Do it yourself SEO for Gardeners in 4 steps ... plus 6 steps to avoid. Learn how successful Gardeners use SEO to get more Customers!
At the end I'll be busting a few myths about blogging, link building and content marketing that are often recommended by inexperienced search engine optimization agencies and contractors. Spoiler ... you don't need any of them.
Otherwise sit back, buckle up and here goes.
Search Engine Optimization is both an art and a science. We are dealing with search engines like Google and Bing who refuse to reveal exactly what it takes to rank in their top positions except for some vague advice.
Such murky indicators are then left wide open for interpretation and here you see claims like "you have to blog" or "you need to reach out to similar websites and get them to link to you".
I've been in the SEO business for nearly two decades and seen plenty of fads come and go. Much has changed because search engines have evolved so what you read on the internet can easily be out of date. There is also a whole lot of 'noise' out there from self proclaimed 'SEO experts' who often contradict each other.
Many of these 'experts', when you look a little closer, rely heavily on paid advertising for their businesses to work while claiming to their audience that their SEO is effective. If it was, why do they pay for clicks?
In Search Engine Optimization for Gardening Services I'll share with you what actually works and how you can put it into action without needing any technical skills, without needing to blog and without needing to beg others for links to your website.
There are no "industry secrets" here because none actually exist, just a common sense approach to helping search engines list your business where it should be so potential Customers can find you. That means you help search engines provide a better user experience on their platform. A win-win.
I'll start from square one and I strongly recommend you begin there as well even if you have a website at the moment. It may mean you need to make some fundamental changes but don't be tempted to skip these or they will undermine all your future efforts.
Above all, enjoy SEO. With each task you complete you'll pass ever more clarity to the likes of Google and Bing and by the end you will have a robust web presence that will help your business grow.
Before we dive into the detail it's worth taking a step back to see the big picture. We have two key aims here:
You may well have read that shadey SEO companies can help you achieve Aim 1 fairly quickly but when the search engines spot their dodgy practices its 'poof' and you are gone but there are plenty of ways you can shoot yourself in the foot as well.
In this book I'll be showing you how to make it crystal clear to Google and Bing what you are and where you are.
Once search engines understand this they think like this: "OK, so this website says it is a Gardening Service at location X ... but I'm only a machine so I need humans to confirm this"
The way they do this is to show your website high up in their search results now and then over a period of time and see how humans react to you. In SEO we sometimes refer to this as the Google Dance because where you appear in the search results 'dances' around.
The search engines will gain confidence in your website if it sees two positive signals:
Signal 2 helps search engines remove spammers - those who pretend to be a Gardening Service but theY ARE really offering something else like casino games, adult content or that "gadget everyone is going crazy for". You know the type of thing.
But there are plenty of other reasons people back out:
So website design and technical performance are key to getting, and maintaining, high rankings and this book will show you how to avoid the pot holes of both.
But how can you win with Signal 1 and get more people clicking through to you than to the websites of other Gardening Services?
Let's look at what we're aiming for and why with a search engine listing for a Gardening Services called Preonus in the fictional town of Woodydale.
OK, let's go through these:
You will have noticed that all three elements here contain what you do and where you are. This type of repetition is both a key part of SEO and effective ingredients for persuading humans to visit your website.
The listing as a whole is also 'beefy'. There is lots of information there which means you are taking up more space in the search results listings. In SEO we refer to this as 'taking up real estate'. If your listing is larger than your competitors then it is more eye catching and that is yet another factor that will win you more clicks.
I'll be covering how to achieve all of this in this book but the key question before we begin is ... "Where is your Woodydale?".
Let's start at the top. Someone looking for a Gardening Service will type into Google things like:
These are known as 'keywords' - the word patterns you want to rank highly for in the search results of Google and Bing.
There are two other common keyword patterns often used - 'near me' and 'best'
But this doesn't mean we add 'best' or 'near me' to our list of keywords we are trying to rank for because neither Google nor Bing take them literally. If you called your business 'The Near Me Gardening Service' it wouldn't rank highly in the search results just because someone used those words.
Search engines understand the intention of 'near me'. They know the person searching is not trying to find a company by that name but a business close to them. They know where that person is located and so they can provide accurate results of nearby Gardening Services.
It's the same with 'best'. The search engine doesn't look around for Gardening Services that mention they are the best. Instead they use signals such as online reviews to decide which Gardening Services are 'best'.
So, for the moment, ignore 'near me' and 'best' - I'll show you how to rank for these later. For the moment the keywords we need to focus on revolve around what you do and where you are located.
The most common mistake local businesses make is to cast the net too wide. A Gardening Service based in Sandy Hill, Paterson, New Jersey (US) might think "Wow, there are nearly 9 million people in New Jersey - if I can rank high in the search results for 'Gardening Service new jersey' I'll have it made!"
In fact that is how a lot of your competitors will think, they get dazzled by big numbers and chase after them. There are several reasons why this approach is doomed.
Firstly, the greater the competition, the harder it is to rank highly in the search results. Let your competitors cat fight it out chasing areas with large populations. It's a pointless cat fight as I'll show you in a moment.
Secondly, even if you were to get your website to rank for something like 'Gardening Service new jersey' the majority of people who click through will soon realise you are too far away from them and they'll hit the 'back' button. As I've already mentioned, search engines recognise and monitor this action ... and it hurts your SEO!
Thirdly, anyone who searches 'Gardening Service new jersey' quickly realizes they are seeing too many results and most are far from where they live. So instead they do a re-search. They rethink how they are looking and try something more accurate like 'Gardening Service paterson, new jersey'
But even Paterson has a population of over 100,000 people so that's still going to bring up a lot of Gardening Services, many of which aren't local to them so they refine their search even more to 'Gardening Service sandy hill, paterson, new jersey'.
This process, in SEO, is known as the buying cycle because the user 'cycles' through ever more refined searches until they feel most of the results they are seeing are relevant.
This is where you want your website to rank highly - where the searcher thinks 'these are good results, I'm going to choose one of these'. So forget the big numbers of whole cities or states and focus on an area with a population of 10-30,000 people who are all within a 1 hour travel time.
Sandy Hill in Paterson, New Jersey has a population of 14,000 people within a quarter of a square mile so that is the geographical area to target in this example.
If you are in an area that's a bit more rural there's a different approach. For example let's say you are based in Homer, Alaska, a small city of 5,000 people. Well you might want to rank for some neighboring areas as well like Anchor Point or Fritz Creek. We'll get into how to do that later. For the moment just focus on your immediate town - in this case 'Homer'.
So we've used simple common sense to work out what you and to rank for in the search results. They come down to two patterns:
But if you are reading up on SEO you might find a lot of "SEO Gurus" are telling you to use 'keyword tools'. These offer estimates for how often a particular keyword pattern is searched. Funnily enough many of these "SEO Gurus" would like to make your wallet a little lighter because they just so happen to have a paid keyword tool service.
