It has been more than 10 years since I first started to really understand the world of search engine optimization (SEO). The country was trying to climb out of recession, and I was working with a business development program focused on helping small business owners succeed in what was a very trying time.
I had been involved with digital marketing at a Fortune 500 company and knew the basics of what would help businesses succeed, but it was clear that there was still a stigma that the ability to apply meaningful SEO was somehow a secret that only few “oracles” had access to.
I soon came to find that many of the businesses that were flaunting their Google Partner status and their ability to navigate the murky waters of SEO were just scammers. I remember one particular provider that had been charging local business owners tens of thousands of dollars with little to no result. It wasn’t long before one of these business owners reached out to me to review the reports she received from one such provider, and it was evident that this was all just a scam.
Soon after, I started my own company to provide honest and ethical digital marketing practices.
Those experiences—as well as advancements in the field over the past decade—taught me five critical things that every business owner should know about SEO:
1. Google’s algorithm that helps define what shows up in a search changes almost daily. It is run by an artificial intelligence (AI) system that constantly tests, learns and changes how the search engine functions. While Google does not publish how the algorithm works exactly, it does make sure to share significant changes or updates that we need to be aware of. You can find these on Think with Google at https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com.
2. If your marketing agency is using third-party tools to gather your data, you are likely getting data that isn’t correct. Instead, utilize Google Analytics as your source of truth when it comes to your organic search results. If Google Analytics sounds a little overwhelming, know that a new AI system within the platform called “insights” is very user-friendly. As long as everything is set up properly, it will tell you whatever you need at a high level.
3. Knowing where you rank across the web can only be shown to you in the most accurate way with Google Search Console. This system is your link to the Google search engine and allows you to see how you are performing organically—such as your rankings and search volumes—so you can see where you are growing and identify opportunities for improvement. Because search results are different depending on who is doing the search and where that person is located, you will not see the big picture just by doing a search and seeing where you come up. Search Console will show you exactly what you need to know.
4. If you have a service or product-based business, your Google My Business profile is your lifeline to your customers. There is no other place on the web where you will get more exposure. Maintaining this profile and updating it to reflect the consumer experience is critical.
5. Lastly, make sure to keep your ratings at or above 4.0 on your Google My Business profile. Dropping below 4.0 will eliminate you from searches related to “best”—like “best burgers in Chandler” or “best hotels near me.” While your website has a tremendous amount of influence on your overall search rankings, your consumer experience that is reflected on this platform is by far the most important.
While the world of SEO is ever-evolving and dynamic, implementing and executing on the above tips will ultimately bring you and your business closer to the success it deserves.
Joel Coen is the chief digital officer for Commit Agency.