Search engine optimization (SEO) is designed to grow the visibility of your website and brand in organic search engine results. It represents all the elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness. An SEO-friendly website is one designed using key terms on every page and that can be found through well-placed links on other sites.
The majority of web traffic comes from Google, which uses high-quality content and link building as the two most important signals to determine the rank of your website (i.e. whether it can be found on the first page) within a given search. SEO is a long-term process that every company should be dutiful in adhering to in the content creation process, but there are several simple steps you can take right now to get that process working in the right direction. Here are seven ways to make your website more search-engine-friendly, allowing potential customers to find you faster.
Step 1: Think Like Your Customer
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes when they’re searching for you on the web. SEO is not the place to try unique and creative catch phrases when referring to your product or service. Perhaps you think of yourself as a provider of high-fidelity outdoor music experiences. But if your potential customers think they’re looking for outdoor speakers, you need to include “outdoor speaker” all over your website — even if that phrase doesn’t fully reflect your company’s branding. The first order of business is to get people to find you how they would think of you.
Step 2: Own the Words On Your Site
Make the words you need to “own” ubiquitous on your website. If you’re selling outdoor speakers, the phrase “outdoor speaker” should appear on every page of your website, from the contacts page to the terms and conditions. Companies often forget this, and with only a few instances of those key phrases mentioned, you might miss out on crucial business growth. Check your website for key words and phrases by doing a keyword search within your own website domain on Google.
Step 3: Use Smart HTML Coding
Pay attention to title tags. They’re the part of the HTML that tells your browser which words to display along the top of your browser window or your browser tabs. Search engines pay attention to them too. If the title tag for your “About” page is simply “About,” you’re missing an opportunity to boost your SEO. Instead, preface the “About” with a short description of what you’re selling and then your company name, like “Weather-proof, rugged, outdoor speakers – Acme High-Fidelity Outdoor Music Experiences, Inc. – About.” After all, nobody’s going to look for you by searching the word “About.”
Step 4: Generate Cross-Linking
Get your website mentioned on other websites. Nothing makes your website look more important to search engines than seeing it referred to on other websites. These “backlinks” are also the key reason why it’s important to send a press release over newswire services. It’s not just about the possibility of someone reading the coverage on your Series 8000 Outdoor Speaker in Outdoor Entertainment Times that matters; even more important is the inevitable link to your website that such coverage provides. Eventually the Series 8000 will be succeeded by the Series 9000, but the link will live on and boost the significance of your website in the eyes of the search engine long after. In addition to sending press releases over the newswire, ask your resellers, partners, distributors, and other stakeholders to mention you on their websites prominently and often in exchange for doing the same for them.
Step 5: Create SEO-Friendly Press Releases
If you issue press releases, put important words in the headline and the first paragraph. Which of these headlines do you think is more SEO friendly?
- Acme to Showcase New Rubberized Series 8000 at 2017 Outdoor Solutions Expo in Anaheim, California
- New Outdoor Speakers from Acme Feature Weather-proof, Rugged Design; Rubberized Series 8000 on Display at 2017 Outdoor Solutions Expo
OK, you may think I’m joking, but every day scores of companies send out press releases where it’s difficult to tell from the headline what they’re selling. Maybe that’s because they think that vagueness will make people curious to read on. That’s possible, but search engines aren’t people; they read key words and phrases. They are much more impatient, and they favor communications that come quickly and obviously to the point.
Step 6: SEO Advertising
Consider bribing the search engine to bring up your company results for a small consideration. In other words, try pay-per-click (PPC) search engine advertising, like Google Adwords. Rumors to the contrary, PPC isn’t cheap, but it can be effective, particularly if there’s something distinctive about your product or service that people are consciously looking for. The cost and results will depend on how many other companies you’re bidding against for the same clicks. If what you’re selling is something people don’t know that they need yet, then PPC may not yield the hoped for results.
Step 7: Maintain Legacy URLs
Update content on existing pages rather than replacing old pages altogether. Search engines tend to prefer new wine in old bottles. A page that’s been around for years that gets updated regularly will do better in SEO results than a brand new page that needs to be discovered and “crawled” before it can start climbing up the results. This is especially important to keep in mind if you ever do over your website completely. Roll out a great new website without a transition plan in place and POOF! All references to your website on Google can become dead links overnight.
SEO is a journey, not a destination, so it’s important to stay vigilant in your SEO efforts as part of your integrated marketing communications plan. Take stock of what’s not working by analyzing your website traffic and then continue to tweak and refine. The data — and your bottom line — will tell you when you’ve hit the sweet spot.