“If you build it, he will come.” Readers of a certain age know this popular movie line from the 1989 Kevin Costner film “Field of Dreams.” In the movie, Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, is motivated to take a big risk and convert valuable farmland into a baseball diamond. A tagline from the movie: “If you believe the impossible, the incredible can come true.” This makes a great movie plot, but it’s not a strategy for building or growing your business. “If you build it, they will come” is definitely not a strategy for launching a successful website strategy. If your goal is to attract website visitors and convert those visitors into paying customers or clients, you must ensure that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is part of your digital marketing strategy.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process of designing and maintaining your website in a way that makes it easy for search engines (like Google and Bing) to find your website and reference it in searches conducted by internet users. Here’s an example: say you are a landscaping company in Paducah. You build a website to promote the services you offer in the McCracken County area. On your site, you feature a variety of lawn care services. You are a new company, so the general public does not yet know or recognize your name. By properly optimizing your website, your site can be displayed to people who are searching for lawn care, mowing or landscaping services in Paducah. Having a website, alone, will not achieve those results, however.
So much more goes into building a successful website than making it pretty and hoping visitors will come. SEO is a complicated subject and not one you can afford to neglect. To complicate matters, popular search engines like Google change their algorithms regularly, which means the best practice of the game today is unlikely to be the best practice of the game tomorrow. That said, here are five tips to apply to your website today to help it become a valuable component of your marketing toolbox:
Tips for Improving Your Website’s SEO Ranking
1. Make regular updates to your site.
A key component of your SEO Ranking is creating relevant content and updating your site regularly. Your website is not a project that should ever be considered “finished.” Updates should be made regularly to keep your content fresh and give visitors a reason to come back to your site. Your content should be helpful and informative to those visitors. Use full sentences in your content. Do not be guilty of keyword stuffing: the practice of “stuffing” many words on a page in an attempt to trick search engines into picking up your page listing. Search engine algorithms are built to detect this and making this mistake will actually hurt your SEO ranking.
2. Know what your prospects are looking for.
If you want to be found, you have to know what your prospective clients are seeking. Keyword research is a strategy for identifying relevant topics and keywords commonly used by people looking for products and services you provide. Once you identify those words and phrases, use them in your content. Keep your pages and blog posts focused on a single keyword or phrase, then use those keywords and phrases throughout your text, in your page headers, in the page metadata description. (If you do not manage your own website, make sure your website development team is doing this for you.)
3. Make sure your website is fast.
Google reports that 50% of web visitors expect a website to load in 2 seconds. If a page takes too long to load, the visitor will abort the site. Multiple factors contribute to the page load time such as image size and plugins. Visit your site and pay attention to how long it takes each page to load. If there’s a delay on any page, address it.
4. Be mobile friendly.
More than half of all web traffic now comes from users on mobile devices. A mobile responsive website will change size depending on the device that is used to access the site. Google prioritizes websites that are mobile responsive. Failure to make your website mobile responsive degrades the user experience and therefore will hurt your SEO ranking.
5. Be secure.
When you visit a website, your address bar will tell you if the website you are visiting is a secure one. Secure sites display https:// in the address bar before the website address. Those that display http:// rather than https:// lack a secure sockets layer (SSL) which is geek speak that means “an added layer of security.” Back in October, Google began warning Chrome users who attempted to navigate to http:// sites that these websites are not secure. Not only does this adversely affect Google’s SEO Ranking of your site, but you will also run the risk of turning away visitors who may worry your website is a security risk.
This is just a small number of Search Engine Optimization tactics you must include in your website strategy. The topic is much more complicated, and there are many other factors that contribute to an optimized website. Lean on individuals who specialize in this area. Your website requires regular maintenance as does your SEO. Do not neglect to routinely readdress your SEO goals with your marketing staff or team.