How To increase your google rankings For Free
Your website is up and running. You've probably got your shop open (good stuff) plus a few additional pages. Sales promotions are in the plan and you're just waiting for people to find you on Google.
Not so fast! The big question is, are you set up for the search engines to find your site, your shop and all your content?
As you probably know, as lone ranger business owners, we wear many hats, take on many roles and which can sometimes lead to frustration and sometimes burn out. However ,as your social media and digital strategy expert with a back ground in food retail and marketing, i'm here to tell you what needs to be done. No more figuring it out yourself.
Okay, to get found on Google there are a few things you need to do.. Even if you think you've done SEO, please read this post, in case you missed something!
In fact, do you know where you currently appear in the search engines? Go check now, come back and read this article. Implement the changes and measure your position again in around 6 weeks. Let me know what happens.
Let's get started.
The Paid Option
The quickest option to being found on Google is to pay for it. However, it can get expensive, especially for a small / medium or start-up business.
The cost will depend on, how much you can afford to bid for the search position and how competitive your niche is.
If you're operating in a highly competitive niche like myself, you'll be competing against many other companies trying to claim the top spot. This increases the cost of that position. Your position is determined by the bid process. The higher the bid, the higher your position.
A cost like this can be prohibitive for many new food and drink businesses, especially when margins are tight, so let's look at some ways you can do it for free.
Step 1 - Understand the search rankings
Before I show you how to improve your google ranking for free, its worth understand how the rankings work.
I ran a search in Google for "vegan chocolate uk" . You can see the results below. There are approximately 800 searches a month for "vegan chocolate UK". If you are a vegan chocolate producer, I'm guessing you'd like to be on the first page right?
To get ahead in the search results, it would serve you well to have a little understanding how search works and then how to optimise your site to feature higher up.
Let's take a look at the results below and why they appear in that order. Note - if you enter in the same search term, the results you see may vary depending on the Google algorithms and your location.
In the example, the top results are shopping ads. These are premium ads, in other words the shop owners have bid for that space. As a user, you can tell Google to stop displaying these ads, but if you don't, they will appear by default. If you want your online shop to appear here you will need to pay Google. How much depends on the other bids, but it can be in the thousands!
The second item - by viva.org doesn't appear to be paying for its position! It is content and keyword rich (I'll explain what this means later in the article), plus it contains external links (links to other websites) which helps. I would guess they have backlinks on other websites (sites that feature their url) because I can see partners for the work they do. Backlinks are a good thing for your search rankings!
All of these components add up to a website that Google loves. If you can get your website to tick all these boxes, you will improve your search results.
The third item in the search is a "Featured Snippet". Google and not the advertiser decides what this is. I don't know how they make their decision, but I would guess it's based on traffic volume to some degree.
Let's look further down the page.
The next set of results are "People also ask..". Again Google chooses this snippet and is outside of our control.
A guide to dairy free, vegan chocolate..." is next and this website is paying for its position. How do I know? I've got a tool that tells me. It's using Google's Ad system and Doubleclick.net to purchase ad space.
Vegan Town Chocolate Bars is an online store, stocking a variety of vegan chocolate bars. As far as I can see they are not paying for their position in the search results, so they must be doing some great SEO work. It's interesting because they don't have a blog, so I would also suggest that they have a high number of visitors (I can only guess this) which is helping bump them up the results. Otherwise their url appears as a backlink across a number of high ranking sites.
How do you achieve the same position as Vegan Town Chocolate Bars? We'll come to that in a minute.
So What is SEO?
I want to give you a little more information about how search engines work because this will really help your understanding and you'll be one step ahead of your competitors.
When someone enters a search term into google, it needs to return back data. It will dispatch its spiders to search for the best quality information across the internet. They bring back the most relevant and high quality results.