When it comes to Local SEO ignore these because:
If anything these tools can be dangerous to your SEO. They can leave you believing no one searches a particular phrase so you don't try and rank for it whereas in reality it could bring you really great business.
Now, OK, Google does offer a free of charge keyword tool and you would think that would be reliable but in my experience it also over promises on ome phrases and under states others. Some of my websites get great traffic from phrases Google says are never carried out! So let's stick with common sense.
Modern search engines today understand user intentions better than ever before. This means you don't have to worry too much about covering all keyword patterns. Search engines understand, for example, that someone searching for 'Gardening Service woodydale' is very similar to someone searching for 'Gardeners woodydale' or 'Gardener woodydale'. So if you rank for one, you usually rank for all.
Right - so we know what we want to rank for and how we want out listing to look in the search results. Time to get practical and make this a reality!
This is the mydomainname.com bit. It once was a direct SEO factor so if you were based in Homer and had the domain homergardeningservice.com that would help you rank for the search 'Gardening Service homer'.
This isn't true anymore, any mention that you find around the net which claims your domain name helps your SEO is dated. But remember what we said earlier, it does have an influence on humans when they see it in the search results so we do need to choose it with care.
Going back to our example of a gardening service based in the town of Woodydale. For such a business the domain should be either:
If both these are taken by other business try a slightly different slant like
Not only do these domain names help in your search results listings, they are also catchy and easy to remember. A couple of other points to keep in mind with domain names are:
If you already have a domain name that doesn't match what I've recommended then you might be tempted to skip this step. Don't. For every step you skip you undermine your SEO overall. Take the following action:
Getting the fundamentals of a website right before you start the actual optimization of your content is like putting down good foundations before you start building the walls of your house. Skimp on the foundations and all the rest of your work is only ever going to be of limited value.
What do search engines want from every website regardless of it's content? Luckily these days it is exactly the same as what your potential customers want. We touched on some of these earlier but here is a refresher:';[wq2
Now if you already have a website then you need to take action on these points first before you do anything else. As I said there is no point trying to Search Engine Optimize a Gardening Service website which is fundamentally flawed.
It's the basics that will amplify any SEO work you do later. Set up your website the right way and Search Engine Optimization will be a whole lot easier. Do it the wrong way and it will be a constant struggle with some SEO tasks proving expensive or even impossible to achieve.
This work is also going to be crucial for turning your website visitors into customers making enquiries and booking appointments. The wrong site set up leaks potential customers and wastes your SEO efforts.
The great news is you don't need to have any technical skills to make all these things happen because of instant website services that allow you to get up and running by just filling in forms and clicking buttons.
But not all of them are born equal. If SEO is your aim, then you really only have two choices:
I'm not an affiliate of either of the above, I get no kickback if you use them. I recommend them because they are SEO effective foundations when it comes to creating websites that rank and they are what we use here at the link2light agency for many clients.
Now I know there are a myriad of other options available from Wix to Weebly to Wordpress.com but my answer to all of them is "No". None of them allow you to do SEO to the extent that SquareSpace or WordPress do. Some, like Wix, might be free and their designs (visually) can be pretty good but their search engine optimizing abilities are poor.
I could go through all the alternatives on offer out there and cover why you would struggle to SEO them but that would be a book in itself. Seriously, Squarespace or Wordpress with BlueHost because they both tick some fundamental and critical boxes:
So let's take a more detailed look at both of them so you can start weighing up which might suit you best.
Squarespace is the ultimate hassle free option with very little to learn. You just sign up, choose an off the shelf website, create pages at the click of a mouse button and fill in the ready made templates with your texts and images.
They have an extensive and impressive assortment of designs which look the part, load super fast, are mega reliable and are highly search engine optimizable. If you have absolutely no website at all right now they'll even help you set up your domain name - that mywebsitename.something bit.
Should you struggle at any point they have exceptional customer service and a great user community (see it at https://answers.squarespace.com/index.html) so you'll never be on you own with any "How to" or "Why" questions.
It really is so incredibly straightforward that any gardener could have something pretty amazing set up today.
What's not to like? Well compared to WordPress its a little more pricey. Squarespace is $12 per month while a Wordpress site can be as little as $5. What you're paying for with SquareSpace is a lot less flaffing around as you will see when you read through the WordPress option below.
Are there any other downsides? Apart from cost, if you start to get into website design and want to make certain changes or you want to start adding a lot more content and pages you might very quickly find Squarespace is restrictive. There is only so much you can do with their 'Ready Made' templates and a lot of webmasters find they are bumping their heads on the ceiling of possibilities very quickly.
That's when Wordpress comes into its own with its infinite flexibility.
So why do you need both Wordpress and BlueHost? Time for a little jargon:
SquareSpace is both a Host and a Platform. The alternative is BlueHost as your Host and WordPress as the platform.
BlueHost has servers which ticks all the boxes - they are fast and reliable and there is superb customer service should you have any teething troubles.
And I know I am repeating this but it's vitally important. Don't skimp on hosting costs - cheap hosts have servers which are slow and unreliable - two major factors that search engines take into account when deciding where your website should rank.
Super cheap hosting companies are also often home to websites run by spammers and it's possible that if you end up on a server with them you may end up blacklisted by search engines - or at the very least marked down because of your shadey neighbours!
For less than $5 per month BlueHost will do the complete set up for you. They'll install Wordpress, sort out your SSL (the thing which makes your site secure) and even organize a domain name if you don't have one yet. In many ways, up to this point, it will feel as easy as SquareSpace.
However what you will have is a bulk standard WordPress website that look's pretty awful. SquareSpace has a menu of templates for you to just choose and click, in WordPress you will need to find a 'theme' - their word for a 'website design'. Many are free but some have one off or subscription costs.
You'll need to track down and install a 'theme' from the seemingly endless options out there. Then spend some time with their tutorials learning how to make pages for your website. After that comes the task of adding some extras (known as 'plugins') - either for functionaliy (e.g. so you can add a contact form) or so you can add certain SEO features.
I'll talk you through how to do all of that shortly including which theme I recommend. What I'm driving at here is that there is a much steeper learning curve for WordPress. It's a learning curve anyone can achieve but it will require you to invest some time. More time than SquareSpace but in return for more possibilities later.
The final downside to WordPress is that you need to constantly update it to make sure your website remains secure. This is a click of a button activity but the updates occassionaly cause conflicts with the plugins (which all, also need updating from time to time) and crash your entire website leaving you to enjoy an evening on a forum trying to get others to help you figure out which plugin is guilty.
It's all starting to sound pretty depressing for Wordpress - it's not that bad and problems are rare but I'm flagging it up so you can make a choice with your eyes wide open. Personally I would put it this way:
All I can say is some gardeners take to WordPress like a duck to water and love how you can do so much more with it than Squarespace will ever allow. For others learning how to fit everything together and make WordPress work becomes bang-your-head-on-a-table kind of stuff. It's a personal thing and only you can decide.
