While, the details of search engine algorithms change frequently, the underlying criteria remain the same. To ensure that a visitor keeps coming back for additional searches, the search engine companies rank two fundamental characteristics when they rate a web site:
- the relevance of the site’s content to the search terms being used
- the degree of authority represented by the site on the topic being searched
Here are the steps to a web site optimized to get good search engine results.
Understanding Who is searching for what
It is important to understand how to match the goods and services you offer to the needs of the people searching for them. We have identified several things a business must do before trying to optimize their web site.
- decide what goods and services are being offered to which target audience(s). Is the site intended for prospects or for existing customers, for men or for women, for students or business people and so on?
- Determine the purpose of the web site. Is it to generate leads by getting people to contact the business? Is it intended to enable people to purchase your goods and services? Is it intended to make it easier for people to find support on these offerings?
- identify why these people would want to visit a web site, any web site, about the selected topics.
- articulate the advantages the goods and services offer to these intended visitors.
- list which search terms the intended audience is likely to use to find web sites that answer their needs.
Only now can a business begin to optimize its web site.
Remember that one important consideration in search engine rankings is the relevance of the web site content to the selected search terms. For example, a good site about building a wooden deck will not be very relevant to people searching to buy gourmet foods.
Writing copy: relevance to a set of search terms is demonstrated most effectively by the content on the web site. The copy needs to be written precisely so visitors find what they want quickly and are compelled to take the desired action: like asking for an appointment or buying your products. Repeating search terms several times on a page does not necessarily make the content more relevant or more compelling.
Writing copy can be the most difficult part of developing a web site, or any other marketing communication. We encourage our clients to invest in good copy development first. They can then use the results of that investment for all marketing communications: on web sites, in mail campaigns and advertisements, on brochures or when they talk about their business to their friends. Learn more about targeted marketing communications.
Clear site navigation: the quicker a visitor can find the information they want, the more relevant they will find the site. It is no good to have the perfect messages for your visitors if they never get to read them. So the next major element to ensue site relevance is how well the information and services are organized for the prospective visitors. We use a guideline of no more than three clicks for visitors to reach the information or service they want. Lean more about web site design.
Behind the screen: it is also important to make it easier for search engine “robots” to analyze the content of your site to determine the topics to which it is most relevant. One way to make it easier is to include descriptive “meta” takes in the web page. These are tags like page title and key words that the visitor does not normally see. It also means using images properly since search engines cannot read the “content” of images. Navigation or content that is included within a flash video is also not available to search engines.
Once your web pages are relevant to selected search terms, a business needs to convince visitors to believe or value what the web site has to offer. Again, a web site about wines that is written by a carpenter is probably less significant than one written by a renowned chef. Search engines determine the authority represented by a web site in several ways.
External links from relevant web sites: both quantity and quality count here. Links that come from sites with high authority ratings, on the selected search terms, are more powerful. Similarly, the more high valued sites that link to yours the better. So a business should focus on getting links to its site with others who are recognized experts in the field.
Web traffic: both quantity and duration. How many visitors come to your site is important, and how long they stay is even more so. A person who finds your site relevant is more likely to stay longer than one who finds it less useful. They are also more likely to return. We advise our clients to ensure that once people get to their web site they find something useful or they will never come back.
Now that you know the three steps for search engine optimization:
- Understanding your customers
- Relevance of your content
- Authority of your web site
It’s time to decide whether you are ready to invest in a web site that is optimized for the web. Ewing Consulting has experience in both planning and developing web sites and other marketing communications. Contact us today to get started.