I am constantly amazed at how businesses fail to recognize the importance of their entire web presence. Does this scenario ring true in your company? You’ve spent several thousand dollars on a custom website a year or two or three ago and continue to pay the monthly hosting or content management fees yet there has been little to no increase in web traffic or business revenues as a result of this new website. When you search for your website with a relevant keyword or phrase you are nowhere to be found in Google, Yahoo or Bing. You are at a loss for what to do so you just keep paying those monthly hosting fees and hope it will get better.
Guess what? It probably won’t unless you begin to understand your most misunderstood asset.
Your web presence (website, social media pages, landing pages, online advertising) lives within the internet ecosystem. As with all ecosystems, there are components that give and sustain life and components that are harmful.
Today I am going to run down some of the key requirements necessary for your website to have a shot at obtaining good Search Engine Ranking Position (SERP).
Your Website: When your website was “born” or published live to the internet it should’ve had several components within its DNA to help it along its way.
- URL – A descriptive URL or domain name is better recognized by search engines. A user should be able to look at your domain name and have a general idea about what you do or what your site is about. For example, my company’s URL is http://www.marlowwebmedia.com . You have a general idea of what you are going to encounter when you go to my site.
Ok, so what do you do when you already have a domain name that doesn’t give visitors a good idea of what you do? Get one that does and point it to your main website. It is ok to have another domain that is more keyword rich and point it to your less descriptive main domain name. A word of caution, don’t go out and buy 3 or 300 domain names and point them to your main website. One good keyword rich domain name is all that you need and will keep you out of hot water with the search engines.
- Page Titles for each page on your website – Note: this information is included in the <head> portion of your html code. Your web designer can accomplish changes to this for you.The two most common mistakes made by lazy web designers when they are putting your website together are 1) they don’t include any page titles or 2) they include the same page title for each page of your website. Page titles are extremely important for search engines. Look below at how Google displays my home page in its search engine results. Both the title and the meta description give a thorough understanding of what to expect when you come to THIS PAGE of my site. Yours should do the same for each and every page.
- Meta description – Note: this information is included in the <head> portion of your html code. Your web designer can accomplish changes to this for you.
Your websites meta description allows you to influence how your web pages are described and displayed in search result. Please read that last sentence again. There are a lot of things that we don’t have control of once our website is “live”, so don’t miss the opportunity to craft your website’s meta description yourself. Ideally your meta description will be between 70 – 160 characters in length including spaces and punctuation marks. Basically, the meta description is your online “elevator pitch” to search engines and visitors.
- Meta keywords - Note: this information is included in the <head> portion of your html code. Your web designer can accomplish changes to this for you.
Your meta keywords are used to indicate keywords that are supposedly relevant to your website’s content. Over time however they have become of minimal benefit, (if any), because search engine spammers abused them. However, I still use them because I don’t think you have anything to lose and when they match the content of your website I think their relevance is validated and thus can add some benefit, albeit not much.
- Headings Tags – Note: this information should be included in the <body> portion of your html code. Your web designer can accomplish changes to this for you.
Websites are written in HTML or “hypertext markup language”. Within HTML there is a group of items call “tags” that are called heading tags. Heading tags convert normal text into the big bold letters that you see on a website at the top of an article etc. For example the title of a newspaper article would be a heading.
There are 6 different sizes of headings that can be used on your website and they range from H1 the biggest down to H6 the smallest.
OK, so why am I telling you all of this? Because headings are important. Each page of your website should contain one H1 heading with your most relevant keyword(s) for that page.
- Content – Content is no longer king, it is the emperor. The written word on each of the pages of your website is critically important. It should be keyword rich yet written in a way that supports the title and meta description for the page.
- Images – Images are a necessary evil for websites. Obviously they help to paint a pallet that supports your company’s mission, but often times they can be a negative impact on your websites ranking ability.
Restrict the number and size of images to optimize your website’s page load times. By size, I mean how many kilobytes they are. Keeping them as “lightweight” as possible is key.
Check the images on your website and make sure effective ALT text is specified for each of them. ALT Text or Alternative Text describes your images so they can appear in Google search results.
- Flash – This should only be used sparingly and for specific enhancements to the site. Avoid at all costs full flash websites to maximize search engine optimization capabilities. Although Flash content is great “eye candy” it cannot be read by search engines and therefore adds zero search engine ranking ability. Minimal Flash GOOD, All Flash BAD.
- Robots.txt file – This kind of file should be located on your websites server. Check with your web designer to determine if it is there. A robots.txt file allows you to restrict or limit the access of your web server to search engines that crawl the web. It can prevent search engine crawlers from accessing specific directories or pages. It also tells the search engine crawler where the XML sitemap is located.
- XML Sitemap – A must have! An XML sitemap lists the pages on your website that are available for the search engines to crawl or index. Your XML sitemap can be created and installed on your websites server and then submitted to Google and Yahoo to help them find your site and crawl it more intelligently.
