Local SEO 2018: How To Rank Your Local Business Websites.

local seo guide for businessesIn the most recent information published by the ONS, UK government statistics showed that there were 5.5 million businesses in the UK. 99.9% of those businesses were SME’s, which are defined as businesses who have fewer than 250 employees.

At a more granular level, Micro businesses which are those who have between 0-9 staff, account for 96% of the total. These businesses are the backbone of the UK economy and, perhaps like you, serve the customer in your town or city.

Many are struggling to market their business effectively in the 21st century, this Local SEO guide 2017 has been compiled to help level the playing field.

97% of shoppers research online before making a purchase... Click To Tweet

It’s basic common sense that for our businesses to prosper, we all need to get new customers. After all, no customers means no business. But another uncomfortable truth is that customer acquisition is perhaps the hardest things to do at any level of business and it is becoming even more difficult.

A lot of SME’s get new customers through local advertising, but the tectonic plates of how to market your enterprise have transitioned from offline to online right under our nose. As a result, the way to On-board customers has also changed. Those who understand that are the ones profiting most.

John Wanamaker famously said, “half of marketing is good, the other half bad, the problem is you just don’t know which”. But even that has changed because nowadays you know exactly which direction your marketing budget should go and it’s online. The problem for most small business owners is, they don’t know what to believe, who to trust and what’s working best?

As a result, they can easily get confused and overwhelmed. Many succumb to “snake oil” salesmen and spend money with anyone who sounds mildly convincing. Or, they get so frustrated with the sheer volume of conflicting information that they end up mind blown. Bow beaten, they revert back to type with the old ineffective marketing methods and continue to get zero results or even worse, doing nothing at all.

In the meantime, they look on from the sidelines only to see the companies who know what they are doing online sitting at the top of the search engines taking all those opportunities away from under their nose.

We all know the marketplace is competitive, we’re used to dealing with that. But you can no longer rely solely on the old traditional methods you once relied upon to get your name out there. Advertising in a big yellow book is no longer effective and customers word of mouth doesn’t seem to have the reach it used to unless it has a huge social media following behind it.

As a business owner, you’ve probably been meaning to investigate how to improve your local online marketing. You know this stuff is essential if you are to compete on a level playing field. But, you’ve put it off until you have more time. The problem is, that when you’re in the fire-fighting mode, the time you were hoping for never seems to be available.

The fact is that nowadays, your main competitors are no longer those who are in the same town as you, but those who are on the first page of Google, ranking locally for your products/services. And it’s those top three slots where the action is at. Any web page that appears at the top of a google search or within the “map pack” on a local search is getting the vast majority of the traffic and the enquiries that go with it.

What’s worse is you probably know yourself that those guys who are taking the top spots are probably not as established as you are, don’t look after your customer as well as you do, and the service they give is not a patch on yours. But having checked them on Google, it seems that they are always at the top, and as for your site, well, you can’t find it anywhere…

Is This Only For Companies That Sell Goods Online?

Now, before you say that you don’t want to sell online, let me be clear, this is not about selling products online. You don’t have to have an e-commerce store and sell goods over the internet to be successful on the internet. This is about getting people through the door or calling you on the phone, real buyers, interested in purchasing your products.

This is about the survival of your business, plain and simple, the future and prosperity of your enterprise is at stake!

The direction of travel for local SEO marketing, indeed for any type of marketing is only going one way. It has become even more important with the proliferation of mobile. You see, not everyone is sitting behind a desk tapping on the keyboard of their laptop or desktop computer. The massive surge in mobile in the last 5 years has meant that mobile traffic now surpasses that of desktop.

At the moment Mobile traffic stands at around 56% of all search engine traffic and is only going to get bigger. This means that your customers are now searching while on the move.

The reason why this is important for businesses is because of statistics like these… “95% of people use the internet to find a local business“. “72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within 5 miles“. “78% of local mobile searches resulted in an offline purchase“. So if you have a store, by appearing high up a google search, it also promotes footfall for retail customers too.

Therefore, in summarising our introduction, there is no doubt that running your own enterprise is tough. It has become even harder with the technological landscape changing the marketplace at its fastest ever pace. But as entrepreneurs we have to adapt or face the consequences, so to have any advantage is a bonus. It is because of this we have taken the time to document the following local SEO guide. It is a roadmap of what’s currently working for SEO for local businesses right now.

