I recently had the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping for my family. As I like to do I started off with a Google search for shops in my local area (hoping that after the latest lockdown is over I'll get to do some browsing in person but also before then I can at least see if they stock interesting stuff so I don't waste my time walking round town).
I went to Google and typed in "gifts" + "Andover", and to my suprise on the first page there was a total of only 3 local (non-chain) shops, well done to https://www.ladida-andover.com/, https://www.moochandover.com/ and https://www.oldtraditions.co.uk/.
Two disclaimers at this point, Small-beans.co.uk have had absolutely nothing to do with their websites (although we'd love to...), anyway great job guys! Secondly we only searched the above, other websites may rank for terms like "Christmas Presents" + "Andover" or similar.
A word here about Google map results. I used Google standard search to find local businesses rather than Google Maps which I normally use when I know about a location and want directions. Searching for "Gifts" + "Andover" on Google Maps pulls through two of the above sites at the top of the list as it already knows that they're highly relevant. [Shout out to the one that doesn't appear, worth submitting your business to Google if you haven't already/ if you have submitted it worth checking to see if there are any errors stopping you appearing.]There are more local shops featured in Google maps as it defines a geographical area, and then adds shops to the "relevant results" businesses in priority order looking at whether they have "Gift" in their name, "Gift Shop" as a type and also if Google considers it to help provide good gifts e.g. Thorntons. If you're a "Bike shop" called "Rolling Wheels" for example, it's unlikely that you'll rank very highly even if everyone loves your Christmas bike packages.
So what did the businesses above do differently and what can you do to get on Google page 1? I'll take a look below but please bear in mind this is a brief "low hanging fruit" list of actions and not totally comprehensive. That said as a shameless plug we do offer ongoing SEO (search engine optimisation) support ourselves.
First thing, and the absolute most important thing you can do, is to sign up to Google my Business. Seriously do it now, it's free and if Google knows where you are, when it knows customers are local it'll show your business. It'll know this either by their search intent "Bath Waterparks", "Leeds Chocolate Factories" or by having access to their IP or GPS when they're are searching for something. It's worth noting that if you don't have a business address you can still list your home address. Some home based businesses would prefer not to hand out their address (no judgement we'd prefer not to too) but that gives anyone with an address an advantage here.
We can divide your other SEO work into three main types Onsite Content, Onsite Technical and Offsite.
Offsite SEO is about listing your website in different directories, earning links through PR activity and getting people to post about your website on other websites/ forums/ social platforms. There's no secret here, as much as you can get people to talk about you and link back to your site the higher relevancy you'll appear to Google. Bear in mind that the anchor text to your site also plays a part here, if people are linking to you as "undesirable wasteland" as opposed to "wonderful waterpark" you'll rank less highly within Google for people searching for "waterpark". Sadly we can't easily look into the performance of the websites above in terms of mentions on other sites without specialist software which costs a fortune.
Onsite Content is probably the easiest SEO category to explain but the hardest to do well. It means having content relevant to the search term you want to appear for ideally on the page you want to appear. So if you want to appear within Google for "Chocolate Factory" you'll want the words "Chocolate Factory" on your page somewhere. You'll also want relevant content, so perhaps an article about how chocolate was created, perhaps FAQs about "What makes our Chocolate Factory so great" or "What is a Chocolate Factory"?
Placement matters here, if you put the words right at the top of your page, most people do as a header, Google will think it's important but if you hide them at the bottom, well Google will think it's hidden for a reason. On our website our header is "Small Beans", and then our subheader "Affordable, professional, reliable website services for Individuals, Sole Traders & Small Businesses". It's probably not a surprise we rank No.1 for "Small Beans Website", "Small Beans small business". That said we're not as popular as the Youtube Comedy channel with the same name so for "Small Beans" we currently rank beneath them albeit on page 1. Google doesn't know where a search for "Small Beans" on it's own intends to get to, whereas it's an obvious choice for the first two that people want our website.
It's really good SEO practice to look at each page on your site, ask what you want it to rank for, what terms customers should search to get it, and ensure that each page is optimised towards those terms.
The websites above all mention "Andover" on their homepage and two of them mention "Gifts" on the page, in both instances in the site navigation too. The top rated site has an About Us section that mentions "Gifts" twice, a Reasons to Buy strip that mentions "Gifts" and also uses it on a Featured Collection. You'll probably notice a theme here.
Onsite Content rolls really easily into Onsite Technical as it's exactly the same premise it's just that instead of having the required words on the page for "customers" the code of the website is used to ensure that Search Engines like Google understand what they're seeing.
Heading Tags are a key technical marking to a Search Engine. You can have the word "Gifts" in massive font on the first page of your website but adding a <h1> tag tells the Search Engine this is the most important header on the page so what it says in there is what this page is about. Likewise adding a <h2> tag tells the search engine this is the second most important header and so on. Only one of the websites above features "Gifts" within a header tag and that within a <h2> tag.
Meta Data is data on the page almost purely for the Search Engine. Like a header for a customer a page can contain a "meta title" which tells the Search Engine, again, this is what the page is about. A good meta title will always contain your businesses name but it should also contain the key phrases that a customer would search for to get onto your site. We said above "almost purely" as it often pulls onto the search results page so should make sense to customers. You want a title which is similar to "Great Christmas Gifts | The Christmas Shop" rather than "Christmas, Gift, Present, Family, Christmas Shop". Another type of Meta Data used is the Meta Description. This is what appears beneath the header on the search results page. Again it should contain the key phrases a customer would search for, but likewise it has to encourage customers to click through or there's no point. Also if Google feels your description is not as accurate as it could be, it might make up its own for your page. All three of the websites above use "Gifts" in their Meta Headers and Meta Descriptions.
Rich text markup is a very underused piece of SEO as it both tells Google that you're relevant but it also gives Google the ability to serve rich results on its results page for your website. This can both make your search result on Google much more attractive to click on to customers (adding features like your star rating, your pricing costs, the dates you're open from to, etc beneath your description) but can also get you featured at the top of the page. There are many cheap/ free rich text generators online and I recommend that you take a look to boost your site to the next level. Sadly none of the sites featured above returned rich results with only one telling search engines their name, logo and social links. Adding Rich Results to your site will require some basic understanding of HTML/JSON.
To round off technical SEO it's worth touching on URL structure. It may sound obvious but make sure that they describe what you do accurately and without additional decoration. For example we use small-beans.co.uk/website-packages for our website packages. In addition don't use extra long URLs, the closer your page name is to your root domain e.g. small-beans.co.uk/website packages the more important Google sees it as, so the above is much better than small-beans.co.uk/agency/shop/websites/inclusive/website-packages.
There are further SEO checks you can carry out, and we highly recommend that you don't forget to also look at things like your internal links and alt image tags, especially if you use category images in your shop. Making sure you have a sitemap uploaded regularly to google is another good step to take.
If you need any SEO support this Christmas or beyond small-beans.co.uk offer SEO Support from £6.99 per a week due to the level of time investment required. We also offer SEO starter packs included with our website design, build and hosting packages that are available from £1.99 per week, we mean all inclusive.
And don't forget there's nothing particularly special about any of the Websites featured above, you too can achieve page 1 results within Google.