By Mark Ruthenberg, Advantage Tech Inc. and TransCanada FoundLocally Inc. Many folks misunderstand LinkedIn and…
You’ve invested in your website, and you’re doing some serious web marketing (you’re on FoundLocally, right?) But are you maximizing your results? There are two approaches to web marketing & design for web marketing:
- If you do good design and coding, you can get solid “organic” results on Google, Bing and Yahoo. These sites are competitive and set an ever-higher bar for ideal rankings. Yes, you can BUY top ranking (that’s what SEM professionals can help you with) but if your site meets a couple of common sense criteria (Search EngineOptimization or “SEO”), you can DO WELL without paying for the privilege.
- If you need fast results for a new product, or have a time-sensitive promotion (like for a holiday), then Search Engine Marketing (“SEM”) advertising is a good bet. You have no control over how fast Google indexes & ranks your content, or how well Facebook “shares” your content with followers. But by paying for the privilege you can quickly be included (or first) in relevant listings & results
And if you have a less-than-optimal website (after considering all the factors below) you may have NO CHOICE but to spend more on SEM and online advertising to get results.
You may even find that it may make more sense to build a completely new website, rather than fix up and “patch” the one you’ve got. Though a mini-update may be enough to tide you over during the New Website’s Design Phase (which can often take longer than expected)
Here are some of our thoughts on some things that are either easy or inexpensive to jump-start your search engine rankings and traffic…
Nobody gets site design and optimization efforts PERFECT (or has the budget to). But your SEO efforts should be rewarded by the search engines, typically in 3-5 weeks, with better ranking results.
Keep in mind that your competitors are doing this too, so you may need to periodically re-evaluate your site, the competition, search engine rankings –and this process–to keep you at or near the top of search results.
Has Your Site Design And Content Been Updated This Past Year?
By having up-to-date design (any site older than FIVE YEARS will be penalized for out-of-date coding, and sites older than TEN YEARS are pretty well ignored). If your site resolution is about 800 pixels across (about half of today’s desktop screen widths), it’s probably been unchanged in FIFTEEN YEARS! That’s Y2K era design.
Having a site for a longtime can be a bonus… you get points for business longevity. BUT you get penalized for static and un-changing content… when is the last time you’ve posted any updates? Check the file dates on the web. server
- Is your site adaptable to all users & browsers?
Smartphones and tablets won’t go away. On FoundLocaly.com they are about HALF our visitors. If those visitors find your listing, and click on your link, they will probably RUN, rather than suffer through a clearly out-dated site, probably brought to them by a similarly-minded business.
- Is your site dual desktop & mobile, and has two versions (requiring two edits with every change) but optimized for desktops (and large tablets and smartphones (and certain small tablets). We went thorough this phase from 2010 to 2015.
- Are you taking advantage of new features of HTML5 and CSS3 to streamline your site and clean-up your coding? Does your site have “legacy code” tags like <B>, <I>, and <FONT> who’s functions are replaced with <STYLE> tags. use the W3C validator to review your HTML coding
- Are you using enough pictures? Yes, they say pictures are worth a thousand words, and good video can be worth a hundred thousand words. Are your pictures large enough to show your product or services?
Are the files appropriately name (IMG8097.jpg does not tell Google anything about the picture’s subject). All images should have ALT and/or TITLE tags to describe them.
Never Let Your Website Look More Tired Than Your Social Media!
Are you posting to Facebook and social media, but never updating your own website? You are boosting their rankings, but are doing NOTHING for your own ranking. There are several ways to refularly update your site:
- Use an IFRAME window on your Facebook or Twitter feed (this looks good to users, but –sorry– it doesn’t fool the search engines)
- Update your HTML code with new content & photos (may require some coding experience)
- Use a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress to make sites as easy to post to your site as to Facebook (requires much setup, and its finicky… don’t be fooled by low template costs… they need MUCH customizing)
And regardless, update your images & photos periodically, so at least your website and social media looks “fresh”.
Is Your Website Coding Following SEO Best Practices?
Are you using good META tags? Look at the View Source for your web pages, and ask your web designer for help on this. TITLE, DESCRIPTION, KEYWORDS, and CANONICAL are the important ones, but others can create stronger results
- There are tags for geo-location (mapping), and for copyright & attribution
- Use Open Graph and Dublin Core tags for Facebook, Twitter and others
- If your site targets kids (or conversely is of an “adult” nature) some coding can filter your audience, and enable firewalls to let you in, or block you from inappropriate audiences (so you don’t get summarily blocked from ALL audiences)
How far down the page to your <H1> (main heading) tag? If its more than 100 lines, you are penalized. Past line 300 (too much coding) indicates that your site content less search-relevant. And if you have no <H1> or more than one <H1> you get demoted in search rankings.
