Your website may be the most important tool you have to build your brand.
In this article, David Deal (Art Director for Deal Design) outlines the most powerful ways you can leverage your Web Site to grow your business. Web strategies continue to evolve at an exhausting pace. But, you don’t have to have the latest and greatest everything to harness the power of the web. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of designing and engineering your website, so Google’s search algorithms view your site as a great match for people searching for the products or services you sell. SEO is half art, half science. While Google makes some of its methodology known, much of it is intentionally kept unknown, and always changing. The good news is, Google now focuses on a few key ingredients that, if “mixed as directed”, will drastically improve your search results ranking. Here are the top strategies we recommend for most all businesses today.
1. Add a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate to Your Domain
SSL is a security layer that’s added to the root domain level of your site. When added, your site is protected from being “spoofed” or easily access by malicious hackers who often use other people’s sites to host malware that does nasty things. Adding SSL to your web site costs around $70 per year. And, you don’t even need to be a web expert to get this done. your web site’s hosting company can usually install it for you, same day. Once added, your site will show up as https://yourdomainname… Notice the “s” after http. This means the web site has an SSL certificate in place. Google made a public announcement of favoring web sites with SSL a few years ago. So today, you simply need to add this easy improvement that will dramatically improve your search ranking.
2. Design a Content-Rich User Experience
Google’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) is now smart enough to evaluate your entire site experience–text, images, video, reviews, and links to internal and external resources. Google believes that a content-rich experience is the most desirable kind of search result for users, so it elevates the ranking of sites with rich content in their sites. Now, don’t think you can get tricky and just load your site with third party stuff. Google’s AI is highly sophisticated. You need to put your own original content on your site. Using other people’s stuff will result in a down-graded ranking. Google will reward your hard work at creating original videos, images, text and related links.
3. Get Customers to Leave Reviews
Authentic customer reviews add credibility to your products and services, and Google knows this. We stress the term “authentic”. Don’t give yourself 5-star ratings. This will kill your site’s credibility with Google. Getting 5-star customer reviews from respected sources like Google Reviews, Yelp, Amazon, Angie’s List, and Better Business Bureau (among others) increases the user experience on your site. We have found that simply emailing your best customers, shortly after a positive purchase experience, along with a link to your top 1-2 review site profile pages and asking them for a 5-star review is the fastest way to build your review portfolio. Then, thank them for the review. Last, make sure you add a reviews widget from that site to your web site–displaying your top ratings. Google loves this! And, your customer prospects will to.
4. All things Google
While Google would never admit this publicly, it’s obvious to us in the Web Site design businesses that, the more Google things you have connected to your site, the better your rankings. That may seem obvious to you too, but you would be surprised how many sites don’t have some basic Google tools installed or connected to their sites. The more your website is “tuned” into the Google universe, the better it ranks. Here is a list of what you should have setup and plugged into your site:
Google+ for Business: Your business’ pro listing in the Google universe. Be sure to add photos, video and text to it. Don’t leave anything missing. This is also commonly referred to as a Google Place Page.
Google Maps: A Google Maps link that shows your business location
Google Analytics: Robust tools for measuring traffic to your site including demographics on users, where they come from, and what they visited.
Webmaster Tools: Central command for your site’s health and how to quickly get Google to spider (index) your site again when you make updates.
Google Reviews: Accessed through your Google+ for Business profile or Google Place Page. People review your products and services with Star ratings.
Google Marketplace: This is for sites that sell products online. The Marketplace feeds the “Shop Google” feature in product search results. It’s the Google equivalent to Amazon’s product database. You setup a feed from your e-commerce site to Google which enables product search optimization.
Google Adwords: Pay-Per-Click advertising (both by search term and/or display ads). More on this in the following tip.
5. Google Adwords
This is Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising program. Now, you may be thinking “what a minute, I don’t want to pay for traffic, I want it to come to me organically (meaning free.) Well duh. Who doesn’t. A digital marketing manager from a leading software company told us they see a 18% increase in organic click-throughs to their site when they run Google Ads. Here is why we think this happens. It’s the fundamental law of advertising. The more your message is seen, the more likely you will be to convert a customer. When your PPC ad appears at the top of a Google search results page, and then your organic result appears lower on the page, you appear 2-times. People are more likely to click your link because of this. And, if they click your organic link you didn’t have to pay Google for that click-through! Woohoo!
