How to Beat Your Competition in Google Search in 3 Steps
We're going to show you how to set up your website so it can get you more customers.
Sure - you and everyone else! Why should I trust you?
You should trust our results.
If we were going to hire an SEO agency, we'd hire an SEO agency that:
- Was at the top of Google
- We could do business with face to face
- We trusted to tell us exactly what we need
- Wants to develop long-term relationships with clients
- Caps the number of clients they take on so we know we'll keep getting great service
So as a new SEO company we've made it a priority to provide tailored services to just 10 local clients and get our new website to the top of Google.
In all truth we expected it to take a while going against other SEO professionals, but in 3 short months we started outranking established competitors who are SEO experts.
At the time of writing (19/12/2016) our domain is about 4 months old and the website that's on it is roughly 3 months old. Right now we are ranking for most of our main target local search terms, which might even be how you found us:
Why does that matter to me?
Unless you want to get more business automatically - then it matters a lot.
Because you can use the exact method we've laid out here to do the same for your business. Generate customers online so you can focus on working ON your business, instead of IN it.
This approach even beats SEO professionals, so whoever is helping your competition steal all your online business, this will let you take it right back. Even better, it will help keep you at the top for years to come.
Why are you giving this away?
We are giving this away for four reasons:
- To help you grow your business so you can enjoy the freedom you want in life
- To help sustain the local economy in the uncertain times since the 'Brexit' referendum.
- To improve the reputation of the SEO industry we love.
- So you know that we can do exactly what we say we can do as well as anyone in the world (if not better).
Okay, there may be something to what you're saying. I'll pay attention - what do I need to do?
You need to be prepared to set aside what you already know for now, start from the beginning and go through the whole process. You'll also need to dedicate the time to it - contrary to popular belief, SEO is not really 'free'. It takes time or it takes money, or it might take both.
It may be that you can actually short cut some of this when the time comes if it's already in place. You might not need a new web design, for example.
Then again, you might. This is an investment in your business that can reap rewards for years to come and should be treated seriously.
Also, be prepared to do some research. If you're creating your own site but aren't familiar with HTML or WordPress, covering those things in detail is beyond the scope of this guide and you'll need to find out about those things as you go.
If you're not sure and want some help you can always contact us for a consultation.
There are three parts to this process:
- Planning your website
- Creating your website
- Building links to your website
This is exactly how we did it and HOW YOU CAN DO THE SAME...
1. Plan Your Website
Whether you already have a website or are thinking of a new one - 30% of SEO is your website. But getting this 30% right is vital because it makes the remaining 70% much, much more effective and will give you a head start.
Even if you already have a site we recommend following these steps from the beginning to make sure it's as well optimised as it can be - there's always something to improve, often a lot, and it will really pay off in the long run.
Perform thorough keyword research
It's vital to get to know your customers and their habits in search. It's easy to think people are always going to search for things in the way you would search for them yourself, but it doesn't usually work that way at all and can lead to missing out on a lot of potential business.
That's why every search engine optimisation strategy should start with keyword research. As you go through this, add each unique phrase you find into a spreadsheet using something like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets or Open Office.
Consider the intent behind each search
Every search has an intention behind it - people are always searching for a reason. Ask yourself - are they looking for information or to purchase something?
As a local business you want to rank for searches that demonstrate people are looking to purchase services. These are known as buyer intent keywords.
For example, if someone Googles 'seo' then they're probably looking for information about SEO. Getting our site in front of them isn't likely to result in a sale, at least not quickly. So while it's possible to achieve those rankings and would be excellent for brand awareness, it would cost a fortune in content marketing going against huge companies such as Moz and would be a poor investment for us right now.
However, if someone searches for 'seo agency newcastle' then they're looking for a local business that can provide them with a specific service. There is buyer intent behind that search.
Use the following (free) tools to research which terms people are using to research your industry:
Do a Google Search
Perform a few searches in Google as you imagine people would search for you, then scroll to the bottom for more related suggestions from the horse's mouth (so to speak!).
Use the Google Keyword Planner
Take all of those searches and feed them into the Google Keyword Planner to get more ideas. It will also give you a rough idea of the number of people searching for your products or services, the different searches Google themselves associate with your industry and how much it's costing your competitors for potential customers to click on an advert.
That cost per click can be a good indicator of keywords with buyer intent.
Use SEM Rush
Use SEM Rush to see what's working for your competitors and get more specific data on how many people search for different keywords. Free use of their database should be enough to find information you can use.
Ubersuggest acts a little like an extension of Google's 'related searches' section but gives more results you may not find there or in the Keyword Planner.
