No company has had as big of an impact on the modern-day Internet as Google. Clearly, players like Microsoft, Adobe, Facebook, Netscape and Mozilla have all contributed to the growth and development of the Internet … but few would argue that they have had more impact than Google.
From building the first game-changing search engine to developing the popular Chrome browser to establishing best practices for webmasters, Google is often the driving force in Internet evolution.
As I mentioned when discussing our switch to HTTPS, if Google recommends you do something for your site, you often should.
Wait One Second
I have to get this out of the way, because it’s such a soapbox item for me.
You should not build your site or your business solely relying on Google. It’s one of the dumbest things you can do. Seriously. If they change something that your business needs to succeed, you may not have a business anymore.
You have to know the difference between doing things that Google recommends and doing things because you think it will help you succeed with Google. Implement best practices — don’t build crutches.
Okay, off of the soapbox …
Google Search Console
There’s a number of best practices you should implement to help Google learn more about your site. The more they know, the more they can drive traffic to you.
One of the first things every site owner should do when they launch their site is connect to Google Search Console. Search Console is Google’s dashboard for site owners to help monitor and maintain how the site appears in search results.
Here’s why they recommend you use it.
- Make sure that Google can access your content
- Submit new content for crawling and remove content you don’t want shown in search results
- Create and monitor content that delivers visually engaging search results
- Maintain your site with minimal disruption to search performance
- Monitor and resolve malware or spam issues so your site stays clean
Connecting your site to Search Console is as easy as uploading a file to your server, or adding a DNS record to your domain name. Once Google confirms you’re the site owner, they’ll tell you a ton of useful information, including crawl errors, popular search terms that lead to your site, and any security issues.
Submit a Sitemap
Within Search Console, you can submit an XML sitemap that tells Google what pages are on your site, how important they are, and how often they are updated.
There’s a ton of WordPress plugins that produce sitemaps, including sitemaps for your images. Create them, and submit them. As Google says, it’s not a guarantee that they’ll use everything, but it’s never going to hurt — and it’s possible you’re telling them about a page on your site they didn’t know existed.
If your site is new or has few external links, a sitemap is crucial.
Local Business? Get Verified
If you have a business address (even if it’s not a retail storefront), verify it with Google.
There’s a ton of opportunity in showing up on Google Maps when someone searches for your product category and they’re nearby, as well as the additional right-hand placement you receive in search results that really stands out.
Verifying your business requires you to set up a Google+ page, and while there’s not a ton of other benefits when having a Google+ page, it’s how they’ve decided to organize user-submitted content.
When you’re verified, you can add hours, pictures, contact information, a link to your website, and more. Give them the info, and they’ll make sure your customers (and potential customers) know about it.
Analytics Provides Key Insights
Google Analytics is one of the (if not the) most popular stat tracking software available today. It’s totally free, and provides a lot of insights into who’s coming to your site, how they’re getting there, and what they’re doing once they’re there.
Using Analytics doesn’t necessarily translate into more traffic or eyeballs for your site — Google doesn’t use that information to drive visitors to you — but it arms you with all of the information you need to test, track and target opportunities that can build your site and your business.
Help Google Help You
The more Google knows about your site, the better it can help drive traffic to you. Again, it’s not something you should rely on — you should always be driving people to you — but Google is more successful when they help real people find real search results.
They’ve been able to make a huge impact on the Internet because they focus on helping people find information, and increasingly, they want you to help provide that information. Use it to your advantage and give them the information that will drive traffic to you and build your business.
Image via fastcodesign