Many small business owners are disappointed with their current standings in Google search results. It may seem like a losing battle when trying to compete with larger companies who have been around longer and have invested a great deal of time, energy, and marketing dollars in order to rank at the top of search results pages.

But thanks to Google’s ongoing quest to provide the most relevant information to searchers, smaller businesses now have a chance to compete for top rankings with the big guys. Here are some tips to help you reach the coveted first page of Google search results.

1. Make sure your website is mobile friendly.

Google considers website responsiveness a major ranking factor when it comes to determining which sites will be most helpful for mobile web users. If your site requires pinching and resizing on mobile devices, you have probably noticed a significant drop in search results standings. If your non-responsive website is dragging you down, get in touch with a small business web design firm to help you make the switch, or if you are inclined, try a DIY website builder.

2. Provide fresh content on a regular basis for your website.

Has it been a couple of years since you took a spin through your website and updated your information or images? Then now is the time to do so. In its quest to provide the most relevant results to customers, Google favors websites that provide valuable, up-to-date content. One easy way to be sure you are providing fresh, valuable content for your website visitors is through a blog on your website. You should aim for at least one blog post per month (ideally 2-4 per month). Not sure what to blog about? Start by using your blog posts to answer commonly asked questions you get by customers or to explain how certain products or services can benefit your audience. You can do this on your own or, if you don’t have the time or inclination, use a professional blogging service.

3. Ensure that your site is secure.

You may have seen some buzz recently around sites being “HTTPS” vs. “HTTP.” HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transport Protocol Security. Sites with “HTTPS” at the beginning are considered secure because they encrypt user activity so it can’t be tracked or stolen, authenticate to protect against attacks, and provide data integrity, meaning files are protected as they are transferred. Websites that begin with http are considered not secure. If you have a simple website, you might be wondering why this is a big deal for you. In short, Google has indicated that it will start pushing for a fully secure web and will start explicitly labeling HTTP sites as insecure. This designation can make web visitors nervous about providing information for contact forms or other interactions with your site. At OpenVine, all our new websites include an SSL certificate, which gives websites an HTTPS designation and helps sites load much more quickly. HTTPS is also a ranking factor for Google, so we can expect that going forward they will give preference to secure sites in search results.

4. Create a niche focus.

One big competitive edge a small business has over a larger company is a niche specialization. While it may seem like a good idea to generalize and focus on keywords for many different specializations, you will likely be disappointed with the results as you will rank far below your major competitors in each of those areas. If you are trying to compete with a larger competitor for a certain product or service, try focusing on one or just a couple target keywords for better visibility. You might miss out on a small amount of traffic for your other services, but you will increase your visibility where it counts the most.

5. Gain a competitive edge with local optimization.

One major benefit of being an SMB is having a hyper-local focus. Google is continually improving the way they categorize and identify locations down to the neighborhood, so you can include specific neighborhoods you would like to target instead of relying on city and state. Since larger competitors typically stick with more general location indicators, this opens up some space for you to improve your standings for hyper local searches.

Offline Tip: Get involved in the community whenever possible by supporting local events, attending fairs, and having a presence at community gatherings. Consider offering special promotions or discounts to generate new business or, at the very least, interested leads. This visibility gives you the opportunity to get your name and face out in front of potential customers, and it gives you bragging rights online. Then blog about the events on your website and post pictures and information on all your social media channels to amplify your local reach.

6. Encourage your satisfied customers to post local reviews on review sites that matter most to you.

Some of the big ones include Google, Facebook, and Yelp, but other review sites will be relevant based on your niche. Since reviews are a key ranking factor for local search, these good reviews will boost your credibility and help you show more favorably in local search results. Also, 68% of consumers report that reviews affect how they view the trustworthiness of a business.

You are probably wondering why you would encourage reviews given that you will inevitably receive a negative one from time to time. Research shows that searchers are not dissuaded by a few bad reviews. In fact, they often search out the negative reviews to see what the criticism is and how you, as the business owner, have handled it.  By responding to your negative reviews in a professional and helpful manner, you can win back a less-than-happy customer and leave a positive impression on future customers. Moz provides a great example of what not to do in their post, Diagramming the Story of a 1-Star Review.

7. Use social media to promote your brand and build relationships.

Social media is not just an important tool to reach potential customers. Here you can promote your products and services, broadcast special offers and promotions, answer questions, provide helpful information, gather reviews, and promote local happenings in which you are involved. Beyond that, social media advertising is an affordable way to reach a local audience, increasing the chances of generating quality leads with your marketing dollars. The traffic generated on these platforms will also help your online visibility in Google search results.

Boost Your Visibility in Google Search Results

By following the seven tips above, you will be well on your way to better online visibility. If you need help showing up higher in search results and generating more leads, OpenVine specializes in online marketing solutions that get results. Contact us today to learn how we can help!