As the CEO of a business, I am inundated with emails telling me how to get SurveyConnect placed into the top web searches, offers for SEO discounts and scare tactics that tell me that my online marketing campaigns are not being effective. I delete these emails.
However, over time, SurveyConnect has learned certain concepts that have helped us grow our organic search as well as optimize our paid ad searches. We are not SEO or website experts, so please view these ideas as just that – we can’t say that this is the perfect list and will get you the top rated searches. What we can tell you is that this information has been distilled from experts and our own research, and is working for us.
** Notes: This list is focused on Google search since they command 68% of the market. As Google updates and changes their algorithms on an ongoing basis, I’m not sure how long these tips will be applicable, but hopefully they can help you in understanding the art of the search engine optimization for your business. Also references to SEO in this article refer to unpaid (organic) search results.
• Website Design: It’s critical to have a well-built and good looking website with content that people want to read/research. Don’t use too many layers so that information is easy to access. Scrolling down a page is ok (you don’t have to see the whole page on one screen). Make your home page easy to navigate, without too much text-rich information.
• WordPress: There are numerous tools out there to help create a better website with the intention to bolster organic and paid searches. While not an exclusive option, WordPress offers an easy-to-use interface for creating customizable sites. Website builders are by no means necessary to create a well-designed and functional site, but it can certainly make the process easier.
Theme: Designing the look and feel of a website from scratch can be an extensive process. Fortunately, WordPress offers hundreds of themes for site designers to utilize. Well-designed themes contain all the elements necessary to improve search rankings. If a theme does not quite fit your needs, it can be personalized to your liking.
Plugins: Plugins essentially are tools you can use to improve your site by adding functionality without needing specific expertise. The utility of a plugin is immeasurable. While not limited to, plugins can provide structure for organic keywords or to scan a website of undesirable content.
• URL Names for Websites:
o A URL should match the page content and be readable. This is for both the search engines to understand the content of the page and makes for a cleaner, more professional look.
o Use hyphens for spaces, not underscores. Google’s algorithm is written to read hyphens.
o Don’t use capital letters. URLs are case sensitive and it is generally accepted to use low case in URLs to avoid any confusion.
o Upload a favicon. This is a small icon next to your URL in a browser. It will also appear for users who bookmark your page and help to improve your brand awareness.
o When you build a new site or page, make sure to use 301 redirects. This tells Google that your new URL will take place of the old one. It’s very important that Google transfer the history of your old URL.
• Keywords, Page Titles and Meta Descriptions: All of these go in the header of each page on your website.
o Keywords: Write a well-defined keyword list. Consider what search terms would match your content and attract interested visitors. Focus is the key here; specify your keyword to target the specific visitors you would like to funnel to your site. It is much easier to attract a niche market and gain an SEO foothold than to target a larger audience. Include your keyword(s) throughout the structure of each page: Use it in the title of the page, the URL, throughout your page content, and in the meta tags (especially the meta description). The recommendation for the number of keywords per page is 3 – 7.
o Page Titles: The HTML Title Element included in the header determines the title displayed in Google search. Again, a focused and relevant title that incorporates the page keyword is favored by Google. The page title must be 70 characters or less but to insure that your full title is shown in search it is recommended to be 55 characters or less.
o Meta Descriptions: This is the description that appears under your title in Google search. It’s located in the HTML header. Here is your opportunity to attract visitors to click your result over the other options. Let them know exactly what they will get when they click your page. While not as important to your search rankings, this is very important for getting clicks. The suggested length of the meta description is 150 – 160 characters.
• ALT Tags: This is HTML code that specifies alternate text that shows when an element cannot render, e.g. an image. This creates a better user experience so that when something fails to load there is a reference. Keep the description short and relevant to the specific element and the page.
• Mobile-friendly: Since April 2015 there is a penalty for sites that aren’t mobile-friendly.
• User Experience: Search engines are continually trying to improve the results by tracking the experience of a webpage. There are no concrete guidelines but here are the general traits to aim for:
o Easy to use, navigate and understand
o Relevant, credible and actionable content
o Professional and clean design
• Create a web presence: Being active and connected is becoming more and more important for ranking. Write blogs, host webinars, and be socially active — these all promote the site, and gain interest from the community.
• Track your performance: Google provides some great tools in Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. Using these to track your top searches, lead/sales generation, visitors, etc. In the next blog I’ll let you know our favorite Google reports.
With all this said, it is important to stay vigilant about your search engine optimization. This is not a one-time checklist that will guarantee placement on the first page of Google search. That may be achieved by continuous attention and augmentation to all of these SEO components. Even without a web team, make the time to track your performance on a regular basis.
I hope this helps!