The main purpose of most websites is to help drive sales either directly through ecommerce or indirectly as an online brochure. But your website is completely useless if no one visits it. The phrase “If you build it, they will come” does not apply to websites. You must drive traffic to it and one of the major strategies is to optimize it so that search engines will list it when someone searches for your industry, services or products. But how do you make sure that you are listed before your competitors?
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of building your website so that search engines like Google will want to list it first when your customers are searching. Below is a simple checklist of items to consider when designing and building your site.
Know your target audience
- Everything starts with your target audience. They are made up of your best potential customers, the ones you don’t mind spending money to bring in. The more you know about your target audience, the less expensive it can be to reach them. What makes them your ideal customer? What traits do they have and what behaviors do they exhibit? What magazines do they read? Where do they get their news?
- Knowing your customer helps you create content specifically for them and what they are searching for. You only want to spend money and time reaching your ideal customers– don’t waste it bringing in tire-kickers.
Know your keywords
- Keywords and phrases are the terms that your potential customers use to search for the services or products you offer. What do your customers search for that indicates they are ready, willing and able to spend money on your products? What other search terms might indicate that the visitor is in research mode, but not ready to buy quite yet? You can direct these types of potential customers to different parts of your website so they get just the information they need or want.
- The heart of SEO is your content. This is what your prospects (and the search engines) will read. Your content needs to match and include your keywords in a natural way. Avoid over-optimizing your content by stuffing too many keywords into a page too many times. That said, your content needs to be long enough to help give search engines enough information to explore. Typically, a web page or blog article should be at least 300 words.
Meta Tags (titles, descriptions, image alt text)
- In addition to the content that your visitors will read, every webpage has metadata that tell the search engines what the page is about. The page title and page description provide a summary of the major topics of your page and are also displayed by Google in their search results. Image alt text is text that describes each image on your page, as search engines may not necessarily understand your images. You don’t want a search engine simply guessing what your images are!
Links (internal and external, backlinks)
- Links are an important tool to tell a search engine just how important a page is. The more links you have pointing to your page, the more important it must be according to search engines. Linking to your other pages helps keep visitors on your site, finding additional content and helping them make a buying decision.
- Backlinks are links from other sites to your own. You want high-quality, frequently-visited websites to link to you to prove that your website has value. A few high-quality links can outweigh many low-quality links, so concentrate on getting links from the best sites out there instead of purchasing a lot of low quality links.
Logical semantic structure (use of H-tags)
- Organize your content such that the most important keywords are used in the title and highest level headers (H1 tags). Sub-headers (H2 – H6) can use secondary keywords. Of course, the page content should also contain your keywords and related phrases. You don’t have to use every level of heading (H1-H6) but having at least a few levels will really help guide the search engines in determining what content is most relevant.
Structured data (event calendar, e-commerce, playlists, etc)
- If you have a calendar, online shop, podcasts, videos or other types of organized data on your website, structured meta tags help search engines understand the type of data you have. Search results can and will display more than just web page links such as upcoming events and playlists so your potential customers or visitors can get right to the information they want on your website.
- Structured data should be provided by the software that manages your data (i.e. calendar plugin in WordPress, or eCommerce feature on Wix). Use structured data testing tools to verify and validate your structured data is present and effective.
- Sitemaps let search engines know about all your pages and how they’re organized. Without a sitemap, the search engines are left to guess what all the pages are on your site. Having a sitemap doesn’t guarantee every page will be indexed and displayed, and leaving pages off a sitemap won’t prevent them from being listed. However, the sitemap will guarantee that the search engines will know about the pages you want them to know about and how they’re related.
Performance (optimized assets, server speed)
- We all want to get our answers fast and therefore we prefer that any website we visit load quickly. Therefore search engines give a slight preference to sites that load faster. So make sure that your site is optimized for performance. This includes being on a server that responds and serves pages quickly and making sure your images are appropriately sized. Most mobile phones take photos that are several megabytes and many thousands of pixels, but you may only need a small thumbnail on your website. Loading an image that is 3MB when you only need a 100K image will slow your site unnecessarily. This is especially true for mobile phone users on slower mobile data plans.
You should now have a better understanding of what search engines look for when deciding how to rank the thousands of possible results when your customers perform a search. By going through this checklist, your site will rank higher, get more traffic and help build your bottom line. Need help boosting your SEO or managing your website? Call the professionals at CONRIC at 239-690-9840 ext. 1001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your free virtual business marketing consultation today.