Now you know exactly how your customers are searching for what you do and are in a strong position to build a website to target those searches.
As long as you know what to do with those keywords...
Plan your website's structure
First create a copy of the keywords in another sheet - you will need to be able to come back to them separately for both of these tasks. Then...
Group the keywords into topics
The keywords need to take the lead in deciding the topics - there's no single way to do this. Generally you want 7-10 keywords in each group, but it may be more or fewer than that. It comes down to common sense.
It also comes down to how big a website you're going to build, because each group of keywords = 1 web page. This is the group of keywords we created for our 'SEO agency' topic:
We ended up with 7 of those groups, each summarising a particular aspect of our SEO services:
- SEO Agency
- Local SEO
- SEO Consulting
- Web Design
- SEO Audits
Identify every unique word
Having every unique word means you now know most (if not all) of the words users (and therefore search engines) associate with your industry.
When it comes to writing the content for your website it helps to leverage how clever search engine algorithms have become. Google and other search engines can understand the meaning of words, so including synonyms in your website content shows search engines that you're covering the topic in a broad way while keeping your site content sounding natural for users.
Using the functions in Sheets, put each individual word into separate cells.
Now drag them all into the same column and remove all duplicates:
In an empty cell, type 'UNIQUE(' and then drag the mouse to select all of the cells containing a word to complete the formula. This will list all unique words in that column:
Plan your website's written content
Search engines need words to understand what a website is about. They are good at recognising pictures, but there's only so much usable information they can take from them.
They've also got very good at identifying 'keyword stuffing' - putting the same word onto a page over and over to make it look as if that page goes into detail about that topic.
If you want your website to add value to your business for years to come, there is no substitute for writing quality content that will help users while giving search engines what they want to see.
It's time to go back to your spreadsheet of keywords and you may want to open up Google Docs as well...
Identify unique words in each individual topic group
Add a title - in this case 'SEO Company' was our title.
Apply the steps you used before to find each unique word within a topic group and copy them into your new document.
Now you have a list of all of the words associated by users and search engines with that one topic so you can use them to plan out the content that will define each page. Do all of this for one group/page at a time:
This is the address of each page of your website that appears in the bar at the top of the browser.
Using as many of the words as you can, write a complete sentence that actually makes sense. Remove any 'stop words' (if, and, to, but etc). This leaves you with the URL for that topic/service page. Put your most important words at the start of the sentence.
The sentence for our SEO Agency group was:
"The best SEO Company for internet marketing services"
We removed 'best' because that's really for our results to say and for our clients to decide for themselves. We removed 'the' and 'for' because they are stop words. Now our URL is:
For your essential pages, stick with the title you set in the first place:
Your home page should be just the domain, in our case 'www.tinydigital.co.uk'.
These are the words that show up as highlighted links in search results and are very important when it comes to ranking in search results.
Again, refer to your list of keywords to choose these words and don't try to stuff them all in because you won't have enough room. Think along the lines of the topic title and the main keyword that page is targeting and be sure to include your location if you're a local business.
We write page titles to this formula:
Keyword + Location | Keyword Synonym/Unique Selling Point | Brand Name
Using vertical bars (|) as a separator makes page titles easier to read and keeps them physically shorter than using a hyphen - you don't have a lot of room before they get cut off, especially on mobile.
Meta descriptions don't play much of a role in search engine rankings any more, but they are very important for user interaction so write them to encourage someone to click onto your website. There's a lot more space to play with here, so try and include keywords you didn't use in the page title, your unique selling point then entice a click. We summarise that with this formula:
Relevance + USP + Click
Heading tags structure the paragraphs on your site and search engines look at them as strong indicators about what the site is about. There are different levels of heading, H1-H6 with H1 being the most important.
Implement H1 - H3 as a minimum - write them first to structure your content, then write content to the headings you've written.
Include a variation of your keyword in the H1 but turn it into a sentence. On our agency services page the H1 tag reads:
'SEO Internet Marketing Service in the North East'
This uses a synonym to demonstrate topical relevance and also a synonym for the location.
Further down the page there is also an H3 - 'A Small SEO Company You Can Trust' and other H3s - H4s that include 'SEO Agency' as part of short sentences like 'What is an SEO Agency?'
As always, spread your keywords around and write them into natural sentences. Even unnatural sounding keywords can be written into sentences with a bit of thought. That's one of the reasons we might present ourselves as 'An SEO Agency Newcastle Can Trust'.
