Ranking higher on Google comes with many benefits: it helps you get found by new customers online, helps to attract more local business, boosts your online reputation, and ultimately increases leads and sales. It may feel like an impossible goal to get your business to the top of results, but it is, in fact, doable.
In this post, we’re going to cover four free ways to get your business to show up higher in search results. They involve:
- Quality Content
- Google My Business
With the proper targeting and optimizations in these areas, you can be on your way to greater visibility and traffic to your site.
But first, want to see how your online presence stacks up? Try our free website grader!
How to Use Keywords to Rank Higher on Google
The key to ranking higher on Google is weaving particular keywords into all of the content you create: for your website, social media feeds, online listings, and Google My Business profile. Not only will this help with your local SEO ranking, but it will help to paint a cohesive story about your business. Let’s get into what keywords are and which ones you should be using to rank your business higher on Google.
What Are Keywords?
Anytime you Google something, the words and phrases you type into the search box are called keywords. Once you hit “enter,” Google scans its index and comes up with a list of website pages that contain those keywords. It then ranks those pages based on their relevance to the keywords, the reliability of their content, and their structure (among other factors).
In order to rank your business higher on Google, you need to include the right keywords for your business in the right places in your content. This is the building block of SEO or search engine optimization.
For Which Keywords Should I Rank?
Ranking higher on Google requires you to know exactly what you’re ranking for. So what exactly should you be ranking for? You want to target words and phrases your potential customers are searching for related to your industry, product, or service.
Watch the language your target audience is using on social media, in emails, or in conversations, and take note. If you use words on your website that people are searching for, you’ll be more likely to rank higher on Google. In addition, writing in a language that your audience uses will help you to build trust, which is also a factor in Google ranking (which we’ll get into later). This is also important because your audience doesn’t likely know advanced terms and jargon with which you may be familiar.
By simplifying important information into something they can understand, you’re showing that it’s about them being educated — not you showing off your knowledge.
Aim to Rank Higher for Multiple Keywords
One important concept to grasp here is that every page on your website should target a different keyword cluster. This includes blog posts. If you try to get every page of your site to rank for one keyword, the pages will compete with one another and decrease their authenticity and chances of ranking.
When you focus each page on a specific topic, your content is more likely to show as a top result for that query. And when you get multiple pages to rank at the top for various keywords, the easier it will be for future pages to rank. It’s a positive feedback loop by which Google rewards sites for quality content.
A site search for the LOCALiQ blog, for example, gives you an idea of the different keyword themes we target in our posts.
How to Find Keywords to Rank For
This means you should form an extensive map of keywords and focus on creating useful, well-formatted content around them. Here is a basic set of steps for determining which keywords are going to be the most helpful to rank for, and which ones you have the greatest shot at ranking for.
1. Know Your Audience
There are many tools out there, but your first step is to make sure you have a full understanding of your target audience and how they behave on Google. This means knowing their pain points, desires, lifestyle, device preferences, and more.
You will not just have one type of person in your target audience. This is where user personas come in. There are likely a few relatively distinct scenarios for which a customer needs your business. Forming those personas will help you to get a clear picture of the people you are targeting with your keywords.
Conduct surveys, converse with your customers, monitor blog comments, and keep an eye on social media conversations to get a feel for what your ideal customers are focused on, and the language they use to talk about it.
2. Brainstorm Keywords
With the knowledge of your offerings and personas, do an initial brainstorm on the words and phrases that you think your ideal customers use to educate themselves in relation to your business. This will create a foundation for more extensive keyword research, which is next.
3. Keep Location in Mind
As a small or local business, targeting keywords that include your location is essential. Google serves up results based on your IP address, so it’s important to signal to Google that you are prominent in your area. When brainstorming keywords, see where you can insert location modifiers.
4. Use Keyword Research Tools
You are now ready to use tools to find new keywords and qualify the ones you’ve already come up with. Keyword tools tell you how many searches are performed for that keyword per month, as well as how difficult it is to rank for that keyword. Ideally, you want to target keywords that have a high search volume but low to moderate competition.
With the help of keyword research tools (like WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool), you can prioritize which keywords will be most important to target and also get new ideas for additional content.
Group your keywords into clusters and organize them according to how difficult it will be to rank for them, as well as what the impact will be of ranking for them.
When you actually search those keywords in Google, which pages are already ranking? This will help you verify that the content you plan to write to target that keyword is in line with what Google is currently serving up for that keyword. It will also help you to identify any keywords that are already dominated by a particular brand or industry–in which case you may want to adjust your strategy for that keyword or focus on a different cluster for which you can gain visibility.
