SEO for salons: 24 ways to get to the top of Google
Coming out of Black Friday week, and into the shopping frenzy leading up to Christmas, most beauty businesses are looking for new ways to promote their services around the holidays. Black Friday retail sales, Christmas gift card promos, Facebook ads for holiday packages: Promotions are everywhere. Promotions and ads definitely work and certainly have their place (I show you how to succeed at Facebook ads and Google ads in other posts).
But there is another way of attracting clients every day of the year, promos or not.
Enter Google Search.
Whether they're on their phone, looking for a nail salon closest to them, or searching from their computer for the best balayage in the city, people are using Google to fill their beauty needs.
In fact, 72% of your potential clients prefer to find information about businesses like yours via search (source), more than any other way.
However, 98% of those searchers choose a business that is on page 1 of Google, and the higher up your salon appears, the greater your odds of being found.
You've probably wondered exactly what it takes be the ranked first on Google for "spray tans nearby" or "Best hair salon in *city name*". Google has a pretty intricate way to show us the best and most relevant results for any search, and it's made up of several factors.
What influences your salon's Google ranking?
As you'll see in this article, getting to the top of Google is made up of many factors, and most of those can be divided into three big groups: What you do to your website, how your website is linked to others, and your social factors (not just social media!).
If getting your salon ranked first on Google is a "recipe", there are several ingredients for success. (It's important to note that Google never actually tells us the exact way it ranks websites, so these are based on surveyed opinions.) (source):
1) Link signals: The most important factor is where on the internet your salon's website is linked to. The more high-quality and relevant websites that link to yours, the better.
2) On-Page signals: Almost as important is your website itself. The content you put on your website is essential for Google to understand if your business is "important and relevant".
3) Behavioural signals: When people see your business on Google, are they likely to click, call, or visit? Google keeps track of these things and ranks you higher if you have better "behavioural signals" like this.
4) Personalization: Google also knows which websites a searcher has seen in the past, and prefers to show search results that are relevant to the person. Not everyone's search results look the same, hence the "personalization".
5) Citation signals: Is your website being referenced by others (Yellow pages, other directories) with your correct name, address, and phone number? Having lots of correct citations helps here.
6) My business signals: This ranking factor is all about your Google My Business listing. Are you in the right category, close-by, and using the right keywords?
7) Review signals: The reviews your salon gets on Google, Facebook, Yelp and more make a different to your ranking as well.
8) Social signals: Although the least impactful, the amount of engagement you get on Facebook, Google +, Twitter and more does make a slight difference.
Okay, so now that you can understand *theoretically* why some salons are the first result on Google, while others are hidden on the second page, the question is: what can you do about this?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a long-term process that consists of continually "feeding" Google with the right links, content, and engagement that it's looking for. And it should definitely be a part of your salon's marketing strategy.
Below are 24 things you can start working on now to kick-start your SEO. Follow through on these and you'll be amazed at where your salon lands on Google in 2018.
Changes you should make to your website
As you saw above, one of the most important factors in your Google search ranking is what you do to your website. Most of these things you can do on your own (I'll give you instructions if you have a Wordpress or Wix website), while others might require you to ask your web developer.
1) Have a website
I'm guessing that most of you reading this already have a salon website, but just in case you don't, this is a wake up call. If you want to get found on Google, this is the most important first step you can take. You can even make a free website with Wordpress or Wix!
2) Install Google Analytics and Google Search Console
Google measures and rewards you for having a website that works well. But how do you tell what people actually do on your website? How long they look around for, what pages they visit, if they're on their computer or phone? Google Analytics will tell you all that and more.
Google Search Console takes search analytics further and tells you exactly how people are finding your website on Google: which search terms they're using, how often they're clicking and more. You'll need it to understand what's working and what you can improve on for Search Engine Optimization.
3) Make sure that your website is mobile optimized
Does your website display well from smartphones? If not, you could be doing serious damage to your Google search ranking. On one hand, more than half of Google searches are from a smartphone, and visitors will leave your site without taking action if it doesn't display properly. And equally as threatening, Google takes mobile optimization into consideration when ranking your website (source).
Mobile optimization for your Wordpress website: Most Wordpress themes are automatically mobile-friendly. If yours isn't, time to speak with your web developer about getting a new theme!
4) Have a fast website
How fast is your salon's website? Did you know that 40% of consumers will leave immediately if it takes longer than three seconds to load? (source)
Not only will your website visitors stick around on fast website, but Google will also reward you; The speed of your website is a ranking factor.
Unfortunately lots of beauty websites are weighed down by massive images. First, try resizing your images so that they’re not larger than they need to be. Then, test your website with Google Page Speed Insights and see how else you can improve it.
