I get this question at least 2-3 times a week. Client has a decent website, they verified a Facebook Page and a Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business Profile), and they have run a few Facebook Post Boosts and are disappointed they aren’t appearing in more search results (or worse, they can’t find themselves when they search).
First, let’s define what a “search result” even is.
A search result is what happens when I type some strategic words into a search bar on the internet (commonly known as “googling” something). Depending on what words or phrases I type into that search bar, google is going to select the results (search results) closest in content to what I typed into my search. If I typed “women’s red pickleball shoes size 10 near me” I expect to get about 2,000,000 results…but not every one of those results will contain every word in my search. Instead google will show me listings (results) with the most common words, or alternative listings where they have taken a guess as to “what I really meant to search for.” In either case, as a business, my goal is to have my listing/website/facebook page, etc. show up in the top 5-10 results.
When you show up on page 1 of google search results, you’re doing everything right! (or you’re paying $100/day for a google ad, but that’s another story). The way you get to the top is by providing the most matching words to what I typed in the search bar. It’s truly an educated guessing game, but my best advice is to think like your customer, not like a salesperson.
Come at it from their perspective…What words would they use to search for your product or service? How might they mis-spell those words? How hard is the name of your business to remember or to type on a tiny cell phone screen?
While some of those things (like your URL and NAP) are relatively static, the words you put into your website and into your alt text boxes and other captioning opportunities on the backside of the website can contain all the rest of those words you need to compete. But, that’s a best case scenario. Usually what we come across is a mix of reasons why a client’s business may not be appearing in google search results.
Here are a few of my favorite reasons for businesses I’ve dealt with not showing in search results—easily repaired if one of these applies to you.
Non-existent or underutilized Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business)
A Google Business Profile is a very powerful, but infrequently talked about free digital marketing tool. Basically, if you have a business, you need a Google Business Profile (unless you’re a mobile business which they currently don’t allow—but we’re working on that!). If you don’t have a Google Business Profile, your chances are drastically reduced that you will show up on the first page of any google search. It’s as simple as that. When Google invented the the business profile, they made a dramatic (and intentional) shift away from Google+ (btw if you still have that icon on your website, take it off!).
Ex: A construction contracting client added their list of Services to their Google Business Profile and began showing up in search results
Consistent logistical information across websites
If your business’ Name, Address, and Phone number are different on different sites across the web, you could be confusing Google. It can be as simple as the use of Drive versus Dr. versus Dr in the address 123 Business Drive. Add suite or office numbers, spaces, hashtags and more and you can confuse even the best of bots out there when it comes to finding your business. Searchers want to know they have the “real” business and the way to build that confidence is by having your NAP appear identically across all platforms. Seriously.
Ex: A realtor standardized her address (suite, drive, state abbreviation) and began to show up more frequently in Google search results.
Name of the business is too abstract
Let’s say you have an animal grooming business you want to launch and then promote on the web. You decide to be creative with the name (so it will stand out) and buy up the URL doggeedogz.com (which is cute, right?). You then search for dog wash, doggy wash, pet wash, dogs washing, etc. and your business doesn’t show up.
Stop spelling words differently than your searcher will spell them or your business will never be found. It’s hard enough to spell some business names…make it easy on your customers by saying what you do in the name. Doug’s Doggy Wash (or Dog Wash) would do it nicely in this case. Creativity with your brand should be approached with caution and ALWAYS from the point of view of the customers—how will they ever find you if you’re too cutesy?
Ex: A client with a very creative name purchased a more “traditionally spelled” URL as a forwarding link and search results went up.
No advertising money invested
Sadly, it’s become a pay-to-play environment to be able to advertise on social and digital media channels. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done…and for a reasonable amount. It takes knowledge of the tools, knowledge of strategic demographics, and knowledge of powerful keywords and phrases which will result in the most clicks.
Ex: A small telehealth counselor began allocating $7/day google ads (only on days/times she is available) and has averaged three new clients per month from that ad for three months.
Non-existent or unsubstantial supporting content on websites
If I’m searching the above “women’s red pickleball shoes size 10 near me” combination of words and I get to a site’s homepage with no apparent close match to my search, I’m going to be disappointed. Take me to the exact thing you say you will! When I don’t land on the product page, it could be the website used a keyword for a product or service they don’t have, just to phish me into their website, or that I now have to do a deeper search for my exact shoes. That’s a big no-no to me. I expect to see exactly what I’m searching for when I click that link. And, additionally, when I am presented with search results, I tend to expect that I can click on the top 4-5 and get valid purchase information and learn more about my product through the shopping expedition. If the link just takes me to the Nike home page, I’m not interested any more. Really.
Ex: A medical service provider client began using a link to their Appointments tab rather than their website URL (homepage) in their social and ads and their appointments went up.
A lack of worthwhile content
There seems to be a new-ish trend toward minimalistic websites and this builds on what we spoke about above. I love catchy icons (when I can comprehend what they mean) and short excerpts are fine, but when I click one of those little cute icons or excerpts and there’s nothing else there, I feel cheated? I thought I was going on a journey to learn about your stuff and instead, I just get 2 sentences. This is not (IMHO) going to help you much with search results—unless you just piled in the keywords on the backside of your website. And if you did, shame on you. Content is the reason a website exists. Yes, people are reading briefly on cell phones. Yes, too much information can be detrimental. But not enough can be just as disappointing to a curious reader.
Ex: A pharmaceutical support client minimized their website, removing likely 45% of his content to “make it easier for people to read on devices. They quit showing up in search results and are considering reinstating some of that removed content.
There’s just too much big-brand competition
If you sell plant food or women’s decorative socks, you’re going to have way too much competition with huge sellers to ever hope to get to the top of search results—and you can’t match their ads budget for sure. At this point, you need to find the very specific products/services (called your competitive advantage or special sauce) – your niche items—and use the same approach to focus more effort on the products/services that set you apart from the others.
Ex: A client located in Chicago began inserting Chicago in descriptions of his business name, on GMB, on his website, and with some engaging blog content, i.e. “Do you need to rent heavy equipment in Chicago? Here’s what you need to know.”
If you do all (most of) these things, and you have great content on your website, I would posit you would show up in search results. You have to be strategic. You have to be diligent. You have to be thorough. Good luck!
Learn more about the Google Business Profile here: https://hannahgoldcommunications.com/does-your-business-need-a-google-my-business-page/
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