Your website is your online image. And like it or not, no matter what business you are in, your business is an Internet business.
The web is the first place people go to search for products and services, and usually the last place they check before making a purchase decision.
It is tempting to price shop web design services. The Internet is littered with web builder websites from likes of Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, Squarespace, etc. They look great, and they are cheap – but you get what your pay for, especially when it comes to lead-generation websites.
For a business asset as important as your website, trying to go cheap is one of the absolute worst things you can do. You might get a shiny digital brochure, but there is a high likelihood that it won’t be Google-friendly, nor will it become your company’s marketing engine – which is what your need it to be
- Your site won’t rank in search engines
- Your site won’t be found by potential customers
- Your competition will get your potential business
In some cases, a poorly re-designed site can actually cause your rankings to plummet.
Does this sound alarmist? We hope so, because the stakes are that high.
Even if by some miracle you have a decent looking site created, if it is buried in the depths of the cyber sea, it is a pointless investment.
Designer Red Flag – If you have found a web designer that talks nothing about SEO when creating a web design plan, don’t walk away – RUN!
Don’t Fall for the Web Design Trap
Having a great looking website is good; but, even more important is the SEO strategies put in place to ensure organic ranking potential. You are not just creating something that looks nice, your goal should be to create an optimized inbound marketing platform to attract and convert traffic into sales.
Yet most executive and business owners buy websites as a shiny product, and don’t think about SEO and online lead generation until these become issues after launch.
This is what we call the web design trap.
The SEO Web Design Balance
There are two parts of website creation:
- The old method of designing for looks alone
- The new way of designing for lead generation
A website’s sole purpose is to attract visitors and convert the visitors into actual, paying customers.
What is a SEO friendly website?
An SEO friendly website is a website that is designed and developed using SEO best-practices design layout and website coding. The highest level of website SEO friendliness is when all of the following elements are taken into account:
- Marketing strategy
- Keyword research
- On-page SEO and SEO coding
- Off-page SEO
- Local SEO and citations
- Social media integration
- Conversion optimization
Insider’s Tip: If you want to create a powerful inbound marketing hub, you have to create a website around your ideal clients’ search and content consumption habits. This is the only way you can attract and close new clients through a search engine. With strong SEO keyword research, you can take the guesswork out of web design and actually reverse engineer your website around the search behavior of your ideal customer, rather than relying on your best guess or the best guess of your web design service provider.
What to Avoid in the World of Web Design
Fast and cheap. Those are the factors some people look for when creating a website.
All this is going to lead to is dashed hopes of ranking in the search engines. When it is time to design your site, there are a few mass-marketing cheap website solutions out there you should avoid:
These website builders are absolute nightmares when it comes to gaining SEO traction and the adage “you get what you pay for” definitely applies here.
Your Website – Your Image
Ultimately, you have final say over the website created. However, if you want success in the search engines and if you want to be found by potential customers, then you have to have a web design that gets results. This means SEO is top-of-mind during the entire process. This is the only way to achieve on-going SEO success.
#1 Start With Your Marketing Strategy
Creating strategies and plans for marketing today is more challenging than ever before. In the past, simply launching your website on the World Wide Web was enough to ensure you earned first-page real estate.
While things have evolved, the fundamentals of marketing planning remain unchanged. Regardless of the channels available, you still need to know your customer, develop a superior brand proposition, and communicate this effectively.
It’s up to the search engines if you are found. Then, your content determines if a customer is going to do business with you.
Not only are you being judged by the search engine used, but also the Internet as a whole. If you don’t have a superior marketing strategy in place, you can’t succeed in the modern search engine economy.
A website alone is not a marketing strategy. It is part of an overall marketing plan and serves as your virtual world, business headquarters – but it is not everything.
Just because you makeover your website, it doesn’t mean you have “revamped” your presence and the opportunity you have to be found.
Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating, and satisfying customer requirements profitably.
Creating Your Marketing Strategy
Step 1: Get to Know Your Audience
Ready to develop a marketing strategy that yields results? You have to know your audience. Ask the following:
- Who is your exact target audience?
- What type of content does your audience like to consume?
