12 Things Your Business Website Should Be Doing to Dominate Google

A magnifying glass over a computer

12 Things Your Business Website Should Be Doing to Dominate Google

By Ed Brancheau, for Edwardsturm.com.

While SEO is an extremely deep and complex field, there are some more basic optimization tactics you can use to quickly up your rankings. The following 12 tactics were hand picked from a much longer list thoughtfully written over the course of a few months, and have been expounded upon here. These rules are the most important of the list. I hope you enjoy.

1. Spend Time Picking a Niche

I stress to all my clients that this step is critical to the success of their business online. Pick a niche that is too competitive or broad and you’ll have an extremely difficult time breaking into the top 20 results, let alone the top 10. However, pick a niche without enough search volume and it won’t matter if you’re #1 because you’ll never get enough traffic.

Key metrics in researching a niche

2. Buy a Clean Domain

Tell me if this sounds familiar… you go to GoDaddy, do a search for a domain and see it’s available.

You think, “Yippee! It’s available!”

So you buy it, build your site, write a ton of great content, get the word out online, spend a ton of time creating backlinks and then you discover that Google won’t even list it in the search results.

“What’s going on? Why won’t Google index my wonderful site?”

Well, here’s the problem: Just because a domain is available doesn’t mean that it’s clean.

It could have been owned by a previous business that hired some other SEO “expert” that didn’t really know what they were doing. And the expert simply built a million spammy links into the site. Google hates it when people try to manipulate their SERPs and so they penalize sites when they find spammy links. If you bought a domain that had this done, it’ll be very difficult to get the penalty removed.

Google Search Console logo

Even worse, you could end up in a situation similar to the following one, which a client had:

The client bought a domain that essentially told people what they do: make sexy dresses.

The problem was that while the domain wasn’t penalized like the previous example, Google had tagged the domain as adult content because it was previously used as a porn site.

XXX representing adult content

Only after you’ve confirmed that your domain doesn’t have a penalty should you start building out the rest of your site. After all, it would be horrible to spend a ton of time and money to build a site and then discover that the domain is penalized and unclean.

3. Remove Bad Links

If you already have a website and hired some “SEO guru” that was anything but a guru, and you don’t want to just scrap the site and start over, then you’ll have to clean up your backlink profile. If you’re unfamiliar with SEO, I recommend hiring someone that knows what they’re doing rather than trying to find and disavow bad backlinks yourself.

Do not be a cheapskate here! This can be complicated. Plus, let’s be honest, you’re probably in this position in the first place because you hired the least expensive “expert,” right?

I’d even recommend offering to pay the expert 10% more than they’re asking. Like I said, Link Detox is one of the most difficult things to do in SEO because it’s basically a high stakes game of Jenga. If the wrong backlinks are removed, your authority will crumble.

A high stakes game of Jenga

4. Mobile Friendly

Every site must be mobile friendly. Almost 70% of web searches are now performed on mobile devices; and it doesn’t matter if you think your customers don’t use mobile devices, they do.

One client of ours said he didn’t want to spend the extra money to have us design a mobile friendly site. We gave him an ultimatum because we only build sites that are mobile friendly. While he insisted that his customers don’t use mobile devices, he hired us because his friend told him we’d do an amazing job.

He acquiesced and six months after we finished his site, he called to thank us for forcing him to get a mobile friendly site- he checked his analytics and saw that 68% of his traffic was from mobile devices! “I was dead wrong,” he said.

Four different popular brands of smartphone, lined up

Now, most people understand that having a mobile friendly site is important because it makes their site easier to use. That’s true. But here’s something the majority doesn’t know: non-mobile friendly sites are treated differently by search engines.

You see, Google and Bing want to give their users the best experience possible and they know that if their user is on a smartphone and visits a non-mobile friendly site, they’ll be irritated… and if they send them to too many non-mobile friendly sites, users are going to be pissed.

So back in April of 2016, Google launched an update that SEO experts called “Mobilepocalypse” or “Mobilegeddon” because, in a nutshell, Google deindexed all non-mobile friendly sites from its mobile search results. Of course, since more searches are done on mobile devices, you can imagine the shock of millions of website owners that were unprepared when their traffic plummeted.

That wasn’t even the worst of it though. Google has made “social signals” even more important to its rankings and a vicious downward spiral was created. Sites that weren’t mobile friendly got fewer visitors, therefore they got shared less, so they got ranked lower, so they got fewer visitors, so they got shared less… and on and on.

