Google Business listings are pretty much a necessity these days.
Google My Business is, self described by Google to be ” the fast and easy way for businesses, products, brands, artists, and organizations to manage their online presence with Google.” Realistically, if you do own a business it is a necessity to have a Google My Business account so that you can obtain reviews and a Google+ page.
The overall score of these reviews will be displayed on the search results next to your listing when users do searches on keywords related to your business.
Having a Google+ account is pretty much necessary these days and if you don’t already have one, you should go get one here.
Also, businesses with a physical location or that service local geographies get additional benefits. Read more about Google My Business here.
Getting your business listed on Google
Google is a fully automated search engine using software they call ‘spiders‘ to “crawl” the web at set intervals in time in order to find sites to add to its index. This means that to be listed on Google’s Organic results listings, you needn’t do any type of manual ‘submission’ to get your site indexed.
To determine whether your business is listed on Google at all, simply type “site:yourbusiness.com” in the search box and hit enter. This will, at the very least, tell you whether or not your business’ site is indexed with Google.
At the very least, you should be coming up for ‘yourbusiness.com.’ If you are not coming up, you should check to make sure your website design and content follow the guidelines Google has outlined. They are:
- Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
- Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map has an extremely large number of links, you may want to break the site map into multiple pages.
- Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.
- Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
- Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.
- Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the
ALTattribute to include a few words of descriptive text.
- Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
- Check for broken links and correct HTML.
- If you decide to use dynamic pages (for example, the URL contains a “?” character), be conscience that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.
- Review the recommended best practices for images, video and rich snippets
Of course, these are just guidelines, and are by no means a guarantee your business will be indexed. Here are some of the technical guidelines they also recommend:
- Make use of the robots.txt file on your web server. This file tells crawlers which directories can or cannot be crawled. Make sure it’s current for your site so that you don’t accidentally block the Googlebot crawler. Visit http://code.google.com/web/controlcrawlindex/docs/faq.html to learn how to instruct robots when they visit your site. You can test your robots.txt file to make sure you’re using it correctly with the robots.txt analysis tool available in Google Webmaster Tools.
- Make reasonable efforts to ensure that advertisements do not affect search engine rankings. For example, Google’s AdSense ads and DoubleClick links are blocked from being crawled by a robots.txt file.
- Use robots.txt to prevent crawling of search results pages or other auto-generated pages that don’t add much value for users coming from search engines.
- Test your site to make sure that it appears correctly in different browsers.
- Monitor your site’s performance and optimize load times. Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience. Fast sites increase user satisfaction and improve the overall quality of the web (especially for those users with slow Internet connections), and we hope that as webmasters improve their sites, the overall speed of the web will improve.
- Google strongly recommends that all webmasters regularly monitor site performance using Page Speed, YSlow, WebPagetest, or other tools. For more information, tools, and resources, see Let’s Make The Web Faster.
If all else fails, you can always manually do a submission to Google on your website by submitting your content.
How to know what keywords you rank for
There are several tools you can use to see what keywords your business’ website ranks for; many are paid subscriptions, many are free. One of the best tools however is made by the big G itself and is called; nope, not ‘Google Tools’ but you were close enough; “Google Webmaster Tools.” Google Webmaster Tools will show you what keywords your business is showing up for on user searches and at what position you show up.
First you must set up Google Webmaster Tools for your domain, which google has written an article about here. Once you do that, simply go to: Search Traffic > Search Queries and Webmaster Tools will tell you what keywords you rank for, how many impressions you get for those keywords per month, how many clicks per keyword, the click through rate, and your average position on the SERPs (search engine results pages.)
Why you don’t rank for the keywords you thought you would
In order to rank for certain keywords, Google must find your page relevant to those terms. So you might say, “If I own a dog grooming business and it’s all about Dog Grooming, I should show up for those keywords.”
Technically, you would be correct; even by Google’s own standards. You own a business that’s 100% relevant to these keywords and your website reflects this. So what went wrong? Here are a few reasons:
Spam, spam, spam
There are billions of spam sites on the internet. Want to know how many have a relationship to your type of business? Sorry, I can’t tell you that. But I can tell you it’s going to be a heck of a lot. Google has new algorithms in place that they’ve been working on for years that are getting better all the time, but spam is still an enormous problem on the web.
The other guys have been around longer than you
Big G has many ranking factors it uses to determine who to display when a user searches for a particular set of keywords. One of them is domain age. If you just registered your business’ domain last month, you probably won’t see much traction in your rankings for at least a good 3 to 6 months.
Your on-site optimization is hosed
Unfortunately (well, fortunately for me, not for you) 95% of business websites I see have glaring on-site optimization problems all over the place. I won’t go into all of them here, but these are some examples:
- Your web designer used images for page headings in an attempt to be ‘artsy’. Google does not understand images well; up until recently, it did not understand images at all. This is slowly changing, but for the most part, images are not easily understood by big G; you have to tell them. Header tags are a huge on-site indicator that lets Google know what your page is about. Using images instead of them (or not using headings at all) is a glaring on-site SEO mistake I see being made more often than I should. Which brings me to the next point ..
- Your web designer did not use ALT and TITLE attributes. As previously mentioned, Google doesn’t know what your images are about. You have to tell it.
- You have duplicate title tags or your title isn’t relevant and geographically accurate. Your page title is among the most important on-page ranking factor Google has to determine what your site is all about. If you are a Dog Grooming operation out of Miami, Florida, you better make sure your title contains the words ‘Dog Grooming’ and ‘in Miami Florida’ somewhere within it.
- You have duplicate meta descriptions or your web designer didn’t use meta descriptions at all. Meta description tells Google how you want your page to display on the SERPs. If you don’t tell it, it will try to find out on its own, and 9 times out of 10 you don’t want that.
- Your webpage is over-optimized. Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing into the meta keywords tag or shoving a bunch of keywords in a paragraph at the end of your page in order to manipulate Google into indexing your site for those terms. Google has came out and said that meta keywords is not a ranking factor they use any more and using it will not help you rank.
- Your website takes forever to load. Site speed is a ranking factor; make sure your page loads in a reasonable amount of time and make sure you are using a quality webhost; the one that continues to impress me is right here.
- Your site is difficult to navigate and has no logical page structure. Your websites link structure should make sense. If you do haircuts, baths and nail cuts for Dogs, you should put those under a category called ‘services’. So the link structure for your haircuts page would be Home > Services > Haircuts.
Your off-site search engine optimization (seo) is non-existant or negative
One of the biggest off-site ranking factors are backlinks. Backlinks are links back to your website from other pages on the web. Google considers these ‘votes‘ for your website, thus the more backlinks you have, the more popular your site is. Backlinks from related websites are worth more than backlinks from non-related websites, and some backlinks could outright destroy your Google ranking if they were obtained in an underhanded fashion.
I could write an entire article on backlinks alone, but just know that in general, links back to your site from reputable, authoritative, relevant websites = good and not having any backlinks = bad.