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In our numerous conversations with small business owners across the United States, nearly every one of them told us they want a strong online presence and want to be on page one of Google search results. The problem, they confide, is that they’re not sure what they need to do to get to page one. Many small business owners read outdated blog posts exhorting them to engage in spammy SEO tactics that haven’t worked since 2013. Others try the newest thing in the SEO space and quickly give up and start on the newest trend the next month. These small business owners all suffer from one common problem: they do not fundamentally understand what Google is looking for and that despite the fact that changes in search optimization occur on a regular basis, slow and steady wins the race. The purpose of this blog is to help small business owners understand what they need to do to improve their search visibility in a way that is authentic for their customers and in alignment with all of Google’s algorithm updates. Let’s start where Google starts, by keeping the user in mind.

Understanding Searcher Intent Is Key

The SEO process is viewed by many as wonky at best, arcane by most, and completely black box by the rest. It’s easy to understand why many small business owners are flummoxed by the prospect of managing their own SEO campaign as there are over 200 ranking factors that Google considers when ranking a website. If any small business owner attempted to fully optimize their website for all 200 ranking factors, they would scarcely have time to run their business at all. The good news is that we need only pay attention to a small subset of these ranking factors to be effective, especially for a small business that wants to rank locally. The most important first step to pay attention to is to optimize your website and content by understanding who your ideal customers are and how they are searching for products and services in your industry. The good news is that you already have a ton of experience understanding who your customers are as you and your team speak to them every day. If you have not taken time to create an ideal customer profile, we recommend that you do that before implementing the other tips included in this article. The first step to take when creating an ideal customer profile is to simply talk to your team. Your sales and fulfillment teams answer your customers’ questions every day; understand their problems, fears, hopes, and dreams; and know which kinds of customers are most likely to have the highest revenue potential as well as which ones will close more easily. Write down what these customers have in common and keep that handy because we will use that to write content to attract your ideal customer. We will expand on this tip below in the long-form content section.

With our brand new ideal customer profile in tow, it is time to understand how customers reach companies in your industry. For most businesses, this is rather straightforward, as searchers typically type in the kind of service they are looking for with a geographic modifier. To make it more clear, we will provide an example:

If a customer is looking for a flower shop in Dallas, they typically type in “Flower Shop Dallas” or “Dallas flower shop” if they’re using a keyboard search. Most keyboard searches use a kind of fragmented English as people want to minimize typing. Include these phrases in your website’s metadata or a close variant if you prefer. It is also recommended that you add these keywords in a more readable fashion in your marketing copy, header tag, and description tag. For example, you could transform “Flower Shop Dallas” into “Dallas’ Premier flower shop.”

It is also important to optimize your website to account for voice searches. Voice search continues to increase in popularity each year as cell phone use, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa devices make it easier to initiate voice search. Voice searchers tend to conduct searches in a more conversational manner. Our best advice here is to incorporate natural sounding phrases into website copy, FAQ pages, and blog posts. For our flower shop, we would want to include phrases like, “flower shop near me” and “which flower shops are open now?”

The most important thing to understand about user intent is that Google wants to help their searchers find solutions to their problems or find services that meet their needs. The easiest way you can help Google is by creating great content that helps your ideal customers.

Understanding the Role of Artificial Intelligence

Google now incorporates machine learning into their algorithm. They created RankBrain to help sort through the incredible amount of data and mine it to create a better user experience. It is important to understand that Google’s RankBrain has the same goal as Google’s algorithm updates, which is to create a great user experience so searchers will want to use Google every time they need something. We will tell you how to best leverage your digital marketing efforts to account for RankBrain. We advise you to follow these three tips to start getting improved results right away.

  1. Link-building: Our best advice for quality link-building is to outsource this effort to a digital marketing agency with strong link-building capabilities.
  2. Keyword research: Have your keyword research focus on medium-tail keywords. These keywords tend to be three or four words in length and work best with RankBrain because they are more descriptive and more specific, which leads to higher conversion rates.
  3. Click-through rates: You have probably conducted keyword searches to see where you show up in Google search results. Had you clicked on your search result, that would have improved your click-through rate. We highly recommend you optimize your description tag to improve your site’s click-through-rate. The description tag is the copy below the hyperlink in your search result. Take a look at the screenshot below to see exactly what we mean. Here are the four most important ways to improve description tags.
    a. Make sure your description tag is 155 characters or less
    b. Be sure to include a call to action so searchers know what you want them to do
    c. Add keywords to the description tag
    d. Make sure searchers understand what services and products you offer and, most importantly, why they should buy it from your company

meta description

Create Long-Form Content

The last piece of the puzzle you need to put in place is to create engaging content that your ideal customers will enjoy reading. Customers used to be satisfied with blogs that were 300 to 600 words in length. The bar has been raised in the past three years. Your customers now want detailed step-by-step instructions that help them solve difficult problems, save money, or improve their lives. Writing a blog post this length may sound intimidating; however, you already have the building blocks in place to write a great blog post. You have already done keyword research and conducted your ideal customer exercise with your team. Pick one of the pain points that your team identified your ideal client faces most often then grab your keyword list and pick keywords most closely associated with your blog topic. Now it is time to take pen to paper. Your job is to write a blog post that will allow your user to solve their problem from beginning to end without any additional information other than your blog post. If you’re concerned that they would no longer need you or they’re getting a service for free, we recommend that you solve a problem that is of low value to your team. For example, if you run a plumbing service, you might write an article about how to stop a toilet that won’t stop running after it’s flushed. This is a low-margin item for you; however, it introduces the customer to your brand and positions you as a thought leader in your space and someone who is truly interested in helping make their lives better. They’ll be more likely to read other content you create and to engage with your brand when they have a problem that they cannot solve on their own. It’s also important to note that many customers will attempt to solve the problem on their own and realize they do not have the skills to complete the repair and call you anyway.

We hope you found this blog post informative and that you incorporate the information here to improve your SEO efforts during the rest of 2019 and into 2020. The last and most important piece of advice we can give you is to continue to implement advice without fail month after month. Only a sustained effort will create the impact necessary to move you up in Google search results. We wish you the best of luck.