You might not have noticed, but lately verified individuals and organisations have been able to post text, images and videos directly to Google, with results appearing instantly in related search results in a card-like format which can be shared on social media.
At the moment the mysterious new feature is invite-only and still experimental, but public figures and organisations can join the waiting list in anticipation of the feature expanding in the future – and if it does, it’ll potentially have huge implications for search.
With these ’posts’ appearing in both mobile and PC search results, searching for the name of a verified account holder seems to return results dominated by that person or organisation, combining posts and cards with social media details and more.
However, more general category searches seem to return similar results favouring the same particular verified person or organisation, which may be a cause for concern if you’re a small business without a strong presence online.
Besides joining the waiting list for Google’s new ’post’ feature, learning how to create engaging, and technically accurate content, is going to play a key role in allowing businesses big and small to keep up with their competitors – regardless of whether the card-like feature eventually rolls out to the rest of us.
Here are five ways you can start preparing your website for Google’s growing use of real-time cards and posts in search:
1. Sort your NAP out
You need to crawl before you can walk and setting a definitive business name, address and phone number (NAP) in stone is the first step to ranking well in organic and, particularly local, search results.
Why such a basic, fundamental step? This is because Google and other search engines use this data when figuring out which companies to show for geo-targeted searches and if your NAP is inconsistent across your own and external websites, the search engines will become confused and your customers won’t be able to find you.
For multiple office or store locations, provide each branch’s name, street address, phone number and store hours (if applicable) on separate web pages using a plain text linked navigation system to make it easy for search engines to follow.
2. Set up a Google My Business account
Google My Business allows you to easily update your business information across Google Plus, search and maps all in one go, as well as enabling you to monopolise the majority of the search results pages for your brand name – a job well worth doing to keep your business in the running for future experiments.
For example, search results related to the gift shop Minchin and May take the top four spots including its website, Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as the Local Business Card on the right:
Making use of this particular tool is crucial for businesses with similar names to popular people or brands. In the example above, celebrity Tim Minchin takes the following three search results, despite having no relationship with the gift shop.
3. Optimise your website
You can get your website itself ready for Google’s basic requirements as well as its ever-evolving tools by inputting some extra information throughout your site.
For example, every page on your website should have a unique meta title and meta description. While the page title is the single most important signal for helping search engines understand what each page is about, descriptions encourage searchers to click on your result.
For best results, keep your titles to a maximum of 69 characters and descriptions to 155 characters, place keywords at the beginning of titles and descriptions, and focus on only one or two keywords so as not to confuse the search engines.
You should also optimise images on your website to increase the chances of them appearing in search engine results.
Rather than a generic image file name like ‘img0576.jpg’, write a descriptive file name and, when you upload images to your website, be sure to fill in the ’alt’ tag with a concise, relevant description of what’s going on in the image using one or two of your target keywords.
Finally, your URLs should be brief and include your main keyword as well-written URLs can act as their own anchor text when copied and pasted as a naked URL link.
4. Focus on mobile
Many businesses are still lagging behind when it comes to converting their mobile traffic – and a poor mobile experience can result in your website being ignored by search engines.
While you may think that the majority of your customers come from desktop searches, consider that your mobile and desktop users are actually the same people, with 90% of people using multiple screens sequentially.
With mobile websites set to become a major factor in how Google determines your existing rankings, as well as your eligibility for future features, your desktop customers might never reach you if they can’t find you on mobile to begin with.
You need to provide a positive experience with your mobile users’ intentions and needs in mind. Not only will optimising your site for smaller screens put you in Google’s good books and future-proof your online presence, you’ll enjoy up to a 20-30% increase in conversions, too.
Maximise your conversion rates by making it easy for users to find products via a list- or grid-view ‘hamburger menu’ and larger areas for people to click.
When designing forms, minimise the number of fields people have to complete and make sure your system saves their details for next time, consider making use of online payment methods like PayPal to speed up the checkout process.
Speaking of speed, mobile pages that are even just one second faster than 3.3 seconds enjoy up to a 27% increase in conversion rate, so use Google’s Page Speed Insights to identify ways to speed your mobile site up, from reducing your image file sizes to enabling caching and compression.
5. Create amazing, shareable content
Creating unique, great quality, content for your website has several benefits.
Pages from your company blog will be able to rank in search engines for more keyword searches, and your website will become more likely to attract links from other websites.
Why is this important? In addition to driving new leads to your business, gaining links to your site from high quality sources is one of the most effective ways to rank highly in search engine results and, ultimately, will help signal to Google that your site is worth accepting onto upcoming programmes.
The idea here is quality over quantity. One of the best ways to attract good quality backlinks is to commission original surveys or research and then using your results to create great-looking linkable assets, such as free eBooks, reports, infographics and interactive maps.
Hosting original data and insights on your company website means you can use gated eBooks or whitepapers as a lead generation exercise; you can also take statistics from your data to create guest blogs to be published on other websites.
Most importantly, one amazing piece of content will give you the scope to contact hundreds upon hundreds of relevant journalists, gaining links from the websites they write for as a cited source and snowballing your content’s reach via social media and further links for weeks, months and even years to come.
To hear more about our content marketing campaigns and database of over 8,000 journalists and 3,000 influential bloggers, get in touch with the team at Receptional today.