Include essential pages
Over the years Google have let slip various things they are looking for in a 'quality' website that their algorithm will consider showing high in the rankings. Having looked at probably every business website in the world, they know what they are looking for...
A home page should have at least 1000 words and images on it.
Include a mission statement and 'Meet the Team' section with pictures, physical address and phone number and at least 500-1000 words.
This is not a blog - it is 5-10 articles each on their own web page that will be genuinely useful to your potential customers. They should contain 750-1500 words each, though the more the better. They should also include links to well-known websites, self-hosted images and embeds of a relevant YouTube video.
(Note: To start with we integrated this approach into our individual service pages so we can invest some time gradually write articles like this one.)
This is the top level page that will link to all of the service pages you've planned out. Ideally want to get at least 500 words on this page.
Have an embedded contact form and list all of your manual contact information, known as your NAP (name, address and phone number). Listing an email is a must as well.
Now you've planned out every page you're going to have on your website and what purpose it's serving it's time to...
All websites needs images. Every page should have at least 2 images that are stored on your website. Sourcing them and optimising them in bulk is ultimately a lot quicker than doing it as you go.
You might have a number of images you’ve created just for your website such as head shots, location shots and pictures of your work. If you don’t have them we highly recommend doing them, even if it just means grabbing a smart phone and doing them yourself.
These are great for the About Us and Home pages, but as you go through this process you will find that you need additional images to suit other pages.
In that case, there are loads of stock photography websites out there that cater to this:
Visit search.creativecommons.org and select Google images to search for anything you may want picture of. Everything you find has been marked free for business use with modification, so you can pretty much do what you like with them.
Stock Photo Secrets costs £75/year and you get 200 downloads for that. It’s one of the cheapest around. If you need more you can get 50 additional downloads for around £38.
Photo Dune starts at $3/image.
Prepare Your Images
It's best to make images unique to your site by giving them small edits, especially if you use any of the free options. Just crop a little bit off, maybe change a colour to suit the website. They will also need to be optimised to reduce the file size to increase load time and remove any meta data that identifies them as being from another website.
Name Your Images
Name your image for a keyword it relates to and for the page it's going to be on. One of the images on our SEO agency page is called top-seo-company.jpg.
Reduce the Image Size and Remove Meta Data
Install ImageOptim (for Mac or Windows) and drag all of your image files onto it. It will compress them and strip all meta data in bulk. If you don't strip the meta data then any or all of your images will usuually be whispering to Google that they originally came from a stock photo site.
2. Create Your Website
Write the site's content
Outsource this if you have a budget for it and be sure to provide the content you've already created including the list of keywords, URLs, Page Titles, Meta Descriptions and H tags so they can write to the research.
Otherwise you can of course do it all yourself, but it is time consuming and outsourcing can be an efficient use of resources. Keep in mind that you do tend to get what you pay for with writers, so spend what you can.
We recommend turning to Google to find a local copywriter to work with or searching the Professional Copywriters' Network.
Other sources for writers include freelancer websites such as:
We decided to keep our site content in-house so we could keep it in 'our voice' and have greater control of scattering in keywords and synonyms where appropriate. Of course it's an on-going project, as any website should be.
Choose your platform
There are two broad options when it comes to creating your website. You can create your website in a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or you can create it directly with html code. Both have advantages and disadvantages, though if you want to follow along with what we did we create most of our sites in WordPress for the flexibility it gives and this one was no exception.
Of course, you could always consider getting a web designer to handle this part for you. Just don't expect them to have the knowledge to implement SEO to this level - lots of well meaning web designers say they 'do SEO' when the reality is their expertise focuses on web design itself to the point that they hardly scratch the surface of SEO.
Design your website
There are thousands of websites that go into detail about this topic, so we're going to stick with the SEO elements of it. From an SEO agency's point of view, the website is there to do one thing and one thing only:
- Generate customers
That means the design should be focused on getting people to get in touch with you by phone, email or through subscribing to your mailing list.
Conversion rate optimisation
This is the percentage of visitors that turn into enquiries for your business. What would it mean if your site went from a 2% to 10% conversion rate? You're now getting 10 enquiries for every 100 visitors instead of 2.
Small things can make a surprisingly big difference, but at its simplest this comes down to three things:
- Call out to your customers in the headline so they know immediately that they're in the right place
- Write your content specifically targeting customers, their pain points and how you solve them
- Make sure it's easy for people to contact you as soon as they land on the page.
People like websites that load quickly, so search engines do too. Part of this comes down to the coding of the website, but factors that are easier for you to control are:
Cheap hosting means you're sharing server space with lots of other sites on a limited bandwidth. Your site is going to load slowly, so spend what you can for quality hosting.
