One of the great resources for making a business visible is having an online presence, including and even especiallly a website…unless…nobody knows where it is or how to find it. And when you type in the business name, all that shows up is your Facebook page (if that, and if you even have one). Because nowadays, if Google hasn’t found your site, then you pretty much DON’T EXIST to the world.
Fortunately, this is fixable. But first, there are a few steps to take and a few pieces of information you will need.
Step 1: Gather Your Information
Gather all your business information, including hours, address, contact information, services, full business name and description… the works. If you’ve done this right, you already have the information exactly where you and everybody else needs it…. Right there on the homepage of your website!
Next: Make sure you have access and can log into your site’s admin area. You may also need the login for the domain registration (just in case).
You are now ready to submit your site to Google, Bing, and other Search Engines.
Step 2: Set Up Your Google Accounts and Submit Your Website URLs to Google
To verify your site and submit the sitemaps in the search consoles, you will need to set up accounts for the business. If the accounts already exist you will need the login information, including the email address, login/username and password.
- Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools, requires a Google account): https://search.google.com/search-console/about
- Google Marketing Platform (Includes Google Analytics and Tag Manager): https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/
- Google My Business https://www.google.com/business/
Search engines will most likely find and index your site on their own, so submitting a site (and sitemap) is optional. It is however a good idea to submit a sitemap for new sites and for significantly updated sites with new pages as this can help the site and changes get crawled and indexed faster.
To add a site to Google Search Console, you will first need to sign up for a Google account, if you do not already have one. You can do this at Google.com. This will also give you access to Gmail and all the other tools they offer. The search console will also give you a great deal of information that is useful in managing your site and understanding how it appears to search engines.
Next Google will want to verify that you are the owner of the site. Search console will give you a number of options for doing this, so you can select the method that works best for you. The bonus-points method is to set up and use your Google Marketing Platform account with Analytics, because you then have all the reporting on traffic and audience behavior as well as an easy way to verify site ownership.
Google My Business will likely be the most involved for setting up as you will need to verify that you are the owner of the business. In most cases, verification means that Google will send you a postcard with a unique verification code that you will then enter to prove ownership. This may take a few weeks.
Claiming and verifying your business in Google My Business is especially important for a local bricks & mortar shop to show in local search results. The business will need to be verified for the business results to show on Google Maps.
Step 3: Set Up Your Bing Accounts and Submit Your Website URLs to Bing and Yahoo
Once you have taken care of Google you are ready to submit your site to Bing. The good news is that updates for Bing also apply to Yahoo search, so you can take care of both search engines here. Even better: Bing allows you to import your Google My Business account information once your business has been verified, so it’s all easy-peasy.
You can sign up for your accounts here:
- Bing Toolbox/Webmaster (also updates Yahoo): https://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster/
- Bing Places for Business: https://www.bingplaces.com/DashBoard/Home
Note: You technically can do this all this from your own accounts as a freelancer/agency but be aware that this makes you the site owner. Doing it this way will be a call based on how your business is set up and how you handle your clients, along with your client’s comfort level with these tools. Some clients may want you to handle all the details, others may prefer to be very hands on. This is an entirely separate conversation but is something to be aware of before you go adding or setting up accounts.
Step 4: Determine if Your Website Has Been Indexed and How it is Ranking for Your Business Name and Keywords
To check if a website has been searched and what pages have been indexed, you can enter the URL in the search bar on each engine using the following syntax with no spaces:
Bonus: you may be able to tell when your site was last crawled by looking at the results and comparing them to any updates and changes you have recently made, such as updated titles and meta-descriptions.
The next step is to see how you rank for your business name. Enter your business name in each search engine and look for what appears in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Next: test for the results for the most likely words and phrases that prospective customers might use to find your services. Unless they have been referred to you specifically, new prospects are more likely to find you through a general search for the services they are looking for. “Dog day care near me”, not “Percy’s Perfect Pooch Spa and Boarding Kennel”.
To see how your site is ranking for search terms and how it appears in search you can use an incognito search. This way your search is not personalized or affected by your previous searches; instead it acts and gives results like a “clean” search for terms you have never searched before. This is useful as search engines now learn from your previous searches and then filter and tailor their results to what they think you’re more likely to click on. It’s not a perfect solution, as there is some evidence that search engines still use your search history and IP address even in incognito mode, but it helps as a quick check.
You can activate incognito mode using the Chrome browser by clicking the three dots in the upper right corner and then clicking on “New incognito window” from the drop menu.
Alternatively, you can use the DuckDuckGo search engine. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track users at all, so there is no way to create that “Filter bubble”. https://duckduckgo.com/
Don’t panic if you don’t yet rank for these keywords. High search positioning is achieved over time as you build presence and authority in your category. I will discuss this more in my next post.