But if you really aren't sure yet then SquareSpace offers a 14 day free trial and BlueHost has a 30 day Money Back Guarantee. You can set up both without needing a domain name, they will give you a unique URL so you can view the sites. That means you can go ahead and start making your website on both to see which one you get on with better.
The tutorials in this book will cover both SquareSpace and WordPress with BlueHost so you'll be able to get up and running quickly. A clear winner will emerge quickly in your mind and then you can drop the one you don't get on with.
A quick side note. SquareSpace don't provide .com.au domain names. If you are based in Australia and need this type of domain name then I'd recommend Crazy Domains (https://www.crazydomains.com.au/) who specialise in domain names down under! Again I don't get any kick back from this company - I just find them reliable and their customer service is pretty good in comparison to others. i.e. not stellar but not impossible to get through!
Now SquareSpace websites look great out of the packet - to start personalizing it follow their very comprehensive starter tutorials to experiment with what is possible. You'll find the first of these at https://support.squarespace.com/hc/en-us/articles/212260078.
If you have definitely decided not to use Wordpress you can now jump to Creating the basic structure of your Gardening Service website. However if you are going with WordPress (or both WordPress and SquareSpace for the moment) read on.
Now, with your website open you are probably pondering how bloody awful it looks. That's because it will be using the standard Wordpress 'theme' which will make you want to cry! A 'theme' is just a fancy way of saying 'a website design'.
You'll need to install a better theme but again you don't need any tech skills to do this.
There are thousands and thousands of WordPress themes out there - it's mind numbing and you could easily spend days routing through demos and trying them out. However I'm going to recommend you use Mesmerize Pro for the following reasons:
Mesmerize Pro costs (either a one off lifetime fee or annual subscription) but I am going to say the same thing as I did for hosting - there are other options out there but unless you know how to speed test them you could end up with a theme that severly slows down your website and shoots your SEO efforts in the foot.
On a side note I am not an affiliate of the company that created and maintains Mesmerize and I get no commission from them. I am recommending this theme purely because of it's SEO merits.
OK - let's get Mesmerize Pro up and running.
Right, be it Squarespace or Wordpress your website is now set up ... or perhaps your websites are now set up if you are currently experimenting with both.
Now we'll create the basics for a standard gardening service website (we can get fancy later). You need:
Now you might want to go further than this:
That's up to you, we'll discuss the limited SEO merits of this extra content later but it could prove a positive experience for your visitors so I'm not throwing cold water on it!
For now go thourgh now and add the basics changes to your SquareSpace website.
Next step is to work with the pages that you need. For the moment you can just call your pages "Home", "Contact", " Gardening Services" and "About". Add some appropriate text you feel comfortable with to each one so you have the structure of the website taking shape. We'll come back to SEO this later.
We've added these pages not just because they make sense but because when a search engine finds a website claiming to be about a gardening service they are going to expect to find these pages and they are going to expect to find certain types of information on each of these pages. We'll come to those types of information shortly but the point I'm making here is if you try to be too clever with your website design and layout you can often shoot yourself in the foot on the SEO side.
Go through the steps and make necessary changes to your WordPress website.
Your "home" page is going to be whatever someone sees when they go to https://yourdomainname.com. In both SquareSpace and WordPress you need to define this:
In Wordpress you'll also need to set up your 'permalinks'. I'll explain why later. For the moment just follow the tutorial at https://www.bluehost.com/blog/wordpress/how-to-customize-your-wordpress-permalink-settings-11280/ choosing 'Post Name' as your permalink setting.
Obviously an all text website is going to look pretty dry and uninviting. You'll be needing some images.
If your pages are going to look great then your images need to look great. In an ideal world you'll have some excellent pictures of you or your team at work. The ones which carry the most power are:
Why all the smiley-smiley stuff? Because you are providing a solution to a problem and if someone has a problem they are unhappy and they want to be happy. If they see you, your team and your current customers are happy you are selling the 'lifestyle' part of the solution ... happiness because the problem is gone and it was you who made it go away!
Now although you don't need any kind of special equipment to snap your own images, most smartphones will take photos of perfectly good quality, this is one area where I would strongly recommend hiring a professional photographer. You see to get images which truly inspire customer confidence in your business is much more than the technical quality of a photo.
Professional photographers understand lighting, color compliments, scene preparation, people positioning, etc, etc, etc. And after they have taken their snaps they'll do some final tidying up on software like Photoshop to give your business images the slick look that they deserve.
But sometimes you just aren't comfortable with your own pictures or your budget is simply too tight to hire a pro. So where to go then? Stock images. I use:
Now you are going to need:
If you are taking images from stock websites then they normally offer a variety of sizes (in terms of width and height). Here's an example:
For the 'header' image choose the closest option above 1,600 pixels in width. For the other images choose the closest option to 1,000 pixels in width (but at least 800 pixels wide).
And of course remember to cancel your subscription when you are all done.
Obviously it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, don't use stock photos that suggest your gardening service is something that it is not. Don't, for example, use images of vehicles that are substantially better than yours if your customers are likely to see the vehicle.
To do so increases the chances of customers becoming suspicious when they see the reality of your business and that raises the specter of bad online reviews. Online reviews are something I'll cover later as they are important to your overall online presence - all I'll say for now is that you really don't want to be racking up negative feedback from customers who feel your website mislead them.
If your photos are coming off your own camera or Smartphone or they have come from a professional photographer then they are going to be huge in terms of width, dimension and size. This means they could easily slow your website loading speed down to a crawl, especially for people trying to open it via a Smartphone. If I haven't hammered this home enough already ... this is SEO suicide!
If you got stock images as I described above the images won't be as big but they'll still need some additional preparation.
Let's start with the large picture which you will use in your 'header':
For all your other images:
This reduces the actual size of the image (width and height) to dimension more suitable for computer and smartphone screens.
Next run the image through Shortpixel's image compression tool (https://shortpixel.com/online-image-compression). This won't change the dimensions but it will optimize the file size so its as small as it can be without losing quality.
If you are using WordPress there is a Shortpixel plugin but my general advice is to keep the number of plugins you use to a minimum for easier long term maintenance and, unless you are blogging, image preparation is a one off task so no need to clutter up your WordPress with unneeded plugins.
OK. So now you can be confident that the images you have are not going to kill your SEO. I'm going to show you how to upload the 'header' image on to your website.
In these steps I'm going to talk about 'ALT' text. This is 'Alternative' text for your image which explains to search engines what the image actually is. It should be fairly short and to the point, here's an example of a picture with kittens .. because everybody loves kittens.
Now imagine you are trying to SEO a page for the keyword 'kitten food'
On that final point you might be asking "How do search engines know the the does not reflect the content of the image?". Because search engines are getting better and better and being able to "see" images just like you and I can. If they think you are trying to fool them they'll penalise you which will take your SEO backwards.