Where to Put Your Keywords
Google likes website pages that it can easily crawl and therefore quickly categorize in its index. This means you need to place your keywords in specific places on the pages you’re trying to get to rank. These places include:
- Page title>
- Headings and subheadings
- Image titles and tags
- URL of the page
- Meta description
- Body of the content
In the next section, we’ll talk about exactly how you should be incorporating the keywords into the body of the page content to increase its chances of ranking.
How to Use Content to Rank Higher on Google
Weaving keywords into your content will help it to rank higher on Google, but as mentioned above, the existence of keywords is not the only factor Google considers when ranking its search results. Google ranks website pages based on their relevance to that keyword, the quality of their content, the reliability of that content, and the way the page is structured.
Read on to learn how to align the body of your content with these ranking factors to get noticed on Google.
Do Not Keyword Stuff
Google wants to maintain its position as the world’s most trusted search engine, so it is only going to rank pages it can trust. That being said, stuffing keywords into your pages just to get them to rank higher will not work. Google can recognize this and will penalize you. Visitors to your page will also recognize this and lose trust in your brand. A page that ranks high on Google only stays high on Google if it proves itself worthy of that keyword over time.
In addition to adding keywords to your content in a natural way, you must also focus on the nature and intent of the content about those keywords. Google might initially rank a page high in results for a particular query, but if it finds that users are exiting that page quickly, it can gather that the page does not contain the answers they are seeking when they perform that query.
If you are trying to get one of your website’s pages to rank higher on Google for a particular keyword, make sure that it doesn’t just contain those keywords, and not just accurate, up-to-date information about those keywords, but also the information people are actually seeking when they search Google using those keywords. This is why performing a Google search for your keyword beforehand, to get an idea of what type of Google deems relevant for it, is so important. The higher the quality of your content, the longer visitors will stay on your page, and the higher you will rank on Google.
Say, for example, that you were writing a post targeted at chiropractors about how to do chiropractic adjustments, and you thought to target “chiropractic adjustment tips.” However, you can see that when you search that keyword, the results are geared for people trying to identify what to do before and after an adjustment.
Write Evergreen Content
While it’s good to keep your readers in the know about industry news and updates, the majority of your content should be evergreen. That is, based on topics that will always be researched. This type of content will steadily gain traffic over time, rather than spike and flatten out quickly.
As more and more people read your content, you start to become a reliable source for information in your niche. People will look to your content for answers and, in turn, view you as an authority with a wealth of valuable knowledge. Examples of evergreen content include:
- Tutorials and how-tos
- 101’s on fundamental industry concepts
- Case studies and success stories
- Tips and tricks
- Best practices
- Tool and resource lists
- Common mistakes/dos and don’ts
Concentrate on Niche Topics
It can be hard for small and local businesses to compete with big brands and large sites when it comes to broad keywords. By concentrating on niche topics (location, specialty, etc.), you can reduce your competition and increase your visibility for highly targeted searches.
For example, there are thousands of articles on Google about types of massages. However, if you published a blog post on something hyper-targeted for your ideal customer, such as the benefits of Swedish massages for pregnant women, you improve your business’s chances of ranking on Google — for the right search.
How to Use Backlinks to Rank Your Business Higher on Google
Populating your website with quality content around specific keywords will help Google to recognize you as a trusted resource. You can further that level of trust by getting other trusted resources to link to that content in their websites.
What Is Backlinking?
A backlink is when another website links to your article from theirs. Not only does this put your content in front of a new audience, but it also increases traffic to your website which can help you in ranking higher on Google. As a small business, you actually have a competitive advantage in this area over larger companies.
How to Build Backlinks
There are a number of ways to earn links back to your site from others.
Get Listed in Directories
When you create profiles on Google My Business, Yelp, Angie’s List, and other online directories, add your website to your listing so you can have a link from a high authority site.
Build Your Network
Focus on building mutually beneficial relationships with other local businesses. You might add their restaurant to the “local recommendations” section of your website in exchange for their featuring your product in their virtual gift guide.
You may also identify some high-authority blogs within your niche and offer to write a guest post. This way, you’re not just asking for a link to your website from theirs, but you’re offering something of value in exchange.
Local newspapers are another avenue to explore. These publishers love to work with local businesses and will often help to promote you, simply because you are a small business and that is the audience they serve. Such publications can also be a huge boost not just for some quality backlinking, but also for good press for your business and eyes on your website.