5) Make a list of the most important keywords that you want to appear for on Google
Your "keyword list" is an important project to work on, and something that you'll use in a lot of your search engine optimization. Essentially, it's a list of words that you want people to find you through on Google. For most salons, your keywords will look something like:
“Hair dresser Toronto”, "Hair stylists in Toronto" etc “Best facial New York”, "The best facial in NYC" etc
Google's Keyword Planner will help you understand the best keywords to target.
The most important keywords are ones for the services you're promoting plus your geographic area. If you've got several areas that you serve, and have multiple services, add those to your list, too.
6) Update your website to put your keywords in strategic places
To show that your salon's website is relevant to your city and the beauty services you're offering, you'll need to take the keywords from above and pepper them throughout your site. There are massive guides written about on-page search engine optimization, but for the purposes of this article, here are some of the most important places to put your keywords:
Page title: This is the title of your web pages as shown in your browser and in Google searches, like this:
You want this title to look good to searchers, but also appeal to Google's ranking algorithm. Put your most important keywords in it, while making it attractive.
Next, within your website's pages: Without going too "keyword crazy", make sure that your most important keywords do appear within the text of your pages at different points.
7) Make sure that your website description looks attractive from Google
The description of your website is what people see when they search for you. Here is an example of a good salon website description:
And a not so good one:
While Google doesn't directly take your website description into consideration when ranking you, it does track your website's "click through rate" from searches. So if people see your site but aren't clicking on it because your description isn't great, you're doing damage to your SEO.
8) Keep a blog and write regular articles for it
My guess is that you have a blog on your website, but you haven't written anything on it for about 6 months. Did I get that right? Your blog is important for creating useful content that you can share in newsletter emails and on social media, for making your website seem fresh to your visitors, but also to show Google that you're creating updated, relevant content.
Google wants to see that your website is "active", and blogs are a great way of doing this. But what to write about? Well, what kind of questions do you regularly get asked by clients about hair care, beauty, or the best products? Can you write "locally relevant" blog posts highlighting your favourite beauty and health businesses?
Get creative with your posts, and make sure to put your SEO keywords in the title and text.
9) Make your salon's name, address and phone number visible on every page of your website
Google wants to see lots of signs that your salon really is located where you say it is, and a great way of showing this is including your contact info on every page of your website. An easy way to display your Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) is to put it at the bottom of your website in the footer, like I do on the Sunnystorm website:
Getting high-quality websites to link to your salon's website
Okay, now that you've optimized your website for SEO, it's time to get lots of links to it. The internet is called the "web" because it's a massive web of links, each website linking to another. Google determines the quality of a website by look at what other websites are linking to it.
Just think: if your business has an article written about it in the New York Times, there is a pretty good chance that you're running a successful salon.
So the second part of SEO is to find ways of getting high quality links. While this may seem completely "out of your hands", it's actually not. Here are the best ways to get more links to your website and improve your Google search ranking.
10) Get links from business directories, especially local ones
Some of the best places to get "backlinks" are local directories. Think Yellow Pages, your chamber of commerce, etc.
Moz has a great list of the best citation websites for cities in the USA here. Hubspot also has a list of the top 50 places you can get your business listed online. Finally, try searching "*your city* local directory" for more ideas.
For some of these websites it's just a matter of claiming your listing. Others, you'll have to manually create a business profile. Finally, you may have to email the website owner to understand how to get your business listed. There are also websites that will automatically post your salon info on the most important citation sites for a fee.
11) Make sure your Name, Address and Phone number are consistent on citation websites
There is a pretty good chance that your salon's info is already listed on many citation websites. That's great! You just want to make sure that wherever you're listed, your name, address and phone number are exactly correct with no spelling errors, old addresses, or anything inconsistent. Google does not like inconsistency!
You can either do a Google search for your business name and see where you're listed, or use a service like Moz Local that will do it for you automatically.
12) See where your competitors are getting their links from
This is a great way to understand why other salons in your city may be ranking higher than you on Google while also getting some more links for your own business.
First, try a simple Google search for your competitors and take a look at the results. Do they have news articles written about them? Links from business directories you're not in, or have a profile somewhere you don't? Find where they're appearing online and try to get these websites to link to you, as well.
Then, try the Moz Open Site Explorer website which will show you exactly what backlinks your salon competitors are getting.
13) Get links to your website from other local businesses websites
I bet you have local businesses in your town that you support, love, and possibly even promote at your salon. And they have websites too, right?
A great way to build more backlinks is to speak with local businesses, especially ones that have a strong web presence, and ask to do a link exchange. They could write a blog post with links to their favourite local businesses (you can do one too and return the favour), have a page on their website with local businesses they support, or even do a partnership giveaway with prizes from both your businesses (and a blog post with links, of course).
