Build It & They Will Come –NOT!
You’ve built your site and you’re anxiously waiting for the dollars to come in, but it just isn’t happening. What’s wrong? Just like any business endeavor you have to let people know about it and that’s what we are going to discuss today. The following applies regardless of the type of site you have – informational or e-commerce. Before I get too deep into this I want to apologize for some of the technical aspects of the article. I’ve tried to give useful information while keeping it understandable.
First, we will discuss Search Engines and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how it relates to your web site. Search engines seek to determine relevance to the user based on what they are looking for as it pertains to rankings. I could write a book about the subject and it would be outdated before it was published. But we can hit on some specifics. Factors they consider in their rankings include Relevant Content, User Friendliness, and technical factors such as Mobile Friendliness as well as outside links back to your site (helps to determine importance). Search engines are constantly tweaking their search algorithms to provide better defined search results.
You are marketing, in part, to the search engines and how you do it can have a direct impact on how you rank! There are two types of SEO marketing – White Hat and Black Hat. As the names imply, the former is acceptable while the latter is frowned upon or outright banned. Everyone who has a web site gets marketing emails from companies promising to put you on the first page of Google. If you believe that I have some really rare stamps I want to sell you. No one can make such a promise! Many of these companies are Indian based and they don’t practice good SEO methodology. I’ve been doing this for a lot of years and, while some of my clients do come up on the first or second page, I can never make such a guarantee. As a developer, all I can do is try to follow good practices and hope the search engines give the site a high ranking.
Black Hat SEO involves the use of unacceptable tricks to try to improve a sites rank. These include;
- Keyword stuffing – creating text that uses keywords over and over in an attempt to appear authoritative.
- Hidden text – use of text, stuffed with keywords that either are the same color as the background or otherwise viewable to the search engines but not the user.
- False landing pages – pages stuffed with keywords and other tricks that are not pages that you would otherwise send a user to.
- Link farms – pages full of links (including to your site) with vague or meaningless information meant to give the perception of importance.
There are other methods marketing companies’ use that are considered Black Hat but I won’t go into them. One thing is for sure, search engines can easily detect Black Hat SEO, and when they do they will push you way down in the rankings or delist you completely.
Let’s consider a typical web site and how it relates to search engine marketing using White Hat techniques. Content is key! Good content goes beyond just listing what you’re selling (although doing this properly is important). It’s about having information relevant to the topic and useful to viewers. Does your site have a Glossary or a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section? Do you provide articles, stories, or links to other materials? How about an events calendar or show calendar? How many sites link back to you and are they legitimate links (stamp clubs, member organizations, etc). These things can make you appear authoritative on the subject and help your ranking. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, give the task to your webmaster or consider leasing the content. This can also include helpful non-dealer-specific videos. This type of content helps your site ranking because it provides information that the search engines feel is helpful and important to the user.
What about technical aspects? Using Google Analytics we can determine much about site traffic.
The chart above tells us;
- New vs. Returning Visitors (a higher percent of new visitors means your marketing is working).
- User Behavior – How many came to the first page then left (bounce rate), how long they stayed, and number of pages viewed.
- Goals Reached – In this case we have a goal set to see how many users viewed their cart.
This is all important information that tells us how the site is operating and where we should make improvements. We might try to reduce the bounce rate by making the landing page more appealing, or informative, for example. Analytics provide much more useful information than I’ve shown here.
More and more, search engines are looking towards the mobile world, giving kudos for sites designed with mobile viewing in mind. Having a non-mobile friendly site can get you pushed down in the ranks.
Good site design, in general, is as important as anything. There should be descriptive text on various pages. Your site should have meta-tags (tags visible in the code to search engines) for keywords and subject descriptions explaining the site content. Sitemaps of the site should be placed in the root folder as well. These sitemaps are in XML (another mark-up language) and tell the structure of your site to the search engines. This helps them to understand your site content and what is important. I’ve only touched on SEO in the most basic form. I’ve barely touched on proper SEO techniques but there is much more information on the web. Search for “Free SEO Training” and have fun. Watch the videos and read the articles to learn more.