So let's put this into action for your business. Let's say you have an image of you or one of your team installing a picket fence. A good alt description might be:
"At Preonus Garden Care in Woodayle we can install bespoke fences that meet your exact specifications"
Here we have accurately described the image while getting in our all important keywords - where we are and what we do.
Now that you have well optimized images and you know how to add ALT text we'll now go step by step through replacing the 'header' images on your website.
Now I'm not going to go through the whole process of building out a complete website here. The purpose of the steps so far has been:
So that's a basic website set up. You now have:
So what about the rest of the website content? This course is not about website design and the step by step guides to SquareSpace and Mesmerize are available from the makers in the links below so no need to repeat them here. Now is the time for you to go through the pages and add the content and images in the way you want. Take inspiration from other Gardening Service websites and think about what would be useful for visitors to know as well as what would inspire them to make an enquiry.
Have the confidence to experiment through trial and error and you'll soon get the hang of either or both editors.
The only place not to touch is the 'footer' area of the site. We'll cover that in the next section of the course because the content here is important to your SEO efforts.
One final point on WordPress if you are still undecided on whether to use it or opt for SquareSpace. Every so often you'll see a notice in your Wordpress admin screen recommending that you update to the latest version, usually just to keep everything secure. That's easy, you just click a button and it happens ... but then your website disappears! Not always, it's rare but it does happen.
Why? Usually because one or more of the plugins is out of date and is no longer compatible with the latest version of Wordpress so you need to disable them all and then re-enable them one by one to find the guilty plugin ... and then go off and search for a newer version or a replacement.
All the plugins I recommend are very well supported and kept up to date (although you will need to activate these updates - I'll show you how later) so crashes are rare but it can still be a bit of a flaff.
I'm just calling this issue out here because if you are still undecided about whether to pick WordPress or SquareSpace then take this into account in your thinking.
To minimize any issues first make sure any plugins you don't use are disabled:
My recommendation is then to make a diary note to check your plugins for updates once a month and always before you update WordPress itself. Here's how:
Our next job is to "Search Engine Optimize" the pages you have made so search engines are confident that you are who you say you are. Without this you are unlikely to rank and worse still, any potential customers who do find your website through other means won't feel confident to make an enquiry.
Everything I'm going to cover here assumes you've read STEP ONE : Setting up a Search Engine Optimizable Gardening Service Website and implemented the actions. If you haven't set up your website this way you're going to be doing SEO with one hand tied behind your back and a lot of what I'll explain from here won't make sense or you won't be able to implement it.
So in short order your website should be either:
Your website should have:
If you have added more pages than this such as a blog or a dedicated page about each gardening service that's no problem and will certainly do no harm but I'm going to stick to talking about the four key pages.
As a reminder these pages are not just there because they make sense, they are there because search engines like Google expect them to be there. They are signals that this website really is a website about a Gardening Service and gives the search engines confidence to rank you in the right place.
Now you have probably seen some websites where all the information is presented on a single page. This is possible but it only really allows 'thin' content, the most basic information about a business.
You are going to want to be more comprehensive in order to gain traction in the search results and single page websites with a lot of content become difficult to navigate (especially on mobile devices) putting off potential customers. They hit the back button in large numbers which in turn sends a signal to the search engines that you should rank lower. As such I recommend you stick with a 4+ page structure and make it count. How? Well that's where we'll go now!
At this point you should also have added relevant text and images to each page so that, from your perspective, the site looks "finished". Visually it should be looking pretty good for potential customers but are Google and Bing going to understand it?
And even if they understand it will they believe it?
Let's start by getting some key bits of information in the right places.
When it comes to SEO for a local business this isn't rocket science. People searching for your Gardening Services will type into Google and Bing things like:
Or they might use:
Now a note on 'near me'. Some clients ask me if I can optimize their website so it comes up when people search '[business type] near me' by adding the words 'near me' into the website in key locations where it would influence the search engines. This doesn't work on two levels:
But back to the search phrases your potential customers will be using to find businesses like yours. There is one thread that runs through them all ... 'location'. So how to be sure Google and Bing 'get' where you are?
Yes, you have probably put your address (and/or the areas you cover) on your contact page but that's not strong enough. You need to repeat your location (and/or the locations you serve) on every single page of your site so Google and Bing realize it is a key part of your content.
So where to put this text? At the bottom of every page of your website. This is where people expect to find it and, importantly, where search engines expect to find it.
Google and Bing will now see your location, or the locations you serve, on every page and because they are repeated on every page they will give this information more weight when deciding what to rank you for.
But that said, regard what we have just covered here as the 'one piece of the jigsaw' in persuading search engines to believe you are where you say you are or you serve the areas you say you serve. If it really were that simple spammers would wreak havoc with search engines!
We'll come back later to other signals which will further confirm your location and add these in until Google and Bing can be in no doubt about where you are based and/or the areas you serve.
Right, you have four pages (perhaps a couple more). Your home page will have a URL like 'https://mydomainname.com/'.
Your other pages will have URLs like 'https://mydomainname.com/something/' - the bit called 'something' is often referred to as the slug and that's what we are interested in.
So looking at your contact page first. Is the slug something like /contact/ and the main title visitors see something like 'Contact'? That's what most businesses have but these titles and slugs don't help a search engine much and they place weight on these areas. Better would be:
Now you've got those all important words (what you are and where you are) in your url and page title. Here's how to do it:
The slug and page titles should match or be a close match. A common mistake some webmasters make is to think they will put some keywords in their slug and some different keywords in their page title ... hoping to rank for both. This is actually counter productive. Search engines look to see if your slug confirms the page title and vice versa. If they contradict each other you don't enhance your SEO, you damage it.
So go through your other pages something like this:
WordPress quick edit will change inner page title automatically except home page. We need to add home page title using mesmerize edit. Follow these only for the home page.
I've used 'favorite' as a common word here. It doesn't have to be. You could use alternatives like 'best', 'oldest', 'most modern', etc. etc. You're just adding something to make your page titles more attractive to web users. We'll see where this pays off in Google and Bing shortly.
If you have created specific pages about your Gardening Services one might be:
Notice we don't use words in the slug like 'in' or 'by'. Any small words that don't actually mean anything (known as Stop Words) don't need to go into the slug.
You get the picture! We are repeating certain keywords (who you are, what you do, where you are) in key places on your website. We're also not using your business name. Why not? Because business names are (or should be) so unique that you will rank for them anyway so don't clutter up your titles and slugs with them
Now why is it so important to make descriptive and attractive page titles? Your titles will show up in the search results of Google and Bing so being more descriptive simply makes you look more attractive to internet searchers.
In the search results simulation below the blue text represents page titles:
You can also see something else at work in the examples above. Your website is taking up more space on the screen which is also going to make it a more attractive option to click on because it stands out. In SEO we describe this as 'taking up more real estate in the search results'.