- What goals do you want to accomplish with your marketing and website?
- What search terms does your target audience use when searching for your service or product?
Keep in mind, you may have a few niche specific questions to answer, as well. The more you know now, the better equipped you will be to create an effective marketing strategy.
Once you answer these questions, you can develop a buyer persona. These are invaluable when it comes to figuring out how to reach your target audience on a personal, emotional level.
Buyer personas allow you to get to know your target audience in a unique, personal way. What they look like, how they behave, what they are worried about, their preferences, etc. When you have buyer persona’s they can be used to hone your content into exactly what your customers need and want, leading to more profits.
Step 2: Determine Your Marketing Strategy Goals
You also have to know what you are trying to accomplish. Why did you create a website in the first place? Some of the most common reasons include:
- Lead generation
- More visibility
- More sales
- More social sharing
In fact, it may be a combination of two or all of these. Regardless of your goal, you need to ensure it is clearly defined. At this point, you have something to work toward. No goal is achievable if you don’t have an indication you have reached it.
Step 3: Create your Brand Value Proposition
What makes your brand, your company, and what you have to offer different? A huge part of your entire marketing strategy is to create a brand value proposition and make it clear across your website. When consumers come to your site, they want to know why you are the company to do business with. If you don’t have this defined, your customers won’t see value, either.
Creating a marketing strategy takes time, and requires you to answer difficult questions. In the end, however, you are better equipped to serve and meet the needs of your customers.
#2 Do Keyword Research
Every online purchase begins with a few words typed into a search box.
Keyword research is one of the most valuable, important, and high return activities in the search marketing industry. Being able to rank for the proper keywords can make or break your entire website. Knowing what keywords to target starts with keyword research.
Keyword research isn’t just about getting people to your site, but also making sure you get the right type of visitors.
The Secret Weapon of Keyword Research
There are secret weapons in SEO. One of the most valuable is Google AdWords Keyword Planner. AdWords is the advertising system used by Google. The Keyword Planner is free for anyone to use. (There is now some limit to the keyword tool’s ability if you don’t have an active AdWords account, so keep this in mind).
Prior to using this tool, you need to create a general list of 5 to 10 keywords and phrases related to the website. For example, for a personal injury attorney you could use: personal injury, personal injury law, personal injury lawyer, etc.
Generating your Keyword List is a multi-step process, but a crucial one for SEO success. The steps of this include:
- Create a Google AdWords account (https://www.google.com/adwords/)
- Choose the “Keyword Planner” tool
- Click “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category”
- Navigate to “Targeting” and choose the geographic area you want to target (you can choose zip code, metro area, state, country, and multiple locations)
- Use your raw list of 5-10 keywords for the initial search; put the words in the first box (it is best to leave all other fields blank)
- Click “get ideas”
At this point, you have a list generated.
Deciphering Your Keyword List
In the report generated you receive a listing of words Google deems related to your root list. The report provides a bar graph of the search volumes, which spans over the previous 12 months.
Other notable items on the list include:
- Ad Groups – provides insights on keyword association and helps you figure out keyword relevance.
- Monthly Searches – How many times an exact keyword has been searched.
- Competition – Is it a competitive keyword?
- Suggested Bid – Typically only needed if you are planning on running an AdWords campaign.
- Ad Impression – Number of impressions you received divided by the total number of searches (also mainly used for AdWords)
As you scroll through the list, take note of the averages. It is a good idea to target keywords that receive a large number of searches monthly.
Build Your Spreadsheet
You can add keyword groups to your own spreadsheet by clicking the “Add to Plan” and create your keyword list. Once finished, you can download the entire sheet.
Don’t just try to target the keywords with the highest search numbers. You need to find keywords that have a combination of high volume, a higher suggested starting bid, and a higher competition value. These are referred to as “money words” and convert into better sales than other terms.
#3 Make Your Website Google Friendly with On-page SEO
If you want your website to rank on Google for a specific keyword, you have to master two essential components:
- On-page SEO
- Off-page link building
Here, you can learn more about on-page SEO, which is 50% of an effective strategy.
What is On-Page SEO?
This refers to optimizing the structure of your page in a way that makes it easier for web crawlers to find the keywords you have targeted.
