Have you noticed anything strange with your website’s Google ranking lately? Has it dropped five or six positions or more? Is it perhaps no longer on the first page as it has been for awhile? If so, you can blame a penguin. That’s right – a penguin. Google’s Penguin 1 and 2, to be precise, the latest round of major changes to the search engine giant’s algorithms that determine how a site will rank.
What to Expect
Google doesn’t reveal exactly what the changes are, but they do hint what to expect. Keywords, of course, are still as important as ever. So are title tags and proper use of headers and alt image tags. But these aren’t enough anymore. Now, nationally recognized websites are starting to dominate page one over local domains. This has major implications for you, and there are some things you simply must do to fight back.
Competing for Page One
At Optima Automotive, we started noticing that our clients’ sites were losing their traditionally strong rankings. Overnight, it seemed that huge, national domains like Google+, Yellowbook, Dex, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Angie’s List and others were starting to dominate the top spots on page one. If you’ve traditionally been strong on page one, you may be shocked to find you’ve been bumped a few spots, or even bumped off page one.
Check it out for yourself – go to www.google.com, search the term “auto body” plus the name of your town and your two-letter state abbreviation. Be sure to look at your actual organic ranking, not the sponsored spots at the top or the Google+ map listings. If your ranking isn’t as strong as before, you’ve likely been struck by the Penguin. Replacing you in those top spots are probably the nationally recognized domains mentioned above. The big are eating the small. Even large, consolidator site pages are starting to rank better when they’re doing things right. Good news for them, not so good for independents.
What You Can Do
So what can be done about it? It has now become almost impossible to bump those national domains out of place. Unless Google makes a major algorithm shift in the future, you’re going to have to take different measures to be visible on page one. These include:
- Claim your Google+ page. It’s a MUST. Verify your business and location with Google, then start posting on your Google+ page at least once every 72 hours. Promote it to customers, ask them to +1 you and give you positive reviews on Google. Google loves it when you use their stuff! Click here for a video with more information. Read the article, “How to Make a Google+ Page For Your Business,” in the November 2012 issue of BodyShop Business.
- Participate in search engine marketing, also known as pay-per-click advertising. This will ensure you’ll be on page one. It costs some money to do it, but what is it costing you to not be on page one? Read the article, “Using SEO to Score Page One on Google,” in the February 2013 issue of BodyShop Business.
- Claim your free business listings on consumer pages like Yellowbook, Dex, Yelp, CitySearch, Manta, Yahoo Local, etc. Be in control of your listings, post photos and make sure all your contact information is exactly the same on each and every one.
- Consider becoming a sponsor on some consumer sites. It can be expensive, but sponsored listings show up first, plain and simple. It’s how the game is played. So think about your visibility, or lack thereof, when you weigh whether or not to become a sponsor.
- Consider becoming a member of Angie’s List. Their strong website is really starting to show up in search rankings.
- Become a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Make sure your shop’s information on the BBB webpage is showing up correctly and consistently with all of your other listings.
- Rock your participation in social media. Reach people this way with your brand and they will think of you first rather than searching for shops via other means.
Will this help move your own rankings higher? Not likely, certainly not with how Google is structured at the present time. Effective participation with Google+ can, however. Overall, taking control of your local consumer listings will ensure that your information is correct. People will hopefully find you that way. That’s not what you wanted to hear, most likely, but it is the reality of search in 2013.
Bet you never thought you would have to go to battle with a penguin, huh? They seem like such harmless creatures. But in this case, the penguin is taking a bite out of your business. So claim your business listings on consumer sites, consider advertising in them, claim your Google+ page and start using it. Most importantly, build relationships with vendors, 20 Groups, chambers of commerce and BBBs and get them all to link to you – and you to them. These “backlinks” are the best thing you can do on your own and will help you keep the little black and white creatures at bay.
BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, business/education partnerships, apprenticeships and Web presence management. He is the CEO of Optima Automotive (www.optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, development, search engine optimization (SEO) services and social media management services. Claypool’s work history includes stints at Metro Paint Supplies, VeriFacts Automotive, the National Auto Body Council (NABC), the I-CAR Education Foundation and SkillsUSA. He is the founder of Mentors At Work and co-founder of the Collision Industry Foundation. He served, on a volunteer basis, as the SkillsUSA World Team Leader for the WorldSkills Championships from 2003 to 2011.