What makes a post "high quality"? Only Google and Bing and the other search engines can tell you that. We know they look at,
- how many internal links you use
- how your content is structured
- the word count of a post or page (1000 - 1500 words is classified as good quality)
- how much traffic it receives
- the level of engagement received (comments)
- how many backlinks your site has
- how long some spends on your site
- how many pages they visit
- and more!
If your website is not optimised for the spiders' expedition, your pages will not be amongst the search results.
Therefore, it's really important that you do everything you can to be in the game.
Creating keyword rich content in the form of a blog, videos, recipes, social media are just some ways to improve your chances of being ranked higher.
Let's look at this option.
Step 2 - Start A blog
You might be thinking, I'm not a food blogger, I'm a food producer, so why do I need a blog?
It will help your search rankings, because you will have more content across the internet.
Even if you're paying Google for a high "chart" position, I still recommend starting a blog because it will give you content for social media (especially if you're handing your social media to a third party to manage).
Furthermore it helps stamp your authority within your niche and position yourself as the expert.
I know if I visit two websites selling vegan chocolate; one has a blog with some articles and the other doesn't, I would trust the first retailer. Hands down.
So, hopefully I've convinced you to create a blog or some kind of informative content. You'll be surprised how many visitors will be keen to read more about your product or you.
You can call it your magazine, or whatever you want, you can even split out the pages but your content will serve you well and help you stand out. To remove the pressure, you could advertise for guest bloggers, writers and contributors.
Make your content meaningful
Google loves good quality information. Quality info gets good engagement and high engagement tells Google this is content that readers will love. If you're producing poor quality pages you won't get repeat visitors and google will stop ranking you.
Every post or page you create on your website must have a purpose and structure.
- Break down your content into readable (and manageable chunks). Short sentences and paragraphs are easy for your reader to consume.
- Whenever you write, make your point and move on.
- Add sub headings to help readers navigate and reach the information they're looking for.
- Include a video. This will help you with SEO and build trust quickly, especially if you appear in them.
- There are various reports on what is the optimal length for content but it appears that a word count of between 1k and 1.5k words receives 68% more tweets and 22% more likes on Facebook than shorter ones (source: https://postcron.com/en/blog/create-perfect-blog-post-8-super-simple-secrets-scientifically-proven/)
What to write about
Write content that answers the publics' questions. It will increase your chances of being found. One way of preempting this is to use a tool called answerthepublic.com. On the homepage, drop in a search term that your customer might use to search for your product.
Then use the search results, which are the questions people have been typing into search engines, as subjects for your blog or magazine. Your content might then be returned in the results.
Let's use vegan chocolate as our example. I hopped into answerthepublic.com and dropped in the search term vegan chocolate.
Above you will see a visual representation of all the questions people ask in the search engines. This gives you a strong indication of what's on people's minds when it comes to vegan chocolate. If you can pick off a number of these and use them as subject headlines on your website, you're going to be delivering valuable information for your visitors and potential customers.
This is excellent for you because it means
GOLDEN RULE - ensure your content is keyword rich
What are Keywords?
They're also the foundation of the search engines. Google will send "spiders" or "bots" to crawl the internet periodically. These bots index pages into zillions of mini keyword databases, which they use to retrieve data from.
It's therefore, important for your content to contain these keywords.
Impact Of SEO Changes - If you do any website optimisation work, you won't see immediate results if you were to do a search for a product you sell. You must wait for the crawlers to visit your pages. It usually takes around 4 weeks to see the impact of your SEO changes.
If you want to learn more about keywords, check out Moz.com. The essential thing is, you need to use keywords in your titles, urls, text and meta data. Be consistent about where you place them.
Example: This article might be read by someone looking for ways to improve their google rankings. Therefore, I have used the keyword "google" in my title, meta description, url and main body.
How To Find Keywords To Use
Before I write a post, I do some homework on which keywords to use.
There are 4 free tools I use to help me:
1. I use Answer The Public to get an idea of the questions being asked by the general public.
EXAMPLE: I'm the maker and seller of organic and vegan granola cereal.
