Five simple techniques to improve your organic Google rankings
Let me guess: your CEO has searched for your company services on Google* and whilst your competitor proudly shows up on page one, your company is wallowing on page 3 or 4 of the results. She's insisting that you fix the problem and you're wondering what to do.
You probably have 20 or 30 emails from offshore agencies in your Spam folder telling you how they can get you to result number one and keep you there, but for some reason you have doubts. Before you reach for the "Reply" button, imagine if you could solve this problem yourself with just a little technical tinkering, a few minutes of your time and effort, and a very small investment of money?
You might think I'm peddling the same snake-oil as those "SEO Services" companies. But I am telling the truth (I'm not that good a salesman). Read on and raise those rankings!
*other search engines are available, and the following apply to all major search engines - Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc.
1. Get an SSL certificate
Google wants to make the web secure, and by encrypting information sent between your user and your website, an SSL certificate (nowadays more correctly called a TLS certificate) is an easy way to make your website more secure for your users, and therefore better-looking to Google. Using a service like Lets Encrypt, you can create your own SSL certificate for £0, although you will usually have to pay a techie to install it. Typically you'd spend less than £50-£100 per year for a certicate, including installation.
2. Speed up your website
In today's distraction-heavy, time-poor business environment who wants to wait around for ages for a page to load? Your visitors prefer fast pages, and Google will too. If they don't get a page back from your site within 2-3 seconds they'll start to be distracted, or bored. Best case scenario you make them like you slightly less, and worst case scenario they leave and find a competitor with a faster website.
There are a number of easy ways to improve your site's speed, but the first thing to do is to measure the current speed. Use a tool like GTMetrix or Google Page Speed Insights to measure your site's loading speed and then follow their recommendations to improve it. Typically this means:
- Reduce the size and number of images on your website. Not everyone has super-fast broadband, and you shouldn't force them to wait. If you can't do this yourself, ask your designer or web developer if they can help
- Use a well-known content management system with performance tools and caching built in. Check with your web developer whether your website performance options are enabled
- Use a CDN such as Amazon Cloudfront to deliver images, videos, files to your users from more powerful servers. This will cost a little money, but for most small businesses the cost will likely be less than £50 per year
- Find a faster web hosting company. Not all servers are created equally, and sometimes it pays to pay a little more for really great performance. Most businesses can get great performing, reliable and well protected business-class hosting for less than £500 per year
Does your site load this quickly? If not, why not?
3. Make your site mobile friendly
Google wants to show its users the most relevant results, so if users are browsing whilst on the move, Google will prefer to show them mobile-friendly ("responsive") sites - i.e. those that work well on a mobile phone without being broken or difficult to read. You can take Google's Mobile Friendly Test here to test how well your site works on mobile phones now (try it with the Versantus site).
If you have it installed, use Google Analytics to see how many of your visitors use a mobile phone. If you see, or think, that your mobile audience is large enough, you should make sure that your site works well on screens of all sizes. Remember, too, that a low mobile usage now might be because your site is so god-awful to use. Improve it and you'll be more visible on Google, meaning more mobile visitors - as Kevin Costner once said, "Build it [responsively] and they will come [to visit on their mobile phones]" (I'm paraphrasing slightly).
If your site doesn't work well on a mobile phone or tablet, ask your web agency for a quote to fix it. Prices can vary wildly, and it can be an expensive exercise. You should consider combining the work to improve your responsive site with other changes to your content, branding or content management system so that you can get the best bang for your buck.
4. Add Google-friendly metadata
When adding pages to your website, you should add metadata too. This is information that is hidden from users but is visible and useful for search engines. They use the information to more easily understand the subject of your pages, meaning they can show more relevant results to your prospects when they search for you. Typical metadata would include:
- a page title, description and summary
- an author (e.g. a link to your Google+ profile)
- an image, used to enhance the link to your page when someone shares it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn
- extra information about your business: name, address, product information, opening hours
Adding metadata to your web pages is something that is typically done when using a content management system. If in doubt, ask your web developer for guidance.
5. Take the Versantus site test
Our team can review your site for you, looking at the speed, security, mobile-friendliness and metadata. We will make recommendations on how best to improve your Google rankings, and we can help you make the necessary changes.