In the last article we discussed how to drive traffic to your website through search engines. As promised, I’ve created a general list of tactics you can employ to improve your website’s standing in Google and other search engines. Do not ignore the overall strategy of developing a great website. If all you do is accomplish these tasks you have done little more than busy work. Each of these tasks are part of a larger symphony of developing your small business website into a powerhouse!
Stop: If you haven’t read our last article talking about how to drive traffic to your website through search engines, please go back and read it. That will give you a strategic understanding of how search engines grade your website. This checklist will be here waiting when you come back.
1. Building your site
Build a semantically clean website with valid HTML that is easy for search engines to read. Make sure that search engine spiders are not blocked on your site. Do not use flash, it is evil.
Construct your website so that is has an RSS feed. Ensure that each time you create new content all the main indexing services (e.g. Technorati, Google Blog Search, Yahoo! News, etc.) are automatically notified. If your blog platform is WordPress it can be configured to ping these services automatically. If you use some other platform and it does not support pinging when a new post is made, you can manually ping using Pingomatic.
Find a phrase or phrases which have been searched for recently. Remember, you are not your customer. Other people may call your services by different names than you do. Cater to what your audience is searching for by constructing your search engine campaign around those words.
Develop your key website landing pages so they contain those phrases by use of titles, meta descriptions, headlines, etc.
Put a blog on your business website. It doesn’t have to be the front page. In most cases, it probably shouldn’t be the front page. But it should be there and you should be posting regularly. (Hint, WordPress is great for this.) Your site should have an RSS feed that will transmit your articles all over the world where other aggregators syndicate your content much in the same way local newspapers syndicate news from the Associated Press.
Write a combination of long, encyclopedic-level core articles (articles that people want to bookmark, share with their friends and that you can continuously refer back to in your other posts) and shorter news articles. Try writing about the questions your customers ask. Whatever you do, post regularly. Here are a few hints on what to write on your website. While writing, be sure to focus on these elements of your page. Make sure you avoid these common errors people make when writing on the web.
I know this sounds like a lot of writing. Not to worry, it has extra benefits. I focus on writing articles that are based out of questions my clients and prospects ask me most frequently. Once you have these articles on your site, you can email them to your prospect base when they ask. Not only does that help you with the search engines, it makes you look more professional, too.
It doesn’t always have to be about the writing! You can add videos to your website as well!
Find related avenues where you can link back to your website with those phrases as the anchor text. Blogs/forums/websites from which you can either post back links or obtain back links are great. Using social media to spread the word about your website while including links to your articles is a great practice. Put your and website RSS feed everywhere you can – from a Facebook Corporate page to your LinkedIn corporate page to FeedBurner.
Create profiles in blogging communities such as MyBlogLog. Make sure you’re logged into your MyBlogLog (or other networks) account as you browse other blogs that have their widget displaying latest visitors who are members of that network. (Check a few prominent blogs on your topic to see what networks are popular among them – you can figure out the most prominent blogs on your subject by searching for your keywords in Technorati and checking what blogs have the highest authority there).
Be sure to link frequently to your own previous articles – especially your landing pages and pillar articles. Link to your friends and local business community. Link to your clients and your suppliers. Link to news articles on high quality sites. Every now and then, make posts quoting other blogs in your industry with links to them (e.g. review posts, news posts, analytical posts, etc.) – this should send trackbacks to the quoted blogs and create links on them to your blog, which should increase your visibility. After creating a steady habit of linking to these places, start to seek links back from them.
Consider submitting your pillar articles to Digg, Propeller, Reddit, StumbleUpon and other similar sites. If you submitted a post, consider adding a “Digg this post” etc. button to the post so that your readers could do some promotion for you on those sites.
Consider writing guest articles on their sites in exchange for editorial credits. Write for other article collecting sites like ezinearticles.com or helium.com and include links back to your own site. Write for your local paper in the same manner.
Read other websites and blogs. Comment on their articles linking your website to your name.
Warning: Do NOT Do This
Don’t use black hat search engine tactics. By Black Hat, I mean the sleazy, scammer short cuts you see advertising to make search engines think you are something you are not. Even if there is a hole in the search engine ranking system it tends to close up quickly. Those scammers selling you easy ways out don’t care about the long-term viability of your website.
Bonus! My friend Lincoln Baxter has created a great tactical resource titled SEO for Everyone. Lincoln is a developer’s developer with the rare additional skill to clearly communicate complex ideas very efficiently. Please read his article for even more tactics and greater understanding of how you can improve your website.
Most of all, enjoy what you are writing. Enjoy the process of proactively engaging your audience. You’ll notice that there is strong alignment between tactics that are great for your clients as well as being great for search engines. That is no accident. Ultimately this process will strengthen your business.
As always, please share your thoughts, questions and comments below. If you’ve had success, please let us know. If you have had issues, tell us that, too – maybe we can all find a solution together!