14) Get included in news articles as an "industry expert"
Online news websites are excellent sources of backlinks, as they're usually considered an "authority". And believe it or, news sites are always looking for experts to comment on beauty and health trends, new products, celebrity hairstyles and more.
Help A Reporter Out connects news sites looking for experts with actual experts. All you have to do is respond to their request for help, and if they like your response they'll include you in their article (often with a link to your website).
Here is an example of a "beauty request" I've gotten through Help a Reporter Out:
If you're a hair stylist specializing in wedding hair, being profiled in this magazine would be perfect. Just subscribe to HARO's email updates and keep an eye out for inquiries in your field.
15) Connect with local bloggers in your city
Whether you're city is big or small, I bet there is an active community of bloggers writing about their favourite sushi places, hangout spots, beauty destinations and more.
Take a day and make a list of your local bloggers, then send them an email asking to review your business or propose to write a guest blog for them. For guest blog posts, think about topics like "The best beauty destinations in *city name*" Or "Why spray tanning is making it big in *city name*". Anything relevant to your town, but also on topic with your business. Just make sure you're getting a link back to your website!
16) Enter your local awards
If you haven't done it yet, submitting your salon to your local business awards a great idea. Not only will you get extra attention if you win, but the award website will link to you regardless of whether you win or not.
Optimize your social profiles and have a solid social strategy
We saw at the beginning of this blog post that social signals do make a difference in your salon's Google ranking. But this doesn't mean you need to have thousands of Instagram followers or hundreds of shares on Facebook. Social in this case goes beyond just Facebook and Instagram.
17) Create a Yelp profile and optimize it
Yelp is one of the most trusted citation and review websites for Google. If you don't have a profile on there yet, make one. If you're already on Yelp, claim your profile. And don't forget to optimize your Yelp profile by keeping it updated and complete. See my article about optimizing your Yelp profile here.
18) Create a Google for Business profile or claim your listing
As you saw above, a huge 7% of your Google ranking is determined by your Google My Business profile, so you absolutely need to make sure that you have one. In case you aren't sure what that is, here is an example of a really good and complete GMB profile:
You can create or claim your salon's Google My Business profile here.
19) Optimize your Google my Business profile
Once you've created your salon's GMB profile, make sure that it's complete and optimized. You'll want to make sure you're in the right category and your keywords are placed in your description.
Put in your businesses hours, what type of payment you accept, and all other profile sections. Then, make sure to upload several high-quality pictures of your location and some of your work. You may want to update these photos every few months to keep your profile fresh.
20) Get more client reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp
A huge 7% of your Google ranking is determined by your reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp and others, which completely makes sense. Why would Google want to show a salon with terrible customer service and bad reviews above another salon that clients love?
Getting lots of positive reviews should be a marketing priority for your business, for both SEO and for general marketing purposes. I've written an article about getting more positive reviews for your salon here.
21) Respond to your reviews
Although not a direct ranking factor, responding to your reviews, both good and bad, will help people trust your business, make them more likely to visit you, and more likely to leave a review of their own. More reviews and especially more positive reviews IS a ranking factor, so this is a smart thing to do. You should be responding to your reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and Google.
See Google's advice for responding to reviews here.
22) Create a LinkedIn company page
As a salon owner, your social media focus has probably been on Instagram and Facebook, and rightly so. But there is another social network out there that Google considers to be an authority: LinkedIn. It only takes a few minutes to set up a LinkedIn profile for your salon, link it to your salon website, and put in your employees and details. One more place for people to find you on the internet, and one more link that Google sees pointing to your website.
23) Create a “Bing for Business” profile
Believe it or not, there is still a percentage of people who use Bing instead of Google (estimated at around 10%). While Bing might seem completely irrelevant (and I don't recommend focussing on it), it's worth creating a "Bing Places" profile as one more place that people can find you online.
24) Have a solid social media strategy
The relationship between your social media and Google ranking isn’t direct: having tons of followers and engagement doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a better ranking. But social media does indirectly influence your salon's SEO in the following ways (source):
1) The more social shares you have, the more people will discover your content, and as a result more websites will link to your website.
2) More traffic to your website from social media may tell Google that your website is high quality (traffic is considered by some to be a ranking factor) which might boost your ranking.
3) When you have good branding on social media, people become familiar with you business. This means that if they see you on a Google search, they’re more likely to click. Google does take clickthrough rate as a ranking factor.
So, to summarize, having a strong social media strategy indirectly helps your salon's rankings on Google, too!
Search engine optimization for your salon can seem like a long, daunting task, but it is one that pays off long-term possibly more than any other marketing activity you can do. Hundreds of local searchers or looking for the best hair salon, spray tan, nail studio in their city. Will they find you?
I've written a fast and easy checklist to see where your salon is at when it comes to Search Engine Optimization, and what you still need to work on. Download it below!