The bottom line is that if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, then implementing the other eleven methods on this page won’t do squat.

5. On-Page SEO

Think of on-page SEO like a restaurateur would consider the layout of their restaurant. Every restaurant needs a huge sign out front. It needs a clean front door. It needs a cashier and tables. It needs a kitchen to cook food. There are certain things every restaurant needs to be successful.A restaurant floor with a bar and a kitchen

Similarly, every page of your site needs certain things for it to be successful. That’s where On-Page SEO comes in.

Fortunately, there are two plugins (if you’re using the WordPress CMS) that make the whole process a lot easier than it used to be: Yoast SEO and All In One SEO. Personally, I prefer Yoast SEO, because I’ve been using it forever. Though neither one is better than the other. Pick one, install it, and every time you post new content, easily optimize that new page for search engines.

6. Great Content

Did I just hear you say, “Duh?”

Fair enough, but let me ask you a question: if you came across your content would you honestly say that it’s “great?”

Here’s the thing. I used to be a story editor for Kopelson Entertainment, which produced films such as Platoon, The Fugitive, and Se7en amongst others. I learned time and time again that the authors of the worst scripts were always the ones who thought they were most phenomenal. Whereas the authors of the best scripts weren’t so sure.

The best authors had other qualities in common too:

  1. They all spent a great deal of time structuring the script before they even wrote the first word.
  2. They all edited the script several times before they actually submitted it to any producers. There’s an old saying, “Writing is editing, editing, and editing. And when you think you’re done editing, edit some more.”
  3. Most importantly… none of them were ever happy with the final product. Every single writer will tell you that, and would kill for more time to edit.

The best bloggers (except news bloggers) out there are always working on articles that won’t be published for a week or so. Then they edit their posts three or four times before they publish. For example, I spent two weeks writing and editing this article and even as I submitted it for publishing, I wasn’t truly happy with it.

RELATED: HOW TO WRITE FOR SEO - BLOGGING AND COPYWRITING

7. Remove Over-Optimization

Just a few years ago, “over optimizing” used to work, but was always done by bloggers that weren’t focusing on great content. I’ll admit, even I was one of those bloggers.

When updates were made to search algorithms and I stopped getting the results I was used to, I rethought my approach.

Whereas I used to optimize my content using the Yoast SEO plugin until it was at 100%, I started optimizing it only to the point that the optimization signal turned green. To my amazement, those posts did significantly better.

What green Yoast optimization looks like for the keyword, "SEO"

Thinking I was on to something, I started “de-optimizing” my content and every single post jumped at least a few spots. After telling a number of blogging friends, they tried it and confirmed they were getting similar results.

Over-optimized articles, blogs, and copy read as spammy. They deliver a poor user experience and search engines want to deliver the best experiences so that users will stick to their service. They implement advanced machine learning algorithms to detect spammy articles and it’s hard to beat this. Try to write authentically, and you’ll be rewarded.

8. Load Quickly

A woman speeding through time. Represents fast loading speed.

It’s simple really, your site must take less than two seconds to load or three things will happen:

  1. The visitors that you worked so hard to get will click the “back” button before your page fully loads.
  2. Your “bounce rate” will go up.
  3. Google will rank your site lower in the search results because your bounce rate went up.

There are a number of tactics you can implement to reduce your site’s load time. To find out what they are, run a speed test on both Google Page Speed Insights and GTmetrix. These tools will show you different and common problems to fix. I guarantee that if you have a low site speed, the number one problem to address is…

9. Optimize Your Images

Every single slow site I’ve come across has images that are too large. Although every profession is guilty, photographers seem to be the biggest culprits because they post huge images.

Why?

First, let’s run through an example:

  1. The most used computer screen size (by 35%) now is 1366x768.
  2. Any image that is larger than 1366x768 won’t fit on the most used computer screen size.
  3. Most blog columns are less than 760px wide
  4. A 16 megapixel image is 4920 x 3264 pixels.
  5. It would be too large physically for just about every screen by 360%.
  6. It would be too large physically for just about every blog column by 647%.
  7. It would be too large file size-wise for just about every blog column by 1942%.

This happens because when you don’t crop, resize, and “smush” the image, the full-sized image is still loaded and then shrunk to fit within the placeholder.

So make sure that you crop your image, resize it (multiple times to XL, L, M, S, XS for different users), and optimize it for web.

