Chances are, if you have a website, you want that website to be found. You want people to search for <something>, see your site in the results, click over to your site and then engage with your product or service (be that a purchase or some other action).
I’m continually surprised and a bit disappointed though when I check out many start-up websites. Upon first glance they might be visually appealing, but oftentimes no effort has been put into attracting visitors – the focus is only on the message once the visitor is already on the site. Don’t get me wrong – that’s important – but there are many layers to the funnel and to have an effective website you need to spend some time thinking about how your visitors are going to get to the site in the first place.
So, here are some thoughts and ideas to consider. Maybe this information is new to you, or maybe it isn’t but you’ve just forgotten or neglected to take action on these items. Either way, I think these are good reminders for many people – especially entrepreneurs who might not have had any sort of SEO primer before.
First, figure out keywords and search terms. Trust me, this is important. Do not skip this step. Many people do – I’ve made the mistake myself in the past – but don’t. Use one of the many free keyword and phrase search tools available (like Google Adwords’ own keyword tool). Enter in some terms that you *think* people are searching for. Then make note of the search volume and check out some other search phrases. You just might be surprised. Just because you know what you’d search for, doesn’t mean you know what your ideal client is searching for.
Example: When I launched CloudServers.com I heavily focused optimization on “(Windows or Linux) cloud server hosting” and I had great results. Wonderful search results placement on the first page for that and other related phrases. But guess what? While there were definitely people searching for that term and finding our site, that wasn’t the best term. Many more people were still searching for “VPS hosting” and “virtual private server hosting” versus “cloud server hosting”. Granted they aren’t exactly the same thing (true IaaS cloud server hosting is way better – trust me) but people searching for both phrases were potential client candidates. So I needed to adjust my thinking, and adjust the site optimization, to make sure I was able to capture that additional valuable traffic. Some time spent up front researching search terms would have saved months and accelerated our initial ramp-up.
Once you know what you want to optimize toward, hit the low-hanging fruit. Even if your site isn’t launched and you only have a landing page posted online – you should still do some basic SEO optimization. You want the search engines to index your site as early as possible because length of time online and the timing of the keyword density does matter.
What’s this long-hanging fruit?
- Make sure your page has a title tag. This should be 50-60 characters and it should related to terms your target visitors care about. Sure, have your name there, but also what you’re about. A couple good examples: “Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more” and “The Founder Institute: Helping Founders to Build Great Companies”. Both of those communicate to both visitors and search engines what the content on your page is about.
- Now put in a good meta description for the page. This should be between 150-160 characters and should further flesh-out what your site/product/company/venture is all about. This is important. No one sees it when visiting the site but all search engines will see it and they’ll give a lot of weight to the information presented here when deciding when to show or not show your site in search results.
- While in the HTML you might as well put in meta keywords too. This used to be a really big deal to search engines but then people started stuffing all keywords in here that didn’t really apply to their site content, so it has been depreciated quite a bit. Still though, it’s easy to do and certainly can’t hurt. Those same keywords that you found in your initial research should go right here in this section – comma-delimited and in order of importance.
- BTW – order does matter. Put the words that you think are most important closer to the start of each HTML meta section.
Okay, now that you’ve checked the super-easy items off your list, let’s move on. What REALLY counts to search engines is the content on your site. You need to have relevant content that legitimately uses the keywords that are important to your visitors. Don’t just stuff in keywords – they need to be used in sensible ways (and yes, Google can tell the difference). Make sure right on your homepage – preferably within a header tag – you have a powerful word or phrase. If people are searching for these terms, they’re important to them, so the content on the site should be crafted around this message.
If you have images on your site, always use the ALT tag to describe the image. And feel free to slip in a keyword or two if it makes sense. If I have a picture of a computer server from my data center shown on my site and I sell management services, why not ALT tag the image with “high-performance server, managed by Acme”? It’s truthful and descriptive and will help with your search engine keyword density ratios.
Now set up a blog section, or just create some static pages, with some meaningful and useful content. This is another big deal. Create content that is helpful to your visitors. Show them that you want to help. Educate them. Inform them. Help them be successful. Those keywords that people are searching for – well, start writing some content around them. People are searching for those terms so help them find what they’re looking for. Sure, you likely want to sell a product, but first build some trust. Trust that you truly want to provide a benefit to them. Trust that you really know your market, the users, the great things about it, the challenges within it (oh, and how your solution alleviates pain points), etc.
It’s going to take some time to develop the content and then for the search engines to trust your site and the content enough to start moving it up in the search results pages. That’s another reason to start early – successful search engine optimization takes time.
There are tons of great articles about SEO with lots of tips. Once you have the basics covered you can easily research additional pointers (like back-links, anchor tags, within-site-linking, responsive design, etc.). Hopefully this short primer is helpful to get you started though.
Now, go do something exciting!