By following it and making the recommended changes will help your website design to rank highly on the first page of Google. You as the business owner can make use of this step by step guide and replicate it for your own success.

Following this guide will give you the unfair advantage your business needs to get you to the top. By doing so it will allow you to beat your competition hands down and rank your website number one in your town. This directly translates into increased traffic to your website. In turn, this means more enquiries through phone calls, visits to your store and emails to your inbox, resulting in more revenue and profit.

I should point out before we start that while we talk inclusively about “search engines”, it’s Google where the action is. The search engine currently accounts for around 80% of global search traffic. We assume that all other search engines such as Bing will try to emulate the market leader if it can. Therefore the guidelines that follow are based on Google’s requirements. The recommendations are broadly within their guidelines, which at its very heart is about providing quality and value to your visitor.

The basis of every search it delivers is to provide the very best result it can for any given query. so, it stands to reason that they will reward any site that provides them with what they seek. It is what we are advocating here.

I like the easy to remember acronym of A.R.T. for which I can’t take credit. But essentially Google looks for the following key traits within a website to assess its quality… Authority, Relevance, and Trust. If you can build those into your property, you have a winning website…

In short, It’s not necessarily the best companies who are at the top of Google, it’s the ones who know what they are doing… So let’s get started.

It's not necessarily the best companies at the top of Google, it's those who know what they're doing... Click To Tweet

Your Website

We are assuming that you already have a website…If you don’t, what have you been doing 🙂 come talk to us about a new website to fix that? For those of you who have, you ought to know that not all websites are built equally. There is a benefit for any site which is built using the right structure so it has optimal performance.

Google is said to monitor over 200 different ranking factors on any given website to determine its quality. So while each thing on its own may not affect your position, doing all these things together will have a compound effect.

As sure as a house built on poor foundations will crumble, the same fate will befall your website. If precautions are not taken and the appropriate planning and due diligence are not carried out, your website will not perform as it should.

Having a structured website thus is key to its success, and will benefit your business and your customers too. You will be rewarded with improved search engine rankings that are within its gift. One such recommendation is for your site to resemble a body of academic work. This should help reflect its authority, Relevance and trust within the given subject.

Even the way your site is coded is an important factor which affects optimal user experience and engagement. It will also allow for spiders to easily read the site and index it effectively in the Search Engine databases.

In terms of your search engine optimisation, there are two areas you need to consider. “On-page” which is concerned with the words, structure, and architecture of the site itself. Whereas “off-page” deals with everything else off-site, in short, how other sites link back to it.

We’ll deal with each one in turn…

On-Site Optimisation, what you need to know.

This is an area many people dismiss but is very powerful if done correctly. It can be decisive in ranking your site above another more powerful one but which has had no on-page optimisation carried out.

As Google founders were from an academic background, It is said that part of the original algorithm was designed to understand how a thesis is constructed so it could recognise this same structure in websites… In short, using titles, headings and subheadings etc. to construct your posts and pages. Having that mindset may help you understand the process a little better and the reason why we are carrying out the changes suggested below.

Another concept worth keeping in mind here is that search engines actually rank individual pages and not websites. So the website as a whole should be the ultimate guide to what your business is about. Whereas each page should represent the best information possible about that specific topic so it provides value for visitors. A happy by-product of which might be to cause it to rank highly.

Keywords

When creating a web page, there are a number of things to consider. The first of which is the keywords you are targeting – what is the topic you want to cover with this page? For example, if you offered Office Furniture and you were based in Newcastle, you might target “Office furniture”. But in this Local SEO Guide, it is advisable to think of location too. So maybe “Office furniture Newcastle” might be a better keyword?

But a word of caution, be careful not to stuff those keywords in the copy too often. Google and the other search engines can now detect how your page reads. If you’re not careful you could become a victim of an over optimisation penalty. This is triggered if they detect that a page has gone beyond the threshold at which keyword ratios are deemed to be excessive. The thing is only Google knows what those thresholds are. so best advice would be to dial down the keyword and write for humans.

Universal Resource Locator, AKA URL.

URL

The next thing you want to look at is your sites URL. If you don’t know what a URL is, it is the precise address of any given web page. It is the long web address at the top of this page. An example would be www.yourdomainname.com/your-service-newcastle.

URL’s are a very important piece of the optimisation puzzle. It is also a place you definitely want to include your keyword discussed above. For example, www.yourdomainname.com/office-furniture-newcastle/. As we are a locally based business, it is recommended that you also include the town or city you cover. If you cover more locations, always do a separate page if possible with unique content.