Now truth be told Google and Bing don't always use your page title this way. They may use some different text if they think it is more relevant to the search being carried out but if your page Title and Slug are designed to be a close match for the search "Gardening Service Woodydale" then this is what the search engines will use.
As such a well put together Title and Slug help you control how your site appears in search results.
OK ... But what about the black text descriptions below the titles in the search results? We'll sort these out next.
Totally ignored by search engines and often ignored by Search Engine Optimizers who don't know what they are doing ... the meta description is really, really important.
Its the text search engines are most likely to use (but not guaranteed to use) when they show a page from your website in their search results so it can be your one chance to sell yourself and get a potential customer.
It should be a punchy, attractive 200 character summary of that page's content which makes people want to click through.
Now as it happens the first line of text on each of your pages should be a punchy, attractive 200 character summary of that page's content which will make people want to stay longer and read more so to start with go back through your pages and tighten this up.
For example on your 'about' page your opening text could be something like "At the Preonus Gardening Service we've been offering gardening services since 2012 and are proud to serve Woodydale. Call us toll free on 800-800-8000 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm"
All very welcoming. Makes people using Google or Bing want to click through and makes people on your website want to read more. We've also got those all important words in there about what you do and where you are.
Now for each page add your opening line or lines as the meta description as well:
In Wordpress we are going to use a plugin - Yoast
So why do we match up your opening text with your meta description? Google and Bing are far more likely to use this text in their search results if they see it is also used prominently on the page and so that gives you a little more control over how they present you. Otherwise it can be a bit random!
So once again here is the end result of how your 'about' page could look Bing or Google's search results:
Now we have 4 signals all confirming each other:
In reality you have actually got 5 signals. In the code there is also something known as the 'Page Title'. You can see it in the top tab of your browser window and it can be modified so it is different from the visual title. In fact WordPress does modify it in most cases by adding your business name to the end. This is no issue when it comes to SEO.
Again some website owners try to rank for lots of different words by making all of these signals very different but contradicting signals confuse search engines and make them reluctant to rank such websites so a definite SEO no-no.
I just want to spend a little time talking about the meta description for your gardening services page. Earlier we covered the types of searches people are likely to carry out when looking for businesses like yours.
It's this second type of search we need to focus on through the meta description on your gardening services and home page. Here's an example for a Gardening Service whose key offers are Garden maintenance and fencing.
Now remember you are not going to be able to get all your offers in there - you need to keep this to around 180 characters long - but do get in the key ones that you want to rank for. Remember, again, these texts should also be the first visible texts on each page below the title.
Here's an example of what the top of your home page should now look like.
I can't over emphasize how important the meta descriptions (and, by definition, the opening paragraphs, on these two pages are. We will be using the home page text over and over again later in this course as we start to spread your web presence across the internet ... more on that later! Just for now be sure to get these descriptions looking really good. Keep asking yourself:
Finish off this section by creating a meta description for your 'about' page as per the steps above (which include adding it as the first paragraph of visible text on the page itself) as well as any other pages such as the individual ones you might have made about each gardening services you offer.
You now have your 5 signals on each page:
And they are all complimenting each other. Each one confirms the other and so strengthens the other.
But while our 4 signals are crucial they need support so that's what we will build next.
Time for a little more SEO jargon!
You're trying to persuade search engines that you have a Gardening Service website but to achieve that you need to understand how Google and Bing think. They use a process known as Entity Salience Analysis when deciding what a website is about. Don't worry, its not that technical!
With Entity Salience Analysis search engines look at multiple signals coming from each of your pages and from your website as a whole. The more of these signals that there are and the closer they match each other, or build on each other, the more confident Google and Bing become that you are who you say you are - a Gardening Service.
Entities fall into two parts
Now it is possible to get search engines to understand the key entity without ever mentioning it! For example if I said "The best places to visit are the Empire State Building, The Chrysler Building, The Rockefeller Center and the Flatiron Building" search engines would be able to figure out the key entities are "Buildings" in "New York" even though I never mentioned either of those words. Yes modern search engines really are that smart
However if I said I am going to talk about "Popular Buildings in New York" and then don't mention any such building names (ie the supporting entities) search engines will conclude I am trying to fool them and won't rank my content.
But our aim here is not to test how clever search engines are - our aim is to be absolutely crystal clear and not leave Google and Bing in any doubt about who you are and what you do by including both key entities and supporting entities. That's what I'll cover next.
Proving that your website really is about that 'thing' means using words that search engines 'expect' to find on a Gardening Service website.
We can see an example of proving a 'thing' with some 'expected' signals by looking at the meta description we just created for your contact page which looked like this:
"At the Preonus we've been offering gardening services since 2012 and are proud to serve Woodydale. Call us toll free on 800-800-8000 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm"
The thing, the 'key entity', is 'contacting a Gardening Service' and to make it more salient we have included:
These are the kind of things Google and Bing expect to find on a contact page so they should be there and in a promenant position. They reinforce the 'key entity' or to be technical they make the 'key entity' more salient - they give it greater weight.
And because you have also included the 'key entity' in the page title and slug that has made it even more salient.
Now let's consider your business as a whole.
If I contacted you about your Gardening Services because I saw the words "Gardening Service" in one of your ads it is obvious what my expectations would be. But if you started talking to me about great casinos I should visit I might start to realize that you aren't a gardener after all.
Google and Bing will do the same thing if they wander about your website and can't find the wording they're expecting based on the information you have given them in your URL, Page Title and Meta Description.
So they are expecting to see gardening related words like:
Furthermore search engines are smart enough to understand what a gardening service is and that it means you serve the professional services market sector so they would also expect words like:
Take some time now to have a search around the web. Visit the Wikipedia page for your profession. Look at what related words Gardening Service websites that rank well in Google use on their sites. Then knit those words into your content. They count more if they are within written text - lists of words and phrases are weak - so work them in naturally or write extra content so you can use them.
If you struggle because repetition sometimes makes your text look awkward use a thesaurus like www.thesaurus.com to find alternatives such as "cleanliness" instead of "hygiene". Google and Bing understand these synonyms.
All of these make the words you actually want to rank for more 'salient', or stronger, in the eyes of search engines. They will see you as a trustworthy website that is what you say it is.
OK, we're now at the point where you have images and text on your pages and the text is rich in words that are associated with Gardening Services.
Obviously its a good idea to read through what you have written for typos and places where it makes no sense but you should also be looking at the overall presentation using something we call 'chunking'. Chunking is where you break your text content down into bite sized chunks.
By that I mean, firstly, short paragraphs. Look at how all the major news sites (BBC / CNN / etc.) present their texts ... very short paragraphs. Sometimes they will have a paragraph that is only one sentence long. I'm doing the same in this text.
Secondly look to see where you could use bold. Not to often but here and there where you want a key point within your text to stand out. I did this two paragraphs back to explain what 'chunking' is.
