Without a doubt, search engines play a crucial role in online marketing. It can mean the difference between growing revenue and struggling to meet overhead costs. Ranking well for target keywords can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
But how much traffic does search drive compared to other marketing channels?
A lot more than you think.
In 2014, a study from BrightEdge revealed that organic search dominates all other marketing channels by a significant margin, driving 51 percent of online visitors to B2B and B2C sites. In comparison, paid search drove 10 percent of traffic. Perhaps most surprising is the fact that social networks only drove 5 percent.
The numbers demonstrate the importance of search engine visibility. Improve your rankings and you increase targeted traffic to your site. Which ultimately translates to more leads and sales for your business.
But how can you improve rankings for target keywords?
Here we put together a local business SEO checklist to improve online visibility. Taking these steps will help your site:
- Attract targeted traffic
- Drive more conversions
- Increase brand visibility
- Gain a competitive advantage
Initial WebSite Setup
Before going into site optimization, you need to have certain technical aspects in place to track visitors and improve performance:
- Google Analytics: How do you measure how your search campaign is performing? Google Analytics adds a tracking code to your site to measure traffic and other key metrics that provide a wealth of actionable information. Use this setup page to get started.
- Google Webmaster Tools: Google Webmaster Tools lets you easily diagnose potential errors and security issues on your site. You will need to sign in to your account and verify the site is yours.
- Sitemap: A sitemap contains a list of pages on your site which makes it easier for crawlers to find and index. If you use WordPress, install the XML sitemap plugin to create a sitemap. Then submit it through Google Webmaster Tools.
- Loading speed: Consumers expect sites to load quickly. Use PageSpeed Insights to test the speed of your site and implement the suggestions offered to improve loading times.
- Mobile: Mobile friendliness is now a ranking factor. This means that your rankings will suffer on mobile search if your site isn’t optimized for mobile devices. Make this a priority if your site only offers a desktop version.
Google is powered by complex algorithms that deliver results based on relevancy and context. Optimize the following aspects of your site to increases its visibility for target keywords:
- Title tags: Create unique titles for every page and include target keywords such as the city areas your business targets. This increases the relevancy of each page and improves rankings for local searches. Limit the title tag to under 70 characters or it will be truncated in the search results.
- Meta descriptions: Google displays a brief snippet of text for each search result. Include your primary keywords here and write a short description of the page but keep it all within 165 characters.
Here is an example of a well optimized title and meta description for the keywords “emergency dentist Austin”:
And here is another:
The first one is not only better optimized but it also ranks higher and includes a call to action.
- Headings:Heading tags are particularly useful to break your content into sections. But they also tell the search engines what the page is about. Be sure to use at least one H1 tag with relevant keywords.
- Permalink structure: Change the permalink structure to be more search engine friendly. Here is an example of an optimized permalink: http://yoursite.com/services/emergency-dentist-austin.
- Images: Blocks of text are unappealing for online visitors. Aim to include at least one image to each page and add keywords to the ALT tag.
- Contact info: There is nothing more frustrating than landing on a local business page without any way to contact them. Make sure to include your address, phone, and other important contact details on your site. You can also embed a map directly on your Contact page.
- Location specific pages: If you want to target other cities or have more than one location, create a new page on your site specific for each area. Be sure to optimize all on-page factors and do not duplicate any content.
- Schema markup: One way to differentiate how your site appears in the search results is with schema markup. This allows search engines to display information such as business hours, testimonials, and even reviews.
- Content: In addition to the normal pages on a local business site (e.g. About, Contact, Services, etc.), consider creating content relevant to your industry. This will help attract even more targeted traffic to your pages and build your online presence.
Different factors affect search engine rankings.
All else being equal, a site with links from relevant sources will outperform a similar site without any links. Off-site optimization refers to the external aspects that boost rankings. Focus on these factors to further increase search engine visibility:
- Local directories: Submit your site to local directories to reach even more of your target audience. These include Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Superpages, and Yellow Pages. Encourage reviews from your customers to improve visibility on your profiles.
- Social media: A verified Google+ business page is an absolute must. It allows you to add your business information directly to the search results and customers can leave reviews on your page. Also consider creating Facebook and Twitter profiles to further build your online presence.
- Outreach: The next thing to focus on is building links to your site. Be on the lookout for any local events you can sponsor or reach out to sites in your industry to have a guest post written for them.
Local search matters.
But first your site needs to be visible in the search results. Otherwise your target market will land on competing pages. Taking the time to optimize your site with this checklist will greatly improve visibility in the search results and give your business a significant competitive advantage online.