Competing in the digital space is tough. There are a lot of websites out there, and rivalry for attention is fierce. Success in the digital landscape is reliant on a smorgasbord of factors, but being “found” ranks among the most critical. You may have great content or a unique interface, but if no one can find your site, you won’t gain much traction.
Small businesses face budget limitations when it comes to competing for consumer’s attention and generating business from a website. Enterprises are spending millions of dollars a year to boost search rankings and purchase ads to increase user engagement. But luckily, search success is not reliant on money alone.
The websites that succeed in search are those that adhere to the search algorithms and use the tools available to their advantage. Google offers a whole suite of them, and they all happen to be free. These tools are available to anyone, and yet simply not knowing about them puts you at a disadvantage. To level the advantages, you must start playing on the same field.
There are five free tools that every small business should be using to improve the performance of their website:
1. Page speed insights.
This tool is straightforward and very user friendly. It tests the speed of your website and provides feedback on how to better improve performance based on a series of tests. Not only will this tool tell you how fast your site loads, but it will also tell you how to fix it.
If you only have five minutes to use one of these tools, make it this one. It addresses a lot of problems in one quick analysis, and is one of the easiest ways to improve your site without sacrificing too much time. You want to aim to have your site in the 70/100 range and optimally above 85/100 on both mobile and desktop.
2. Search console.
This tool provides insight into how Google sees your website and what to fix to make it better. These insights are useful because they give you the opportunity to optimize your site and address any aspects that are negatively impacting its rank in search results.
Search console will show you things such as how many pages Google has indexed, if you have any suspicious malware on your site and if you have any 404 “page not found” issues. If the tool is telling you to fix something, it means Google cares about it in their search algorithm.
3. Keyword planner.
A website’s success on Google is based on one of two things: SEO and Google AdWords. The latter is a unique marketplace that has democratized the digital advertising world. Unlike TV, where ad buys could cost upwards of millions of dollars, Google AdWords empowers anyone with a few dollars to advertise their product or service.
Keyword planner is the tool that helps hone your strategy. Taking advantage of this tool is as easy as typing in a few keywords and hitting enter. It will tell you how much a keyword is searched for each month and how competitive it is.
4. Structured data testing tool.
Did you know there are more metatags other than title, description and H1 tags? Google is constantly trying to get more information from websites to make the search experience better. One example is “rich snippets,” which provides clues of data to help Google understand specific pages.
Rich snippets can tell search engines if a page is about a recipe, hours of operation for a business or details about a video on a page. All of this is helpful to users and Google’s algorithm favors it accordingly. The structured data testing tool tells you if your site is using rich snippets and if any of them are broken or coded incorrectly — and thus not performing optimally.
5. Mobile-friendly testing tool.
Google rolled out its mobile-preferred search ranking algorithm last year, meaning your site’s rankings depends on your site’s mobile performance. As consumer preference leans towards mobile search — in 2016, mobile search topped desktop searches 51.2 percent to 48.7 percent — Google anticipates the continuation of that trend and requires mobile compatibility for sites ranking among the highest in search results.
This mobile testing tool will run an analysis of your site’s capability on mobile devices and lets you know if it is playing friendly on mobile devices. If your site is not mobile friendly, the tool will provide feedback and suggestions on how to fix it.