Naturally, the above is only relevant to service pages for a specific area, and wouldn’t necessarily be used in the case of every single web page. A “Contact” or “about us” page would be a case in point. But, there are always exceptions to this depending on the type of business you are.

Once again there is a further risk of over optimisation here, but this is dependent upon the domain name you have. This might be caused by duplication of keywords in the URL. So if your domain name was bobsofficefurniture.com for example, you might want to avoid the trailing “Office-furniture-Newcastle” part of the URL and change it to something else.

One final tip at this point is to take out stop words. These are words such as “in”, “the”, “and” etc. Google tends to ignore them in the URL’s anyway, but the shorter URL, the better.

Meta Title

Meta Title

Next to the URL, our meta title is probably the most important ranking factor. On a web page, this is not very often seen in plain sight, they typically reside in the tab of your web browser when you hover your mouse over it.

You might be thinking what’s the point of having it if you can only see it when you hover over the tab? The concept here is that whilst the page is for human consumption, consideration should also be given to the search engine. Remember relevance and the thesis concept from earlier?

As with the URL, the title needs to reflect the topic of the page as a whole, therefore it is again recommended to add your main keyword in the title. This should be done in a natural way which makes sense when read. Don’t take the risk of stuffing keywords into the title thinking you can fool the machine. They are much smarter than that and is a short-term tactic that will end up harming your site in the long run.

Meta Description

Meta description

Many years ago, the meta description used to be an extremely important ranking factor. People caught on to the fact and started stuffing them with hundreds of keywords, knowing they would rank regardless of the content on the page. Today that no longer works and they do not have the value they once had. However, they are still relevant and can still be used to your advantage.

They appear as a snippet just beneath the site URL on a results page after you have typed a query into the search box. While there is no ranking power, their value lies in getting the attention of the reader viewing the results page.

Look at it as a mini advert to entice a person to click on your page instead of another. It is still important to include your main keyword here as Google still highlights it when it matches the search query. But above all, you have 160 characters to create a descriptive summary of what the page is about. Throw in a little sales copy and a call to action at the end and that will do the job.

Schema Markup And Structured Data.

schema markup is becoming even more important in the architecture of a modern website and it allows the search engine spiders to understand your site a great deal better than the information it has about it already. At this point, you might be thinking that’s great, but what is schema in the first place?

Schema is a (semantic language) markup the search engines understand better that HTML to give it key data they want. It is a more efficient way to let the search engines know more relevant data about your company and your website. Though the search engines are getting better at doing this on their own by piecing information about our business together across the internet, it’s not infallible and sometimes gets it wrong or maybe a lag on new information such as a new address.

Therefore it’s much easier for us the website owner to provide the information it needs in a language it understands and by doing so can index our website better with up to date information which can often translate into higher rankings.

The thing is, this is often overlooked by many website owners, so providing this vital information in a manner which the search engines understand offers a quick win to your website which contributes to your overall website quality and is another signal over your competitors.

Long Form Content

The main rule of thumb when producing content for a website is to always write for humans, not search engines. It should also be of the best quality possible. This can be a challenge, especially if you’re not a very good writer, and you wouldn’t be alone in thinking that.

You just have to look at the millions of websites out there with low amount of content and blogs with only one blog post. However, this is our opportunity to “one-up” our unsuspecting competition.

So, what is considered long-form content? there is no optimal length for this, but it varies from niche to niche. Normally 1000 words for a page is a good length, but definitely no less than 500. Once again I refer to the earlier advice given, write for humans not machines. From a practical point of view, however, write whatever you feel best describes your service/product which also provides value to you customers regardless of length.

Some people think it sounds a little daunting, especially if you are not a natural writer. But it shouldn’t be that hard if you know your business and industry? As an expert, this is your chance to shine and show the world who you are and why you are the best at what you do.

Of course, we just don’t want to fill a page with drivel, as we have already mentioned the objective here is to provide value. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and write about what’s in it for them. If written well it will not only convert prospective customers but will have the happy coincidence of ranking higher.

You might be asking, where do I get this content from? As a business owner, you are an expert in what you do, and you should have a considerable amount of knowledge floating around in your head. You may find additional content in your sales and marketing literature as inspiration. Maybe you have presentations or information on your computer which has been forgotten. By Spending 30 minutes sifting through what you have lying around, you will uncover all sorts of potential content ideas you can use.

