When residents and visitors to your community are looking for products or services to meet their immediate needs, they usually turn to search to find them. One study found that 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information and often, these searchers have the intent to become customers. In fact, Google itself reports that 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day.
Optimizing your small, local company’s website for search (SEO) is important, but it doesn’t have to become another full-time job for you.
There’s a lot of old information kicking around about SEO that causes confusion. In this post, we’ll take a look at what actually matters to Google right now.
Note: We focus on Google in particular because although there are other search engines, more than 95% of search happens there. If you are optimizing for Google and following SEO best practices, you’re well-positioned to appear in other search engines, as well.
1. User Experience
Google Analytics (GA) helps you monitor and interpret your site visitors’ actions on your website. These cues Google reads into the actions people take on your site—how long they spend there, which pages they visit, what actions they take—help you understand the experience people are having on your website. GA also analyzes that information and can make recommendations for improving those metrics.
You want to provide the information people need and get them to convert (to take your next desired action) as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
2. Site Speed and Mobile Friendliness
These two go hand-in-hand because Google demands that you provide a fast, mobile-friendly experience to people on your website. If you don’t, they are far less likely to position you as the best answer for any searcher’s query. That’s really what ranking in search is all about. You want to be the best answer and you have to show Google that you are the best answer.
According to Google, more than half of all website traffic comes from mobile, and every second counts. If your website takes more than 3 seconds to load, the probability that the user will bounce (simply leave and find another business to visit) is 32%. And if your site takes more than 5 seconds to load, that jumps to 90%.
Your small business website must be light and fast. Sometimes we have the tendency to want to include a ton of photos and a lot of information, but that really doesn’t belong on the homepage and your product and service landing pages. There are plenty of content formats you can use to provide more in-depth information to the customers who need it. When the goal is to appear in search and convert searchers to in-store customers, you need to provide that fast and mobile-friendly experience.
An SSL certificate generates an encrypted connection and creates trust. When you have an SSL certificate actively installed on your website, instead of showing http://, the URL behind it would be https://. This tells Google and all Internet users that your website is secured and encrypted. Therefore, any sensitive information entered on your website is safely shared.
On the contrary, if you do not have an SSL certificate installed, any data your users enter onto your site’s contact form, such as their names, email, and phone numbers may be intercepted by hackers.
SSL is so important to Google that they will display a marker in search results warning consumers if your site is not secure.
4. Accurate Location Information
Think of how and where customers are searching for companies like yours. They might be on their cell phone heading home from work and looking for dinner to pick up. They could be planning out what they’re going to do on Saturday morning and you are a stop along the route. If the information that they find on your website is incorrect it can lead to a terrible customer experience.
According to BrightLocal, 71% of consumers have had a negative experience because of incorrect local business information found online.
For example, if you are usually open on a specific day but had to close due to a staffing shortage, weather event, or family emergency, and that was not reflected on your website, you could have people showing up to your close to store expecting it to be open. If a customer went out of their way to visit, do you think they’re going to give you another chance? Another example is the directions and address on your website. How easy is it for a person to find your location? Is your map pin correct? Can a searcher click to get directions, or do they have to write down your address and look it up on a map?
As business owners and marketers, we need to make it as simple and seamless as possible for people to find your location and actually get there. This is where an embedded map with a connection to the Google API is key.
5. Simple, Logical Site Structure Free of Technical Errors
Technical errors on your site such as missing alt tags for images, non-optimized meta descriptions, missing or incorrect robots, texts, etc., can prevent Google from fully understanding what your website is all about.
Navigation on your site should be simple and intuitive so customers can easily find their way around and get the information they need.
Local Websites Built for Search
We have been working in web design and SEO for more than 15 years and we understand exactly what Google and customers are looking for on a small business website. We firmly believe in keeping it simple and helping your customers convert as easily as possible to a phone call or an in-store visit. We build our websites on a proven and time-tested framework using your unique content, so you can focus on building your business – not managing your web presence.
Our clients retain full access to the site, so you can share new content on the blog we provide. It is a great way to keep feeding the search engine new, keyword-rich content that helps increase your presence in search as well.