Category Archives: Web Site Design and SEO Tips
Last night, a small business owner called me to ask how I could help him get better organic search results for his website.
There is no magic formula or silver bullet. It boils down to a lot of hard work. You achieve results after investing sustained effort, over time. The secret to earning well-placed organic search results (listings on search engine result pages — like Google or Bing — that appear because of their relevance to search terms, rather than pay-per-click advertising) is to create content that people find enjoyable and/or useful, that they will then share with friends and colleagues.
There are a dozen or more ways you can do this, but these are my three main recommendations:
1. Create a well-organized website that imparts useful and relevant information in an accessible way and that is optimized for search (text elements, little or no flash, meta tags, keywords, alt-tags, headers, etc).
2. Integrate a blog that you update weekly with brief, informative, and relevant posts that resonate with your audience. Naturally, the blog should be integrated into your email communications, Twitter profile, and Facebook Page, and should have prominent email subscription and sharing options.
3. Produce and upload video on a regular basis. And not just any video: YouTube video. A fully optimized and branded YouTube Channel with brief and informative videos, ideally released no fewer than once a month, and integrated with all social media channels. It is pointless to produce these videos, however, if you do not intelligently title, describe, and tag the videos for search.
If every business, agency, and nonprofit did these three things, and did them well, in a year, they would all see demonstrable results, provided their other business and management practices were sound.
I also recommend that any business or nonprofit that has a B2C marketing focus consult with a certified Google AdWords partner about their pay-per-click advertising options.
Part of what I do at Fletcher Prince is create affordable websites for clients. I also build them for my own projects. I use website solutions marketed to small business owners, so I can focus on the content and design.
You know, often I find simple is better. Most businesses and nonprofits I work with need a website that does the job, looks attractive, is easy to update, and gets found in search engine results. In my experience, no other website content management and hosting system does that better than Yahoo Small Business.
I have experimented with the offerings from Yahoo Small Business, Network Solutions, and Verizon Small Business, as well as WordPress.com and WordPress.org (for blog-style websites with Page navigation).
Hands down, the best solution I have tested is Yahoo Small Business. It works well with Macs, it offers terrific SEO, and is quite affordable. It’s perfect for individuals, nonprofits, small businesses, and anyone who needs a simple website.
For about $10 a month, you get these features
- Hosting, including a domain URL for a year (you can renew the URL when the year is up).
- The ability to add meta tags and descriptions to each page.
- An easy-to-use web content management system, with several customizable templates.
- Up to 100 email addresses for your domain.
- A WordPress blog hosted on your domain, should you choose to use it.
- Facebook and Twitter links.
- Easy YouTube video integration.
- E-commerce features (I don’t use these, myself),
I’ve used it for years, and I really like it. The one drawback is that your blog does not appear in the navigation when you use the Mac version of the content management system, and I would prefer that option.
Check out the websites I have built with Yahoo Small Business and please let me know if I can build an affordable website for you.
With everything you can do with a blog, are static websites useful anymore?
For some companies and nonprofits, the answer is yes. For Fletcher Prince, we use a blog platform for our website. But we have developed websites for clients, and most notably this year, for the Virginia construction company, Dominion Mechanical.
The news for websites is that with all the reputable content management systems out there, they have become affordable for companies with the smallest budgets, and much easier to construct and update. Integrating e-commerce features, social media and YouTube video is a snap.
Where we add value: creative and affordable website services. These include writing search-engine friendly and engaging content; photo research, editing, and photography; template modification and selection; and website planning and organization. Check out our website services.
It’s time to kill your website. We just did, and it was so easy! I wish I had done it months ago.
My advice: make your blog your website, and focus more energy on your Facebook Page. And keep that blog updated about once a week!
(I still can’t believe I am saying this about websites.)
Okay, websites are very cool. The design options are better. There is more functionality on websites than is offered on blogs. So, for some businesses, websites are still right (I will continue to offer video-ready, affordable websites as part of my marketing services). I’ll let you all chime in and tell me which kinds of businesses and organizations, in your opinion, still need a website, and why. Just post your thoughts in the comments.
But for many of us, blogs are a better solution as our home on the web. Look closely at a lot of websites out there, and you’ll realize they are actually blogs. Because search engines just like blogs better.
And evidently, people do as well, because I had similar content on both but I was getting many more hits on my blog than on my website. And it’s a huge time-saver, because now I only have to update the blog, not the blog AND the website. Which frees me up to work on my Facebook Page 🙂
You can still have a home page, and pages, and tab navigation with a blog (as we do). And you can easily redirect your domain to your blog and have an email address (or a hundred) though a reliable web hosting service. But you now have RSS. And you can easily create 100s of pages (do search engines ever like that) to associate with your URL.
If you continue to have a website and it’s the right decision for your company, at least consider adding a blog. I think you’ll be very happy you did, once you see the increase in traffic!
Maintaining a robust online presence is critical to creating a favorable impression online, and part of that effort is search engine optimization (SEO). Creating a website that search engines will index for content in search terms relevant to your business, industry, or cause is hard work, but the effort will pay off in increased awareness for your business or nonprofit organization. Even with your best efforts, your website may not appear in the top ranking results for your industry on Google. However, you can influence how terms specifically associated with your business, such as your business name and names of key personnel, appear in search engine results. Here’s how.
- Google your company name and keywords associated with your industry or website topic. Study how Google currently indexes your website. Are there changes you would make? Make note of these improvements as you makeover your website.
- Create a reference list of keywords that are important to your industry, or to the topic of your website. Use the free Keyword tool in Google AdWords to discover high frequency search terms.
- Use these keywords frequently in page titles, body copy, image captions, and video descriptions. But don’t over-use them. You should strive for a keyword density of five to seven percent in body copy. That means that for every one hundred words you write for your website, keywords would occur five to seven times.
- If appropriate, include your most important keyword in your domain URL.
- Create a free Google Maps account for your company and a free Google Profile for yourself. Include links to websites and social media in these profiles. Upload the maximum number of images and video to both accounts.
- A website with plenty of images and video is enjoyable to experience. Alt-tag your images, and use captions for images and video to increase your SEO.
- Make your website useful to your readers, in way that engages them. You should write content with a particular audience in mind, focusing your content on their needs. Ask yourself, why would the target audience want to read this? What is the benefit of our services or products to these readers? When you write in this way, you will automatically use keywords that search engines will pick up as they crawl your website.
- Most search engines pick up the first paragraph from your homepage and use that in the description associated with your website URL. Therefore, make sure that the first couple of sentences of this copy clearly and concisely describe the focus of your business or cause.
- Create a generous number of pages. Search engines give ranking priority to websites that are updated frequently and that have many pages.
- Short on space? Have a lot to say? Upload PDFs of articles you have written about your business or topic to your website. Search engines will crawl those, too.
- Create a blog, and add content to it once or twice a week. It should be connected to your website for best results. Blogs are one of the most effective ways to increase the SEO of websites.
- If you don’t have time to blog (or even if you do), comment on reputable and well-read blogs and online news publications related to your business or topic, listing your website in the comment registration information. The comments will generate SEO-building backlinks to your home page. The more backlinks you create, the higher your website will rise in search engine rankings.
- Take advantage of social media to create backlinks to your homepage. List your website in the profile section of your YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Flickr accounts.
- Judiciously link to other reputable websites. For example, if your company belongs to a national trade association, it will benefit your SEO to link to their website.
Mary Fletcher Jones is the owner of Fletcher Prince, a Washington, DC communications firm.