My first action is to head to answer the public to find out what people are interested in. I type in vegan granola. As you see from the results below, it's not a widely searched subject yet. I'm okay with that because I can jump into this space and become the expert.
The first thing I would do is write some articles and recipes based on what people are searching for. I do this because I know people are looking for answers and I want to be the website that's displayed in the searches.
2. I will then head over to Google's Keyword Planner. You will need a google account to access this.
Click the START KEYWORD PLANNER blue link as shown below. Don't click anywhere else or you'll be taken to the Ad Words section to set up an account and start paying!
Once you click on the blue button, you'll be taken to this next page..
Then I'll enter in my search word "vegan granola" and Get Started.
In the list, let's say, I'll be looking for some keywords to use in the articles and recipes I've just written because the keywords will help my search rankings.
I want to look for keywords that have a high volume but low Top of Page Bid Score and low competition, just like granola recipe that I've selected in the image below. This is a perfect choice, because I can use it to create a recipe post with the keyword in it a few times. I will also reference the recipes on other pages throughout my website (internal links) as this will help my rankings. Do you see how it works?
The second option is one I love. It's called keywordseverywhere.com and is a tool that adds an extension to your browser. This is a quick method of looking up alternative keywords to use. You will type your word into Google search and the results will appear.
CPC means "Cost Per Click", you can ignore this as this is for advertisers. You want to look for something to use that has a low - med volume and little competition.
This provides me with another source for keywords that I can weave into my web content.
More Tips On keywords
- Enter a keyword in the title at least once, possibly twice (or as a variation)
- Keywords can be long or short. Short ones e.g. "girl's dress" will be more popular as they are more generic. You will therefore be competing against other websites.
- Long keywords e.g. "pink roses girl's dress", is specific and therefore, gives your post, page, blog a better chance of being indexed higher.
- Try to keep the keyword as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible.
- Place a keyword once in the H1 header tag of the page.
- Use it at least 3 times within the main content - do not over use it as this can count against you!
- Ensure one keyword is made at least once in bold type.
- Put a key word at least once in the alt attribute of an image on the page. This not only helps with web search, but also image search, which can sometimes bring valuable traffic.
- Use the key word at least once in the URL.
- Enter a keyword at least once in the meta description tag. This tag is the one that appears as the snippet in the search engine's results page and can be edited in the back end of your page (see image below). It's not used by the crawlers but helps to attract "click throughs" from people searching.
Use Powerful Headlines
It goes without saying an eye catching headline on your website will attract readers but its also one of the first places they have interaction with your brand (if they don't meet you on social).
Ensure you give your reader a valued experience. Deliver what your headline promises. Do this and you start to build trust and loyalty.
How to Write a Powerful Headline
- Get straight to the point - be specific and tell us what problem you're solving / addressing / highlighting.
- Quantify the statement - use numbers and names. E.g 5 Reasons Why Our Vegan Chocolate Wins Awards
- Create a sense of urgency - e.g. "Limited promotion" or "final offer".
- Specify your audience - state who your article is for if possible. Example - A chocolate mousse recipe for vegans.
- Use a Negative Context! Yes it's true! During my training as an NLP practitioner we learnt that people usually fall into one of two categories. Those who are escaping something (the "away from" category and those who are attracted to something (in the "towards category"). If you tell your readers how to "avoid", "escape" or "stop" something, you stand a chance of grabbing their curiosity and tap into their insecurities!
- Make the title SEO optimised When someone enters a keyword into the search engine the spiders search the web looking for the keyword(s) as you now know. If the keyword is in the title, you improve your chances of appearing in the search results.
- Optimise the length of your headings so they make sense in google searches - Google will scan your content for relevancy and keywords in your headings (H1, H2, H3, H4 etc) . After writing your page or post, return to the heading and ensure it:
- a) is relevant against your content
- b) contains similar key words and synonyms to your content
- Create an SEO friendly URL - as with the heading I return to my permalink and edit it so it's the same as my heading. Check they both contain keywords that you want to be ranked for.
