I sometimes get asked by potential website clients if it’s necessary to have a website in order for their business to be found in search engines. The simple answer is “no.” It’s not necessary, but you’d be crazy to think it’s not important. Sure, if none of your competitors have a website, than your business should show up in the map listings. But even that doesn’t happen automatically. We’d recommend you setup a Google account, find your listing, and edit it with Google Local Business Center, now called Google Places. That’s a start, but remember, you’re competing against other businesses that have websites or will eventually have a website, and are spending money to market their business online. If you’re interested at all in getting a piece of your business from online leads, you absolutely need to have a good website. Without a well-designed and well-coded website, Google sees your business as stale. Why would they rank you higher than your competitors who are actively promoting their business with a website, social media, etc?
Google and other search engines, at their core, have a very straight-forward task: Help users find the information they’re looking for. Search engines use proprietary algorithms to determine the information that gets shown after doing a search query. For a local business, say a dentist, Google searches through all of it’s indexed information and then ranks the most pertinent information it can find. Let’s say someone does a search for “Cincinnati dentist”. In this case, there are far more dentists than can fit on page one of the search results, so how does Google rank the listings?
First, they may show a map of some of the dentists closest to the hub of Cincinnati. Google is in total control of these results, and sometimes there seems to be no real rhyme of reason as to which results gets listed on page one (although we’re quite convinced that having a good website is one of the key factors), and which listings are relegated to the almost invisible “see more results” link underneath. But, they do provide clues as to what determines overall website rankings. The 3 main things they look at when ranking websites are:
- Content (including on-page search engine optimization code)
Content refers to all of the text and media content on your website, including on-page search engine optimization (SEO) code such as TITLE and DESCRIPTION tags, which any good web developer will embed into your site’s main pages.
Time refers to the amount of time your website has been online. Google’s job is to provide the most relevant content, so it wouldn’t make sense that a brand new dentist, the day her site is launched, would show up on page one, above dentists that have been online for years, even if they happen to have better content. If that’s the case, and they do have more robust and search-engine-friendly content, then it may just take some time for the new dentist’s site to trump the others.
Traffic refers to how many people are visiting your site. If you build it and they don’t come, your site won’t be as relevant. Consider sending an email to your database letting them know your website is up, send out a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter discussing case studies or current news in your industry. Start up Facebook and LinkedIn pages for your business and tell all of your friends and acquaintances to check it out!
The bottom line is this: The single most important thing your business can do to achieve a high ranking is to have a search-engine-optimized website that adds fresh content on a regular basis. That trumps everything else. But again, if your competitors are also on the ball, these other marketing efforts can help your rankings as well:
- Social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc)
- Blog posts and/or other fresh content
- Inbound links from other websites
In addition, you could hire Radiant Design to take your site your site even further. We can set you up with Google Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools verifies your website with Google, allows for submitting a sitemap to make sure Google is properly indexing all of your site pages, and gives statistics and traffic information. This can be a bit daunting for most business owners, so Radiant Design provides this as an additional service.
Copyright 2013 by Tom Lempner and Radiant Design.