So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how a business can get the most out of Google. Arguably the most well-known, most used search engine, Google has such a trusted and loyal following that they’ve spawned their own vocabulary. For most of us, it may just be a single-word vocabulary, but it sure is powerful.
“Did you Google that?”
“You should totally Google that.”
It is a level of entrenched branding akin to Kleenex (anything I can blow my nose with), Coke (any brown, sweet, syrupy, carbonated beverage), or Band-Aids (any adhesive bandage I can use to cover a wound, or salvage a stray pant hem in a pinch…).
“...Google was a Magic 8-Ball, I had asked if our site was going to ever show up organically, and the reply was ‘Outlook not so good’.”
But for as well-known as Google is, how it works doesn’t seem to be so well-known. My partner and I recently launched our new website to much fanfare and wild celebrations (didn’t you hear the band and fireworks?). True, most of that adulation and back-slapping was between the two of us and the numerous family and friends with whom we shared our accomplishment. And, so, as you might expect, within 24 hours we were back to the ‘if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forest’ conundrum.
Deciding on the design, doing the development (all an in-house job), and generating the content were no small undertakings, but it seems that post-launch is when the real work begins. How can we make sure that the people we want to find us can find us? It isn’t enough to just show up in Google’s search results.
For example, we’re a software company, so if someone searches for ‘software solutions’ it would be cool if we were in those results. The problem is that Google, in well under 1 second, generates about 139 million search results for ‘software solutions’. Just think – someone’s potentially wonderful site and wonderful solution is buried deep in the middle or even at position 139 million minus 1, meaning they may as well have stayed home.
My first reaction to this situation was simple despair. It was like Google was a Magic 8-Ball, I had asked if our site was going to ever show up organically, and the reply was ‘outlook not so good’. But it turns out it doesn’t need to be the kind of mystery that nothing short of a decoder ring and Inspector Gadget can solve.
These simple steps help ensure your website, your business, and therefore your brand will please the Google bots (yes, there really are such things) enough to start moving up the ladder of relevancy.
1. Keep keywords in mind while preparing content for your site (hmm, missed the boat on that one, but it’s never too late to adjust!). This means thinking like a potential client or customer. What words or phrases would they use to search for your industry, service, or product? Use these in your content, directly or indirectly.
2. Use title tags for each page on your site. This refers to what is displayed on the title bar of your browser or the tab of the current page you’re viewing in the browser. It is apparently ‘old school’ to just have the company or site name as a title. More importantly, it is a missed opportunity to impart information that our new friends the Google bots can index. So, let’s say you have a company called Princess Cupcakes. Instead of just displaying the company name in the title bar, try ‘Gift Baskets, Birthday Treats, Any Occasion | Princess Cupcakes’. Google indexes include the title tags, and you can have a different one for each page on your site!
3. Use same or similar keywords in your title tags and your content. Receive Google’s equivalent of the ‘double word score’ by including the same verbiage in title tags and content. This provides credibility in Google’s eyes and lets them know that you aren’t using title tags to lure people in only to find out you’re a weight loss center rather than a cupcake maker (imagine the sadness!).
4. Be careful of using images to house genuine content or usable data. For example, if your logo includes a phone number or address, that information won’t be available for indexing and therefore won’t be guaranteed to be part of certain searches. Pretty pictures are great, but they only help tell your story once people get to your site.
5. One of Google’s strengths is the speed with which it can produce good results. It isn’t important to understand everything going on behind the curtain, but do recognize that the Google bots have the attention span of a 5-year-old boy hyped up on sugar. If your site is full of slow-loading elements, the bots will get bored and move on to the next guy. Don’t worry, they’ll come back to visit again, but when they do, you better be ready. This is something to keep in mind during the design phase so you can be mindful of a stream-lined approach that can strike a balance between substance and sex appeal.
These steps aren’t rocket science – more like earth science (no offense, Mr. Simmons), but if you stay aware of them through each iteration of your site, you can confidently shake the Magic 8-Ball, ask if you’ll show up in the search results, and see that floating blue cube say ‘It is decidedly so’.
We’re actively testing out these strategies now and will report back on results, lessons learned, and new ideas in upcoming blogs.