Are You Getting Listed In SEVERAL Directories?
Being on FoundLocally is a sign that you are pro-active. Being in Google is de rigeur… but there is a lot more you can do. Find directories of directories (FoundLocally has a great directory of other local listings—some free, some paid).
- Add your business to Google Business and Bing Places as well.
- If you’re a home-based business and have had lousy results with Yellow Pages (or are seasonal and don’t feel like paying for a year’s ads when you only operate for a few months?). Add yourself to Yellow Pages online directory for free! Why pay more?
- Make sure you are in all the FoundLocally directories where you have physical locations (we care where you have LOCATIONS, not where you would like to SELL). “Clone” your first listing to the other locations. If you have more than 10 locations, email us an Excel spreadsheet with the details in columns. Why have just ONE FoundLocally listing for your website, when each of your stores can have their own listing (and map location)? Link to specific web pages for each, if you have that.
If you’re in a directory, don’t re-submit if you’re already there. They want to have ONE LISTING per business… If you can find yourself, then just review & update your info, if its changed.
Are You Using Social Media Properly?
Its good to use Facebook (for B2C) or LinkedIn (for B2B) but is you are posting just commercial messages (“buy from us!”) or only media stories relevant to your industry, you are missing the biggest opportunity.
- Post industry stories, or photos, from various sources to make your Social media feed relevant (posting only your ads or sales pitches is un-endearing).
- Add your comments your posts, to provide context, and show your followers you are a knowledgeable and trustworthy resource. If you disagree with someone else’s post or opinion, say that or the post will imply your agreement.
- Post some links to site content or products (about 1 in 4 is a good rule of thumb) with DEEP LINKS to your website (these tell Google AND customers what’s important)
- Don’t focus all your effort on Facebook… figure out where your customers are. . Ask them what they use, anecdotally.
Help your customers SHARE your site on their Social Media tools like AddThis are great and give you access to over 400 Sharing sites so you can discover new audiences.
More about Social Media for Business
Are You On ALL The Search Engines?
It used to be considered good practice to focus all efforts on Google.
- Now that Apple is using Bing for its iPhones and iPads, as are Microsoft devices, spread yourself round. Submit to each of these search engines (doesn’t necessarily mean they are worth an allocation of SEO dollars)
- Add yourself to Google Plus (some consider it a waste, but if Google gives search points for being in Google +, who’s to argue?) Ditto with Google Business and Bing Places
- Some countries have search engines even more popular than Google (Yandex in Russia,Baidu for China), if you are marketing internationally.
The more directory listings you have, and the more social media pages and references (other people’s links) the more listings in Google you’ll have, and the higher you’ll rank.
Are You Using The Best Keywords?
Are you using ones that your CUSTOMERS are actually searching for? A good tool is Google.com/Trends, which charts keywords in searches & search results over time.
You’ll sell more if your website can be found by people looking for companies like yours and products like yours, than just looking for your name or your brands.
- Try different search phrases… Google/Trends gives hints (in the lower right of the screen).
- Compare & contrast different words or phrases. Too general, you may get hits but they bounce right out (not local enough?). Too specific, you may be too little “action”
- See what impact different prefixes and suffixes have (or not?)
Use the ranking of top words/phrases to set the best order for keywords in your META tags (see above), as well as identify the most important words to use in your content.
It is always good business to update your website to maximize your “organic” search engine results.. those visitors to your site that cost you NOTHING. And nothing over the weeks and months (even years) ahead. once you’ve done that, then using SEM and pay-for-click marketing is a sensible next step (we’ll have more on this in a subsequent post).
After going through the above review, you may even find that it may make more sense to build a completely new website, rather than fix up and “patch” the one you’ve got. Doing a mini-update may be help to tide you over during the new website’s Design Phase (which can often take longer than expected)
Keep in mind that these days, the online audience is growing. The television audience is fractured amongst a couple of hundred channels, and the radio audience is migrating to ad-free satellite radio, and newspapers and phone directories are cutting back or going out of business. YOU NEED TO REACH YOUR CUSTOMERS and other people who should be your customers…. The internet is not a fad, and its not going away.
Ask YOUR web designer or your web marketing professional for their thoughts on these items. I’m sure they’ll be happy to help you be even more successful reaching the ever-growing online audience.
If you cannot find them—it’s very competitive, so business do close down, merge, or otherwise disappear–we’ll be happy to help, and point you in the right direction.