In a world in which everything happens online, a business’s web presence is vital to its success. But with everyone competing for audience attention on the Internet, standing out is more difficult than ever. Some businesses address this with advertising budgets (see our article on How To Grow Your Business With Google Ads) but not all businesses have the budgets for ad campaigns.
Fortunately, there are many free ways to increase your Google ranking and get more traffic to your site. Even if you have a huge marketing budget, there’s no reason to pass up on these organic ways to boost your search engine rankings and site traffic. Read below for our guide on how to increase Google ranking for free.
BACK-END TECHNICAL SEO TIPS
Many of the ranking-improving factors are in the code on the “back-end” of your website. If you don’t know how to address some of these changes, it might be best to find a web-savvy friend or hire someone to implement these for you.
1. Write title and description tags for every page - These tags in your code help search-engine users understand what each of your pages is about. If it makes sense to use your keywords in these tags, all the better. The best practice is to keep your title tag to 70 characters or less, and your description tag to 150 characters or less. Google uses this information to help it categorize the pages of your site so it can deliver the best results for the people who use it. Remember: Google’s goal as a company is to deliver the best search results, and anything that makes this easier for them to do will help boost your site!
2. Structure your site with H1, H2, and H3 tags - These code tags are a hierarchy that help Google understand the structure of your website. By using H1 tags for your main headlines, H2 for sub-headings, and H3 for headings below that, you’ll communicate what’s most important on every page. If your keywords fit into these heading tags, all the better
3. Check your site for errors - The more errors your site has, the less usable it looks to Google. This means your site will have lower priority in search results. You can use Google’s Search Console to highlight places where your site could improve. This includes page errors, long load times, bad links, and more.
4. Increase site speed - Long page load times are a bad user experience, which means Google is less likely to include your site in its top search results. Google’s Page Speed Insights is a good way to determine whether you have any site speed issues, though there are plenty of other free tools out there that you can utilize. Common ways to increase site speed include uploading compressed image files, reducing URL path complexities, and taking advantage of browser caching.
5. Optimize images - Assigning your images “Alt” tags in your code will boost your pages’ profile. The best practice for Alt tags is short and descriptive—think “sailboat on a lake at sunset.” This not only helps Google identify what’s in your images and how to categorize them, it allows for adaptive devices such as screen readers to identify and describe your images to people with vision disabilities.
6. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly - It’s no secret that most of today’s online activity happens on mobile phones. If your website is difficult to use on a mobile device, users will become frustrated and get what they need elsewhere. High bounce rates and low time-on-site statistics will signal to Google that users aren’t getting what they want or need from your site, and that can damage your rankings. A responsive website is the way to go in the age of multiple screen sizes, but at the very least, ensure that your site doesn’t use large images or tiny, difficult-to-press navigation icons. Visit your site on any mobile device you can get your hands on to experience it for yourself.
FRONT-END ON-PAGE SEO TIPS
1. Focus on your keywords - The more general your keywords are, the less likely you will be to rank highly for them. If your business is niche, optimize for keywords that align with your niche—you’ll have fewer competitors that way. There are many free keyword research tools out there (try Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool), and even more paid ones (such as SEMRush). Also consider variations on your keyword—pluralize it, use synonyms, rearrange the order of keyword phrases, etc. It’s important to put yourself in the mind of your potential customer and consider what they might search for.
2. Update your blog often - Posting new content regularly shows that you’re generating information and that your site is active. This sends more positive signals to Google than if your site sat unchanging and stagnant. Additionally, the more content a website has, the more keywords it can utilize and the more people it can draw in with a breadth of topics.
3. Reference and link to other high-quality sites - In keeping with the previous tip, if you refer to and link to other sites in your blog posts or static pages, make sure they’re reputable. Google’s algorithm can tell what sites you’re linking to and if it looks like you’ll send your users to an unhelpful, or even suspicious, site, it will hurt your chances of ranking highly. However, if you take advantage of external linking and connect users to sites with more quality information, you’ll be rewarded for creating a good user experience.
4. Link to the other pages in your site - Known as “internal links,” these connect your site users to the other pages of your site in places where it makes sense to do so. For example, if you own a hardware store and have a blog post that walks your visitors through a DIY project, your list of items required for the project should contain links to each of the items in the list that you carry. Google sees this as a positive user experience and helps their algorithm understand the relationship between the pages of your site.
5. Optimize for Voice and Local Search - Because more people than ever use Google on their phones, it’s important to imagine that your target audience is, too. People’s speech patterns usually differ from their typing patterns—what might someone say into their phone to search for your product? How is it different from what they type? Keeping both of these in mind when choosing keywords is essential. Additionally, optimizing for your business’s location using location-specific keywords, embedding Google maps of your location, and including a local address and phone number on every page are essential to any well-performing site.
OFF-PAGE BACKLINK BUILDING SEO TIPS
There are even things you can do off of your website that can help boost rankings.
1. Set up local business listings - By registering your business and all its information with sites such as Google Maps, Google My Business, Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Yellow Pages, your business information is now all over the Web—the more places you exist online, the more likely you are to show up. Google also gives preference to businesses that are fully integrated into its maps and business because it provides searchers with a better user experience.
2. Create and manage local business citations - A local business citation is any online reference to a business that includes its name, address, and phone number (and often additional information). Creating and managing citations on relevant websites (say, Realtor.com, Zillow.com, and GoogleMyBusiness, if you’re a realtor) signals to Google that you’re a trusted business. Ensuring that your citations are accurate is key—sending mixed signals with multiple phone numbers and addresses on different sites looks bad for business.
3. Develop niche Web directory listings - A Web directory is generally a collection of website listings that is created and managed by people, rather than an algorithm such as what Google uses. Getting your site listed in a directory that’s relevant to your business can boost traffic significantly. Do some research to find out which Web directories in your niche actually get traffic (see which ones rank highest in search engine results to get an idea of the top directories. You may have to pay to get listed, but the payoff will be worth it. There are a number of these for the legal and healthcare industries that are very beneficial.
4. Guest post on other blogs - If you have a working relationship with other bloggers in your niche (or even in other niches), see if you can pitch them on a “guest post” where you write a blog that’s published on their site. The benefits are two-fold: your name and business are exposed to a new audience, and linking back to your site from another reputable blog will boost your site’s profile.
5. Seek out local community and industry links - Get involved with your community and the communities you serve. Links to your website from chambers of commerce, community centers, organization sponsorships, or other community sites may not provide a huge jump in search engine rankings, but they will probably earn you a significant amount of site traffic. In fact, one of our own clients was featured prominently on their local Chamber of Commerce site thanks to sponsorship.
6. Use social media - Being active on social media can earn you an SEO boost thanks to increased backlinks and visibility—any increase in traffic can improve SEO.Managing multiple social media accounts can be time-consuming but there are software tools out there to streamline the process.
7. Buy ads for a traffic boost - While it’s not technically free, running advertising campaigns can give you an instant traffic boost, plus an SEO bonus due to user signals that the search engines pick up on from the increased site traffic.
We hope these tips have helped you learn how to increase Google ranking for free. If you have more questions about improving your site rankings, see our Search Engine Optimization page and feel free to contact us for more information.
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