In our last article, we looked at some of the recent changes to Google's algorithms and how they might affect your business’s search engine rankings. This time, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at some of the things you can do to preserve and improve your Google rankings, with a focus on local businesses. 
Of course, we can’t guarantee these will win you the number one spot (which isn’t the most important thing in any case!), but we’re fairly certain they’ll help: 
 

1. Make sure your site is mobile-responsive 

This is really important, as recent changes mean that Google not only favours mobile-friendly websites, but also prioritises the mobile version when it comes to crawling, indexing, and ranking your web pages. If your site doesn’t have a mobile version, the desktop version will still be indexed, but you could find that it slides down the rankings over time. 
 
And if you do have one, it’s a good idea to use the same URL (web address) for both versions, or at least link them together rather than keeping them separate. Otherwise, you could be penalised in the search engine rankings. 
 
Having a fully-functional mobile-responsive site is also important from your users’ point of view. After all, most people use mobile devices to access the web these days – and it can be frustrating to try to view and navigate a site that’s only been designed for desktops. 

 2. Optimise your site to load quickly 

What do you do when you visit a site that loads slowly, with images and videos in particular taking ages to put in an appearance? That’s right, you click away. So make sure you invest some time in optimising both the desktop and mobile versions of your website to load quickly. 
 
This is even more important than it used to be, as another recent change to the Google algorithms means that page speed on mobile-responsive sites is now a ranking factor. 
 

3. Sort out your SSL certificate 

Google has now started prioritising websites with SSL certificates, as these are considered to be more secure. You can tell if a site has one, as the URL will start https:// instead of http://. If you use Chrome to browse the web, you may have noticed that sites with http:// addresses will display the words ‘Not secure’ to the left of the address bar. 
 
Getting an SSL certificate is especially key if your business collects or processes sensitive data such as personal contact details or financial information. Certified sites will encrypt these details, making it less likely that your site will be hacked and the data stolen. So having a secure site is important for your customers’ peace of mind as well as your SEO rankings. 
 
All itseeze websites come with SSL certification as standard and we can easily add certification to existing sites if you’d like to move your hosting over to us. 
 

4. Create helpful and engaging content 

Ever heard the words ‘Content is king?’ In a sense they’re true, but we’d like to take things a step further and say: ‘Great content is king.’  
 
There’s no point filling up your web pages and blog articles with badly-written or irrelevant waffle. Poor content will be heavily penalised by Google (and your customers won’t be impressed either), whilst genuinely helpful, as opposed to salesy, content will help you fly up the rankings. 
 
Take the time to think about what your customers really want to know. How can you make their lives easier or save them money? What are their interests and aspirations? Put yourself in their shoes and try and look at your business from an outsider’s point of view.  
 
Of course, it can be hard to do this – and not everyone’s a natural writer. So if you find you’re struggling, hire a professional copywriter. itseeze will be happy to recommend someone. 

 5. Be clear where you’re based 

If your business relies on local trade, it stands to reason that you need to make it clear where you’re based. So make sure your front-end and back-end content include plenty of relevant geographical keywords without over-egging the omelette. Again, a copywriter can help here if you’re finding it difficult. 
 
Another ‘must’ is including a responsive Google map on your contact page. This will enable people to get directions to your location straight from the page as well as showing them exactly where you are. 
 
These actions will give you a chance of getting included in the coveted 'Local Pack'. These are the top three listings you’ll see underneath a map when you enter a business type and location into Google, such as ‘Hairdresser Arnold’. With contact details, opening hours, and links to directions and websites included in these entries, people are more likely to choose them. 
 

6. Make it easy for people to get in touch 

This sounds like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many sites out there don’t contain obvious contact details. However, these are important from a search engine listings viewpoint as well as a potential customer’s. After all, what’s the point of making it into the Local Pack if people can’t see your phone number? 
 
So, include your phone number in the header of each page as a minimum, plus an email address if you’re happy to do this. If you’d prefer not to, create a simple enquiry form that people can complete quickly and easily. The form could be included on each page of the site or just on the contact page – it’s up to you. 
 

7. Get GDPR compliant 

GDPR is the new data protection regulation that came into force in May 2018. It affects all UK businesses, placing a number of obligations on them around how personal data is collected, stored, and used. 
 
Many of these requirements revolve around your data storage and IT management systems, which we’re not concerned with here. In terms of your website, however, you’ll need to create a GDPR-compliant privacy policy and put this online. The policy should cover how you handle data offline as well as online, if applicable. 
 
There are lots of templates available on the internet which you could use as the basis for your policy, although we recommend you get it checked by a professional. 

 8. Create or review your Google My Business page 

This is another action that could stand you in good stead for getting into the Local Pack. Google My Business is basically a business directory listing that will help get you more attention in the Google rankings (surprise!). 
 
It provides all the key details about your business that your customers want to know in a nutshell. These include your contact details, a map of your location, and opening times. Your customers can also use it to ask you a question about your business or leave you a review. 
 
The key things to check are that your business name, address, phone number, and location are 100% accurate. You can also add in your business type and service areas, so make sure these are correct, too (you don’t want people thinking you’re a lawyer when you’re actually an accountant…). 
 
And if possible, get some trusted clients to leave you some positive reviews, both on Google My Business and on other sites such as Facebook, Checkatrade or TripAdvisor. It’s a good idea to respond to these reviews as this kind of engagement can help boost your SEO rankings. 
 

9. List your website on local business directories 

Do a bit of research into good quality directory websites in your local area and get your business listed online. Your local town or parish council might be a good place to start, as these organisations often feature A to Zs of local companies. Local newspapers and organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce may also have directories. 
 
There are lots of good national directories to consider as well, such as Yell.com, Freeindex, Which Trusted Traders, and many more. 
 

Need help with your website? itseeze are on hand! 

If you’re not sure your current website is up to scratch and you're in Nottingham, Mansfield, or Alfreton, why not ask us to carry out a free website health check? We’ll assess your site and email you a report explaining how it could be improved. Of course, we’d love to work with you, so please let us know if you’re interested in moving your site over to us or having a new one built. 
 
You can call us on 0115 777 3001 or complete our quick online form to request a call-back from a consultant. 
 
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