +, because the more Google+ followers you have, the more +1s you are likely to get, and the more visibility your pages will have in search…you get the picture.
4. Use relevant keywords in your page titles, meta descriptions and URLs
Ensure that your page titles and meta descriptions contain
- accurate, concise descriptions of your page content
- keywords that you are hoping to perform well for you in search
Google often shows snippets of your meta descriptions in search results, and can use them to decide how relevant your site is to particular searches (by monitoring the clickthrough rates they generate in search results, with higher clickthrough rates indicating that a page answers a particular search query well).
Avoid being spammy though by stuffing titles and meta descriptions with too many 'catch all' keywords, because this can:
- actively damage your chances of appearing high in search results (Google's algorithms are, to say the least, pretty good at spotting spam)
- make your site appear appear off-putting to users who come across it during searches.
In addition to focusing on creating well-optimised page titles and meta descriptions, you should try to ensure that your site URLs also include keywords that you are focusing on for search purposes. As a very basic example, if you are trying to sell guitars on your website, a URL of www.mysite.com/guitars would be more likely to help your search engine cause than a more generic www.mysite.com/instruments.
5. Create backlinks to your site
Even if you've got fantastically well-constructed page titles, meta descriptions and URLs, they're usually fairly useless unless you've got backlinks pointing to your website too. Backlinks are essentially links from other sites to your site, and in a simple sense Google counts them as 'votes' for your content.
There are two main ways to generate backlinks: (1) via outreach, by asking other site / blog owners to feature links to your content on their sites and (2) by regularly creating keyword-rich blog posts that are relevant to your business niche (if they are interesting / helpful articles about your area of business, they are more likely to attract a relevant audience, a proportion of which will create backlinks to them).
Avoid using companies that promise to create thousands of backlinks for you however - Google can and will penalise your site if it thinks there is spammy activity going on in this regard.
6. Follow Google's advice
Google are actually pretty helpful when it comes to advising you how to improve your site’s performance in search results – so helpful in fact, that they provide a free guide to optimising your site for Google search. Read it cover to cover and make sure you are following all their advice. The guide can be found here and deals with the nuts and bolts of SEO – how to use headers, meta data and keyword-rich content appropriately.
You might also find Google's guide to page titles and snippets handy too (video below, and an article on the topic here).
Finally if you're a Google+ user, you might want to stay posted to the Google Webmasters page - where you'll regularly get tips on SEO and other Google-related issues straight from the horse's mouth.
Got any search tips of your own? Feel free to share in the comments section.