Other ways to gather information is to speak to colleagues and get their input and maybe they can contribute to the process also. Depending on the size of your team you can even have regular meetings to discuss ideas or topics to cover.

Then, the only thing that needs to be done is to write it out.

The main rule of thumb when producing content is to always write for humans, not search engines... Click To Tweet

Service Pages

Sometimes webmasters think the best place for long-form content is their blog, which might be true, but there are other places to add valuable content too. For example, many websites stop at just putting a bullet list of their services and consolidate it on one page. But they are not taking advantage of the power of long-form content. By going that little bit further and adding detail about your products, you can give each service its own individual page.

There are many advantages of doing that extra work and creating a page for each of your services offerings. Not least it provides additional information about what you do and the value you can provide for the customer, remember the motto “what’s in it for them”.

This builds further trust in the eyes of the visitor, as all your extra information is more than likely greater than what your competitors have provided on theirs. In most instances, there are just listing their services on one page too.

Creating individual service pages gives the search engines more information to crawl. And If there’s one thing the search engine love more than anything else, it is fresh juicy content. This will encourage them to return to your site again and again to index all your new content.

This once again should help the page to rank highly, and be seen by others who may link to it from their site and give it even more power.

Internal Linking

As we have already covered, the internet is founded on links, and it is the way the search engines travels across the internet from site to site endlessly assessing the information they encounter. But when it comes to your own site, there is a form of linking that is not fully utilised but is very important to the site architecture.

If a page on your site has no links pointing to it, it doesn’t matter how good it is, in the eyes of Google, it doesn’t exist. So hyperlinking to another internal page assists the search engines to find and index more of your content.

Adding these links also directs the flow of link juice (power) through your site and provide additional value and relevance to the visitor but the search engine spiders also. As part of this, you can also use hyperlinked keywords to add further relevance to the recipient page which has been known to give it a little boost, but again with anything like this, always in moderation.

Responsive Web Design

responsive webdesign

This one area that a lot of business owners disregard either because they don’t know about it or they think that it doesn’t matter. If you don’t know what Responsive web design is, its when a website design is built so it adapts to the screen size upon which it is viewed, whether desktop, tablet or mobile. Once again its all about user experience.

This has become standard practice with all websites built today because of the proliferation of mobile devices over the last number of years. In web design circles the best advice now is to build first for mobile then for desktop, which means that you test how the site looks first on a mobile device before a desktop device. This wasn’t the case up until a few years ago as the internet was almost exclusively viewed on desktop and laptop.

So why has responsive web design become so vital? simply it comes down to the user experience again. At the time of writing circa. 60% of traffic is coming from mobile search. You can guarantee that if your site is found in local search, people are going to view it on mobile more often than on a desktop.

The confusion for a lot of business owners though is that they think their site is mobile responsive merely by the fact it is displayed on a mobile device. In actual fact what they don’t take into account is how well the text reads, and how the width of the page stays static meaning that the page has to be scrolled vertically to see the other side of the page or whether the phone numbers on tap-able.

Instead, responsive design as the name suggests, allows the page to respond to whichever screen it is viewed on. You will typically see the page collapse and stack the content on the page and resize the images accordingly to fit the narrow screen. Sites often resize the mobile menus or choose to minimise it into a “hamburger” menu which will then expand upon tapping it.

The sad truth is that most company owners actually don’t take user experience into account when viewing their site on a mobile device and as a result ignore it. But this is now a problem that Google is actively addressing this issue themselves. As of August 2017, Google have announced a Mobile-first policy. This is effectively their zero-tolerance policy on none responsive website design which also includes mobile-only websites. The search engine now takes into account whether your site is mobile responsive and actively devalues the sites that are not made for mobile usage. This basically means that from this point on, if your site is not built for mobile and tablets as well as laptops and desktops, your site will be devalued and pushed down below those which are, regardless of the quality of the content found on it.

You can use the following link to if Google thinks you site is considered responsive https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

Google's Mobile-first policy is effectively their zero-tolerance policy on non-responsive website… Click To Tweet

Off Page Optimisation and how it affects your website.

As you probably already guessed this part that covers the off page aspects of your web page. Often this is seen as the area you have the greatest influence on the performance of your site. A powerful link pointing to your website is a valuable asset to have.

For many, it is the only option they have to optimise the site, maybe onsite changes can’t be carried out for some reason. Perhaps you don’t understand how your website content management system (CMS) works, or worse, you don’t understand how your site is coded.

