Ranking on Google involves optimizing your website with the right keywords and design to ensure it appears high in relevant Google search results. To learn how to rank higher on Google, start with content creation and search engine optimization (SEO), which can help to drive more traffic and increase exposure for your small business website.
To see how your business compares across multiple search engines and directories, start by scanning your online listings for free with Localworks. You can then quickly update your information to get your business discovered on search engines, maps, mobile apps, and on over 60 directories. See where you rank with a free scan and save 20% on managing your listings with code LOCAL20.
Google Small Business: 3 Ways You Can Rank
There are three primary sections in Google where your website can potentially rank: paid results, local results, and organic results. Paid results can be purchased via a bidding process through Google Ads. Local and organic results are the two free ways to rank, and are therefore the most sought after ways to rank on Google for small businesses.
Paid Search Results
Paid search results are those in the top and bottom of the results page, indicated by the small “ad” icon. These are placements that businesses pay for to show up when users search specific keywords. Google Ads can be a very effective way of utilizing ad spend for those who are new or struggling to compete against businesses that rank higher in organic search results. It’s also great for businesses targeting keywords with high revenue potential.
For more information on paid result ranking, view our complete guide to advertising on Google.
Local Search Results
Google’s local search results are displayed within Google Maps after a user searches for a keyword that includes a location, such as “pizza New York.” Landing within Google’s local search results requires that you have a Google My Business account. This is key for brick-and-mortar-based businesses because it puts your business in front of local people ready to buy.
We recommend businesses start by focusing on local results for two key reasons:
- Higher chance of ranking – In the local results, you are only competing against other businesses in your area. This gives you a higher chance of ranking compared to organic results, which include businesses in any location that match a specific search keyword.
- People who search local have intent to buy – The local results show up on search terms where people have intent to buy from a local business, so they are often the most beneficial for small, locally-focused businesses.
For example, if someone searches Google for “pizza NYC,” then Google will display pizza-related business on a map of New York City. These businesses are pulled from active Google My Business accounts.
There are many ways to ensure your Google My Business account is prime for local search result placement in Google; we will cover these ways below.
Organic Search Results
Organic search results are free and display below Google Ads and sometimes local results. Google uses a sophisticated algorithm to determine which sites rank highest for organic search results based on keyword usage, relevance, site design, and other factors. Generally, Google provides the highest quality, most relevant results based on the keyword(s) used by the searcher.
Organic results includes a wider range of websites—not just local businesses. While location may still be a factor in the organic results, it is not generally the dominant factor. The main factor is the authority of the website (or the credibility of the site), external links back to the site, the length of time the site has been live, and other considerations. This is why you will often see sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and Facebook show up high in search results.
In the organic results, the top-ranking websites are those best optimized for search engine optimization and boast a high domain authority. For these reasons, you are likely to see well-known websites ranking above smaller business sites, as illustrated below.
This is not to say that small businesses can’t show within the top organic results. If your business is located in a less competitive market or industry, like a nail salon in a small town, you have a better chance of ranking high in organic results. Most small businesses find it easiest to rank within local results, though small businesses can also rank high in organic results by investing in search engine optimization efforts.
How to Rank Higher on Google in 7 Steps
To improve your Google ranking, you will need to learn search engine optimization basics. This includes finding relevant keywords, registering for a Google My Business account, optimizing your website for mobile, link building, getting positive reviews, and consistently adding quality content.
Here’s how to increase your Google page rank in seven steps:
Step 1: Find Keywords Your Customers Are Searching
Keywords are the words and phrases that customers type into Google when looking for information. Use the Google Keyword Planner Tool, available through your Google Ads account, to find the most popular keywords people use when searching for your type of business. Optimize your website for those keywords by adding them in blog posts and to web pages.
If you don’t already have a Google Ads account, start by signing up for one for free. This will give you access to the Keyword Planner.
