How can you improve your business’ search engine appearance? With increasing numbers of purchases starting with search, the search engine results pages (SERPs) will more than likely be the first chance to make a great impression on your potential customers. As consumers become more competent online, the search for finding the right product or service at the right price becomes a much more research-heavy process, particularly for larger purchases typically associated with business-to-business transactions (B2B). Research shows there are a number of ways your brand could be interacting with consumers across Google and other search engines to make sure you are reflected as the best possible option.
However, when it comes to search engine marketing, the term SEO is too often associated with rankings alone, without a wider appreciation of the importance of the overall appearance of your brand across search.
So what can you do to improve how your brand appears across the search results? Let us talk you through it.
With Google’s move towards more visually-focused search engine results pages (SERPs) in more recent years, it’s given producers of content the opportunity to change how their content is displayed across the results. To access these types of features, you’ll need to look at adding structured markup data so search engines can better interpret the content of your web pages and display this appropriately.
Here are some of the most common examples of schema you can easily implement on your website to boost your appearance.
Breadcrumbs are probably one of the most widely used of these, pulling through a very brief hierarchy of the site into the results snippet which will indicate to a user whereabouts on the site they are likely to land. Not only might this help with your organic click-through rate (CTR), but a great user experience is likely to leave users with a good impression of your business.
Product schema is often used by e-commerce sites, giving them the opportunity to display important product information such as price, brand and availability straight through to the snippet, which could definitely help out with your organic CTR.
Through using markup on your website, you can help increase the chances of your social pages appearing in your brand’s Google Knowledge Panel. Not only will this display links to these platforms to help improve your business’s credibility, but quite often these will pull in any review ratings you have from these platforms. Making sure that your social platforms are easily found on search could really help new users get an understanding of what you are all about.
Article/Blog Post Schema
Another useful schema that you can use is article schema. This will allow you to add a range of to structured data to your content, such as the feature image, date/time published, headline and author to your article pages. Whilst Google can find this information automatically, if you include structured data it can help Google to better understand the page content and increase the likelihood of Google to display these in a much more visually-oriented format, like in the example below.
For more information on how to make sure you’re taking advantage of structured data, you can read about implementing this on the official guide.
Google My Business
Making sure your Google My Business listing is managed correctly and kept up to date is hugely important for any local business. Not only is out of date contact and address information really going to annoy your customers, but your Google My Business listing is likely to feature very prominently in the SERPS for both branded and discovery searches. A dated-looking listing with poor quality imagery is likely to leave customers with a poor impression of your business.
More recently, as Google strives towards building a much more comprehensive platform for instant information on local services and products in the shape of Google maps, additional content such as video, Q&A Sections and service sections can also be added to your listing to you stand out from the crowd.
Here is a full list of information we would recommend adding to your listing:
- Address Information
- Service area
- Open hours
- Website address
- Contact number
- Services offered
Reintroduced in June 2017, Google posts give business much more control over how their Google My Business listing will appear within the search results for both brand and discovery searches.
Pulled onto your Google My Business listing, these posts feature really prominently in the mobile SERPs in particular, giving you a great opportunity to engage with both new and existing customers, showcasing your product or service offering or keeping them up to date with any offers and relevant company or industry news.
In addition to this, as noted in the recent Moz local search ranking factor survey, Google My Business engagement signals such as posts are also believed to carry some weight when it comes to your local rankings, so it pays to keep these regularly updated. Darren Shaw summarises this below:
“Engagement with Google Posts as well could be driving rankings up, and maybe just being an active business user continuing to post stuff and logging into your account is also helping to lift your business entity and improve your rankings. So definitely, if you’re not on Google Posts, get on it now.” Darren Shaw, Whitespark
It goes without saying that a business that displays good customer reviews across a range of platforms is going to be a much more favourable choice than one with bad reviews or no reviews at all. In fact, these online reviews are so powerful that studies show that 90% of consumers read online reviews and 88% of them trust the online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
But it’s not just reviews on your own website or Google My Business listing or you should worry about. Often, reviews from third-party sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp will pull onto your Google My Business listings and will also feature quite prominently in the organic listings for branded searches. Therefore it pays to keep a close eye on these, encouraging good quality ones whilst looking to reduce any bad reviews where possible.
When it comes to title tags, most people are aware of the obvious ranking benefit we can receive from a well-optimised snippet, but don’t fall into the trap of just simply stuffing in as many keywords as possible in a bid to rank in the top spots. If your page structure is correct, you won’t need to. Instead, see this snippet as a great opportunity to make a great first impression to your potential customers, giving a user an insight into the content they can expect from your web page and enticing them to click through.
When putting these titles and descriptions together, think about a user’s intent; what might make your snippet seem like a more favourable option than a competitors? Match this snippet with what a user will likely be looking for, highlight what sets you apart from the rest and you might find more people clicking through to your website, even if you aren’t in the top position.
Another thing to consider is that if you’ve got a strong brand that people actively seek out or have had positive experiences in the past, you might want to consider adding this towards the start of your title tag. This is especially true on your homepage, as it enables people to differentiate you from other sites and select you accordingly.
As a general guide, It’s recommended that your title tags should be between roughly 50-70 characters long and your meta description roughly 130-160 characters. This, however, will always be subject to change as Google chops and changes the appearance of the SERPs, so if you are a little bit over or under these guidelines, it isn’t anything you should lose sleep over.
In addition to any CTR benefits you might receive from this, previous studies show that organic results with high CTR are also likely to receive an additional ranking benefit as well.
This is referenced as far back as 2016, by Rand Fishkin in this tweet below:
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) March 17, 2016
Featured Snippets/Answer Boxes
The Answer Box, also known as featured snippets, is the box that appears at the top/towards the top of search results. It contains text and other media to answer queries and searches. As well as the huge traffic reward you could expect to see from an answer box featured so prominently across a well-searched question in your industry, these can really help to cement your brand as a thought leader in your industry.
In addition, rich results, such as video and other featured snippets could really help you to stand out in the search results and reflect really positively on your brand, particularly if these are served during the research process.
For larger, more thorough purchase decisions, it’s likely that users will carry out a great deal of research on you as a business before committing to purchase. Where do they go to find that information? More often than not, they turn to search engines.
This means that what is said about your business across third-party sites really matters. One way to better control what impression they are left with is investing in digital PR. Articles and brand mentions of your business from high domain authority sites are likely to rank fairly high for branded searches, not only giving you a good opportunity to showcase any positive news stories about your company but also helping to ‘push down’ any unfavourable articles in the process.
In 2019, SEO is about more than just ranking well. If you want to see a healthy return on your investment in organic, you’ll need to consider your overall appearance and what impression this might leave on your potential customers.
Hopefully, you’ve found some of these tips useful as you go into the New Year! If you’ve got others you think are worth mentioning, feel free to drop a message in the comments!