That said, the off-page assets listed below will be like rocket fuel to your fire if you also have control over on page assets also.

Local listings

local listing with Google  My BusinessLocal listings are those individual business pages created for your company by the search engines. They are provided for you to personalise and promote your own business. These have become very important as they help the search engines categorise your business better. It’s essential for the visibility of your business across local results both in terms search and map listings which are becoming increasingly prominent.

Claiming your local business listing is one of the first things you should do as a website owner. When you first set it up you will be asked to verify your listings page. To do this you will be sent a unique 6 digit code via post to your business address. Upon receipt, you will type that onto your page to verify. The process is really easy to do and requires only a little time to do so.

To get the most out of your listing, it’s advisable to provide as much detail as possible about your organisation. It’s best to use images, videos and other such related content to provide a full resource about your company. One thing you should avoid is copy and paste information directly from your website. The images and video are OK to copy, but try to be creative and use different copy than you do on your website if possible.

Social signals

This a huge topic on its own which I cannot hope to do justice here. This is a brief summary of how we believe it contributes to ranking your website.

We always encourage social media as part of a holistic approach internet marketing. By this, we mean that it should part of your marketing plan and not be THE marketing plan. Some businesses over-estimate the power of social and tend to do nothing else other than post on Facebook.

It makes total sense to have social accounts for your business and whilst you can have accounts with every platform, you do have to be realistic about how many you can manage. It’s OK if you’re a corporate behemoth who employs a social outreach manager, but for the average business, it’s not necessary.

You should also consider your audience and what social channels they might use. If you work in B2C, Facebook is great. On the other hand, in B2B, LinkedIn is probably the go-to channel. This is ultimately about knowing your customers and where they hang out online.

That said, one thing social accounts are good for is grabbing a backlink (more about the importance of these later). The social channels are regarded as authority sites and getting a link from them is worth having. The flip side to this is that they are easy to obtain, so the search engines devalue them too. The links are marked as “no follow”, which basically means it does not pass any power to your property, nonetheless they are good to have.

But social accounts are good for other purposes too. For a start, they do promote traffic to your site. So whenever anything happens in your business or industry, post the news on your blog first, then social outreach is the best way to promote it. This will contribute to getting new hits on your site by potential new customers or at least people interested in your subject.

Obviously, by sharing your content and engaging with other industry people you will start getting noticed which will help build a following. This will help drive more visitors to your website as well as build your brand trust over time.

Why is this social important for your ranking? Social accounts provide signals to the search engines telling them that you have some real people visiting your site. Due to automation tools used by spammers, Google and the other search engine can have trouble distinguishing between machines and real site visitors. It uses every possible way of verifying human visitors to your site, including using your social activity.

As you gradually build up your site’s popularity you will start to get links and citations from other sites around the internet. Google wants to make sure those links you acquire are as a result of your promotional efforts and quality of content and not through artificial means.

Social Media should be part of your online marketing plan, not BE THE online marketing plan... Click To Tweet

Reviews

reviews are in important factor in local searchMovies and restaurants owners have known that reviews are important to their business, but they are now becoming increasingly popular for any business. The search engines have seen how important they have become as a real-life measure of someone’s experience of engaging with your company. They have now incorporated it as a ranking factor, so acquiring a review of the local listing such as Google my business page or on your company Facebook page is becoming a big deal.

Reviews are also important in the eyes of the consumer too. They are seen as quality indicators for your business by real customers and an accurate reflection of the service you give. This is called social proof and is similar to word of mouth recommendations, so not only do potential customers like them, the search engines love them too.

As a business owner/manager, it’s in your interest to get the best reviews you can, because having a 3-star review is not as good as 4 or 5-star reviews. So how do you go about getting the best reviews? well, nothing could be simpler, just ask…

Asking your existing customers for a review is one of the best ways to get some quick wins. Choose the customers who you know and trust and have been patrons for some time. they will be the best candidates to provide you with the best reviews (4 and 5 stars are what you’re aiming for).

Just be careful though, don’t overdo getting as many reviews as possible, a few here and there will be just fine. Any more than that in a short space of time could trigger an algorithmic penalty and do more harm than good. If you go about it slowly and steadily, it will reflect on how you show up in the local listings.

Citations

As part of this Local SEO guide, citations are foundational to the local marketing of your site. However, the first thing to cover here is exactly what is a citation? Essentially it is a link from a particular type of site, a site which allows you to post your “NAP” ( more on this later). Google trust these types of sites as they provide geo-location with an industry relevancy.