Next, log into Google AdWords and click “Tools” > “Keyword Planner.” Once you’re on the Keyword Planner menu, click “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.” Complete the form that appears; to start with, search for your type of business and location. For example, if you own a hair salon in Chicago, you would want to enter “hair salon Chicago.”
After you hit “Get ideas,” you will see the number of average monthly searches for the term you entered, plus other related search terms that you may want to use as keywords on your website. Create a list of the keywords and search terms you want to rank for, and fold them in to your website copy and content as naturally as possible. As Google sees your website using these keywords, it will view your site as a relevant and quality search result.
Keep in mind that the number of average monthly searches for each suggested keyword is an estimate. However, it does represent the popularity of that keyword or search term. This makes a difference when doing your keyword research, as it gives you insight into what people in your market are searching for. Understanding what they want allows you to better position your business to provide them with relevant content and information.
For example, a takeaway from the image above is that “hair extensions Chicago” has more monthly searches than “hair color Chicago.” So, if you own a hair salon that offers both extensions and color treatments, you should consider promoting your hair extension service more heavily on your site.
Step 2: Claim & Optimize Your Google My Business Page
A Google My Business (GMB) page is a free business listing through Google that allows your business to show up in organic and local results. Having a Google My Business page is necessary in order to rank in Google’s local results, but how highly you rank within the results is determined by factors such as the quality of your account and your volume of good reviews.
To get started, you will need to either claim your current business page or create a new one, depending on whether or not a page already exists for your business. If you are unsure, you can go to Google.com/business to search for the name of your business. For more information, read our step-by-step guide to setting up your Google My Business account.
For example, you can see Google My Business listings in the search results below. Each one includes a lot of information, including ratings, price, category, description, address, hours of operation, and pictures. All of this comes from the business’ Google My Business page.
When someone searches for the name of your business specifically, Google will pull information from your Google My Business page and display it in a panel on the right-hand side of the search results, increasing your business’ exposure. This is great for small businesses, because not only do you get a lot of space on the first page of Google’s organic search results, but you are also able to immediately show what your business is about. Again, the panel is only available to those who have set up their free Google My Business page.
There are a few ways you can optimize your Google My Business page in order to rank higher in Google:
- Include Keywords in Your Description – Remember the keywords you found using Google’s keyword planner tool? Use those in your description whenever possible on your Google My Business page, but use them naturally—don’t force them in.
- Use Keywords in Image File Names – Use keywords in image file names when relevant, and the titles and descriptions you use when uploading those images and videos to your Google My Business page.
- Choose Your Category Carefully – Your category, chosen from Google’s extensive list, is a deciding factor in whether your business will be deemed relevant to a search. Make sure to choose the category that best fits your business.
- Get Reviews – Businesses with more reviews are likely to rank higher. Get reviews by asking your existing customers to review you.
- Respond to Reviews – You will also want to respond to both negative and positive reviews because owner response could boost your ranking as well.
- Use a Consistent Address – Make sure the physical address you use is consistent with the one on your website and across directories (such as Yelp and Angie’s List). We will talk more about why this is important later.
Step 3: Optimize Your Small Business Website
In order to optimize your site, you need to make sure you are including the keywords that you want to rank for multiple times throughout your site. Also, ensure your site has complete and up-to-date contact information, that you’re using appropriate meta tags, and that you include pertinent business information as text—not text on images that Google can’t search.
Here are the top five ways to rank highly in Google’s search results:
- Ensure Your Information Is Complete – Make sure that every page of your site has your business name, physical address, email, and phone number with local area code.
- Check That Information Is Visible – Make sure the above information is in text format and not an image so that it can be “seen” by Google.
- Include a Descriptive Title Tag – Make sure to include a descriptive title tag that includes what your business is and where it’s located, like in the example below. Different site builders have different methods for doing this, but for WordPress, you can use a plug-in like Yoast to input this information.
- Launch a Blog – One of the best ways to rank on Google is to create a blog and write blog posts targeting the keywords you found in the first step. This gives you a good chance of showing up in the search results you want.
