Beginner’s guide search ranking tips – or – how to do better on Google for small businesses

If you only do a few things to ensure your website is set up properly for indexing by Google and other search engines, if you’re a small business that doesn’t have time or money to invest in trying to get top 10 rankings for all relevant keywords all around the world, but just want to make sure local customers can find you, then you should check that you’re even showing up on Google at all – at the very least you should appear on the first page of results when you include your exact website name and perhaps your location or brand name or other content that you know is on your website in your search keywords.

If you don’t appear at all, or don’t appear for searches about what you offer, in the location that you offer them, then you should at least do these simple things as a bare minimum:

1 – Use the Page Title to describe what the page is about

One of the most effective ways you can get a good search ranking on Google is using the page title. A website is made up of web pages. And a web page is like a Word document. It has text that makes up the body of the page, which might be styled in different ways like Bold and Italic, and may have some pictures or diagrams in. But it also has a name – like how a Word document has a filename on your disk – and it has some other properties that you don’t see on the page but are hidden away and only the computer (and other computers on the internet) can see them. These properties are written into the document’s HTML, but if you use a website editing tool to make your web page you might not be able to see them directly.

The name of the web page is the part of the web address that comes after the second / symbol – such as http://www.website.com/webpagename.html

If the web page doesn’t have a name there at all, it’s because it is the index page, or home page, which is shown if the visitor goes to your web address without adding a web page name into the address.

When Google’s automatic indexing computers are looking at your website, they will use the website name, the page name, and the page title as the main hints as to what the page is about.

So make sure when you choose your website name, when you pick names for the individual web pages, and when you give a page its title, that you make this very clear and explanatory.

For example http://www.awebsite.com/webpagenumber1.html with a page title set to “My first web page” doesn’t tell Google anything useful about what you do and what your website is about.

A much better example would be http://www.ealing-tree-surgeons.com/tree-surgeon-in-ealing.html with a page title of “Best tree surgeon in Ealing, west London, England. Call now on 02071112222

2 – Use Headings intelligently

When Google is looking through the text on your pages, it also uses headings to help understand the page in the way a human would. Headings are when you write HTML and put <h1>or <h2> in front of a line, or select the equivalent style if you are using an editing tool to make your HTML for you. Google expects to see only one <h1%gt; tag on any given page, with that tag being the main heading explaining what that page is about. Use more than one of those, and it will both get confused, and penalise your searchability. It then looks at h2 and h3 tags to further understand how your text is broken down. So for example, if your page answers a question like “What is the best way to do X” then put that into a h2 heading, and then have the answer immediately follow it.

3 – Markup your location

If your business has a physical address like a shopfront, or if you operate in a particular area, make sure you include an address or the area you operate in on every page on your website, in the page contents (a header or footer) and in the page title. Google will do their best to look for addresses in your page, but you can make it absolutely clear for Google by adding some extra hidden commands to your web page HTML to tell Google exactly where in the world you operate. Then, when they know people are searching in your location, either from the search words they have typed including a location, or because they are searching from a mobile phone that Google knows the location of, then you are more likely to go to the top of the list.

Those hidden commands look like this:

<div class="vcard">
<div class="fn org">Your Business Name</div> 
<div class="adr"> 
<div class="street-address">Your Street Address</div> 
<div> <span class="locality">Your City</span>, <abbr class="region">Your Region</abbr> 
<span class="postal-code">Your postal code</span></div> 
<div class="country-name">Your Country</div> </div> 
<div>Phone: <span class="tel">Your phone number</span></div> 
<div>Email: <span class="email">Your email</span></div> 
</div>

4 – Associate your websites with your social network accounts

If you have social network accounts in your name or the name of your business, and you share links to your website on Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere, then you want to make sure that it looks professional when you do that and correctly shows a preview of your website. You want to make sure a nice icon or photograph appears and a correct summary of what your website is about when a link is shared around.

To do that, you want to add more hidden information into your HTML web page, just like in the previous tip, that tells Facebook, Twitter and others what account is associated with the website, and gives them a description of the web page topic and a suggestion what image to use to show beside the link when it is shared.

That information will look like this:

For Facebook (what they call Open Graph, hence the ‘og’)

<meta property="og:title" content="Your web page title" />
<meta property="og:type" content="article" />
<meta property="og:url" content="the web page address starting with http" />
<meta property="og:image" content="the web address of a picture to go with the article" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="the name of your web site (not web page)" />
<meta property="og:description" content="An excerpt, summary or description of the web page contents" />

and for Twitter:

<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary" /> Note it should always be summary
<meta name="twitter:title" content="Your web page title" />
<meta name="twitter:description" content="An excerpt, summary or description of the web page contents" />
<meta name="twitter:image" content="the web address of a picture to go with the article" />

5 – Register for Google Search Console

Google has a system called Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) that give you a definitive way to tell Google about your website, instead of leaving it to chance that they will find it by accident. Using a Google account such as Gmail address, simply login to http://www.google.com/webmasters/ and follow the easy to use guide to tell Google that your website exists and what it’s about. If you don’t do this last part, you might never get found at all!

When you’re ready, find more SEO tips and tricks in our 2017 SEO guide.

Last updated January 2017

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