One quick win (in the UK) for example is getting a free listing at yell.com or 118118.co.uk. There are hundreds if not thousands of these types of sites that you can get a citation from, most of which are free. Some sites do charge to add your listing, but it’s your choice whether you want to pay for them or not.

The important thing to remember about citations is the “NAP” and is the element which is common across all citations. The Nap is simply an acronym for Name, Address, Phone number, and should match the contact details used on your website. Having enough of them pointing back to your site will help Google and the other search engines better localisation and industry relevance for your site.

A top tip here is to contact industry bodies that you’re associated with and make sure that if they have a curated list of members, you get your NAP listing added with a link back to your website. They are likely to have a little more power due to them not be available to all and sundry.

General Backlinks

If you haven’ t already realised, the vast majority of the Off-page optimisation revolves around links to your site from others. Ok. The internet is built on links and without links, search engines and the internet as we know it wouldn’t exist.

The links we discuss here are different than most other types of links mentioned previously as they are not from specific types of sites, they are more generic. But, depending upon which sites these link come from, they have the potential to turbo-charge your site and can be the difference between success or failure of your online property.

These types of backlinks are basically “votes” from other websites to say yours is good. The simplest way of looking at it is the more votes you have, the more power you will get, but like votes, not all have equal power. You see, receiving a link back from any old site will not do. The more authoritative the donor site is, the better the link. So, a link from the BBC would be very powerful indeed, but quite hard to acquire. Whereas a link from your mate’s newly created blog has zero power and was quite easy to secure.

So, the rule of thumb here is if the link is easy to obtain, the chances are a lot of other people can get it too, so there is very little power associated with it. If on the other-hand a link is hard to come by, such as from an authoritative site such as the BBC, well that is more powerful and you would see the benefit of that…

In the real world, links are far more likely to come from other companies website that you know or trade with or in your industry rather than from global media sites. And they are often obtained by providing the value driven content strategy we discussed earlier in this post.

you might be asking how many links does it take to get to number one? The answer is dependant on the competition on the first page and how many links the top sites have. A little research of the companies who you want to outrank at this stage will help you determine what you need to do. If you don’t know how to do that, ask a professional. Otherwise, you can just continue with producing high-quality content regularly and eventually with the right outreach and promotion, you’ll get more links to help you reach your goal.

Video content and other rich media.

Rich media cover all sorts of media, not just video, it also means images and audio files and PDF’s, for example, they all help to contribute to the value you can give to the visitor.

Video is a great medium which helps to add value to your online properties. Based on the growth of usage over 80% of all content on the internet will be video by 2021. Now I don’t know if that is actually correct, but it is an area that is still growing rapidly.

Everybody knows Youtube, and most people know it is owned by Google, what a lot of people don’t know is that it is the second most visited site on the internet. There is one reason why that is the case…Engagement. Video captivated and engages like no other medium and is very powerful.

Combining it with your website is a very powerful combination and having this type of rich media embedded in your website is one that the search engines love too.

If at all possible, its a good idea to have videos embedded into your blog posts. they don’t need to be long, just a couple of minutes is enough. but don’t let that stop you from posting something longer as long as it contributes something to the post it will be a winner in the eyes of the search engines for sure.

You don’t need any special tools to create videos nowadays either, most smartphones have inbuilt video cameras. If you don’t want to film yourself, you can even create videos with Powerpoint or use free online tools such as cam studio which allows you to do screen capture videos of say a presentation you have recently given relating to the subject of a blog your post it on.

Whatever type of video you decide upon, it helps your site become feature rich content driven marketing machine which engaged visitors for longer. Duration of stay on your website is coincidentally another ranking factor Google considers.

SSL certificate

ssl and https with green padlock
SSL is an acronym for Secure Socket Layers and has nothing to do with website security and protection against hacking your site.

SSL creates an encrypted connection between your web server (as the site owner) and your visitor’s web browser allowing data to pass between the two securely. This is most commonly seen when selling goods online and secures the transactional data so payment information is protected.

A simple way to know if the site you’re visiting has an SSL certificate is that it shows up as a green coloured padlock icon next the websites address in the address bar as well as https:// at the front of the domain rather than the normal HTTP://.