- Embed a Map on Your Contact Page – Embed a Google Map on your “Contact Us” page by searching for your business on Google Maps, then clicking “Share” on the left, and then “Embed” to get the code on your website. If you need help doing this, Fiverr is a good place for finding affordable website help for as little as $5.
- Use Meta Descriptions Strategically – Meta descriptions are brief summaries of page content, searchable by Google. Put your primary keywords, areas your business serves, and phone number in your 165-character meta descriptions. You should be able to do this easily with Yoast (if you’re using WordPress).
In case you don’t have the time available to manually make these changes and optimizations, then Yoast’s Local SEO WordPress plug-in is well worth the money; it will help you automatically tackle the bullet points above.
Step 4: Design Your Website for Mobile Search
Nearly 70% of searches are performed on mobile devices, which is why Google ranks mobile-optimized sites higher than those not designed for mobile. In order to optimize your site for mobile, ensure you’re using a mobile-responsive website with compressed code. Also, remove excess content to increase your page load speed.
Here are the top tips to help optimize your website for mobile search:
- Use a Responsive Web Design – A responsive web design will automatically adjust your website based on the device it is being viewed on, ensuring an easy browsing experience. Test your website for mobile using Google’s mobile-friendly test.
- Create Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) – An initiative created by Google, referred to as AMP, helps makes web content more mobile-friendly and leads to improved search results rankings. Learn how to accelerate your mobile pages using AMP.
- Reduce Unnecessary Content – Mobile screens have a lot less real estate than a computer, so you will want to eliminate copy, white space, media, and pages that are not relevant.
- Improve Page Load Time – Having a quick website load time is key. Sites that take too long to load lead to more page bounces (people leaving a site immediately after clicking on it), resulting in lower search results rankings. A quick way to decrease load time is by using a fast host, such as Bluehost.
Step 5: Employ Link Building Strategies
Building links means that your business is being referenced or linked to on other sites. This tells Google that your website is authoritative (like a citation), helping to increase your rank on Google. There are two types of link building you should leverage: structured citations and unstructured citations.
Incorporate Structured Citations via Online Directories
When your business is listed in an online directory, it is known as a structured citation. These citations increase exposure and website domain authority while associating your business name with existing high-authority sites like Yelp—all of which is favorable to Google. To create an effective structured citation, include full business contact information on your directories and be consistent with formatting.
Structured citations include a combination of your business name, address, and phone number. Google looks at the consistency of these citations across the web to provide users accurate information in search results. With this in mind, you want to make sure that you are always using the same address and contact information.
Here’s an example of a structured citation:
Fit Small Business
315 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017
If you’re not sure where to start, use this definitive list of directories, where every business should be listed. This list not only includes top directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor, but also industry-specific and local directories that you can choose from based on your business type and location.
How to Get Unstructured Citations & Links
Unstructured citations include things like a mention of your business in an online newspaper article, press release, online job board, and other sites. Unstructured citations and links are important because they let Google know that people are talking about your business. To get the most unstructured citations, work on getting positive reviews, host events, send out press releases to the media, and engage with customers online.
Here are the primary ways to get unstructured citations:
- Get Reviews – Ask customers to leave reviews of your business on sites like Yelp and Google. More on this below.
- Host Events – Hosting events is a good way to land press, as events are often mentioned in newspapers and online event directories, such as EventBrite.
- Submit Press Releases – If your company has news to share (new products, services, design, and so on), then let the media know by drafting and sending out press releases.
- Use LinkedIn for Business – Having a business page, or bio, on LinkedIn gives you exposure to professionals in and outside of your industry. Setting one up is free via LinkedIn.com.
- Participate in Forums – Getting involved in online forums, such as Reddit and Quora, can help increase the number of unstructured citations for your business. To maximize the potential of getting citations here, make sure your user bio includes your business website. Also, use the forums as a way to provide helpful information and not as self-promotion.
- Use Blogs – Having your own blog, plus working with other blogs to guest post, gives you more unstructured citations and links. It can also be a good way of providing people with useful information and encouraging site visitors to talk about your business by linking back to informative posts.
