How to Get Found on Google: SEO Tips in Plain English
At 2016 Summer NAMM, CJ Averwater, vice president of Amro Music, laid out strategies for music retailers who want to get found and rank high on Google. According to Averwater, Google holds about 65 percent of the market share for online searches—more than 3.5 billion queries a day.
Here are highlights from the session. (Watch the video for the full session.)
Google’s Criteria for High Rankings
Averwater noted that Google has roughly 200 search ranking factors, but few know exactly what they are. Here’s what we do know that Google takes into account:
• Keyword relevance. Keywords are found on your pages—in images, links and background text.
• Performance. Google looks at bounce rate, click-through times and other performance measurements.
• Local. Do you have a good local presence in your area?
• Domain visibility. This includes referral links to your website and whether you’re considered an authority in your field.
• Site speed. Google has a tool called PageSpeed Insights that will measure and analyze your site and give you recommendations on how to increase your speed.
• Organization. Is your site easy to navigate? Use pictures and bullet lists to break up big chunks of copy text.
• Mobile-friendly. Google wants the experience of browsing your website to be the same across all devices, including desktop, tablet and mobile.
A Word About Keywords
When it comes to Google and SEO success, Averwater pointed out that a lot of little things add up. Here are the basics to check off your list:
• Keyword strategy. Sit down and plan this with your team. Ask who your target customer is and what they’ll be searching for. Keywords should be laser-focused, not generic. Also, think about long-tail keywords (three or more words). Use these phrases to be more specific, and get a better response.
• Keyword research. Google Analytics will help you find keywords that are currently ranking and other useful data and metrics. Check out other keyword tools, as well, including Google’s Keyword Planner, Übersuggest, SEMrush and Google Webmasters. Also, look for keywords that have relatively low competition.
• URLs/web address. The URL is the equivalent of a book’s spine. You expect to read the title and have a good idea of what the book is about. A best practice is to use hyphens to separate words in URLs, such as http://mysite.com/beginner-trumpets.
• Use your keywords. Incorporate keywords naturally, but don’t overdo it. The average word count is approximately 1,200 words per page. Use that as a best practice. And don’t stuff your page with keywords. (Search engines will recognize this.) Aim for 1–3 percent of keyword density per page.
Averwater also offered additional advice for using keywords:
Incorporate keywords in headings. He shared that h1, h2, and h3 are tags he uses and denote headings. It’s the equivalent of putting something in bold on your page.
Meta descriptions are important, as they summarize the content on the page. Go back and write your meta descriptions because Google and search engines show the meta description in search results, and it’s an important aspect of SEO.
Incorporate keywords into your images (for instance, trumpet-players.jpg, not DSNC0001.jpg). Take the time to name the file in a way that Google can recognize it. And use hyphens instead of spaces.
Use alt tags and alt image titles and descriptions. This allows Google to identify your images. Also, reinforce your pictures with text.
Other Tips to Consider
Averwater advised picking one or two little things to work on over time. This should help bolster your SEO. A few ideas:
• Update content regularly. Do it two to three times a week. Create an editorial schedule and stick to it.
• Local SEO. This impacts search, especially with Yelp. Your business should come up on Google with a name, address and phone number, and you can also include a link and map to your store. Join Google Plus and Google My Business, and make sure your listing is accurate. (Include your store’s hours and phone number.) In this case, retailers with physical locations have an advantage over e-commerce-only businesses.
• Links. Google wants natural, high-quality links—not paid links. So, your content needs to be good. Include local directories and blogs, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), associations, alumni directories and vendor links. Set up Google Alerts—every time your store is mentioned, you’ll get an alert. Then you can reach out and arrange to share links.
• Use social media and YouTube. Both support your SEO efforts, and chances are, you’re already including them on your website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
• Track conversions. Find a way to track site visitors that have become paying customers, and look at this every week.
Working With an SEO Specialist
Averwater offered these simple guidelines when considering an SEO specialist or company:
• Get your house in order first.
- You’ve reached your level of comfort or are spending too much time on SEO.
- You’re redesigning your website.
- Old methods of advertising aren’t working.
• Here are some questions to ask potential SEO companies.
- How often will we meet to discuss results?
- How will you update me with changes and results?
- How will you improve our search engine ranking?
- Can I still control my website and Google Analytics?
- Will you share some of your previous successes with your clients?