You’ve got an amazing looking website; everything is just how you want it. Content is great, images are compelling, your customers clearly understand how to contact you, but no one is knocking on your digital door. These days, you can’t just build a new site and expect the global economy to blow your roof off. There is a lot of noise on the web and having a beautiful website is only the first step in having a successful online venture.
So, how do you tell the world that you’re open for business? One answer is Search Engine Optimization also known as SEO. About a decade ago you could program a few “meta” tags in the back end of your code and your site would be discovered by the search engines and – behold! – customers would come knocking. These days, things are a bit more involved. Search engines are smarter; they’ve had to evolve to stay ahead of keyword spammers and black-hat SEO practitioners. SEO has also evolved into more sophisticated Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategies. Although the world of digital marketing has gotten more complex and there are many tactics available, there are still a few basic elements that should be addressed when beginning any SEO / SEM effort.
Search Engine Optimization: Meta Tags
The foundation of any SEO effort is to create quality meta tags using current best practice optimization rules. There are three primary tags to be concerned with: Title, Description, and Keyword tags.
The Title tag appears up in your browser’s title bar when viewing a website and should contain no more than 66 characters. Google uses your page “Title” as the link in their search index. Place your most important keywords toward the front of the title tag.
Descriptions are no longer used to impact search ranking but they can be helpful to entice a user into clicking through to your site as it gives you an opportunity to tell them about your page before they visit. In some cases Google will not display the description and will substitute it with body content. Descriptions should be less than 150 characters. Both Titles and Descriptions should be unique for every page on your site so that the search engines know the content is different from page to page.
Keywords are not used by the major search engines any longer for ranking purposes due to the high amount of abuse over the last 15 years; however, it may still be useful to optimize this meta tag for some lesser known search engines.
Body Content Optimization
Content is the new king metric of internet search engines. (Check out this video from Coke on content marketing). As a result, if you want to rank well with Google, Bing, or Yahoo, you’ve got to have great content. Make sure that your body content is interesting, sharable, and has a high saturation of keywords for your targeted audience. Ideally, each page of your site should have a single focus and be engaging. Definitely do not try to create pages that are just stuffed with keywords in an attempt to trick the engines, they’re smart enough these days to understand good content from keyword spam content and before you know it, you’re page will be removed from their indexes.
Site Popularity, like content is another major factor in page ranking these days. The search engines use very complex algorithms to see how popular your site is on the web. Essentially, the more websites that link to your site or the more your site is mentioned in the Social Web the more popular your site is. Thus, it is essential to engage in social media and to develop rapid followers who like to talk about what you’re doing. The best way to get people talking about you is to provide good content worth talking about as well as easy methods for people to share your content.
Beyond SEO, Content Marketing, and Social Media another excellent way for businesses to be found on the web is through setting up a Google+ Pages (formerly Google Places) profile on Google. This allows local customers to quickly and easily find your business. Google+ Pages often appear before organic search results. Be sure and claim your space today!
Clear Conversion Path
Once you’ve started driving new potential customers to your site, it’s critical to provide a clear and easy way for the site visitor to connect with you socially, contact you traditionally, or convert into a customer. Provide your phone number, email signup capability, blog RSS feeds, social icons, widgets, and forms – all of which allow the visitor to engage at an appropriate level with your organization.
Well, that’s a lot to absorb! Take it one step at a time or hire a great company like Strategy to assist you with getting started in Search Engine Optimization. Remember: there are no Silver Bullet SEO tactics (just hard, consistent, good work) and just because you built it, doesn’t mean that people will magically show up. You’ve got to tell them about the site, and you’ve got to provide value in your content that is worth talking about and worth following.