Getting ahead in the world of small business is a challenge in itself – add to that the need to establish and maintain an online presence, and you might get a burning desire to hide under the covers and skip work tomorrow.

Another thing that makes building a business online challenging is the fact that you have to play by someone else’s rules.

Google, the one search engine to rule them all, has a somewhat unpleasant habit of altering the rules of the game at times, without ample fair warning, leaving you stranded in the dark with no paddles to row you to shore.

To avoid getting similarly stranded again, let’s explore how you can ensure your small business rankings never unexpectedly drop again, no matter what cuddly animal Google next decides to unleash in the form of an algorithm.

1. Focusing on UX rather than AIX

The experience your website offers to its users is the one main thing that could be hurting your rankings without you being fully aware of it. 

Google is adamant about the importance of user experience as one of the key factors for improved rankings. If you try to outsmart the algorithm and write your pages for Google’s AI instead of the users you are trying to attract, woe betide you.

Some of the most basic things you can do in terms of UX are:

  • Make your website layout easy to understand – use transparent menus and site hierarchy.
  • The site hierarchy should be logical and easy to understand, without complex loops and pages.
  • The theme and design of the website should be easy on the eyes and aesthetically pleasing.

2. Speed is key

Modern internet users have become a bit spoiled. They’ve grown accustomed to websites loading fast, and if they need to wait for more than a couple of brief seconds for a page to load, they will abandon it then and there.

With that in mind, you need to keep your website not only responsive and intuitive but fast, too.

Here’s how to do just that:

  • The server you choose should be located where your target audience is.
  • The server should also have fast response times and incredible up times.
  • The images you use should be compressed and as small in terms of MB size as they can be.
  • Essentially, every element of your website should be compressed and optimized for fast loading.
  • All unnecessary elements (superfluous images and scripts) should be removed or at least streamlined.

3. Content is queen

Content is what makes the web go round. And while you might expect your brilliant and informative content to rank well, that may not be the case.

Big brands are more likely to rank in the top three – even if their content is of lesser quality – than small brands who have published better content on the same topic.

Small brands can overcome this issue by having much better topic expertise than big brands and publishing longer content on the same topic. 

However, since content is expensive and time-consuming to produce, you’ll want to reach for content audits to ensure you’re pouring your efforts in the right place. According to this case study, a properly executed content audit can increase your traffic (and consequently, your rankings) by a significant amount.   

4. Choosing keywords that you can reach

While we’re on the subject of content, there’s another important facet of rankings you need to take into account: keywords.

As a small business, you can never compete with a large website.

Your money pages (i.e., service and product pages) will never rank among the likes of Amazon or insert name of largest competitor here.

The way around this is to perform smart keyword research: find keywords that have high-ish search volumes, that are directly related to the products and services you offer, and that is not already overrun by big brands.

Once you have found these keywords, you need to write better content than a big brand would, and build enough links to it so that it ranks well enough for your target audience to find it.

5. Understand the rules of the game

Finally, the one thing you need to do if you want to make sure the big G does not mess with your rankings is play by their rules.

Let me give you an example here to illustrate this point.

You hire someone to do some off-page SEO for you. They build you a bunch of links, you pay them for their time and effort, and lo and behold, your rankings drop overnight.

The simplest conclusion to be drawn is that there’s something wrong with the links: their anchor text is overoptimized, they were built on spammy websites, and so on.

The only way to escape this pothole is to know what the rules of the game are – and play by them. 

Naturally, this does not mean that you need to read and memorize the Webmaster Guidelines by heart. You don’t need to turn yourself into an expert to rank well. But you do need to educate yourself a bit about the insanely vast marketing arena you are entering.

Most small businesses outsource their digital marketing efforts, and 65% of them have worked with more than one agency or freelancer. In other words: there are people out there selling digital marketing services who don’t do a well enough job in at least some respect.

This is where your savviness and knowledgeability comes into play: if you know what Google demands of you, you will be much better equipped to provide just that.

Final thoughts

The key takeaway we hope you leave with is that Google is not the enemy. True, it is not as transparent as it might be, but if they told all of us how the algorithm works, a bunch of black-hat SEOs would find a way to exploit it.

The one thing you can do to keep your rankings climbing instead of dropping is to play by the rules. Explore how they change over time and don’t look for quick wins. Slow and steady wins the race, so don’t aim to be a hare, but rather adopt the mannerisms of a tortoise.

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Natasha Lane

Natasha is a web designer, a lady of a keyboard and huge tech geek. Her expertise could be summed up in IT, branding and business growth-related topics. Natasha is always happy to share her knowledge by writing some awesome content. To see what she is up to next, check out her Twitter dashboard.

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