Write Authoritative Content
You can also earn backlinks without even asking for them by producing authoritative content. Write an inspiring thought leadership piece, an insightful writeup on your own data, a post covering key industry stats, or a whitepaper that does a deep dive into a topic and share it across your social media networks. The more useful your content and the more eyes you can get on it, the more likely other writers will be to link to it in theirs.
How to Use Google Business to Rank Higher on Google
While your website pages are still a crucial ingredient to getting found online, Google is striving more and more for users to get what they’re looking for directly in search result pages, before having to click or tap on any one result. This is especially true when it comes to searches for nearby businesses.
This means that in addition to optimizing your website to rank higher in search results, you also need to optimize your Google Business listing to rank. The higher it shows in local results and the more that potential customers can accomplish from your listing alone, the more customers you can get from Google.
How Google Business Profiles Impact Ranking
The more complete and accurate your Google Business listing is, the higher it will rank in Google Search and Maps. In fact, complete and accurate Google Business listings get 7x more clicks than those missing information and are 70% more likely to attract location visits. This is evidence that your Google Business Profile can help to improve not only your search ranking, but also your traffic and sales.
Here are some updates to make to your Google Business listing to get your business to rank higher for relevant searches.
Fill Out Every Section of Your Profile
Google Business acts in the same fashion as Yelp in that it provides the vital information consumers need in order to make a decision about your business. A complete Google Business Listing includes:
- Business name
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
- From the business
- Questions and answers
For certain specific industries, there may be additional fields to fill out, such as products, appointment bookings, or reservation options.
Below is a screenshot of a full Google business listing. As you can see, it takes up the entire length of the search results page, and then some. The “From the business” section is not shown here, but you can get an idea of what a complete and helpful profile looks like — and why customers can engage with your business without ever leaving Google.
For help checking the completeness of your Google Business profile, try out our free business listings grader.
Collect & Monitor Google Reviews
Reviews are among the top ranking factors for local businesses on Google. If you are lacking in Google reviews, don’t be afraid to ask loyal customers to put in a good word for you. Many customers will be happy to spread the word about the excellent services you offer if they are pleased with their experiences — they just need to be asked! On the flip side, if you have negative reviews, make sure you are responding promptly and professionally. Finally, be sure to respond to positive reviews too. Being proactive and responsive in your review feed gives potential customers an idea of what it’s like to interact with you and incentivizes other customers to leave reviews. For more help with reviews, check out the following posts:
- How to Get More Google Reviews
- How to Respond to Google Reviews
- How to Delete Google Reviews (& What to Do if You Can’t)
Strengthen Your “From the Business” Section
The editorial description of your business, which appears at the top of your profile, is not something that you have control over. However, your “From the business” section is yours to create. This section should be an abbreviated version of your “About us” page. You may want to include your core offerings, core values, mission statement, who you serve, and the chief benefit you provide. This is your opportunity to speak in your voice and differentiate your brand from competitors, so inject some personality into your copy. Just be sure to keep it short and sweet, as too long of a description will get cut off.
Be Specific With Your Photos
When you upload photos to your Google My Business profile, make sure they are both relevant and high-quality. Google My Business strives to give consumers a sense of what it’s like to be at your location, so your images should represent reality as accurately as possible. Include pictures from different angles within the space, pictures during peak times, photos of products and services, and events.
Be sure also to include images of your own team members performing the exact work that you do. Do not upload graphics or promotional images with text on them. Make sure to update these photos regularly to get the best local results.
Here are some more details for uploading photos to Google:
- Format should be JPG or PNG
- Size should be between 10KB and 5MB
- Recommended resolution is 720x720px
Use the Google Q&A Section
Google’s Q&A section offers you the ability to answer customer questions directly in your business listing. The benefit of this is that you can preemptively answer questions that customers might otherwise not know the answer to which can impact their decision to use your business. For example, “Do you have parking? Yes, there is a parking lot for customers.” This may be enough to turn a passive onlooker into your next customer. Use this section wisely and always respond to questions quickly.
Google My Business is an incredibly powerful — and free — tool for improving your local visibility and generating new customers. By keeping your listing up-to-date, accurate, and active, you can get your business to rank higher in local results and get a leg up on your competition.
Rank Your Business Higher on Google With These 4 Strategies
By choosing your keywords carefully, inserting them in the right places on your website, and creating quality content around them, you can see success with ranking your business higher on Google. Don’t forget also to set up your local listings (Google My Business, in particular) and put forth effort around getting backlinks to your content. And, remember, search results are personalized to individuals based on search intent, location, and various other factors, so ranking on Google isn’t the end-all-be-all measure of success. Make sure to measure your SEO efforts to determine whether or not your strategy is truly successful.