SEO fascinates me. While it's remained consistently volatile (oxymoron!) over the past few years, there's no doubt that it's a stood as a fundamental component of digital marketing.
What excites me the most about SEO is how it's really evolving towards a balance of art and science. Google wants to return the most useful information (i.e. "good" content) to someone searching for a phrase, but like any computer program, it needs to work off an algorithm--an equation with numbers and metrics (hence the see-saw between art and science).
Anyway, I'm not a thought leader in the SEO space by any means, but it's a significant part of my consulting work, so I try my best to stay on top of the latest developments (for reference, I typically follow SEOMoz's blog and tune into their Whiteboard Friday segments as much as possible).
I guess the marketing consultant profession implies that I know something about SEO (I do!) and that it's okay to ask me questions (in fact, I encourage it!). I typically get questions about SEO, keyword optimization, and how both pertain to marketing.
In this week's Question MARK-eting post, Sally asks: "Our website, Mercurycleaners.com is not getting as much visibility as we would like on search engines, even though we include key words. Can you tell me what we're doing wrong?" First, I'd want to understand how you're diagnosing and measuring visibility. That'll give me a clearer picture of your benchmark and where you'd like to be. We can put a pin in that question though, as the more important point here is getting your website up to speed with the right keywords!
There's a lot I can recommend after a quick glance of the website (regardless of how you're assessing your current placement in search engines. Basically, it's not what you're doing wrong-- it's actually what you're not doing. From the get-go, I notice that you're not optimizing for local search, the core elements of On-Page SEO aren't being fulfilled and your website isn't publishing fresh content.Let's review each point individually so you can understand the importance and integrate the best practices into your current strategy.
1.) Local SEO Fix-ups:
It looks like you have a Google Places page, but it's not optimized completely. Furthermore, there aren't any reviews (which help with search ranking). Since your business is mostly local, it's imperative to keep your local presence updated. Here are a couple things to do to make sure it's the best it can be:
- Claim to Google Place: If you're not the one who created the listing, you should definitely claim it by clicking "manage this page" on the listing. That way, you can add more detail and media, which help contribute to the listing and your local ranking, respectively.
- Solicit Customers Reviews: Positive, neutral or negative, reviews help your local business get found by search engines. Offer people a discount to leave a review. Chances are, it'll be a positive one!
2.) Core Elements of On-Page SEO:
It looks like the pages on your site aren't following the guidelines of On Page SEO. I've highlighted them down below (as described in my past On-Page SEO post), but it's probably best to do some keyword research and optimize the below elements, as described:
- URL: The most powerful on-page element that should include the keyword. Important note: Never change the URL of an existing page to include a keyword–otherwise you’ll de-index the page from Search Engines. Only manipulate when you’re publishing a page for the first time or if the page is relatively young (A good rule of thumb here is using the same amount of a time buffer you’d allow before you consider renaming a puppy. So what’s that, like a week? But in all seriousness, a week is a good time period).
- Title Tag: This is also an important element that needs to include the keyword you’re optimizing for. Under 70 characters or else it’ll get cut off in search engine results.
- Header Tag: Usually the “biggest” text on the page or the copy marked <h1> in the html. Also good to include your keyword here
- Body Copy: The body copy should also include the keyword. I recommend a 2% inclusion rate for those good at math. For those who aren’t good at math, use good judgment. 1-2 times should do it.
- Images: These should be optimized if applicable– the alt tag should contain the keyword (provided the picture is an accurate representation of the keyword).
- Meta Description: While this doesn’t impact your search ranking, it serves as an opportunity to create a mini “call to action” for your webpage. This is essentially the blurb someone reads about a page that’s in search results. It’s a good idea to write a unique meta description for each page, to include the target keyword (search engines will automatically bold it) and keep it under 150 characters so it doesn’t get cut off.
3.) Fresh Content:
Authoritative sites rank better in search engines. The easiest way to gain authority is to build up your site with content. To do this, you'll want to add valuable pages to your site (an easy and logical way to fulfill this is to blog strategically). Currently, your site only has 24 pages indexed by Google (simple type in "site:http://www.mercurycleaners.com/" to Google and it'll show you the listing--a screenshot too, below)
To get more visibility, the best way is to blog, and do it strategically! I wrote an article on this strategic blogging methodology, so give that a quick read for some tips. Basically, you'll want to do some local optimization, fix up the On Page SEO elements and (strongly) consider blogging. All three of those will help your website gain search engine visibility. Hope that was helpful, Sally!