You have designed – or paid someone to design – a terrific looking website for your company or organisation. “Surely this will help drive my marketing efforts and boost sales,” you think to yourself.
The only problem is: how do people find your website? Just as there is no point producing a snappy TV or radio commercial if you have no TV or radio station to play it on, creating a website that no one can find is equally futile .
If a consumer is using a search engine such as Google to look for a product or service you deliver, why will your website appear on the first page of results ahead of your dozens or even hundreds of competitors, who may have launched a website five, 10 or 15 years ago?
The answer is it won’t. It may not even appear on the tenth page of results. And that’s because your search engine ranking starts out very low. Yes, you could pay Google money to appear as one of the Google ads that appear on the right hand side of the screen but the simple fact is most website users prefer to click on the unpaid links because the higher they are in the search listings the greater the credibility they have. They’re popular for a reason and people don’t trust paid-for links.
So how do you boost your ranking?
It’s all about search engine optimisation (SEO). And if you want to get the most out of your online marketing efforts understanding how SEO works is essential. Search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo! etc) want to send people to websites that are relevant to what they are looking for. If a search engine sends you to sites about birthday cards instead of birthday cakes you will pretty quickly go to another search engine.
To achieve this search engines rank or index pages according to relevance. There are a number of parameters the likes of Google or Bing use to rank websites. Gone are the days when ranking was based purely on the number of visitors to a site or the number of links to other sites. While that’s still very important, SEO has become significantly more sophisticated.
1. Content is king
Is the content on your website relevant to what people are searching for? Are there key words in the titles and text on the site that will tell search engines if you are a financial planner or a party planner?
Is the content original or did you simply copy it from another website overseas for a company in a similar line of business to your own?
Google hates a lack of originality. Don’t just go to a popular blog or website and copy (or link to) their content even if you have permission (Google won’t know).
Google also loves quality; but what makes good quality SEO?
- Original content – text, images, videos
- Correct spelling
- Good grammar
- Consistent and proper text formatting
- Links inbound and outbound from and to other quality and popular sites
The more highly-ranked websites that carry links to your site the higher your authority, another quality search engines look at when indexing web pages.
2. Create a blog
Having a blog on your website is essential. This provides a platform to display all of your original content. But ensure you post regularly (every second day, if time permits) on topics relevant to people who you want visiting your website and acquiring your goods and/or services. Blogs also allow you to insert more key words into your website in a genuine and timely manner, not just as a cynical effort to con search engines, further boosting your search-engine ranking. Try to avoid putting content on your website that is not relevant to your business’ products or services. Don’t fill your website’s blog with posts about the Ashes, unless you have Cricket Australia as a client or you’re selling cricket bats.
Don’t limit your posts to the written word. Video is a popular and easily digestible way to communicate to time-poor potential audiences. Preferably the video should be original but that requires time and skills that most of us do not possess. Try posting someone else’s video but add some original insights and commentary relevant to your business. Nevertheless, it’s amazing what you can shoot on a smart phone, so if you’ve something interesting to write why not say to camera?
Infographics are also useful and increasingly popular ways to get information across via websites. An example of well-recognised infographic is the famous London Underground map. The map provided visual representations of information, data or knowledge used to present complex information quickly and clearly. They lend you a credibility search engines love. Designed well, they can go viral very quickly.
Below is one produced by Google.
3. Use social media to promote your blog
You may well ask: if no one can find your website through the search engines, how will they ever find your blog which happens to be on the very site you’re trying to promote? That is where social media comes into play. Promote each blog post through your company’s (and your personal) Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ page, using hashtags (except for LinkedIn) to attract people interested in say #superannuation or #infrastructure.
When people share or tweet a link to your site and others click on the link, this sends a signal to search engines, further boosting your ranking. “Search engines such as Google don’t want to send people to websites where the administrator has tried to game the system…”
The beauty of hashtags like #superannuation is that your post appears chronologically in social media feeds set up by people searching for posts about superannuation, irrespective of how many people have seen or shared the post.
You can also join LinkedIn and Google+ groups relevant to your industry and post links to your blog on group pages. But be careful, there is a big focus on etiquette in these groups. Don’t just post links to your content; engage with others in the groups, join conversations and share their material. If you produce products that are photogenic, take photos on your smart phone and put them on Instagram and your blog.
At this point you may be wondering why anyone would bother with Google+ given it’s similarity to Facebook with a much much smaller audience. However, Google+ is at the heart and soul of Google’s entire strategy1.
- It adds to the data Google collects from people who are using its search engine, making their future searches more accurate and relevant;
- When people create Google profiles and search on the web, Google tracks their activity and interests;
- Google+ measures +1’ing, sharing and commenting on its network ;
- All of this data helps Google to personalize your search results so they’re more useful to you as an individual.
When someone adds a link to your content in their Google + profiles they are treated as web pages, which helps in increasing your websites page rank. This is not the case on Twitter, where links aren’t passed as a page rank through to your site.
So post your content on Google+ and as it is shared or +1’ed, your page rank should improve.
5. Performance and user experience
Search engines like fast websites.
Avoid putting too much content on the homepage, especially lots of video and flash, as it slows down your site’s loading speed. If users have to wait too long for your content to load they will leave.
This increases your site’s bounce rate (represents the proportion of visits that end on the first page of the website that the visitor sees). The higher your bounce rate the lower your ranking.
That’s why it’s important for your site to look professional and contemporary. It should be easy to navigate around. Importantly, make sure your website can be viewed in mobile format (tablets and smart phones) as nothing makes someone leave a website quicker than a site with one-point text on their iPhone or Android screen.
6. Google rules
Search engines such as Google don’t want to send people to websites where the administrator has tried to game the system; that is, gone overboard trying to boost its SEO by, for example, filling the site with keywords or links to other sites. In other words, it’s a delicate balance between maximising your search engine ranking and cheating.
So Google has developed a set of rules to penalise sites that overdo SEO at the expense of user utility. If you want to avoid running afoul of the rules, you need to ensure they are high quality, relevant links. As Helen Overland explains: “Always try to make sure that the links you are building to your website have actual value, that somebody who is going to your website from the link would actually say to themselves ‘This is an interesting site I have just found...’ or ‘...an interesting store I have just found.’. That is one way to stay on the right side of Google’s rules when it comes to link building.”2
1 A. Thomas, ‘Is Google Plus Important for Search Engine Optimization?’, jeffbullas.com, 2013
2 H. Overland, Google Penalties & Key Things to look out for, ecommerce.shopify.com, June 2013
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