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Published August 12, 2016
A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Sarah Hamlin, Fremont County WSBDC business adviser
“How can I improve my website’s visibility?” Angie, Riverton
With almost 5 billion pages in the World Wide Web, 40,000 internet searches conducted a second and 150 different ways Google evaluates a website, it seems almost impossible for a small business website to get noticed.
The good news: It doesn’t take a web developer to get your website noticed by search engines; it takes a basic knowledge of how search engines work and good, old-fashioned marketing skills to get your website ranked higher.
Let’s start from the beginning. Search engines move through the internet by moving from one page to another through links. Pages are sorted by content into the index. When you, the user, type in a query, an algorithm is used to look for clues to better understand your search. It is the 150 variables that Google uses to evaluate a website that ultimately give you relevant search results.
With an understanding of how searches work, it is easier to create a checklist to improve your ranking. Though there are countless ways to approach search engine optimization, start here:
-- Be mobile-friendly. A little more than a year ago, Google announced that searches on mobile devices more than doubled, surpassing the number of desktop searches. A mobile-friendly website is one that is easily viewed on any device -- desktop, tablet or phone.
Most website builders now offer responsive or adaptive templates that are already coded to automatically make formatting changes based on device. Google provides a great free service to see if your website fits the mobile-friendly criteria.
-- Have good, quality links (from other websites) back to your website. For example, Google considers the Chamber of Commerce an objective party when evaluating a business. A link from your local chamber to your website in the chamber’s business directory is considered a good, quality link.
-- Publish local contact information (phone, address). This is one of the ways that Google decides if your business is truly a local business.
-- Update your website frequently. Google reports that websites that are updated weekly perform 80 percent better than those that are not. Have a plan to add new content and pages to your website on a regular basis.
-- Write compelling content. If you remember only one thing, remember this: Google’s algorithm is really asking: What is this website about? Google is concerned with providing the best result to its user.
Writing content is hard; don’t be discouraged. Start with how you and your customers describe your business. (These may be different, so pay attention.) These descriptions provide a start for more in-depth keyword research, using tools such as Google AdWords. As you write, use these keywords and phrases to describe your business. It is estimated that it takes Google between 400-600 words to get a real sense about what a page is about. So, keep it concise and conversational. Google reads at about a sixth-grade level.
Your website is a dynamic marketing tool that needs to be tweaked and updated, and you might not see immediate changes in your website’s ranking. Be patient.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at www.wyen.biz/blog1/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email email@example.com, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.