Let’s assume you’ve just launched your website. You’re excited, your brand is out there, now it’s just a case of keeping it updated with fresh new content, because everyone tells us that’s good for search engine optimisation (SEO) right? This is true of course, but have you remembered to tell Google and the other major search engines that you’re there? Advising our clients to get close to Google, Bing and Yahoo is part of our bread and butter. So much so that we wanted to share our advice so your business can be found on Google too, without resorting to lighting flares!
Note, we advise all our clients to register their business with their own accounts. We could do this for them, but we believe strongly that since the business is theirs, each connection should be in their name. They can add us to their accounts should they need our support. This way they remain in charge, which we think is important.
We’re not going to get too bogged down in the detail of how to complete the tasks, there’s lots of people doing that. We will provide links but we’re going to focus on why it’s important, and what you stand to achieve by connecting. Justification if you like. Ready? Let’s go!
First you’ll need to create an account with Google. If you use Gmail or YouTube you may have one already, if you don’t they’re free to set up. Many of our clients open a new account even if they have a Gmail or YouTube account, to keep business and personal separate.
You’ll need an account with Microsoft to get started. You can use your personal Hotmail account if you have one, otherwise you can start afresh. By registering with Bing you are registering on Yahoo too, the third most popular search engine in the UK, as these two minnows (in comparison with Google!) are connected.
Claim your verified listing
Google My Business
You need to let Google know that your business exists and tell them what and where it is – and you do this by claiming your Google My Business listing. Before you do this we’d recommend you read the guidelines Google published about how to present your business on their search engine. If you haven’t got time for that, you could do worse than reading our digest. You should do this even if you do not invites your customers or clients to your premises, or you want to keep your location discreet. To do this you register as a service-area business. Your business will show up on Google Map searches, but your full address will not be displayed.
Registration is simple, but you need to check whether a listing exists already that you can amend, or whether you need to create one from scratch. You can do this by doing a simple Google search for your business and seeing if it comes up on Map search. If it doesn’t you start afresh.
You will need to verify your listing by inputting a code which you can choose to receive by postcard at your property. Spend time completing your profile. The information you add needs to be accurate, and as such should be updated as and when anything changes. Why? Whatever you add will be used to display your business will appear on Search, Maps and Google+. So add a description for your business and up-to-date photos. Enter the business name, address and phone number (NAP) in exactly the same way as it appears on your website and any other directories with which you have registered. Doing this means your business stands a chance of being listed on the local elements of the Search Engines Results Pages (SERPs), for example the local pack, local knowledge graph and/or local carousel.
Finally make sure you ask your clients to review your business.
Bing Places for Business
It’s pretty much the same procedure as above for Bing. Check for a listing first, if it doesn’t exist then create one.
And for Yahoo, you need to go to their Local listing page.
You need to set up a Google+ page. If you’re not aware this is Google’s social network. Even though Google have started to hide links to Google+ in recent weeks it’s still important to create a page for your business, linked to your Google My Business account which you can edit to influence your profile on the SERPs.
Once you’re set up you should consider updating your Google+ account with new content alongside any other social accounts you may use. Why? Earning +1s (this is the way content is shared on Google+) is a significant ranking factor and sharing new content in this way will help it get indexed. So building a community that will be interested in your content, and sharing your content with them is a worthwhile exercise. If you’re planning to release video content then you should consider setting up a YouTube account for your business, uploading them there, and connecting this to your Google account. You can do this by googling ‘YouTube’, making sure you’re logged in to your Google+ account first.
One thing worth mentioning, if you had previously created a Google+ page, and subsequently created a verified listing via Google My Business, you may find you have two duplicate Google+ pages which you will need to merge.
Data and diagnostics
Google Search Console
Until recently the Search Console was known as Google Webmaster Tools. The rebrand was perhaps intended to make the tool more accessible. It’s certainly something you should register your site with, if nothing else because it allows you to submit an XML sitemap to Google. You need to do this so they are fully aware of all the content they need to index on their search engine. If you change your website, or add new content it’s advisable that you resubmit a sitemap after doing so, or if you use WordPress consider installing a plugin that automates this process.
As well as being able to submit a sitemap, you’ll be able to access crucial information about how people came to arrive at your site, and whether there are any issues Google have with indexing your content. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re not planning to look after the maintenance of your site, then we advise you add the person or persons that are to your account so that they in turn can access the information and receive notifications advising them if there’s anything that needs to be dealt with.
Bing Webmaster Tools
Bing have something similar, Bing Webmaster Tools, which they haven’t rebranded (yet). As above, get your site connected, as you need to submit sitemaps to Bing too. By doing this you’re covered on Yahoo too.
Tell the search engines how to show your content
You’ve told Google, Bing and Yahoo that your content exists and how to find it, but did you know you have some input into how your content is displayed on the SERPS? And if you use a friendly content management system like WordPress you don’t need to be a developer to be able to influence this. You can specify the title, url and meta description, i.e. the snippet on the SERP that links to your content, for each piece of content on your site, by using a plugin such as Yoast SEO. In addition we encourage our clients to load their images with search engines in mind so they have a chance of appearing on image searches. If your website follows best practices (for example decent internal and external linking), there’s a chance Google will display relevant sitelinks below your snippet on the SERPS as well. At the moment you can’t specify what these should be, but you can demote them if you don’t agree with them!
You can use Structured Data Markup to advise the Googlebots, and the search bots of the other search engines, about the most pertinent information in any content you may release, in hope that they add this information underneath your title, url and metas on the SERPs. There are no guarantees that the search engines will display your markup, but recently Google’s John Mueller, quoted here on Search Engine Land, intimated that adding markup to your content may in time have a positive influence on how your content ranks on the SERPs means that going the extra mile to add markup is probably worth doing.
We’ve covered off the majority of ways to get coverage for your content on Google SERPS, all of which have been to influence your organic (aka free!) listing. As well as being a world’s most popular search engine, Google, through AdWords, generates huge income from companies that advertise in the paid, ‘sponsored’, areas of the SERPS. You may decide, as many businesses do, to complement your organic presence, with a paid campaign, and if you do decide to do this, you’ll no doubt use their Keyword Planner tool to create it. Even if you don’t use this tool for a paid search campaign, you’ll probably find it useful to help create a keyword report from which you can devise a content strategy to ensure the content you create is desirable.
Bing Ads is Bing’s income-generating pay-per-click tool that incorporates advertising on Yahoo too.
Google’s widely-used analytics tool includes data for searches on all the most common search engines. The only thing to be aware of is that if you are running advertising campaigns and want to track the difference between Google and Bing/Yahoo, you’ll have to ensure you create bespoke urls using the URL Builder.
If you’ve got this far you’ve done your best to tell Google, Bing and Yahoo about your business, your website and the content on it. Registering your website with Google Analytics will tell you everything you need to know about how people use your website. There are a number of ways to register your website, and you may need a developer to help you here, but once this is completed, you can track your traffic to learn invaluable information about how people are interacting with your content.
And finally it’s worthwhile connecting your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts to see the Search Console data in your Analytics account.
I hope you’ve found this post useful. If you think we’ve missed anything, which we surely have, then please add your comments below and we’ll edit this post as necessary to reflect the worthiest comments!
So what are you waiting for. Make like a limpet. Get closer to the search engines for the good of your business. And don’t touch those flares.
Many thanks to Peter for allowing us to use his photo.