Google is now encouraging all webmasters to have SSL certificates placed on their sites. As a further indicator as to how seriously they view this issue, they are now taking things into their own hands. They are now issuing warnings to users of the Chrome browser whenever they land on an unsecured page. This will almost inevitably result in loss of engagement with any unsecured sites, where users will just browse over to a more secure site instead of clicking on a site where they have received a warning.

There a number of different types of SSL certificate each of which has different levels of security. DV, OV and EV. The most common for sites which take payments over the internet is the “EV” certificate and is the type recommended and the one that most banks and e-commerce sites use to secure transactions.

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Site And Page Load Speed

Have you ever browsed on to a site only wait a long time for it to load? Frustrating isn’t it? Google recognise that its a grate on people having to wait for a website to load. So they have introduced site speed as another ranking factor and considers it as a way to get the webmasters to improve the user experience of their property.

This area is both on and off-page and relates to the speed at which site or more specifically the individual page loads for any given user. There are many things that can affect this, both on the server side and also the user’s browser too. However, we as site owners should only be concerned with those things we can control though taking in into consideration that not all users have to fastest connection or the latest technology on which to view your site.

site speed and the speed at which a page loads in a browser has repercussions most notably from a user experience, and as we’ ve pointed out earlier UX and the lack thereof is a big turn off for the search engines and as a result impacts performance.

There are two ways to measure page load speed, overall page load times from start to finish, or time to first byte. It is believed that Google measures the latter as it is a better indication how quickly the page appears, against the former which is not necessarily as accurate.

As page load speed has been shown in tests to reduce rankings and conversion rates it is important therefore to make the necessary changes to improve this aspect of your site as best a possible. The following are some of the key things you can look at to make those improvements.

It’s good practice to reduce the size of files that are used on many pages, this is done through compression of the CSS, Javascript and HTML files. This is one of the simplest optimisations one can make to a site and one of the cheapest. By using free programs such as Gzip to reduce the file size it will make a big difference to the speed at which your site is served.

However, only use Gzip for the file type mentioned and do not use for your images. Instead, image files such as .jpg, png, .svg etc should be optimised prior to being uploaded to a server. there are several ways you can do this, and again a lot are free, such as an online app call tiny png. Alternatively, If you are using a CMS such as WordPress, you can achieve the same reduction in file size by using plugins such as WP smush for lossless image compression.

Another way you can reduce the size of your code is to “minify” your CSS, JavaScript and HTML files. By taking out spaces, commas and any other useless parts of the scripts you can dramatically improve the performance of your page. Once again, this a simple process and shouldn’t cost anything other than a little time, and most server companies will do it for you.

Other factors slowing down your site are page redirects. This can increase the waiting times for HTTP response for each redirect in place, and whilst one cannot retrospectively change the redirects, it’s always good to be aware of it for future planning of your site to look at alternatives before applying new redirects.

When someone views your site, their browser copies the viewed page and adds it to the browser cache for a predetermined period of time set by your server. you can directly improve the speed at which your site loads on their browser if a visitor returns to your site. By simply changing your servers header expiry date to say 365 days, the person who revisits your site on the same browser within that time will not have to reload the page from your server as it’s already into the local cache.

When choosing a server location you choose it to be the closest to what is expected to be its core audience, however, sometimes you may have visitors outside that geo-location but at the same time you don’t want them to have to wait for your site to load due to the distance of the server away from that individual. By using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). This service allows your site to be copied on several locations around the world which makes it faster to load the site at multiple global locations.

You can test your own site to assess how it performance here.

In conclusion

Having read all of the above and following the advice given, you should be in a position to rank your site above your competition and be the top dog in your town. The thing is that if done correctly not only should you have one of the best sites of any business in your town, but in your industry too. If you get your blogging strategy and keyword research right, you will be ranking for all sorts of different terms and potentially looked upon as being an authority if your field.

Don’t be surprised to be fielding enquiries for interviews, guest posts and all manner of marketing opportunities. However, it won’t happen overnight, this strategy does take some time even if you know what you are doing.

It could be a little overwhelming for you and easy to just go back to running your business and procrastinate, thinking its all too hard. The thing to think about here is, look at what your competitors are doing and just do enough to beat them in the first instance.

Once you have done that then you can target bigger and better things. There will also be a point at which it will all slot into place and become much easier to implement until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You will then be able to go in so many directions with the site that your problem is not what to do, but where do I want to take this.

In the words of Confucius, every journey starts with a single step. you just have to take action, and if you need help, get in touch using the button below.

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