- Use a headline analyser tool like this FREE one by Co-Schedule. It will help you refine and optimise your headlines for SEO quicker that trying to do it yourself.
Step 3 - Install An SEO Plugin
Yoast is one of the tools which help structure and create content to attract the spiders. It will analyse your page and post content and advise you to make improvements that will increase your chances of being found in the search results. This is all done in the WordPress editor (backend).
If you're using a different sale platform such as Shopify or Wix etc, you will be able to enlist the help of similar tools.
Remember, people are looking for a solution so your content must provide the answer!
Step 3 - Build Engagement
The more comments you have on your site the higher it will get ranked, so ask people to comment whenever you have the opportunity.
Ensure the comments option is switched on in the backend of your website.
- Thank people for their comments.
- Use social media to tell people that you've just created a post on xyz.
- Aim to keep visitors on your page for as long as possible by recommending they read related posts or by using internal links to other pages on your website.
Step 4 - Make Your Site SECURE
When you visit a website, the URL should begin with HTTP or HTTPS.
It's not just your visitors that pay attention to this level of site security, so do Google, who take security very seriously as we would imagine. Therefore, Google gives preference to sites with an SSL certificate in its rankings, so my advice, is to invest as soon as you can.
Here's a bit more info on site security...
HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is a protocol that allows communication between systems. Put very simply it allows data to be transferred from a host to a webpage.
Without the "s", the information that passes back and forth is not encrypted and therefore not secure and google won't rank it highly at all.
HTTPS is the secure protocol and to change your site over to this, you will require an SSL Certificate which costs around $100 a year and is uploaded onto your host provider's server. This certificate used to be required only for those sites selling products or services, in other words e-commerce sites.
However, these days with the amount of data theft (not to scare you but generally there is more as the web grows), the least you can do, is have the data transferring between your site and your host's, set up, to be secure.
Now without going into too much depth this won't stop your site from being hacked but it will give your site a basic level of security and it's the least you can offer your visitors.
It's especially recommended for self hosted WordPress sites.
Step 5 - Get Backlinks
Backlinks are when your URL appears on other websites. It could be marketplace or store directory. It could also be a comparison site. This is one of the quickest ways to improve your search results.
Google loves it when other websites talk about you as it illustrates you are authentic and genuine.
A great place to get started is to feature in directories. Some are free and some are premium.
Guest blogging is a free way to achieve this, but I recommend that you request to guest blog on high ranking websites or magazines.
For a list of places where you can place your website domain for a backlink within the UK, check out this article here. Also check local magazines and websites.
I'm registered with Pixel Puppet for £25/year and do some guest blogging.
Step 6 - Get Your Shop Listed On Google My Business
Google My Business is a free business listing on Google. When I had my home interiors and gift shop it brought me a lot of traffic! Even if your business is web based, you can use your official business address.
You can tell google to add your business location to google maps and accept reviews. By including keywords within your description you will appear in local searches.
You can add your website today, it takes about 10 minutes and you will have your first backlink!
Step 7 - Be active on Social Media
Having an active Twitter and Youtube account can help bump you up the Google search. This is because Google gives exposure to popular accounts on these platforms.
Ensure your content is keyword rich, i.e. the descriptions contain keywords. In the vegan chocolate example, if you had a Youtube channel, the description of each video would include keywords such as vegan chocolate, dairy free chocolate, etc. Note: keywords can be more than one word.
On a final note, Google own Youtube, so if you are serious about optimising your site for search, I highly recommend getting on You Tube!
Hopefully that's given you some ideas. It really works as you can see from the results above so I strongly urge you to spend a few hours this week optimising your website.
Let me know how you get on!
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Make sure your blog posts get ranked!