There’s no getting away from the fact that for your online business to thrive, it needs to make a very important friend.
Remember the popular kid at school you dared not make an enemy of? The gossip who – one unfortunate squirt of a ketchup sachet later (how can a tiny piece of plastic create such trajectories?) – has the rest of Year 10 believing your prized loafers are home-made?
Let’s substitute the tomato ketchup sachet (stay with me) for any one of the following: slow PageLoad speeds, bad backlinks, low quality content, an unindexable website or poorly researched key phrases.
Next, let’s swap out the vindictive receiver of aforementioned ketchup for arguably the world’s most powerful company and owner of 92% of the entire global search market: Google.
The behemoth’s heady ascent to the top of, well, everything, has seen it take on the mantle of de-facto regulator of the World Wide Web. It deals with hundreds of thousands of businesses and advertisers on a daily basis, processing an eye-watering amount of data and automations to ensure internet users have the best possible experience.
Quite simply, if your business is identified as a threat to that user experience, you’re going to be penalised.
This penalty could mean anything from your Google Ad not displaying, to your website plummeting down the search rankings. Google could even decide to simply ignore you, leaving you to skulk in the Bing backwaters.
The great news is there’s an assortment of free and easy-to-use online tools that will help ensure you remain firmly on its good side.
This may not be news to you, but if you have an online business then Google Analytics (GA) is an absolute necessity.
The GA platform enables you to analyse the performance of your website and traffic sources by metrics such as unique visits, page dwell time, page views, bounce rate (people leaving your site after one page view) and goal completions – whether that’s a visitor filling out a form or downloading a brochure.
By inserting a piece of code into the header tags on your website, you can assess the performance of individual pages and blog posts, chart the effectiveness of organic search as a driver of web traffic and conversions, or even evaluate how your website performs on different devices and web browsers.
Custom reports and integrations with other platforms make Google Analytics a must-have tool for online businesses that position detailed insight at the heart of their web strategy.
We all want our businesses to show up as the first organic search result when someone types in a relevant key phrase, but unfortunately this often takes time and work. So, while you gradually build your SEO – making good use of headings, page titles, meta descriptions, alt text and keywords in page copy – Google Ads can act as an effective signpost for users trying to find you in cluttered spaces.
There are various strategies for developing the right mix of key words to target, with advertisers able to use ‘exact’, ‘phrase’, ‘broad’ and ‘negative’ matches. We would recommend starting out by casting the net wide with broad matches, then analysing the performance of your ads to refine your list of keywords down to exact or phrase matches. This test-and-learn approach will ultimately deliver greater efficiency in the long run.
Google Ads comes with a host of ways to make your campaigns more compelling, be it sitelink extensions or responsive ads. There are also various bid strategies and targeting options you can choose from, granting you the flexibility required to drive growth on a limited budget.
Google’s Search Console tool is another must-have for online businesses. It is in essence the communication line between your website and Google, acting as a warning flare for any malfunctions that may be impeding the search engine’s crawlers (or in other words, the bits of code Google sends out to go through your website and check everything’s hunky dory).
The Google Search Console allows users to monitor the performance of their website in search results and troubleshoot issues with indexing, spam, dodgy backlinks and anything else that can affect ranking. It can be integrated with other tools such as GA and Yoast, making it a key cog in your online strategy.
In case you didn’t know, Google now considers the speed with which your website performs as a big factor in where it ranks. Yet detecting the causes of a slow page load can be far from simple.
Enter stage right, PageSpeed Insights.
With user intent now central to Google’s approach, Google My Business is a key component for companies with a local or regional focus. The information you display through the platform – business address, opening hours, contact number, customer reviews, maps – is often the first thing people see when finding your business online, and first impressions are important.
Though GMB is fundamentally a business listing tool that boosts visibility in local search results, it also comes with added features. Through it, you can share blog posts, company announcements and promotions to attract engagement, while the capacity to upload photos and videos can be hugely advantageous in terms of branding and differentiation.
And finally, we have Google Trends. This platform is used to perform keyword research and identify trends in search behaviour. Users can filter data by geographical location and topics to detect opportunities for additional search traffic related to your online business.
This capability is invaluable to marketers in an online environment where the competition for clicks is intense. It opens up new avenues for brands, while providing a robust platform to visualise what is and isn’t working within an SEO strategy. Used in conjunction with the likes of Google Ads, Search Console and Analytics, Google Trends can be a game-changer for businesses requiring a deeper level of insight from which to act.
With businesses of all shapes and sizes pivoting to an online-first model to meet the consumer shift to e-commerce, assembling the right tools to aid the development of a robust online strategy is vital. Without them, marketers are going in blind; with them, they have the opportunity to grow their own way.
We’ve only focused on Google’s suite of products here which can all be plugged into Google Data Studio to create a one-stop-shop for your convenience. And with the likes of Semrush, Screaming Frog and Keywords Everywhere also available to businesses for free, the power to optimise your SEO strategy truly rests at your fingertips.
Want to learn more about how strong SEO will drive the effectiveness of a wider marketing strategy for your online business? Reach out to our team.