Hopefully you know how important it is to have a functional website and blog in this day and age. However, even if you know that it’s critical, you may not understand WHY or HOW it helps your small business. Don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone. There are many moving parts when it comes to websites and digital marketing, but in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways, they’re all interconnected. Each of those tools can help do a great deal of the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing your business.
Let’s break down the basics of SEO, keywords, blog formatting, and web design,
SEO – WTF?
You’ve probably heard the term “SEO” thrown around, but you may not know what it involves or even what the letters stand for. SEO is short for “search engine optimization” and Wikipedia defines it as: “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results – often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results.” Theoretically, if you rank high in the search results (say at/near the top or on the first page) and your site frequently appears in the search results list, then you will receive more visitors from the search engine’s users. That’s the idea any way.
When compiling content for your site and blog, always have SEO in mind. It’s common for business owner’s to want to do selly-selly kind of content, but that’s not how a person searching for your business is going to look for a business like yours. A better tact is to leave out the salesy-talk and buzzwords, and instead, be very definitive about what you have and clear in your message or offer.
Keywords are KEY
No matter which web building tool you use, (our team builds in and prefers WordPress) it’s important to build keywords into your site and into every piece of content you compose. (Choosing and running keyword campaigns is another topic for another day.) In short, keywords are important in these main areas of your site:
- Title Tags – the text in the top line of a Web browser, also used by many search engines as the title of search listings – stay around 65-70 characters, which allows the whole link to appear in search
- Meta Descriptions – the description of your web page or other details, like author, publication data – stay around the 150-160 character range
- Body Content – the bulk of the writing on your site, including product/service descriptions and blog posts
- URL Structure – the website address, which is unique for each page of your site – make sure you’re not leaving the default and that you understand the use of permalinks. Some sites will have a page number, instead of the actual name of the content. This doesn’t help a visitor and has no relevance for search, so might not even be indexed properly.For reference, which link makes more sense to you, a or b?
Both get you to the same place, but one is just a little more clear about doing so.
Each of these areas are important for very specific reasons. Naming these things in a consistent way helps with search on the web AND on your site, and also lends itself to making it easier for search engines to willingly index your content. A keyword done right will show in search and will actually be highlighted in search results.
Blogs and Blog Formatting
We consider blogs to be one of the most under-utilized tool in a business’ web marketing. Your blog can serve as a way to educate guests about topics that are under your area of expertise. It can be used to house answers to questions you often get, allowing you to merely point a customer there so they can read at their leisure. In the case of Google, your blog serves as a sort of “watering feature” for your website, whereas new content is sprinkled regularly there, keeping it fresh and lively. Google loves this, and they reward sites for adding and contributing new content on a regular basis.
Things to consider for your blog (and your website, which we’ll discuss in a moment) are the way a guest interacts with your site. Google factors in things such as mobile-friendliness , but there’s more to a blog that reading it on your tablet. What content does it provide? What problems is it solving? And, how usefully organized is it? Two of the most important factors are uniqueness of content and readability. These areas are where your blog can really help your site. So, offer original content on your blog, rather than just copying and pasting another site’s content; and present it in a way that’s easy to read, using formatting tools like headers, bullet points and white space in your blog posts.
- Make sure your graphics are useful and illustrate or support your written content
- Optimize your images, so they’re not so large as to blog up someone’s phone when they visit your site
- Use headers in your posts, so guests can easily navigate your work
- Provide links to other content you have within your site, particularly if they expand on the current piece a guest is on
- Be sure to have your blog be part of your existing website. It used to be you’d have a website and a blog, but now, technology (and marketing!) dictate they can and should be under the same domain.
Web Design Basics and Beyond
Smack dab in the middle of all this SEO and blog mumbo jumbo is your website, and even if you’re the smallest business in town, your website can be an extra set of hands for you, 24/7. People are online all hours of the day and night, and even if your business is closed, you can still be conducting business on your website. Do you have forms or common instructions you would normally email a customer? Why not let your website be a source for this information?
When it comes to building or improving your website, key to the planning needs to be the guest experience, and that’s where the design (the look and feel, as well as how it is organized) come into play.
Certainly, your branding will be incorporated throughout, so guests know immediately by look and feel they’re at your site. Other considerations include:
- Making contact details easy to find
- Tucking details and information about your product/services intuitively away
- Reducing clutter, so guests aren’t overwhelmed
- Being mindful of a guest using mobile devices
- Leaving whitespace to allow a visitor’s eye to rest
- Making the navigation clear and concise
- Allowing a guest to pay or purchase online
- Providing ways for them to reach out to you socially
- Giving them opportunities to get in on specials/deals
Websites don’t need to solve every problem your visitor has, nor does it have to be the place where the transaction actually occurs. Some guests use your site merely to get a couple answers or find your information, then either call or email you. We look at it this way: If the site got an order, great! If the site got you a phone call, great! The point is, your website is an extension of your business, not a replacement for the customer interacting with you, so make it a great experience for your guests, and the conversions will come.
Putting Your Web Elements to Work
Now that you have a little more insight into the web picture, take a look at your site, or sit down and begin mapping out the site you think your business should have. If you’re a DIY’er, research and get familiar with Google’s library of web tools. If you’re partnering with a web developer, they should be able to talk about all that we’ve covered here, and then some. Get samples of their work, make sure you discuss your budget upfront. Web development can be costly, and it’s okay to get more than one quote. Once your site is refreshed, or ready, be sure to get your customers there by offering some incentives or extremely useful information, but remember, never stop watering!