You want a website. You want a website that reaches your unique audience. In this post I want to give you a list of the top ways to help your visitors find your website. We'll cover some search engine technical talk, but I want to keep it at a minimum. This list is about reaching your target audience. With the tips below I want to help you with that, and tell you what really matters.
- Get a clear idea of what your site is about and create a list of keywords that reflects how your visitors will search for you.
Who is your target audience? Choose appropriate keywords to target them, avoiding the very most popular terms used. Instead, use longer phrases that capture the same search results. For example, do you sell pet products? Add keywords and phrases like all-natural dry dogfood, all-natural cat litter, pet supplements, and the like. But above all, take note of words your customers use. Make sure your words are about your company's services and products, and that they are words your visitors would regularly use when they search for you, not the words the industry uses.
- Create Title tags for your pages and use those keywords.
The title tag is the HTML that creates the text at the very top of your browser bar on a website. Each page of your site should have a unique title. Title tags are very important to Google. In most cases, Google uses these as the headings on the search results pages. When you write your title tag, use only keywords that are relevant to the content of that page, and write the title tag so that these keywords are in the beginning or middle of that tag. Keep it short and descriptive. The best way to write a title tag is to set it up in a pattern like this: "description and keywords - company or website name". So for example, our Lucidus home page title should read "Websites, Web-based Software, Hosting & Training - Lucidus Corporation". The most important part of the title tag is the part unique to this page, not the name of the company. So if you have to choose which words to use, keep the text that best describes the page content.
- Use SEF (search engine friendly) URLs when editing new pages.
Most website URLs for linked pages on content managed sites look something like this: http://www.your-site.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8&Ite.... How the heck would a visitor remember all that? From a search engine's point of view, too, this tells you very little about what might be on the page, or how your site information is organized. Creating SEF URLs is something we are happy to say Drupal, our content management system, does very well. In Drupal, there is a path-auto module that assists with this process. The page of your website can be an auto-generated SEF URL based on the title of the page or you can enter it yourself. If you do create it yourself, replace all spaces with hyphens and exclude any words that aren't absolutely descriptive. An example of an SEF URL is this blog post's URL, http://www.lucidus.net/seo-20-ways-visitors-find
- Make content near the top of a page be keyword-rich.
Start your page text with the most keyword-rich text. Rather than using a lot of fluff text to impress and lead up to what your website is about, get to the point as quickly as possible. When a visitor comes to your site and sees your website home page "above the fold", they should very quickly be able to know they are in the right place and what your website is about.
- Use keywords in headers, subheads, bold text and links.
As you create your text for the site, create headings and first paragraphs for each section that summarize the whole point in plain English. Text used for links in your body copy should also be keyword-rich. When keywords are used in your text, it can help to use bold formatting to emphasize them.
- Use the template (CSS) for design.
Start by working with a website development company that uses the most current technical methods and proper coding for developing websites and web-based software applications. The latest methods separate content from presentation. Current website development techniques can, for example, enable the same set of navigation links to display within a visual interface in your browser and as a text list on your mobile phone. Because your programming is more streamlined, it permits quicker web crawling, and makes it easier for the search engines to access the real content of your site.
- Images cannot speak for themselves. Nothing important should ever be communicated using an image or flash only.
When you do use images, pair up your images with text that describes the image and adds to its relevance within your site. You can do this by adding a caption to the image, an alt attribute and a title tag. Both the alt attribute and title tag are used to describe what the image is.The title tag is used for supplementary information, and often is used for display of a "tool tip" in browsers. The alt tag should describe what is seen in the image in a meaningful way.
- Help your visitors. Provide legible text, contrast and links in your design.
Accessibility assists your search engine results and keeps your visitors on your site. Use text large enough that visitors can read it. Check to see if your text can be scaled in a browser. Give your foreground text obvious contrast against background colors, and simplify your navigation so users know where to go.
- Test your website's usabilty, display and functionality.
Make sure your website is tested for usability and functionality by a quality assurance professional. Your website also should be tested for function and display across all modern browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer 7 and Safari. If display on mobile devices is important for your visitors, this also should be tested.
- Don't underestimate a good visual design.
People still respond to attractive visuals, good information hierarchy, and an organized structure to your content. They DO want to know what to check out first. They DO want to know what is most important to read and see. They DO want to know what will provide the answer to their question. Try to answer this need visually and in your text. Without reading a word, your visitors should know what is most important to check out.
Create landing pages focused on particular keywords.
While it is debatable exactly how important this is to search engines today, it may help to create a Description META tag for each landing page. In Drupal, there is a META module that assists with this process, and it also allows you to change the keyword meta. Google disregards the keyword META tag, but does use the description META in the description used in the search results. If it is missing, the text of the page is used.
- Create Unique, Original, Fresh Content (linkbait).
I can't emphasize this enough. If at all possible, make creating regular content part of your continuing plan for your site. Unique, original content can come in the form of news, blogs, new products, contests, free stuff, expert opinions, top-10 lists, personal, creative, useful material; unique and original, all the time.
- Clean up broken links and don’t use “placeholder” pages on live sites.
Do regular "spring cleaning". Throw out what is extra or useless, such as placeholder images, placeholder pages, excessive punctuation and broken links. Clean up text that has extraneous information that isn't relevant to the page. If you don't yet have content for a page, don't post it.
Avoid hot linking your image content and avoid redirects.
Search engines don't like it when you pretend the content is part of your site but it resides on a server completely unrelated to your site. In other words, don't include images or files hosted on someone else's server or have an important link on your site redirect to another domain. Keep all your files in your own server for more control of the content.
- If you post your email on the page, your email should be hosted using the same domain.
If you are a reputable site, you won't be email@example.com, you will be firstname.lastname@example.org. Basically, this adds to your credibility.
- Use your keyword phrases, but not ?too too much (please don’t spam us).
Yes use your keywords and keyword phrases, but be careful to use text that sounds natural and doesn't look like you purposefully created it with the sole purpose of getting better ranking.
- Link to other similar or reputable sites and ask for a link when appropriate.
Where useful and appropriate, this helps rank because you look like you are an authority on your subject and related information.
- Page length should not be too long.
Search engines look more to the content at the beginning of your page and may disregard content further down the page, so if the page is long, break it into sections and use additional pages.
- Social networking can help generate visitors.
Before someone else has your company or organization's name on facebook, MySpace, StumbleUpon or Twitter, perhaps you should. It is free, and if you take the time to post some useful content or links, grow connections and monitor the progress of these social networking accounts, you can generate more visitors for your site. The thing to bear in mind is your objective; only add people with similar interests or activities. Your connections should be ones who may grow or are already part of your target audience.
- New websites need more marketing effort
Promote your site using other media. This means word-of-mouth, print marketing, press releases, your phone messages, business cards, everything. Every time your identity is out there, your website domain name should be too. Especially when your website offers more than an "online brochure", be sure to tell your target audience what it is they can do there that would be helpful to them.
Now that your website reaches your audience, how can you ensure your audience responds and reaches its goal? In a future post I will discuss what at Lucidus we call "Website Analysis", which can position your website to deliver great results based on analytics.