Not on the First Page of Google? You Might Not Be Seen

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – You know that business across the street or around the corner that offers the same product and service you do? Your product may have greater value and your customer service could far exceed your competitor, but that other company might still have more customers.

That’s because today more people search a business online before buying a product or service. According to the ROBO Economy report (Research Online Buy Offline) by Bazaarvoice, 82% of smartphone users consult their phones before making an in-store purchase. If your business doesn’t show up in the top spots in any relative search, it can take a big toll on your bottom line.

“It very directly relates to new business or new revenue,” says Joe Jorgenson, president of Robin Technologies in Akron.

As of December, there were 1.94 billion websites, according to HostingFacts.com, and each day over 5 billion Google searches are made. HubSpot reports that 75% of users never scroll beyond the first page of search results.

“Nobody wants to be the seventh page on Google,” says Kelli Hulea, project manager for Pecchia Communications in Canfield. “If you want to be noticed at all, you need to be aware of SEO.”

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of increasing the online visibility of a website in search-engine results with the goal of being one of the first listings.

“Everyone wants to be at the top of the search results; so that’s another reason why it is so difficult and time consuming because if everybody could be, everybody would be,” Hulea adds.

While you can pay to have an ad at the top of a search engine page, most businesses need to work on their SEO organically to remain in the top positions.

“SEO is how people find you,” says Chris Askew, director of digital marketing strategy at Prodigal Co. in Boardman. “If your content isn’t being ranked in Google, you’re not being found.”

The most popular search engine is Google, which is responsible for 94% of total organic traffic, according to Web Presence Solutions. Google has more than 200 factors it uses in its algorithm to determine where a website is ranked on its search page, with the weight of each constantly changing. However, marketers agree there are a few key tactics a business can focus on to help with its ranking. No. 1 on the list: look at what your competitors are doing.

“You’re in a race and you need to look at the other racers and see how they’re doing,” Jorgenson says.

When he first meets with a client, he advises the company to do a Google search on what it wants to be known for and then open the first five to 10 websites that come up. “Read their websites and look at what pages they have, what are they giving priority to in the menu and advertisements,” he says.

Among some of the top focuses for SEO is making sure your website is user-friendly, regularly adding content with keywords, updating the metadata, linking back to your website from other sites and responding to reviews. Having a mobile-friendly and user-friendly website is also a big factor, which includes the speed of the website, how easy it is to navigate and its overall appearance.

“If a user goes to your site and leaves right away, that’s negative for your site’s performance and can negatively impact your SEO ranking,” says Hulea from Pecchia Communications.

One way to give a user a positive experience is to use a chatbot to instantly respond to users, she advises. “Search engines want to make sure the user has a positive experience and the chatbots might be seen as something helpful.”

Creating content and consistently updating your website is also one of the most important tools in SEO, Prodigal’s Askew says.

“Your solution for being found on the internet is what sort of relative, engaging, motivating content are you going to be able to share that people will want to go back to your site for,” he says. “In this day and age, you can’t just have a brochure-based website.”

To remain relevant, Askew says content on your website needs to be informative for your users, so that they can take something away from it and see you as the expert in your industry.

“Let’s say you’re a large florist and you only have information on the flowers you sell,” he says. “Google will rank another smaller florist ahead of you if that smaller florist is constantly delivering content and if they’re putting out informative articles, like how to decorate your home with the flowers.”

Before creating new content, Askew suggests doing a keyword search to come up with a strategy on the words used in your content.

“This is because you’re tailoring your article on what’s going to yield the best result on Google, rather than just writing your article and hoping your keywords hit,” he says.

Prodigal can perform the research for its clients to guide them on their keyword strategies if the client wants to create his own content, since it can get technical, Askew says. To do a keyword search you should use online tools, such as ones from Google Webmasters or SEMrush.com.

As more people are using Siri (Apple) or Alexa (Amazon) to find something online, voice searches should also be taken into consideration. This can have an effect on the keywords you use in your content because keywords used in voice search are usually different from what a person would type.

“When you’re using voice search, it’s natural to use a longer phrase,” Hulea says. “A lot of businesses are focusing on how would someone search for their business based on voice search.”

Working on the backend of the site is as important as the frontend when it comes to updating the metadata, which are words describing what your users see on your website.

“When you add photos, focus on the names of those photos and focus on tags and different descriptors that show up on the backend of your site,” Hulea says. “These are all things that you can include keywords in, so search engines pick that up.”

Many content-management systems, such as WordPress, have tools for you to use to fill in the metadata on the backend of the site. You also want to make sure you’re linking back to your website in your emails, social-media posts and on other webpages to draw more views to your website.

Being active online can increase your SEO, says Robin Technologies’ Jorgenson. This includes responding to reviews and claiming your business on online business-listings pages, such as Google My Business and Yelp.

When you search for a business on Google, the box that appears on the right side of the page with a profile of a business is Google My Business. A profile for your business can be automatically generated, which is why it is important that you claim it, so you can make sure the information in the box is correct. This includes your address, hours, phone number, website, directions, photos and reviews.

When it comes to reputation management, claiming your business helps you be notified when any changes are made to the profile and when you get a review. To claim a business, go to Google.com/business, search to see if a profile already exists for your business. If it does, Google will walk you through the steps to claim it. If a profile doesn’t exist for your business, Google will also help you create a profile.

“Any time you have a profile that allows reviews, they need to be monitored,” Jorgenson says. “Yelp is a really popular one and people love to go on and write really nasty reviews. Bad reviews impact SEO and it certainly impacts your reputation.”

Jorgenson recommends using Yext.com if you don’t have time to monitor all of your potential business-listings pages.

“They have backdoors into 150 businesses and services so you don’t have to go and create accounts at all of these,” he says. “If you pay Yext, the base package is around $40 or $50 a month, you plug in your data and it disseminates it to all of those. Having an accurate listing with your hours, phone number, address and maps is really important.”

Yext can also be used to promote special sales or events happening at your business in the description section of the listings page, Jorgenson says.

If a business is just starting to work on its SEO, it will be behind its competition because it takes time to build up a website, create consistent content and remain active, but you can expect to see results in the first year.

“Organic SEO is like exercise, eating your vegetables and changing your approach to life in order to get the healthy outcomes you’re looking for,” Jorgenson says. “Organic SEO is best if you figure out a way to work it into your day to day schedule.”

Pecchia’s Hulea agrees,

“It’s a number of different tactics,” she says. “Even if you go in and change all this stuff, you’re not going to see changes overnight. It takes months at a time.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.