Excuse the language but we had to get your attention. Everyday we (and potential customers) find issues that are common among small business websites. They are often 5 page HTML templates with only contact information and other boilerplate. Furthermore, these websites are hard to navigate for not only humans but for search engines as well. It provides a bad impression to have a poorly done website as the face of your business online. Much like your storefront creates a first impression of your business so does your website to visitors. The task of fixing these issues may seem daunting but we will try our very best to make this as pain free as possible with actionable steps you can take to make a better impression and turn your bad site into a good site.
Why is a good website important?
Not only does your website give a first impression of your business as previously stated, but it can help generate business and become a valuable asset, creating word of mouth, 24 hours a day. That being said making your website easy to use for both users and friendly to search engines is crucial to taking your business online.
What is search engine optimization?
Search engine optimization or SEO is the process of optimizing for search engines; a term aptly named. An important aspect of optimizing for search engines is creating a website that is easy for customers to use. Search engines want to display search results that are relevant and authoritative for their users. This is why when you do a search for the latest news stories organizations like the BBC, CNN, ABC appear. This happens because the search engines believe those companies are authoritative and that happens because they have a reputation for providing reliable information. Good SEO is making your website a easy to use and helpful resource for visitors. There are of 2 parts of SEO: On page optimization and off page optimization.
What is On page Optimization?
On page optimization is making sure your website is easy to use and relevant to what you want to rank for. The easy-to-use part means making sure that the site is fast, easy to navigate and free of multiple redirects and 404s. The relevant part means again that your website talks about the subject you wish to rank for. For example if you own sell Blue Widgets and wish to get visitors interested in buying blue widgets; then you need to make sure that your website mentions blue widgets (this doesn’t mean spam the term.)
What is Off Page Optimization?
Off page optimization is about getting your content shared on the interest by relevant and authoritative websites. For example, If you were a website selling blue widgets; a link from a respected industry blog about the widget industry would be a relevant and authoritative link. There are over 200 signals Google uses to determine search engine rankings but none of them are more important than backlinks. A backlink is a click-able link from Site A to Site B. The more authoritative site A is the more it will help site B’s rankings. Social media is playing an increasing role in a website’s ranking and now more than ever it is becoming very important to be active and have your website or business be a topic of conversation.
The text of the clickable link is called anchor text. Google uses anchor text to determine what the link is about. For example, I own redwidgets.com and I want to rank for “buy red widgets” and I get a link from redwidgetnews.com. Let’s say redwidgetnews.com uses buy red widgets to link to us. The term “buy red widgets” tells Google the url that text is pointing to will be relevant to “buy red widgets.” It is a bad idea to use only commercial keywords (keywords that make you money,) but instead naked urls like “http://www.example.com”, brand terms like Red Widget Depot if your store’s name is Red Widget Depot and generic anchor text like “click here”, “read more.” Over use of commercial keywords can lead to penalties if the anchor text is overused and NOT relevant to the url it points to.
Start Here for Fixing Your Website
Fix Your Website
- Make sure your website loads quickly. Test your sites speed with this tool. It will give you an overview of errors it find and suggestions to fix them. Here is a great post on making your website faster. One simple suggestion is to move your website from shared hosting onto a dedicated web host. Lastly, if the tech lingo is too much consider hiring someone to make these changes. Site load speed is a factor in search engine rankings so it is very important to have a quickly loading website.
- Make sure your website looks hot. This doesn’t mean spending thousands on a new design but spend what you can afford. As previously mentioned your website is the online face of your business and making it look good creates great first impression. A poorly done site can increase your bounce rate (number of people who leave a website without visiting a second age.) A quick search for “Web Designer + City name” (without quotes) will return local web designers. If your budget is limited consider themes from websites like themeforest.net and templatemonster.com
- Make it easy to navigate. This means getting from the Homepage to any page on the website should no more than 4 clicks. Making use of categories and bread crumb navigation are vital for ease of access and good seo. Categories group pages by the subject matter. Breadcrumb navigation is narrowing broad categories to targeted sub categories. For example, if you owned a furniture store you would of course have a category on couches which would narrow down to blue couches, red couches, etc. For a more detailed explanation of breadcrumb navigation check out this great overview.
- Moving to a content management system like WordPress for a website can make your life and SEO a whole lot easier. WordPress makes editing files simple and has easy to use plug-ins that make virtually every techy task very simple. Joomla and Drupal are alternatives if you do not like WordPress
- Make sure your robots.txt file (accessed from web host files) is not blocking search engine spiders from accessing your website. This is rare but neglecting to check can result in all your efforts being wasted, since you’re telling search engines to not include your website in results.