- Website Analytics – You know the old saying…you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been? Well similarly, you don’t know how to change and tweak your website unless you can tell how it’s attracting visitors. That’s where a good website stats program comes into play. One of the best is Google Analytics. Chuck full of metrics and statistics and all that good stuff. Oh and it’s FREE. Get an analytics program on your website today. Start tracking what’s happening and understanding why it is happening. Make changes to your website to improve performance.
Like your office copy machine, or the company delivery truck your website should be thought of as a tool to be used to grow business. Taking the time to understand what makes it tick is a great investment in time for you and your business.
Perhaps you have heard about this new thing called, ‘Google Place Pages’. It’s a recently available launch from Google basically giving users detailed information regarding any place on earth with an special, individual page within Google Maps.
The specific information includes any place such as businesses, points of interest, cities, neighborhoods, and a lot more. To access these place pages in Google Maps just click on the, ‘more info’ link for the listing. This will retrieve that business, attraction, city, etc. place page with information like: street address, photos, reviews, business info, accreditation, videos, related web pages and also user content. Sponsored links also show on the right hand side on the Google Place Pages.
To acquire a Google Place Page you have to have a Google local business ad. A Google local business ad permits you to create your company profile within Google maps to ensure that correct information like your business address and contact information and logo is displayed when someone is searching for your business. It’s pretty simple to fill out a Google local business ad; you merely create a Google account associated with your business, and go to www.google.com/local/add to sign up for an account. Here you can simply fill out your business information including street address, phone number, hours of operation, a description about your business, etc. What’s even cooler about Place Pages is the fact that each place will have its own URL that will be easy to remember and easy to link to. For example, Google says the San Francisco Place Page will be found at google.com/place/us/California/san-francisco-city. This isn’t working for each Place Page right now as Google is still working on this friendly URL structure for everyone.
More and more users today are basing their buying decisions based off unbiased reviews through which Google Place Pages provides quite nicely. If you’re operating a local business and don’t have a Google local business ad running you need one ASAP. After you have your own Place Page you can encourage people to visit and write reviews. It’s a great way for anyone to access more information about a ‘place’, see pictures, read reviews and see more user content. If the information given on these Place Pages don’t enable you to make an informed decision about whether to utilize a business or not I’m not sure what will!
There are many important strategies and factors that need to be considered when trying to acquire first page search engine ranking position, or SERP. And frankly, most small business marketing departments /owners don’t have the knowledge or the time necessary to accomplish all of them.
Short of time? Focus on this one strategy.
If there was one strategy among all of the others to focus your limited time and energy on, I would suggest you focus on acquiring quality back links to your site as the most important one.
What is a back link: Back links refer to hyper-links pointing from a web page on one site to a particular web page on another site. Back links are important because Google considers the quality and quantity of back links to determine Page Rank. Notice the words quality and quantity in the definition. Let’s dig deeper into what that means with regards to back links.
In general, Google views the internet as a popularity contest. Those websites that have the most quality back links coming to their sites typically will receive the highest page rank for a particular keyword or keyword phrase compared to their competition.
Now, let’s talk about what a “quality back link” is and what it isn’t.
A good back link is one that links back to your site using the keyword(s) that you want to optimize your website for.
Site 1 links to Site 2 (a back link for site 2): Here is the content on Site 1 “For a better understanding of Search Engine Optimization, please read blah blah..etc. etc….blah blah blah.”
Site 2 is a website that specializes in Search Engine Optimization services and other web performance services. Because a primary keyword for site 2 is “Search Engine Optimization”, the link provided by Site 1 to Site 2 is a higher quality link because it used one of Site 2’s primary keyword phrases and attached the link address to it rather than just putting in Site 2’s web address. Google indexes the words used in the link AND follows the link to Site 2 to further understand what Site 2 is about. Very Important!!
They link back from another website that shares the same theme or niche as your site. This means that according to Google, those links are relevant inbound links which are more valuable. These are exactly the links that you need because search engines will evaluate your links as quality ones. Always remember that the higher the relevance of your inbound links, the better.
Furthermore, if the link on Site 1 was higher on up on the page, say above the fold, it would be of higher quality than if it was lower on the page…i.e. below the fold. Yes, even the position of the link is important.
What Kind Of Links Should You Avoid?
Search Engines rank based on quantity and quality of back links to websites for a given search query. Again, quantity means as many as you can get and quality means relevance to your product / service / message. So be careful if you hire a link building firm or sign up for link farms etc and acquire a “bazillion” links to your site. You may get a ton of links, but they may be irrelevant to your site and not give any “link juice” for your SERP and could even negatively impact your SERP.
Reciprocal links are OK but will not provide as much boost to your position as a one way back link. A reciprocal link is basically trading a back link for a back link with another website.
Marlow Web Media
Your “Web Presence” Specialists!