Images are one of the biggest drains on load speed. Hopefully this won't be much of an issue if you've prepared them properly, but there are still a couple of options you can implement to further reduce their impact on your load speed. This includes implementing lazy load so images only load when a user scrolls to them instead of as soon as the site appears and
Every single one of our images gets optimised for the web using ImageOptim as outlined above. Then we implement WP Smush to compress them further once on the website and use a lazy load plugin.
A cache stores a version of your website to show to users so it doesn't have to load fresh every time. It can increase load time significantly. We use WP Super Cache to cache our website.
Most of the essentials that we planned out before such as the page titles, meta descriptions and H tags can only be added to a website using html. Ways to do this will vary depending on the platform your website uses.
We are using WordPress plugin Project Supremacy to insert these details into each page. If your website is coded in html they will need to be typed in by hand.
LocalBusiness JSON-LD Schema
This is specialist markup code that gives search engines extra information about your website and what it's about. It tells search engines which image is your logo, if you're a roofing contractor or a solicitor, which social media profiles are yours and which Google Maps listing is yours.
Google prefer JSON-LD schema, so we do too. You can create your own here:
You can see how we've implemented it on our website at Google's Structured Data Testing Tool. Again, we used Project Supremacy to implement this and it's one of the reasons we love the plugin.
Get your website 'talking' to your Google My Business listing (assuming you have one - if you haven't, go and create/claim it!) by embedding the map from it. Visit your listing in Google Maps then click Share > Embed and copy the code onto your website.
We've added ours to our footer from the listing here.
Link your website together
Linking the website together makes the whole site easier for users to use and for search engines to crawl. It also helps share the value of links across the whole website. It's really a straightforward series of loops based on which level a page is on. Our linking structure (or 'SILO', which stands for 'site interlinking optimisation') looks a little bit like this (hint: yours should, too!):
3. Build Links to Your Site
This is the other 70% of SEO and you generally can't rank a website without links, especially in competitive industries. However, if you get the planning and creation of your website right it can take far fewer than you might think...
Links are like a vote in your favour. Except not all votes are created equal - a vote from someone that's received a lot of votes themselves has more value. So a link from the BBC has more value than a link from a new blog, because that new blog has no links going to it.
It's sometimes described as 'link juice' - the more links a site has the more 'link juice' it has to pass on. So you want links from websites with lots of 'link juice' to pass on...
Build Links from Authority Sites
Create Branded Social Media and Blog Profiles
You've probably already got a few, but a few more can only help. You can even set them up so they post to each other automatically so once they're created there's no extra work. We recommend creating profiles on:
Having said that, at the time of writing we've only got:
Submit Content to Sharing Sites
It's easy to build links on lots of authority websites because they were created just for people to add things to. It's perfectly natural to add a link to where it's from.
- Infographics - flickr.com
- PDFs - slideshare.net
- Videos - youtube.com
- MP3s - soundcloud.com
Beat the Google Sandbox for New Websites
The Google Sandbox is a basic function of Google's algorithm that punishes new websites in the rankings for the first 6 months they exist. This can be beaten by creating sufficient authority by building numerous links from authority domains with this method.
Send Out a Press Release
Local press sites are generally hungry for stories. Sending a press release to multiple local news websites can create a lot of relevant, authoritative links. If you're lucky one of these might get indexed by Google News and you end up with Google themselves linking to you.
Reach out to Friends and Other Website Owners
Building links that will create sustainable search engine rankings is all about content marketing. There are a few ways of doing this which we'll cover in more detail in another article, but two examples are:
- Guest posting - write articles for another site and place a link back to your site within them.
- Authority article creation - write an article to end all articles on something to do with your industry, then reach out to related (but non-competing) websites to see if they'd like to link to it.
We have a friend (who shall remain anonymous to protect his identity and his site!) with a great website that gets a fair bit of traffic and is well thought of by search engines. We reached out to him and asked if we could write something for his site and link back to our site within the article.
He said yes.
That's the only 'difficult' link we've built that is sustaining our rankings just now - we'll keep this section updated as we get more links and our rankings continue to improve.
That's it - A Complete SEO Strategy!
Now you have a complete blueprint to dominate Google search results. Even most SEO companies don't have their websites so well optimised and won't perform this level of service for their clients, so if you own a cleaning company or a law firm you can use this to beat your competition and sustain your business for years to come.
Feel free to follow along or get in touch with us if you'd like to chat about getting it done for you.