No matter how much we excel at our craft, we need customers to know that we exist. And even if you’ve managed to fill your books via word-of-mouth referrals, a stronger web presence means more exposure. And that means you can get choosier with your clients. And that means you get more dreamy clients.
Here are 8 ways to make Google happy so that your site shows up when your ideal client is searching for help.
1. Consistently create high-quality content to share on your blog.
You've probably heard the saying: "Content is king." Allow me to add an important qualifier: "Valuable content is king." To show your potential clients that you can solve their problems, you must first add value to their lives. You do this with high-quality content that solves little problems for them. For dog pros, this may take the form of:
An infographic that explains the function of behavior
A video tutorial demonstrating how to teach a down-stay
A live Q&A on Instagram
And so on...
There is no shortage of quality content from dog trainers on social media. There is, however, a shortage of this material on trainers' websites. Which is a shame, because it's relatively easy to take the content you create for social and put it on your blog. For example, one of my long-time clients, Kelly Lee, releases a video each week in her Facebook group, which she then uploads into a simple post on her blog.
Another of my OG clients, Kate, has a free downloads page on her site where she houses all of the free infographics and handouts we create together. This is a brilliant move for a few reasons: 1) it gives all of her excellent content a home on the web, which means potential clients can find it via keywords when they're searching for answers, 2) it helps her build her email list by having users subscribe to grab the download and 3) it prompts users to take action on her site. All of these reasons combine to make Google very happy.
And when Google is happy, you show up on searches.
2. Design your site with good navigation structure.
Good web design is about more than pretty pages. It's about ensuring that your clients can move through your site with ease and find what it is they are seeking. This means that they stay longer and take more action. Google's algorithm pays attention to this and ranks your site higher because of it.
Good navigation also enables sitelinks: the sub-pages that show up under your home page on the Google search results page.
Sitelinks aren't something you can request from Google. They just show up when you've got good navigation. They're actually an indicator that you've made Google happy, so bravo to you if you've got them.
3. Design your site with good internal and external linking.
First, let's distinguish between internal links and external links.
Internal links connect one page of your site to another page on your site. The most obvious example is your site menu. But there are lots of other opportunities, particularly if you're producing regular content. Each blog post you create should link to related, older blog posts. For dog trainers, the internal linking potential is through the roof since we're so often repeating paraphrased scripts over and over again.
As your content grows, remember to periodically go back to older posts and link to the newer ones.
External links (also known as backlinks) are links on other domains that point to your domain. A common backlink for dog trainers is the listing of their site on their certifying body's site. Google views backlinks as indicators of domain authority. The more sites that link to your site, the better. The higher the rank the sites that are linking to your site, the higher your site will rank.
Links make Google very happy.
4. Ensure that each page on your site focuses on one keyword search term.
Google is looking for answers to questions that users put into the search bar. To find these answers, it looks for pages. And Google prefers pages that are focused on one keyword term. Too many terms pull ranking power away from each other.
So what does this mean for dog trainers? Well, it means that your site page structure should be organized by case type (puppy training, fear/aggression, etc.), rather than service type (virtual training, in-person training, etc.). And each case type should have its own page, rich with one relevant keyword term (e.g. dog obedience training). Remember, your potential clients are looking for solutions. They're likely searching for what they believe they need, not how you deliver it.
5. Create keyword-rich, relevant titles and descriptions for each page on your site.
Since we now know that Google is looking for pages that are narrowly focused on a query submitted by your potential client(s), it makes sense that relevant titles and descriptions (or meta tags) are super important.
Here is one of the results from the query "Reactive Dog Training Online." The relevant title and description are part of the reason this site turns up on the first page of search results.
6. Register your site with all the Google applications.
This one is a no-brainer but nonetheless often overlooked by dog trainers. You want to make sure your site is registered with:
7. Reduce load times by optimizing your images files.
Make sure that all of your images are optimized for the web. Sites that take too long to load have a higher bounce rate and Google takes note of that. Remember, Google wants to answer users' questions. If users leave a site before they even have a chance to view the content because it's taking forever to load, Google is not happy.
A designer can reduce image file sizes for you with Adobe Bridge. Or if you're on Wordpress, there are several plugins that can do it quickly and easily.
8. Encourage engagement on your site by asking for comments and responding to them.
Google is happy when visitors interact with your content. There are lots of way to encourage engagement, but one of the easiest is to allow comments on your blogs, pose questions for your readers and respond to their answers.
This is especially relevant for dog trainers, who are asked the same questions over and over again. On your next post about housetraining, have the debriefs about crate training, schedules and supervision in your back pocket when the inevitable "but it's not working!" comments come rolling in.
Well, that was a mouthful. And for the average dog trainer, who just wants to help dogs and isn't interested in a degree in digital marketing, this info can feel daunting. If this sounds like you, I encourage you to implement one of these strategies.
Because like any good behavior pro, I want to break your goals down into achievable steps. And once you see some success, momentum will keep you going.
Still feel overwhelmed? Let's suss it out. Leave me a comment below and I'll brainstorm with you. :)