Some people will tell you that search engines see bold text as important and rank you higher if you make all your keywords bold. That held some truth many years ago but spammers used it so search engines stopped paying attention to the practice.
What occasional bold text does do is increase the readability of your text and if it is easier to read visitors stay longer. This is a definite SEO factor monitored by the likes of Google and Bing who watch like this:
This is the Bounce Rate I covered earlier alongside 'Dwell Time'. The bounce rate is the percentage of people who hit the back button after clicking through to your website from the search results. The Dwell Time is how long they stayed on your site before hitting the back button.
It's important to understand that search engines consider your bounce rate and dwell time as two of many factors and it is relative to your competitors. There are websites out there that have bounce rates of 99% with very short dwell times and are the best in their industry - think weather or dictionary websites.
Conversely you could have a bounce rate of 10% and dwell time of 2 minutes and that would be considered awful compared to your competitors.
I'll cover later how you can measure both of these signals on your website when we look a Google Analytics.
Unfortunately there is no way of knowing the bounce rates and dwell times of your competitors so all you can do is put in place common sense practices that will keep people on your website as long as possible.
Visitors are more likely to stay on your website (and so more likely to become customers) if your content is easy to digest so split long paragraphs into smaller ones and embolden important sentences.
Breaking text up with images is also a good technique. My general rule of thumb is an image at least every two screen heights on a laptop. An image every now and then just so the text doesn't start to feel overwhelming. You may want to have far more images than that and that's not a problem when it comes to SEO as long as they are added correctly which is where we'll go now.
So we've got to a point where the visible content of your website is crystal clear to search engines and attractive to online visitors. Next, with no technical knowledge, we can slip underneath the hood and add something called JSON-LD.
JSON-LD is a block of code that is placed in your website code. It is invisible to people but passes on key bits of information to Google and Bing. This includes the type of business you are, your location (both as an address and with longitude and latitude - great for GPSs), opening hours, telephone number and a whole bunch of other stuff.
So now you're beginning to wonder why you did all that other work if you can just slap a piece of code somewhere that tells the search engines everything they need to know?
Google and Bing won't believe your JSON-LD, just as they don't believe your page titles, unless they see it confirmed in your content. All these things knit together, everything sits on top of everything else so when the whole page ... and even the whole website ... is bought together search engines say "OK, this website is definitely for a Gardening Service in Woodydale". JSON LD is one more feather in your cap.
You can see some great general examples of JSON-LD code blocks at https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/structured-data/local-business but as you see it can be pretty overwhelming all the detail. I'll show you an easier way ....
Getting JSON-LD onto your website?
The great people over at Steal Our JSON-LD (https://jsonld.com/json-ld-generator/ have made a generator for you to do this!
Now take your block of code and ....
Once you are all done test your pages with the Schema.org validator (https://validator.schema.org/). Schema.org is a joing venture involving many search engines including Google and Bing.
And that's it. Your website is Search Engine Optimized!
No, none of that. These are SEO techniques which are not relevant to local businesses like Gardening Services but people tend to spurt them out when they don't really understand Search Engine Optimization and how it should apply to a Gardening Service which serves a particular geographical area.
Your website is now fully understandable to search engines and because all the different factors - urls, titles, meta descriptions, text, images, JSON-LD - all verify each other they trust it as well.
But that doesn't mean you are going to bounce straight to the top of Google or Bing. You might but it could well take a few weeks. Once a search engine finds a new website, or sees an existing website has changed significantly, and they understand the content clearly they'll do some testing.
This might involve ranking you in their top 10 for certain searches 'now and then' and measuring how well people react to you compared to those who are currently ranking. For searches carried out dozens of times a day they are able to gather this information and make a decision within a matter of days. For more occasional search phrases it takes longer.
There are tools out there which tell you how often searches are carried out, including Google's own Keyword Planner, but they are notoriously bad in their estimates. I'll show you a more accurate way later when we cover the Google Search Console.
An alternative to sitting on your hands and waiting is to use Google Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising to target the keyword. It costs but Google will tell you how well your website is being received by people (versus competitors) while at the same time giving Google the data it needs to make ranking decisions far faster. It works like this:
PPC advertising is another book in itself (of which there are many out there) but if you want to get your head around the basics I highly recommend the Google's Skillshop courses at https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/7539883?hl=en.
I will just bring up two costly mistakes some people make when using Google PPC:
OK, I've mentioned things from site reliability to Bounce Rate to Dwell Time to finding how often certain phrases are searched. In the next step I'll walk you through the set of tools you need to get the feedback you need.
To make sure your website is working technically 24/7/365 and to see how effective it is in the search engines you'll need the following tools:
I'm not an affiliate of any of these, I get no kick back if you sign up or spend with them. I recommend them simply because I use them personally.
Remember way back at the beginning when I wrote about 'what a website needs to be' one of the key factors I mentioned was reliability. Google and Bing don't want to show websites high up in their rankings if, when someone clicks through, they get a message that the website is down (or even worse there is just a blank screen). They know it reflects badly on them as a search engine and they, just like you, don't want to lose their users to the competition.
Pingdom is a 3rd party online service which sends a 'ping' to your website every few minutes. It basically checks if it can open a page on your website. If it can't it makes a note of this which you can review in the Pingdom admin center.
You can also set Pingdom up to notify you if your website is down for a prolonged period of time - say more than 5 minutes.
Of the tools I've listed this is the only one that's not free but it's the best on the market, very effective and a small price to pay for peace of mind that site reliability is not holding back your rankings.
Pingdom pricing is at https://www.pingdom.com/pricing/ - you want the 'Synthetic Monitoring' service.
Start by signing up for their free trial:
Once you get it up and running you will find that, even with the best hosts, there will be occasional down time when your site does not work so don't panic at the first sign of an SMS or email that says your site is not working.
Pingdom will tell you what percentage of the time your site is up and running - this should be at least 99% of the time every month. If you are getting lower figures contact BlueHost (if you are on WordPress) or SquareSpace for assistance to resolve the issue
This free service from Google will tell you how many people visit your site - by hour, by day, by week or by month. It will tell you how they found the site and what they do when they arrive there.
You can even create specific monitors such as counting the number of people who get as far as your contact page.
In the longer term it will create a history of data that can be used to identify where improvements on your site can be made.
To get this working we need to get a small snippet of code from Google and add it to our website.To add Google analytics on your site, you need a google account. If you have one, skip the sign up procedure of google account.
Once you have opened your Google account Next step is to signup at 'Google Analytics
Once you have set up Google Analytics you'll be given a block of code which needs to be added to your website.For WordPress (if you are not using Divi or Theme X)
It is in analytics that you will also find two key measures which I mentioned earlier:
To get this detail for visitors who come to your website via search engines:
You'll now see in the table data for 'All Users' and 'Organic Traffic', traffic coming from the organic search results of all major search engines.
Google Search Console tells you what words and phrases your website ranks for (in Google) and where you rank, on average. You can use this to see if your rankings are improving over time and later to identify possible opportunities.