When discussing on-page SEO, there are some factors that are more important than others.
- Insider’s Tip: There are certain on-page SEO techniques that can set your page apart from the competition. When you use these successfully, you will find your page ranks higher.
The Process of On-Page SEO Success
If search engines are unable to find your site, you can optimize all day long but you will never appear. If you use a content management system like WordPress, you can easily check to see if your website is crawlable by just logging into the portal and choosing “Privacy” under the “Settings” tab. Make sure the “Allow search engines to index this site” option is selected beneath the “Site Visibility” heading.
If you don’t use WordPress, you can use Google Webmaster tools to see if the site is being crawled. To find this information simply click “Health” and then choose “Crawl Stats” to determine if the site is being actively crawled and how often the crawling is taking place.
There are several parts of your web page that have to be optimized for success. Here, you can learn about each one.
You need to include the selected keyword(s) in the body of your content at a minimum four times. If necessary, rearrange the keywords so they fit naturally in the text. Awkward wording can demote your site on Google.
Make sure to write content that is at least 50 words; however, the longer the content the better (as long as it is valuable and not gibberish).
If you put too many instances of the keyword in the document, this not only hurts readability but also your rankings. Try to keep all your content written for your readers but “tweaked” for the search engines.
If you use images, make sure that the keywords are added to the alt tag. Also, make sure you name the image so that it matches your keywords.
This is what appears in the tab of the web browser used. If you hover over the tab, it should show the entire page title. The best way to create a page title is to use the following format:
- Your exact keywords here | yourwebsite.com
Make sure whatever you create is enticing. After all, what’s the point of a top spot in the search engines if no one is clicking on it?
The Meta Description
This is what you see under your page’s title in the search results. Meta descriptions should be 156 characters and include your targeted keyword.
The h1 tag is different from title tags. It is important to include the keywords in this and putting them as close to the front as possible. Try to use the keyword only once in the h1 tag.
If you use WordPress, the h1 tag is the default page title. You don’t have to do anything special here.
At the absolute least, include the target keyword in your URL slug, for example:
On-page SEO techniques are crucial to overall search engine success. Keep this in mind when creating your web pages.
#4 Don’t Forget About Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO refers to everything you can do OFF your website to increase your ranking. This includes blog marketing, forum marketing, article submission, link building, etc. Off-page SEO is a crucial part of any well-developed SEO plan.
If you want an effective off-page SEO strategy, you need to ensure it includes all of the following elements.
Social Networking Sites
Social networking has grown by leaps and bounds from what it was in the past. Getting involved in various social networks is a fundamental step in off-page SEO. Make sure to sign up for the most popular (and relevant) social sites, including:
Also, there are niche specific social sites to use, as well. These are a great source to find new customers and connect with others who may benefit from your services.
When you write a blog on your website, you give people a reason to keep coming back. It also ensures search engine spiders are crawling your site frequently. This helps you achieve a higher rank in the SERPs.
The question many people have is, “what do I post?” There are countless ways to reach customers, but the key is to provide them with the information they want and need.
While blogging is actually an on-page SEO tactic, the off-page element comes in here. You need to submit your blog to niche blog directories, as well as blog search engines.
Make sure you are posting comments on other blogs in your same business niche. This often gives you the opportunity to add your own link in the comments section. The links are then crawled by the search engines, which points them back to your site. These blogs are referred to as “Do-Follow” Blogs.
This is perhaps the biggest and most important form of off-page SEO. Blog marketing (described above) is one form of link building. The key is to build external links on other people’s pages that lead back to your website. Some of the most effective ways to build your external links include:
- Blog directories – similar to the “yellow pages” but each entry provides a link back to your website.
- Forum signatures: Comment in forums to get a link back to your site.
- Article directories: Publish various articles on an article directory, which can give you two or more links back to your site – per article.
- Link exchanges: There is also the option to get in touch with other website owners (related to your own business or area or interest) and do a “link exchange.”
Good vs. Bad Links
An important note with link building is that there are both good – and bad links.
- Insider’s Tip: When it comes to link building, quality is much more important than quantity. Having one link to a high authority domain is worth more than 10 links to a low-authority domain.
