When it comes to building a website for your business there are many key factors you need to plan for first before developing your structure of the web site, including functionality, overall design, and branding of the website, ease of use, loading time of the website, and much more. But the one thing many novices and even professional website designers fail on is the most critical aspect – search engine optimization. For those not familiar with search engine optimization (or ‘SEO’ for short), this is the part of your website that helps your site show up on the search engines when people type in either your business name, your products, services, etc, and in my views probably the most important aspect of any website, especially if you rely on your online presence to promote your business.
My own business, Division, attracts around 85% of new business through the website. Forget Yellow Pages, forget PPC (Pay-Per-Click) marketing. Search Engine Optimization is king!
So if you’re planning on developing a new website either yourself or with a web design company, here are a few things you need to look at to create a search engine friendly website that will help your website to the top of the search engines:
Starting with a Good Domain name:
Having the right domain name can play a big part in the success of your listing on the search engines. For instance, if you were selling Gifts for women and targeting Australian women, then the domain name ‘womensgifts.com.au’ would most likely get you to the top spot on the search engines with a little additional keywording added to the website. The name is a good length, easy to remember and it has two of the most popular searched key phrases – ‘women’ and ‘gifts’. Simple!
But what if your business name is long, such as ‘Stephens & Jones Lawyers’. Obviously ‘Stephensandjoneslawyers.com.au’ or even ‘stephensandjones.com.au’ is a mouthful and way too long for any relevance. Now some would go down the path of ‘sjl.com.au’ which is ok, but then there are no keywords in the name, making it difficult for the search engines. So probably the best choice would be ‘sjlawers.com.au’ or even ‘australianlawyers.com.au’ if you are attracting the entire Australian market place. That way if someone searches for ‘australian lawyers’ you should get top listing!
To search for available domain names visit http://devision.domainnameshop.com.au and you can search just about every combination available.
Review Your Competitors:
Before planning your own website it is a good plan to know your competition and see what they are doing to get to the top spot of the search engines. There are a few great software packages available that provide all the information on your competitors, including their keyword relevance, who they are linked to, who is linked to them, where they rank on all search engines globally and even the number of visitors they are attracting. If you want to bump them off their search engine perch, this is the place to start! My favorite software package is WebCEO. This easy to use package is designed for both the amateur or professional and not only does all of the above, but will also help you fine tune your own site to achieve great results. Click here for a free download of the software to get started.
Plan the Navigation:
Planning your navigation and setting it up correctly is very important. The search engines crawl through the pages of your website, picking up on keywords you may have included in your page names, and the content on those pages. So having your main navigation just right is essential. For example, If you were selling women’s gifts and had a page on skin care, then a good page name would be women’s-skin-care-gifts.html or skin-care-women.html. Fill that page with content about women’s skin care, link to a few products and you have a very search engine friendly page!
Make sure your main navigation at the top of the page always links to your own internal pages and NEVER to an outside party as this can totally crush your search engine ranking, which is the first concern. The other concern is if the external site you are linked to goes offline or shuts down, you are left with missing page links, and the search engines penalize you hard for this, often sending you spiraling to the bottom of the search engines, which can take months to regain! Now without wanting to target a particular site (and no intended offense to the owners of the website), I need to show you an example, so have a look at http://www.coolumbaywatch.com
Apart from the homepage browser description header being over saturated with ‘Coolum Baywatch Beachside Resort Coolum Beach Sunshine Coast Queensland Australia’ (which will probably lose them brownie points!) move over the main navigation and you will find that almost half the pages go directly to another website. So this means that if the other website was to ever go offline the main website hosting that navigation would half their content missing. If the site were to disappear completely they would probably need to pay someone to create the new pages which could be costly if they don’t have the master design files. On top of that, the search engines really don’t have as much to work with from the main website, greatly reducing their keyword density, and in effect, lowering their chances of a good page listing for their own site, but probably increasing the other companies website. So always keep your navigation linked to your OWN pages!
Set up your Graphics Correctly:
It is important to name and ‘Alt Tag’ your graphics correctly to increase your search engine ranking. Going back to gifts, if you were to name a product image ‘womens-hand-soap.jpg’ and place it on a page names women’s-soap-products.html will probably do very well for your website. On top of that, create an Alt Tag (the text that appears when you move over an image in your browser) with a small description such as ‘Soap gifts for women’. and this will work beautifully. Make sure your images always load fast, and try and stay away from Flash navigation..either use text or graphics navigation as it can be tagged more successfully, not to mention much easier to update!
To help the search engines list your website correctly under the right categories there is a simple way to give them a little hand. On your homepage (or internal pages as well) amongst the main body of text, simply add a few links to your other pages. But don’t just add any text to any page – If you have a page called women’s-soap-products.html, then on your homepage make sure you have the words ‘womens soap products’ amongst the text in a sentence and link that to the page. That way when the search engines visit your website they can not only trawl through your website much faster but also have instance keyword relevance and can identify exactly where you should be listed on their engines. As you add new products, add some text changes and link them. The search engines love sites that are regularly refreshed or updated. But remember not to overdo it! 8 or 9 links at the most per page is ample.
Write Search-Engine-Friendly Content:
As I partly mentioned above, writing good copy for your website is very important. Make sure the first and last paragraphs contain the important keywords that you would like to be found under. But don’t write it like you are repeating your keywords constantly. You want humans as well as search engines to read the website! Just casually slip a few of your keywords found from your WebCEO search tools into your website and then run the software and it will provide you with a report on whether your keyword density is just right.
Search Engine Friendly Keywording and Tagging your website:
Once you have all the navigation, text and images in place, you then need to do the final piece to a great search engine friendly website – Adding the keyword and description tags.
Now, this sounds technical if you don’t know what they are, but basically, it is the initial script that the search engines use to add your site to their directories, and it is the text description that appears when you do a search for something, so getting this just right is very important.
To see if your website is set up correctly go to your browser menu and look for ‘View Source Code’ and it will show you the HTML breakdown that the search engines see.
In the top area of your page (the head tag) you should see something like the following script:
If you don’t see a script like this one above then chances is your web site does not yet search engine optimized. If you are familiar with website design already you can add the script in your own web editing software, or alternatively, WebCEO has the tools to do it for you.
Submit your Website:
And finally, you now submit your site. to submit your website to multiple search engines I recommend using submission software, or you can go the slower process, but just as effective and go to the submission page of each search engines. For Google, it is: www.google.com.au/addur
Once that is all done you can now sit back for a few weeks and wait and then watch the visitors (and sales) start rolling into your website!