The set up is pretty simple once you have Google Analytics installed.
Now that you are all set up we just need to make sure Google knows about your website (in SEO jargon we need to know if it is "indexed").
In Google search "site:yourdomainname.com" and see if your pages are listed.
If not then in Google Search Console:
Once you start to see pretty graphs do a little more refining. By default Google Search Console is set up to report activity on standard web searches (as opposed to searches for images, videos or news'. You'll find this at the leftside menu.
Now if you scroll down the page you will also see a table marked 'QUERIES' which are the search terms people are using that result in your site being shown in the search results. If you are considering using Google PPC advertising this is a great place to come and look for ideas on what searches to advertise for because, unlike most keyword tools which are hopelessly inaccurate, this is real data.
The 'impressions' column tells you how often the search is carried out and can also give you inspiration on what content you might add like an extra page that focuses on a particular part of your business because you can see people are specifically searching for this.
There is a whole lot more to the Google Search Console but there is little point repeating it when Google provide an excellent tutorial at https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6258314?ref_topic=9268559.
Finally we need to install Bing's version of Google Search Console.
First sign up for an account at https://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster. When registering you can ignore the 'Add a sitemap' box and choose to verify using the meta tag.
Bing will give you a block of code that looks something like this: <meta name="msvalidate.01" content="rdvtg65mjw40tj2p3">For WordPress:
In Bing do the same search "site:yourdomainname.com" and see if your pages are listed.
If not then in Bing Webmaster Tools:
I've lost count of the businesses owners I've met who approach Google Business Profiles and Bing Places in a half hearted "OK, I'll just get my business on there because I have to". But these profiles are key not only to your website SEO efforts but to the bottom line of your business.
A huge amount of Google searches for a Gardening Service like yours will lead to Google showing a map at the top of the search results ... and underneath it 3 Gardening Services. Bing does the same. If you can be one of these top 3 you are basically at the top of Google's search results!
What's more an increasing number of people are going straight to Google maps to find local businesses so even if your website is ranking high in a normal Google search you are missing a big opportunity if you are not at the top of the results on this platform.
This might start you thinking ... why do I need to bother with a website? Well chances are once people find you on Google Maps they'll click through to your website to find out more about you and if your website doesn't look the part you'll lose potential Customers like a leaky bucket loses water.
And one final point - a strong profile gives Google and Bing more confidence in your website - that you are who you say you are and you do what you say you do. As such the profile listing and the website rub off against each other. "Two logs burn hotter than one" as they say.
So how do you get up those map rankings?
It isn't rocket science:
You want to be giving these profiles serious thought when you create them and we'll go through how to do that now.
Once you have registered your business with Google go to Google My Business ( https://business.google.com/locations ), select your business and then select 'Info' from the left hand menu. This is the area you want to make sure is as complete as possible.
Most of these are real basics but be absolutely sure they are right or there will be times that Google doesn't show you in its search results when it could:
Make sure that key data points - your business name, address and contact telephone number - match what you put into your JSON-LD code earlier. This will help Google make the connection between you and your website and feel confident it is a genuine match. Remember the Google Business Profile is yet another signal to Google that you are who you say you are and that you are a genuine business ... another reason to consider ranking your website higher ...
Your business profile should leave people in no doubt that you are a Gardening Service but also make clear what you offer in more detail such as Garden maintenance, fencing, pressure washing, garden clearance, picket fencing, commercial landscape maintenance, etc.
Now let's just go back to that 750 word description. The first 180 characters or so should:
The next 500 words or so should be an expansion of this. What other Gardening Services you offer, what you aim to achieve (happy Customers, etc. As warm, inviting and attractive as the meta description but with a bit more depth.
Once you have created this literary masterpiece also add it as the first text on your home page below the opening paragraph (the one that matches the meta description. It doesn't need to go there immediately below the opening paragraph - there could be an image in between but it should be the first text someone sees after scrolling down past the opening paragraph.For SquareSpace
Why? Because search engines like consistency. If you are going to use a piece of text on your Google Profile then it should be good enough for your website, your Bing Places, any social media you use, if you list on a bookings portal it should be there ... and so on. They all build on each other and as you have made the text keyword rich, because you mentioned your products/services, Google and Bing will find these same keywords wherever they find your business around the web.
The more search engines relate those keywords to your business, the more likely you are to rank for them be it in Google's normal search, map searches, search results from other portals, etc., etc.
There are endless places where people leave reviews but I'd focus first on the one that really matters, Google Reviews, because that's the one Google's going to be looking at most when considering both your website rankings in general and your rankings on their maps.
They also won't hound you with sales calls as Yelp! and some others tend to do because they have no 'Premium' option for you to trade up to.
But how to get those 5 star feedbacks?
Before we go there let's cover the technical aspect. Making it as easy as possible for your customers to leave a review.
To do this you are going to need:
Let's start with the link and then I'll walk you through QR codes and how to use them.
To get the link
Right - we now have a link which is ideal for adding to your website as well as sending in emails or SMSs
Now you might be thinking, "As a I rarely get the phone number of my client. In this case start thinking about ways you could collect phone numbers such as a monthly draw for people who drop their business cards into a bowl."
Now for physical things (like leaflets, posters, receipts) we'll need a QR code. The QR code for my SEO agency website looks like this:
To get the QR code graphics
You use your link or QR code every time you make any type of contact with your customers such as:
And don't be afraid to just be honest. Explain you are trying to build up your Google Reviews and why you are doing it. customers that are happy with your gardening services will be ready to help.
For SMS sending I see good results for our clients when we use https://www.clicksend.com. Again I have no affiliation to this service and get no kickback if you use it. It's just one of the better SMS sending services we use here at link2light.
ClickSend allows you to send SMSs from your computer making it easier to copy and paste in messages and the link to your Google reviews.
Personally I recommend the SMS route. Here at link2light we see a much higher response rate from SMSs - perhaps because people are less distracted from other emails bobbing around in their inbox or many accidentally get filtered as spam.
Now there is one final piece to the jigsaw here. Reviews work better, much better, in getting you ranked if the review text contains the keywords people are searching:
So when you can you want to be asking Customers to be specific in their reviews. Two or three such reviews can catipult you to the top of the map search results because Google and Bing see that not only do you claim to do Garden maintenance, other people say you do as well and that you are very good at it!
OK - let's put all of that together and go through how to get a ClickSend account and send out daily SMSs in a way that will get you very positive and very relevant reviews ... very quickly!
Here is the initial setup for ClickSend -
Once you have completed the initial steps, from then on the daily work is -
OK - we've seen how you can get to the top of Google's search results by ranking highly in Google Maps. But there may be some searches where a map does not show and we just see that familiar listing of 10 websites. For some of these you're just never going to rank on page 1 of Google ... you might not even rank in the first 10 pages. But what if you could have links to your website on the website pages which are in Google's top ten?