Domain authority is determined by a websites “trust” factor. The more Google trusts it, the higher DA it will have. The goal is to try and have all your links attached to sites that have a high DA.
#5 Optimize for Local SEO & Citations
Have you ever heard of a citation? Citations are any time your business name, address, or other identifying factor are mentioned on another website. Citations count in regard to SEO even if there is no link present.
All of the following citations counts, when it comes to SEO:
- Your business name online
- Your business name + phone number
- Your business name + phone number + address
- Your business name + phone number + address + link
Believe it or not, even just your business phone number is considered a viable citation.
Types of SEO Citations
There are two basic types of citations that apply to SEO and that help with local search results. These include:
- The structured citation: This is what you find on business listing web pages – Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.
- The unstructured citations: This type of citation is typically found on government websites, event listing sites, job websites, blogs, news websites, etc.
Having citations helps you prove that your business is really what you say it is, is located where you claim, etc.
Google and Bing (as well as most of the other search engines) consider citations an essential part of their ranking algorithms. When all other factors are equal, a business that has a higher number of citations is going to rank higher than those businesses with fewer citations.
When you can achieve citations on well-established and well-indexed portals, it can increase the certainty that a search engine crawler has regarding the information about your business and how it needs to be categorized.
The Local Connection
Citations are an essential part of your Local SEO efforts. Each citation you receive for your business helps to validate that it is part of a local community. After all, it is pretty hard to “fake” being a member of your area’s chamber of commerce or a city index of businesses. Also, receiving citations on the newspaper website or on another local business website shows that you are present – making your site appear more trustworthy and increasing your rank in the search engines.
How to Acquire More Citations for Your Business
There are several ways you can begin collecting citations for your business now.
- Complete profiles for any business listing site with business name, address, phone number, etc.
- Request that other businesses add a citation to your page and do the same for them.
- Join your local chamber of commerce.
- Find if there are any city or county business listings available.
When you acquire local citations, you can increase your rank and ensure your website is viewed as trustworthy.
#6 Focus on Reputation Management
What is more important than your online reputation? With more ways than ever before for customers to offer feedback on the services and products you offer, you can’t afford to ignore this factor. The fact is, just a few thoughtless reviews can wreck your entire business.
This is why it is so important for you to create and use a reputation management strategy.
The Importance of Your Online Reputation
When someone conducts an Internet search for a service or product – they are already sold! Now they need a reason to choose you, over your competition. There are two ways you can do this:
- Get a high ranking in Google search results
- Great online reviews and testimonials
With 88 percent of consumers trusting online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations, it is essential to have great online reviews.
Social Proof and Your Brand
There is no question that “social proof” is a hot commodity. Even if a person gets a recommendation from a friend, they are still going to go online to see what others say prior to making a final decision. Positive reviews give you the best chance of a conversion.
Creating an Online Review Strategy
If you don’t have an online review strategy, you can encourage positive reviews or even counter negative ones.
A quality online review strategy is an essential part of your brand management plan. You have to listen to what is said about you online and respond accordingly. Resolving a negative comment is much less potent than one that is never answered. You have to be present and handle reviews.
Creating an online reputation management plan is not as difficult as you may think. Using the tips here can help you get started.
- Don’t write, buy, or encourage someone to leave a fake review.
- Don’t ask everyone for feedback at the same time. Be smart and ask a few customers at a time.
- Develop a routine and simple instructions to give to customers.
- When requesting feedback make sure your clients mention the service or product they use. Details with keywords is best.
- Gather reviews on your own website first. You have control over what is published and can handle negative comments before it is blasted to the world.
- Always engage with your reviewers.
- Don’t panic about any negative reviews. Always take the high road and respond in a professional way.
Keeping your reputation in check will help ensure when people find you, they are going to want to shop with you. You have to have a reputation management process in place to ensure that people are able to find great things about you when they search for the service or product you offer online.
#7 Get Serious About Social Media
For many years, social media was not taken seriously. It was thought of as a “passing fad.” However, there is no question the exact opposite is true today.