If you’re a professional that needs to show larger versions of the image, such as a photographer, wedding planner, dentist (to show surgical images), etc, then save an image that is no larger than 1366x768 along with a much smaller thumbnail which, when clicked on, opens the full-sized image in another page.

It bears repeating that image optimization is the #1 or #1a factor in speeding up your site. The tie being web hosting.

10. What Your Competition Is Doing Online

We have a discovery form on our site that asks incoming clients a slew of questions about their business and the question that’s most frequently left blank is “What is your competition doing online?”

My question is, how can you beat your competition when you don’t know what they’re doing? How can you surpass your competitors if you're not subtly spying on them?

A shadowy looking spy

There are a lot of programs we use to uncover this information quickly, but if you’re a small business owner, those programs can be expensive and too time consuming to learn. To learn what your competition is doing online for free, here’s what I suggest:

  1. Search Google for your main keyword and write down your top five competitors (also make a note if their site is using www. or not; for the searches below always use the version that your competitor uses.)
  2. Run the following searches on Google for your top five competitors and create a Google Alert for each (including quotation marks where noted):
    • site:companydomain.com (or site:www.companydomain.com if they use www.) – This will show you all of your competitor’s pages that Google has indexed. Pay close attention to the top 10 results.
      Searching Google for site:companydomain.com
    • linkto:companydomain.com (or linkto:www.companydomain.com if they use www.) – This will show you all of the sites that link to your competitor. Create accounts or links on the top 20 sites that link to your competitor.
      Searching Google for linkto:companydomain.com
  3. Also set up Google Alerts for the following:
    • Ten buyer keyword phrases. Make sure you surround the search term with quotation marks such as, “San Diego SEO.” If you don’t, in this example, you’ll get results for searches that include just “San” in them, such as “San Francisco,” “San Antonio,” and “San Salvador.” Plus, you’ll get results like, “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?”
    • The names of the primaries at your competition so you can find other places they get mentions from where their business name isn’t necessarily mentioned.

That’s just for starters. I recommend searching Google for “How to track your competition with Google Alerts” for even more great ideas.

11. Google My Business

How would you like your business to show up on Google like this:

What a Google My Business listing looks like on Google: the business gets a lot of space on a search engine results page!

Well, all you have to do is add your business to Google My Business! Here’s how you do it the right way:

  1. Make sure you choose the right Name, Address and Phone (aka NAP) and use the exact same address everywhere else on the Internet (including your own site). For example, these NAPs are not the same:
    • Franklin & Sons Hardware
      5432 Edgewood Avenue, Suite 201
      San Diego, CA 92109
      (619) 754-8847
    • Franklin and Sons Hardware
      5432 Edgewood
      Ave, Suite 201
      San Diego, CA 92109
      (619) 754-8847
    • Franklin & Sons Hardware
      5432 Edgewood
      Ave., #201
      San Diego, CA 92109
      619-754-8847
    • “But they’re the same addresses and phone numbers,” you say. Well, to humans, yes we can tell that they’re the same. But Google uses an algorithm and it sees the sections in red as different from the first listing.
  2. Next search the Internet for every possible NAP variation that you’ve ever used and then correct each NAP to be exactly the same as your Google My Business listing.
  3. Make sure that your Google My Business listing is adding all of your reviews across the Internet together. Review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook Local, etc. Google should be able to find all of these, though sometimes it needs a little help.

12. Sitelinks

You’ve put in so much effort to get people to visit your site so you don’t want them to read one page, watch one video, and then leave. Make sure every piece of content has a link within the actual content to another page on your site (this is not the same as having links in a sidebar or menu; although you should have those as well).

Additionally, Google wants to give its users the best content and experience. Therefore, I also recommend that every piece of content on your site (except your home page) have a link to another authority site.

Conclusion

I truly hope that you will take what you learned in this article and apply it to your site. If you implement all 12 of these practices, you will eventually see a great deal of success with your search strategy.

Cheers, and great luck!

Ed Brancheau

Ed Brancheau

Ed Brancheau is an SEO, SEM, social media, and inbound marketing expert and consultant. He’s Google certified for all the most important digital marketing measuring tools and channels (adwords, analytics, mobile, ecommerce, video advertising) and to date has over 100 positive recommendations across the web. Having been in the business since 2008, he’s worked with both Fortune 100 companies and small local brick-and-mortar practices.

"The best place to hide a dead body is the 2nd page of Google." Contact him to appear number one.
Ed Brancheau

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