Now more than ever, customers need to find your business online. Promoting your brand using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and online advertising will drive more traffic to your business and website.
We hosted a full house last summer for our sold-out Grow With Google workshop. Dave Delaney, who leads Google workshops all over the world, delivered a knowledge-packed session we’re recapping here. Dave’s originally from Toronto but lives here in Nashville, cheers for the Preds, and married a Tennessee native, so we’ll welcome him back. In all seriousness, thanks to Dave, and we hope he’ll come back for deeper dive in the fall, so stay tuned.
Dave kicked off the workshop with his two most important takeaways for attendees seeking to grow their businesses with Google. First, start by understanding the strong alignment between your interests in helping customers find your business online and Google’s interests in returning the best information available when they search. And second, the same basic principle that motivates all marketing holds for the best search practices: put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Imagine or learn when and in what context your customers may be searching online and plan to reach them in those instances, which Google terms “micro moments.”
With that in mind, let’s dive into the recap, so you can get started growing your business with Google.
How Google helps businesses reach customers
Delaney says Google hosts billions of local searches every month, and four in five customers use search to find store address, hours and directions. Knowing how Google works is vital to making it work for your business.
Think of Google as a catalog for the best information you can find on the Internet on just about any topic. Googlebot, what Google calls the software that powers its search engine, crawls billions of publicly available web pages from link to link, capturing page content and other data on Google’s servers. Google organizes that data into an index that can return meaningful answers to users’ searches in milliseconds.
Those search results always include a list of relevant page titles, URLs and a page description followed by related searches and may also include a Business Profile, Shopping Ads and Text Ads. Other than Ads, everything Google returns on the search page is free and organically generated. All of it can influence if a prospective customer clicks to visit your page or scrolls on past.
What steps can you take to see how your site stacks up in search? Keep reading.
Step 1 – Perform a site search. To see how all the pages of your website appear in search, type site:yourwebsite.co in the Google search bar. Check to see how many pages of your website are indexed. Review your search results and make sure titles, descriptions and URLs for each page are relevant to what your customers are searching for. Title your home page – the front door to your business online – something other than ‘home.’ Include page descriptions, be thoughtful about your URLs, claim and manage your business profile (more on that below) and consider where buying Google Ads may be useful, e.g. if you have a new website that doesn’t yet appear in organic search results, purchasing an online ad can help your business appear in the results for relevant searches.
Step 2 – Test for mobile compatibility. Launch Google Chrome, go to a page of your website, right-click and from the menu in the window that appears, select “Inspect.” In the toolbar, you’ll find a drop-down list of mobile devices you can click through to see how your site appears on those screens.
Step 3 – Optimize mobile site performance. With so much competition for consumers’ attention, small businesses can’t risk a slow site that may turn away customers. Go to g.co/testmysite and enter your URL to generate a report that will give you load speed, site speed and page speeds and suggest fixes that will help your site load faster on mobile devices. Often, large image files are the culprit and can easily be swapped for small image files to speed up your site.
Step 4 – Find popular search terms. Use Google Trends to find out what’s trending in search. Explore trends for a preset or custom time period and compare search term popularity by geographies, including the state of Tennessee and the Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville metro areas.
Step 5 – Check your page rank. Visit g.co/searchconsole for an overview of where your pages rank and how they show up in search as well as key terms people use to find your site. Most importantly, find broken pages or other errors on your website. Businesses can’t afford a broken contact or sales page.
Reach customers with a business profile on Google
Business profiles appear on the right side of the search results page and can help your business stand out online if you use it for more than sharing your hours, location and address. You can shape how your business appears in search and in maps. You can also monitor analytics for your profile and make timely updates like sharing upcoming events or special promotions.
Step 6 – Claim and verify your business. To create a Business Profile on Google, visit google.com/business or download the Google My Business mobile app. Claim your business and follow the verification steps if you haven’t yet. Your business’s physical address is required for verification, but you have the option to hide that address, for example, if you run a home-based business. For expedited verification, get in touch with Pathway WBC – we can help with that since we’re a Google partner business. Once you complete verification, you have complete control over the profile and can update business hours, change your profile, add or change photos among other options.
Reach customers with online advertising
All of the above steps detail free ways to make Google work for your business by shaping how your business appears in organic search. The final step involves paid advertising with Google. Because Google charges for clicks and allows businesses to set a limit, Google Ads can work for any budget.
Step 7 – Consider Google Ad buys to promote your business. Google Ads appear on search results pages and are clearly marked. Businesses can choose from two different ad types, text-only or with images. Google revamped Google Ads over the last year to make it quick and easy to create a campaign from scratch. That’s important since one of the best ways to work with online ads is to test small buys to see which types, images and messages work best. Keep in mind you can buy ads that link to locations other than your website such as a blog post or event registration.