6. The 3 Amigos: Page Title, Meta Description and Keyword Focus
These 3 elements are closely related to each other and based on the most simple page element: text. Google still ranks the textual content of every page based on the page’s apparent subject or topic focus. If you are selling widgets, the more focused on the many aspects of the widget, the higher your page’s quality score with Google. For this reason, it makes more sense to focus your site pages on focused topics. Use more pages with individual focuses rather than fewer pages with multi-focus. Google likes this because it wants to match people’s searches with pages that focus on the word or phrase they searched.
This is extremely important. Start the page title with your page’s content focus: your product, service or blog topic. Next, how it’s used or why it’s special. Follow that with a geographic or industry focus, and end with your brand name. Example:
Electric Widgets–for aerospace thingamagigs–City Name, State | Your Brand Name
This is the text description of your page that appears directly under the page title in Google’s search results page. Your web designer knows how to add this to your page. It does not appear on your page, but rather it’s “under the hood” and visible only to Google’s indexing spiders. Think of this as your short advertising description of your site so visitors get a good idea of what they will find when they click through to your site. You need to make this authentically reflect the page content. Google can tell the difference, so don’t try to fool it.
The concept here is to focus your page on a topic. That topic could be a product, service or blog/news subject–whatever makes sense for that page. In the case of “Electric Widgets”, be sure to use the term “Electric Widgets” several times in your text. Don’t just force it in there nonsensically. It should make good grammatical sense. Google AI can sense good grammar and spelling now too! The more your page is focused on Electric Widgets, the higher that page’s quality score will be, and the more likely Google will serve it up to people actively searching for Electric Widgets. Feel free to work variations of the phrase into the page: Electrical Widgets, Powered Widgets, Electric Powered Widgets, etc. Those variations are good and help Google see that your page can match over variations of that term too.
7. Anchor Text Links
Anchor text links are the lesser known, but super powerful elements of your pages that Google sees as greatly improving the user experience. These are text links that send users to other pages that give deeper, more focused information on that word. For example, you may decide that users could gain deeper understanding of your electric widgets for the aerospace thingamajigs by learning more about thingamajigs. So, you create (or have your web designer) create an anchor text link from the word “thingamajig” to the full description of thingamajigs on Wikipedia, or a highly-ranked partner site. Anchor links can also link to other pages of your own site, but Google favors those links to sites outside of your site. Now, you may think “why would I want to send someone away from my site?”. But that’s old-school thinking. Remember, the better the user experience, the higher ranked your page will be. Don’t worry about linking to outside sites. These links pop up another browser tab and people are well experienced in coming back to your tab after they increased their understanding.
8. Beautiful Design
Ten years ago, Google’s AI wasn’t able to identify the visual design aesthetics of a web site. So, design didn’t matter. All that mattered was content, overall page load time and links. And you can probably remember finding tons of ugly web site ranking higher than your nicely designed site. Now the Google’s AI has become design aware and can evaluate the overall design quality of your site. So, it finally pays to deliver a beautiful design experience. Not only will Google like it, humans will like it too. The more engaging your web site experience is for prospective customers, the more likely they will be to reward you with their business.
9. Social Media and Blog Posts with Site Links
The degree to which social media influences web site ranking is one of the more elusive elements of SEO right now. But, it is clear that using social media to spread your blog posts and prompting people to link back to you blog or web site definitely improves your ranking. Google views this as positive user experience and rewards you for it. Our favorite strategy is to offer educational content in your blog that’s purpose is to help your customers and prospects with useful information. This can be you sharing some of your industry insight or offering some tips and tricks of your profession. But, you don’t give them everything in the Social Post or E-Mail blast. You give them enough to wet their appetite, then offer a link back to your web site for the full content. That’s where the value comes in. Getting them to click through to your site is the component that increases your site’s value.
About Deal Design
You need someone to turn your product into a brand that people want to buy. That’s our specialty. We call it branding, but basically its knowing how to write words, take pictures, make graphics, and present it all in a nice way that gets people to buy your stuff. We use our creativity and experience to do that really well. And, based on what people tell us, that’s a hard thing to find. Let’s talk about how we can help accelerate your brand.