Step 6: Get Reviews on Google My Business & Yelp
Reviews are important to your small business because having reviews—especially positive reviews—is a ranking factor on Google. People are also more likely to click and visit your business if it’s listed with a lot of good reviews. To get reviews, start by asking your loyal customers and even your staff to leave reviews on major sites such as Google and Yelp.
Here’s how to get reviews for your business:
- Ask Your Customers – Don’t be shy about just asking your customers for reviews. Invite them to give you a review by asking them in-person or sending out an email.
- Request Links in Digital Communications – Include “Please give us a review” links in your email footer.
- Use Feedback Surveys – Send out customer feedback surveys and then ask for reviews from those who gave you high marks.
- Link to Your Reviews Page – Add links to your review pages from your website in your footer or on your Contact Us page.
For more on where and how to get reviews, view our small business owner’s guide to getting reviews.
Step 7: Create Fresh Content with High-Volume Keywords
Keeping your website content updated with copy that includes your primary keywords (noted from your Google Keywords Tool research above) can help boost your website’s ranking on search engines. Content can be in the form of web page updates or blog posts, but whatever the form, be sure you create content that is helpful to your target audience.
An easy way to keep your website current and relevant is by maintaining an active blog. This allows you to create posts that use your keywords while also telling Google your website is up-to-date without actually having to update your web pages. Consider writing on topics that answer frequently asked questions or sharing your expertise in your industry.
Also, be consistent in your posting. Decide on a posting schedule and stick to it for as long as possible; Google sees these updates and ranks your site higher because you are continuing to offer fresh, relevant content to readers.
For ideas on what to write about, use the Google Keyword Planner tool to see what keywords related to your business or industry have high search volume. For example, if you are a pizza business in NYC, you could search keywords like “ingredient sourcing,” “organic,” or “pizza recipes.”
Top 6 SEO Tools to Rank on Google
Search engine optimization (SEO) tools enable you to take the guesswork out of search engine optimization by giving you insights about your keywords, analyzing your website, helping you grow your domain authority through directories, and more. Optimizing a website to rank on Google can be tricky if you’re not a search engine optimization or web development pro. However, there are tools available to help make it a lot easier for small businesses.
Here are the top search engine optimization tools for small businesses:
- Google Keyword Planner Tool – A free tool where you can get data and suggestions on keywords.
- Google Trends – Get insight into what people are searching for using Google Trends. These insights can give you ideas for relevant content, which will help increase your page rank.
- Localworks by Yahoo! – Localworks is a business listing tool that helps you easily manage your online reputation, exposure, and page rank through business directory listing management.
- Can I Rank? – A robust search engine optimization tool that not only provides keyword data, but also actionable information on what you need to do in order to rank better in search.
- Moz Link Explorer – A free tool that lets you check the web for links back to your site, as well as give you ideas for new content.
- Check My Links – Check My Links is a free Google Chrome plug-in that scans for your links across the web and notifies you if any are broken.
10 SEO Pro Tips to Increase Google Rank
Learning how to rank higher on Google isn’t easy, but with the help of search engine optimization professionals, you can start increasing your Google rankings more quickly. We’ve talked to the pros to get you top tips from those who are experts in the field.
Here are 10 tips from search engine optimization (SEO) pros on how to rank higher on Google:
The Bottom Line: Google Small Business
Ranking highly on Google is achieved by strategically using keywords and design elements on your website that are favored by Google. Learning how to rank on Google will help give you the ability to capture the top organic and local results. Every business should be consistent in their efforts to increase and/or hold their top position on Google, as online searches are a primary way for customers to find companies and products.
One of the easiest ways to ensure you rank on Google is by tracking and maintaining your online business listings. That’s why Localworks is a go-to for many small businesses. In their easy-to-use dashboard, you can manage your business information in over 60 different directories, ensuring that your information is up to date and optimized for search results. See where you rank with a free scan and save 20% on managing your listings with code LOCAL20.