- Create a sitemap and upload it to your website. A sitemap more or less an index of all the pages/categories/posts and other information on your website. Creating and uploading one is simple is a quick win for SEO. This tool creates a sitemap.
- Sign up to Google Webmaster Tools. This is a service run by Google which will report important metrics that show the health of your website from Google’s perspective. Sign up to Google Analytics to track your traffic and important demographic info as well as source and location.
- Take care of redirects and 404s. A detailed guide can be found here on SEOMOZ
On Page Optimization
On page factors are the foundation to a good website. When building a house you build bottom up, starting with a great foundation. The same goes for building a well optimized website. On page seo is crucial to helping search engine spiders categorize and rank your content.
- If your website is on the WordPress.com CMS then you should look into Yoast! Seo plugin. This plug-in will take your input and insert it into the proper areas (writes meta tags ). This means you do not have to work with code.
- Continuing from last bullet, meta tags should include your keyword. Make sure they [keywords] appear early and in a prominent position.
- Make sure that the meta tag descriptions are within the limited characters. Long meta tags will not be used by search engine, so make use of what you have.
- Encourage social sharing by adding a like, tweet and share buttons to your website. This can be done easily with the help of addthis.
- Make sure your URLS are short and contain the keyword you want to rank for. Of course, only use keywords in the URL where relevant and to your visitors.
- For a more complete overview of on page seo head over to Moz and check out their on page SEO guide.
- Finally, do everything with you visitors in mind. Chances are what your visitors like are what search engines like. If your website provides a great user experience then chances are they will share your information: meaning higher search engines rankings.
Off Page SEO/Link Building
So here we are, the final frontier in making your website great. Off page seo is all about getting other websites to talk about yours. The challenge of course is making people care enough about it to share. Many people have found one of the easiest ways to do this is to leverage knowledge. This can be industry expertise, programming knowledge to build tools, creating visual data with info-graphics, anything that solves a problem or answers a question. Of course, those are just a handful of methods you can use but I will cover easier ways if you do not have the time or resources to do any of the previous examples.
- Guest blogging is a great way to share knowledge. Ask bloggers/customers what they care about in your industry and answer the questions. Then reach out to bloggers and ask for a guest post. I use this tool to find blogs accepting guest posts. Other popular tools are myblogguest, blogdash and bloggerlinkup.
- If you have a service then ask your customers for links in exchange for special offers. If you are a B2B business asking for a partners or clients link can be a great link building strategy. Providing a case study/testimonial to services you have used then asking for a link is a great way to get them.
- Are there organizations where you are locally looking for sponsors? If you have the budget you can donate to a little league, charities and other organizations who need the sponsorship. You can ask for a link in return, but don’t make the donation contingent upon a link. If you did, that would be considered as a paid link.
- Comment on blogs that are high quality and relevant. By high quality we mean blogs that already active discussions and a community and are updated regularly. We do not mean websites with thin content that don’t moderate comments. Commenting can be a great way to interact with the blogger and could make getting a link from them easier.
- Create a giveaway or a competition with a prize. Give people incentive to want to share your content. A giveaway can make reaching out to bloggers very easy if you can make it worthwhile for them and their readers. For example, a contest to vote for the best blogger in your industry then giving a prize to the blogger and their readers only will create a great amount of social media buzz and links. I mean, how else are they going to talk about the giveaway without linking?
SEO NO NOS
- Paid links. Don’t buy links from webmaster, don’t pay for guest posts.
- Don’t use automated software to create thousands of links overnight.
- Don’t get links just for the sake of having links. They should be relevant and serve a practical use.
- Reciprocal linking is okay if it is helpful. Having a page that has 500 outbound links (link from your site to another) from people you link exchange is hardly natural or helpful.
- Don’t keyword stuff. Using terms unnaturally to game search engine rankings is bad .
Don’t build a website for search engines. Build a website for people and try to help them with their problems. If you still need more ways to go about link building then check out these awesome resources below.
- Paddy Moogan’s Link Building Book is a great resource for anyone. He does a fantastic job of outlining numerous link building strategies in a simple format. Furthermore, he provides both free and paid tools you can use to get the work done and still have a life.
- John Cooper at Pointblankseo.com has a fantastic resource all about the different types of links. It would be foolish to not take a look at the free resource.
Other FANTASTIC SEO resources
- Moz.com has 3 years worth of free webinars and content updated daily from SEO experts.
Well that’s it for now. Hopefully, you have a good understanding of where to go from here if not here’s a recap. Start by making your website user and search engine friendly, then focus on making search engines know what your website is about. Finally, share expertise or anything that contributes in a positive way to the industry or the net in general.