pie chart of web search engine usage

Google is by far the most popular search engine, as show in the pie chart above, with nearly 95% of web searches conducted using it, according to Statscounter.

When a search is conducted on Google, the results page (SERP) includes different types of results.  For the search “Website Design Wangaratta” (shown below), the top two positions are taken up by paid ads. The two businesses listed are actually not based in Wangaratta but are national services.

The next three results (under the map) are Google Business Listings, which is a free Google service. Google allows websites to be registered in a business’ physical location. The business needs to have a physical presence in that location, it can’t be just an online business that says it “operates” in a particular location.

When a search is conducted, Google Business Listings shows what Google judges to be the top three registered businesses for that service or product in a particular area. In the example above, Wangaratta Website Design Services appears in the second position of the Google Business Listings.

If a user clicks on one of the three businesses listed, further details about that business will be shown, including a link to the business’ website. If a user clicks on “more places” at the bottom of the business listings, all the businesses that have registered to sell that product or service at that particular location will be shown.

To get one of the coveted top three business listing positions depends on how useful Google judges a website to be. This can be influenced by the site’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). More about that soon.

The third section of a SERP is the organic results. My business currently comes up third in these results when someone searches for “Website Design Wangaratta”. A website’s position in the organic results depends on a number of factors including SEO and how often consumers have been clicking on a website’s search result link.

SEO

Responsive website

There are a number of factors that influence Search Engine Optimisation. The most important one is having a website that is responsive and therefore optimised for viewing on a mobile phone. This is because Google judges all websites by their functionality on a mobile phone. Many websites created a few years ago are not responsive.

Keywords

The second factor that influences SEO is the content of a website. Google bots will search a new site and index the information found on it for relevancy for particular searches. This indexing can be influenced by optimising a website for particular keywords.

A keyword is a word or phrase that people will search for. The more specific the keyword and the more likely people are to search for that keyword the better. For example, a business might sell cars. Having cars as a keyword in the website’s content enables the website to come up in the millions of results when someone searches for “cars”, which will probably include every car make and model, car mechanics, hire car firms, the pop group, etc.

The searcher will probably find the “cars” search doesn’t yield what they are after: a second hand Toyota Hilux for sale in Shepparton. So they will eventually change the search to something like “Used Hilux Shepparton”.  To be found in such a search, a second a dealer of Toyotas in Shepparton should ensure the words “used Hilux” and “Shepparton” appear in the content of their website.

Keywords should also occur in a website’s title, page titles and description, and the schema of the website. A schema is code inserted into a website that is designed to inform search engines what the website is about. Schemas can tell a search engine many things, like where the website business is located and the individual products on a website.

Sitemaps/Robot.txt

Search engines can also be helped to index a site by the inclusion of a sitemap and a robot.txt file in a website’s directory. A sitemap shows the search engine what is on a website, while a robot.txt file tells it what pages/files to search, so the search engine doesn’t index pages that aren’t viewable by a user.

Website authority

The authority of a website also influences SEO. A website’s authority is derived from a number of factors, like the number of links made to it from other websites. The higher the authority of these linking websites the better. Authority also depends on things like online reviews of a business and of citations about the website or business elsewhere on the web, such as in social media, of things like the business name, address and phone number.

From personal experience, the authority of a website primarily chasing local business does not seem to be as important as the authority needed by a website chasing national business with national competitors.