Lesson 2: Chapter 1 – Understanding How Google & SEO Work

If Google search is important to your business (and if you’re a local business, it most likely is – or can be), you’ll want to have a fundamental understanding of how Google search works and why some websites show up on-page one while others are nowhere to be found. The first thing you’ll understand is what Google aims to do; provide the absolute best and most relevant result to the searcher. Sometimes that’s in the form of information, sometimes it’s in the form of surfacing the most relevant and reputable businesses. This is important to keep in mind as it will serve as a north star for all of your SEO efforts.

The Role of Keywords (On-Page SEO)

When a user performs a search, let’s say for “pet groomers in Boston, MA”, Google’s algorithm will work to process this information and to display the best result(s). That means Google will have to first figure out which websites/businesses in their index might be a good match. To do this, Google relies on a multitude of variables including; the content (words) used on your website, the category selected to describe your business on your Google local business listing, and (likely) also the descriptions of your business found elsewhere online. By leveraging basic on-page SEO fundamentals and having a properly filled out Google business listing you will be one of the sites Google considers showing when someone searches for information related to your business online. But, that’s not enough. 

The Role of Inbound Links (Off-Page SEO)

While proper on-page optimization and an accurate Google business listing are important, they usually aren’t enough. After Google decides which sites might be a fit to display to the searcher, the algorithm then has to determine which sites are the best results to display. To do this, Google relies on a large variety of factors but, outside of the keywords and contents of your website, the most influential ranking factor revolves around backlinks.

When another website mentions your business and links to your website, you are earning additional credibility and authority in the eyes of the search engines. The more reputable and trustworthy a site that links to you is, the greater the impact on your site’s ranking potential. Having a larger number of mentions & links from other trusted and authoritative websites is crucial to your ongoing SEO success. We’ll be covering specific strategies and examples in an upcoming chapter, but here a few examples to get you started.

Reputation & Reviews

Another crucial factor to your SEO success as a locally focused business involves online reviews. Not only is having a high star rating associated with your online review profiles important (primarily your Google business listing), but having a large number of reviews will also give you a leg up in ranking your business prominently in Google Maps local pack. Get Five Stars is an incredible tool designed to help you scale and automate your online reviews. The software costs only $39 per month and makes gathering meaningful online reviews and customer feedback fast and easy.

Also, be sure to monitor your online reviews on other websites important to your business and industry. When people find your business online, it won’t do you much good if they see negative reviews and a poor online reputation.

Mobile Usability, User Experience & Website Engagement

Google wants to display websites that provide an easy and convenient experience for the website user. This means your website needs to be mobile-friendly and that it needs to load without much lag time. Google also takes engagement metrics into consideration. If users are clicking to your website, but quickly leaving and visiting other websites on the search results page that data could indicate users aren’t happy with what they are seeing on your website — and that will hurt your rankings long term. Vice-versa, providing a good user experience will have a positive impact on your ranking potential over time.


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