Its usually not as difficult as you might think. So often Google's top 10 results are:
This is because if someone is searching "Gardening Services woodydale" search engines rightly see this as a request for lists (note the plural in the search - "Gardening Services"
So if they can they will use websites they have found that contain lists rather than 10 different Gardening Service websites.
But even if we consider a search like "Garden maintenance near me" search engines still know that websites with lists offer a better experience than individual websites of Gardening Services .
So do the search yourself and identify where you can add yourself.
The first type (directories) are straightforward but once again fill out your entry with the same care and attention as you used with Google My Business and Bing Places. You're not going to get potential Customers clicking on poorly presented directory listings.
If you find some directories charge but it's only a nominal amount seriously consider paying up. They are, after all, in Google's top 10 for searches your potential Customers carry out.
The second type (bloggers and press media) are straightforward as well, just reach out and ask! If you have a rock solid block of positive reviews its going to be hard for a blogger or journalist to refuse. They are trying to build authority themselves and if its obvious your business belongs in their "8 Best Gardening Services in Woodydale (2023)" piece they'll want it there for their own reputation's sake.
And if you want to sound a little swish as we get towards the end ... this activity is known as "Barnacle SEO"!
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram ... where should you be and how on earth can you manage them all? I read in one SEO book that "your customers are on social media so you should be to". Nonsense.
In fact being on Social Media can do you more damage than good unless you are ready to go all in on each account that you open. Yes, your customers and potential customers probably are on places like Facebook and Instagram but they are there to see regular updates that are relevant to them.
So ask yourself - do I have relevant things to say on a regular basis?
The answer might be yes. You might have new products or services on a regular basis that you want to announce. Or periodic promotions. Perhaps something as simple as making people aware of upcoming national holiday opening times.
You don't need to even think of your own post. Just follow your favorite Journal or a leading figure in your field and share something they post. Its the added bonus of showing your current and demonstrating to future customers that you keep up to speed with developments in your industry.
If so Social Media can be very useful to you and even to people who are not following you there. If I am thinking that I may want to make an enquiry then looking you up on Facebook to check there are no announcements from you that are affecting your opening hours is a useful thing and I don't need to be following you to do that.
Where Social Media can actually damage the way your business looks is if your profiles are incomplete, poor quality or deserted ... with 3 posts from 4 year ago! That undermines the professionalism you want to present. So when you, for example, set up a Facebook page do so in the same way as you added your business to directories.
And make sure the profile is set up in a way that you are notified if someone sends you a message so you can reply promptly.
For a local business I would recommend:
And that's it! Remember every one of these profiles has to be managed with updates and responses to questions or comments so if you set up a dozen social media accounts it can very quickly become an activity that sucks hours from your working week and you have to ask yourself what return you are getting for that.
I have met some business owners wasting so much time on Social Media that they could be devoting to SEO activities. In summary treat Social Media with caution, start slowly with Facebook and if you get a good feel of it expand to other platforms in your own time.
Despite what some people say Social Media is not your route to a booming business. Great customer service is and if that is what you provide then your Customers will promote you themselves - not just in their feeds but also in groups they belong to and by good old traditional word of mouth.
I've lost count of the number of "SEO experts" who say you have to blog. It just isn't true.
How can every gardener run a blog and have something interesting to say? And even if each one did how would that benefit their business? How is having an article about something gardening related that becomes incredibly popular in Europe going to help your Gardening Service in Woodydale, US?
I've seen blogs where the gardener is so stuck on what to say they create posts about new receptionists and stuff. They literally become a slave to their blog which sucks time they could be using for something productive.
If you do have regular things to say ask yourself - "Are these announcements?" In which case they would be better posted on a Social Media profile like Facebook than making long and waffly attempts to turn them into Blog posts.'
Blogs do have a role in SEO and that's why those who have lived in a text book but haven't done real life Search Engine Optimization for a local business successfully think its important. But I'm telling you for gardeners it isn't and if its not something you enjoy doing you are highly unlikely to get any SEO benefit from it that also benefits your business.
If you do love writing about changes to your business or developments in your field then sure, start a blog. To test the water I always say to my clients that they should write 10 blog posts offline, each one at least 500 words long, over the next ten weeks. If, at the end of those 10 weeks they want to write another 10 posts then start a blog. If the whole thing was a real struggle don't start an online blog.
In fact, just like with badly run Social Media accounts, a poor quality blog is going to make you look unprofessional and act as a turn off for potential customers so you can end up doing your business more damage than good.
This is the thing where people tell you that you must create lots of 'great content' and then go running around contacting bloggers and others asking them to link to it.
No ... just stop! Its the same blogging mistake pushed by people who have eaten one too many SEO theory books. Are you really going to produce some gardening related content that will rock the world? Maybe ... but probably not (no disrespect!).
And besides you are a gardener, not a writer. Yes, some people are great at both but don't worry if you aren't. The steps we have covered so far are more than enough for most gardeners as long as they are done right.
Now if you really love writing about what you do then sure, put it to good use. Perhaps create a Knowledge Base that explains aspects of your business which potential customers would find interesting. Just remember most of the people who read it will be located too far away to actually become paying customers.
Yes, what I've covered on this page is a lot of work when you sit down and think about it. Wouldn't it be easier just to pay a few hundred bucks for one of those "guaranteed ranking" schemes?
Well, they might rank you for a short while (long enough to get their bill paid) but by using Black Hat SEO (techniques that breach the terms and conditions of search engines) on your website you will have lined it up to get banned from Google and Bing not too far down the road.
Sitemaps are special files that you can upload to Google and Bing which list all the pages on your website and inexperienced Search Engine Optimizers will jump around and tell you its a must do activity.
But if you have a standard Gardening Service website its only going to have a few pages on it - the home page, a page or some pages about your various Gardening Service, perhaps a page with testimonials on it and a page with contact details.
Tell Google about one of those pages (which you will have done when you registered with Google Search Console in Step Two) and it will find the rest immediately.
Sitemaps are for highly complex websites where the crawler robots from Google or Bing might get bogged down 'over there' when you need them to see the new content 'over here'.
Once again banging on about Sitemaps is the rhetoric of those who understand SEO theory but don't do it in real life for Gardening Services.
If you pick up any "How to SEO" guide they usually start with "Choosing keywords". My generic How to SEO your Website Guide does! But its not aimed at local businesses like yours (and it says so!). Now OK, if you are a blogger and you want to start ranking for certain words you are going to have to do some research.
But you aren't! You are a gardener, you run a Gardening Service at a certain location and you offer gardening services like Garden maintenance, fencing, pressure washing, garden clearance, picket fencing, commercial landscape maintenance, etc.
So these are your keywords:
In the steps above we have already covered how to make sure Google and Bing understand those things so you are going to rank for potential customers in your area. You don't need to research if people actually search these and how many times a month they search them. In any population people want gardening services. You just need to make sure you are ranking in your geographical area.