Question marks over keyboard | FAQ page

The #1 thing I get asked about is SEO or Search Engine Optimization. “How do I get to the top of the search engine results?” If I had the surefire answer to this, I’d be rich and probably wouldn’t bother writing this blog post. But, I do have some ideas. And the first thing you should do is not look for keywords, write a blog, or type up your meta data.

1. Create your Google Business Listing

A Google Business Listing is essentially an online profile for your business, managed through Google My Business (GMB), a free tool. It acts like a digital storefront, appearing on Google Search and Maps whenever someone searches for your business name or similar products or services in your area. This makes it vital for local businesses to have a Google Business Listing, as it increases your online visibility and helps potential customers find you easily.

Setting up your GMB listing is straightforward. Head to Google Business Profile and follow the steps to create a profile. You’ll provide essential details like your business address, phone number, website (if you have one), and opening hours. GMB also lets you upload photos, manage reviews from customers, and even showcase what makes your business unique. With a complete and optimized GMB listing, you’re well on your way to attracting more local customers through Google searches. If you’re an established business, you may already have one that was pulled from other directories, and you’ll just need to claim it and verify it in order to make changes and manage it.

This listing is especially important for local businesses, because when someone is searching for something locally the first results are the map results, and you won’t be on the map if you don’t have this listing.

What if you don’t have a storefront?
Have no fear, you can still have a listing if you don’t have a storefront. Many businesses serve customers at their locations but are still real businesses that deserve to have a listing. When entering your information, you can choose to not show your address, and that you service customers at their location.

2. Set up Google Analytics

You would be surprised how many people come to me for SEO, and claim their website isn’t getting found, but have never installed Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free tool offered by Google that helps website owners understand how people find and use their site. It tracks visitor traffic and activity, providing insights into things like where visitors come from, what pages they view, and how long they stay. This data is important because it allows businesses to make data-driven decisions about their online presence. By understanding how users interact with their website, businesses can improve the user experience, identify areas for improvement, and track the success of marketing campaigns. If you don’t know the data about the traffic to your website, you can’t really make any meaningful decisions about SEO.

3. Set up Google Search Console

Google Search Console (GSC) is another free tool from Google, but with a different focus than Analytics. While Analytics looks at how visitors behave on your site, GSC specifically concentrates on how Google sees your site in search results. It acts as a bridge between you and Google’s search engine. GSC offers a variety of features to help you improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You can see which keywords people are using to find your site, how your pages rank in search results, and identify any technical issues that might prevent Google from properly indexing your site. GSC also alerts you to potential problems and helps you fix them, ultimately making your website more discoverable in search engines. This can lead to increased organic traffic, a key factor for any website aiming for online success.

Not only does Search Console give you information about how your site is performing in the search results, but it also gives Google the information it needs to properly index your site. Google has powerful bots that are always scanning the web, looking for new pages to index, but that doesn’t mean it’ll find yours right away. By setting up search console and adding your XML sitemap, you are ensuring Google knows where all your pages are.

What is an XML Sitemap?

An XML sitemap is a file in a special format (Extensible Markup Language) that tells search engines like Google about all the important pages on your website. It basically acts as a roadmap for search engine crawlers, helping them discover and index your content efficiently.

Here’s what an XML sitemap can include:

  • URLs of all your webpages
  • When each page was last updated
  • How often a page changes (daily, weekly, etc.)
  • The relative importance of a page on your website

Having an XML sitemap doesn’t guarantee that all your submitted URLs will be indexed by Google, but it definitely helps search engines understand your website structure and prioritize crawling important content.

Here’s how to submit your XML sitemap to Google Search Console:

  1. Sign in to Google Search Console.
  2. Select your website in the sidebar.
  3. Click on “Index” in the left menu and then “Sitemaps”.
  4. Click “Add a new sitemap” and enter the location of your sitemap file. This could be something like “sitemap.xml” or the full URL if it’s hosted elsewhere.
  5. Click “Submit” and Google will try to process your sitemap.

4. Set up Bing Webmaster Tools

Guess what, Google isn’t the only search engine in town. While it does dominate, there’s still traffic to be had on other search engines. Bing gets about a 9% market share. Would you intentionally dismiss 9% of traffic to your website? Of course not. Bing Webmaster Tools, similar to Google Search Console, is a free service offered by Microsoft’s Bing search engine. It provides website owners and administrators with a suite of tools to improve their website’s visibility and performance in Bing search results.

Here’s how to set up Bing Webmaster Tools:

  1. Create an Account: Head over to Bing Webmaster Tools sign-in or sign-up and create a free account. You can use your existing Microsoft, Google, or Facebook account to sign up quickly. [Bing Webmaster Tools sign-in or sign-up]
  2. Add and Verify Your Website: Once you’re signed in, you can add your website to your account. Bing Webmaster Tools requires verification to prove you own the site. There are four ways to verify ownership:
    • DNS auto verification: This is the simplest method if your domain registrar supports Domain Connect. Bing will automatically detect your DNS provider and add a CNAME record to verify ownership.
    • HTML meta tag: Bing provides a meta tag that you can add to the head section of your website’s homepage.
    • Upload a file: You can upload a specific verification file to the root directory of your website.
    • CNAME record: You can manually add a CNAME record to your domain name system (DNS) settings.
  3. Submit Your Sitemap: A sitemap helps search engines discover all the pages on your website. You can create and submit your sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools. This ensures Bing is aware of all your website’s content.

These steps are going to ensure that your site can be found in the search engines and that you can monitor the traffic coming to your site. Optimizing your site is important, but Google has to know where those pages are, has to know your business exists, and you need to know who is coming to your site and all that needs to happen right away.

Amy Masson, Web Developer

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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