The relationship between social media and SEO is somewhat complex. Also, Google is not exactly clear on if social media is a ranking factor – which makes it even more challenging.
However, regardless of your thoughts on the matter, you can’t deny that social signals are important. Even if they don’t directly impact your SEO, they have a huge impact on how visible your website is.
Some of the social signals that matter include:
- You community size
- Like and share ratios
- Number of genuine followers or fans
There are also a number of indirect benefits offered when you build social media for SEO.
- Inbound links
- Referral visits
Social media serves as a constant source of community traffic for many businesses, making it a priceless asset.
Keywords and Social Content
Social posts that contain the right keywords receive more visibility within the actual social network. However, since these are “no follow” links, there are many who believe this has no direct effect on Google rank. Keep in mind, even more views on social media platforms is good enough to increase traffic and conversions, which is why it is something you should not ignore.
Social SEO is used for the same reason that traditional website SEO is- to help people search for and find your content.
Keywords and hashtags can help people find your content. This has a huge, indirect effect on SEO. As a result, it is something you need to do on a regular basis. Your keywords are your navigational tools on social media. They need to be used to ensure that visitors looking for you and what you have to offer can find you.
Create a Network of Sharing
The entire goal of social media is to share. Sharing is a huge action related to SEO. There are several reasons that shares are so important, including:
- It’s a vote of confidence from your followers
- It’s a promotional tool for your company
- It helps extend the reach of your network
Building Your Brand on Social Media
Once you have a following, and they are sharing what you say, you need to encourage these actions to continue by constantly sharing valuable information over these platforms. Publish optimized content on your social media pages in a strategic way.
Consider SEO rules when you are creating your social content. If the main goal is to help people find your business, you need to create messages that help you stand out from the crowd. Make sure your content on all social platforms is easy to enjoy, brief and smart. Most importantly – make it irresistible.
#8 Blogging – The Heart and Soul of Inbound Marketing
Do you want a successful blog? If so, excellent SEO is a must. When SEO is done right, you can create blog posts that people love to read and that Google ranks well.
The step by step process here can help propel you into blogging success.
Step 1: Think About SEO before Writing
Don’t think about SEO after you have created your post. You have to have SEO at the top-of-mind when creating a blog post.
Step 2: Define Your Blog Post’s Goal
Each piece of content you publish needs a well-defined goal. The goal of the blog defines what the post is about. Here are some examples.
- Blogging for Money: If you are blogging for money, your goal will be one (or more) of the following:
- Have more relevant content indexed by search engines
- Promote your existing posts by adding internal links
- Review a service or product to acquire affiliate sales
- Reach out to your subscribers to let them know you are still around
- Blogging for Ecommerce: The goal of e-commerce sites is typically:
- To rank for long tail keywords related to what you offer
- Educated your visitors
- Show that you have an active website to improve trust
- Add more people to your email list
- Improve rankings in Google
When you set a goal you have something to work toward with your blog post. Otherwise, you may find you are rambling on and on.
Prior to moving on to the next step, you need to know how you are going to evaluate how successful your blog post is at meeting your established goal. Some tools that can help with this include smerush or Google Analytics, to name a few.
Step 3: Keyword Research
Thanks to our previous lesson, you already know how to research for the right keywords. Make sure you target the right words in each blog post you create.
Step 4: Figure Out User Intent
You have to now begin to think about your actual content – this is what you are going to write down. To do this effectively, you need to understand “user intent,” while determining what type of content Google wants.
In the past, SEO was all about filling up pages with various keywords and synonyms and link building – this is no longer an effective strategy.
If you want your post to appear on the first pages of Google, you have to determine “user intent.” This means you need a post that is interesting, useful, and something people want to read.
For example, if someone were searching for an SEO guide, what would they look for?
- A DIY approach to SEO?
- A post that teaches SEO?
- A thorough guide on how to do SEO?
In this case, the answer would be all of the above.
Step 5: Blog Post Length and Content Type
The most effective way to deterring the type of content that satisfies user intent and blog post length is to search for your selected keywords in Google.
Once you search for your keyword, consider the type of content ranking on the first page:
- Is it images, slideshows, video, or text?
- How long are the text posts?
- How are the posts structured?
You will likely find a few similarities such as mostly text content with some videos and images, long posts, easy navigation, etc.
Taking the time to see what others are doing and what is ranking well, can help you develop your own successful SEO blogs.
#9 Guest Blog Posting and Blogger Outreach
You know the benefits of guest posting:
- You can acquire backlinks from high authority sites.
- People begin to view you as an expert in your field.
- Highly targeted referral traffic comes rushing into your site.
Sounds good, right?
The question is – how can you get even better results from your guest posting efforts?
Step 1: Find Guest Post Targets
Before you write anything, you need to accumulate a list of targets to submit the content to. Here are 5 strategies you can use to do this:
- Google search strings: choose something besides “keyword + write for us.” Other options:
- Keyword + guest post opportunities
- Keyword + looking for guest posts
- Keyword + guest posts wanted
- Keyword + contributing writer
- Use other people’s guest posting success stories. People love to brag, take advantage of the places they have had success.
- Reverse image search in Google: Does a competitor have many high-quality blogs in your niche? Grab the URL of the headshot and do a reverse image search. You can get a list of all the places they have guest posted.
- Twitter and Google+: Use your keyword search strings here.
- com: Your go-to source of the best blogs online today.
Step 2: Research the Target Blogs You Collect
By now, you have a pretty good list. But you have to refine the list and work to warm up the prospects. Ways to do this include:
- Separate the losers and winners – winners have the following qualities:
- An authoritative link profile
- Only post high quality content
- Are related to your site
- Have a great following
- Don’t bury your link in the author bio
- Can help you acquire new targeted traffic
- Warm the targets up: You have to make your guest post seem appealing. You can warm your target up by:
- Engaging them on Twitter
- Comment on their blog
- Sending an email with a pitch
- Determine the right guest post topic
- Get to know the guest post guidelines for the site
These tips can help you secure a guest post on the targeted site.
- Insider’s Tip: You need to choose a topic that is relevant, that hasn’t been done before, and something that will get their readers excited. If you try to do the same old tired posts, it is going to show and you may lose your opportunity to guest post with them again.
Step 3: Make Your Pitch
Once you have found a great option, you have to send the pitch. Make it professional, but conversational. Make sure you mention what you love about your site and why you have selected that site for a guest post. Let them know what you do and then pitch your idea. Make the ideas clear and concise.
Step 4: Accept Guest Posts on Your Own Site
Now that you know how to blogger outreach, you should also selectively invite or allow 3rd party experts submit content for posting on your site. This will allow you to organically grow your website with contributions from niche and subject matter experts – thus make your site more SEO friendly.
The Bottom Line
Guest posting offers numerous SEO benefits. It helps you acquire backlinks, it lets your site be associated with high authority sites, and you can build your reputation as a trustworthy authority in the niche.
#10 Website Speed & Website Hosting
With close to 60% of Google searchers using mobile devices, mobile-friendliness and website speed have become critical SEO ranking factors.
Your website not only has to look good on mobile and have good design, it should load fast for all users – especially mobile users.
WordPress website are not usually optimized for speed out of the box, and there are many ways to increase speed and optimize loading time, such as:
- Choose a good host like Siteground or WP Engine
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
- Don’t use a pre-made WordPress theme, create a custom theme for your business
- Optimize your WordPress database
- Use an effective caching plugin – Sucuri is a great Security + CDN solution
- Optimize image sizes
- Optimize your homepage to load quickly
- Disable leeching of your images from 3rd party websites
- Add an expires header to static resources
- Add LazyLoad to your images
- Control the amount of post revisions stored
- Turn off pingbacks and trackbacks
- Replace PHP with static HTML, when necessary
With a good WordPress website host and some adjustments to your website code, you can vastly improve your website’s speed which will in turn help to make it more mobile friendly.
Now that we’ve given you a peek behind the curtains, it’s time to take action. It’s never too late to take corrective action on your website, or start the website re-design project that your company needs to grow.
Your website may have 10x the ranking potential already, and you may only need to apply some of the above recommendations and adjustments to “uncork” your website’s ranking potential. Contact us today, we can help.