Did you make any resolutions for the new year? At Cardinal, we each took the time to set some individual goals, both professional and personal. These goals range from giving up Diet Coke to learning new skills, and we are all working together to help each other and hold each other accountable.
What about your website? Why should it be left out? During this season of self-reflection and -improvement, set aside some time to go through these suggestions and resolve to make your business’s online presence the best it can be.
Across the Web
1. Take inventory of all your web properties.
And I do mean everything. Domains, websites, local maps listings, review site entries, social media pages, and anything else with a URL or a login. It’s not unusual for these types of accounts to be disorganized, to say the least. One employee creates an account for the company, eventually leaves, and then when the account is needed again, nobody at the company knows how to access it.
Put a list together of everything you can find, complete with usernames and passwords, so that you know what’s out there and how to get to it. It’s also a good idea to put together a company policy regarding account creation so that you’ll always know where to find the information for any online account.
Did you find any other websites you own during your search? If they serve essentially the same purpose as your main site or contain similar content, it is a good idea to go ahead and permanently redirect these domains to your primary domain. While setting up several similar sites was once an effective way to dominate the search engine results page (SERP), this practice does not reflect well on a brand to either the user or to Google, and is likely to hurt you in the long run.
2. List your business (or update your listing) on Google+ Local, Bing Local, Yelp, etc.
Even if you run a service business and would not want customers to find you on a map and show up at your door, these local directory listings can factor into both your search rankings and your company’s reputation, making them indispensable for any local business or national company with local branches.
If you do not yet have a listing for these sites, sign up now. Try to fill out the listing as much as possible with useful information and photos. If you do already have a business listing, this is a good time to add any missing information or photos, make sure everything is accurate and up-to-date, and check that your branding (your logo, slogan, etc.) is consistent.
3. Make social media work for your business.
Whether you love social media or hate it, it’s time to get serious about using it for your business. Different social media platforms are either more or less suited for different types of businesses, but the basic 5 to look at as a starting point are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest. (Yes, you should take Google+ and Pinterest seriously. Their user bases are smaller, but very engaged, and the commercial potential is vast.) If you do not already have an account for these sites, make one now. Be sure to link to your social media accounts from your main website. It may seem backwards — after all, you do not want people to leave your site — but these social media icons are seen by users as credibility pieces.
The key to a good social media strategy is just that: strategy. It is absolutely mind-blowing how many companies spend money on social media without determining at any point what their goals are. Or, if a company has a goal, too often it is not a meaningful goal. Getting lots of likes and comments on your page is great, but if it is not converting, it’s time to change strategies.
Identify meaningful, measurable goals for your social media campaign, and make a plan for how you are going to achieve these goals. Social media is a powerful tool, but only if used properly. If you’re using your flooring company’s Facebook account mainly to share fun craft ideas for kids (yes, I have seen this), don’t be surprised if your followers aren’t lining up to buy new floors from you.
Behind the Scenes
4. Set up Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools.
If you have not already done this, you are missing out on a wealth of information. The great thing about Google Analytics is that it it provides useful stats at a glance to even the most technologically averse user, but if you’re willing to dig a little deeper, you can uncover the really good stuff.
Google Webmaster Tools is another useful tool, as it gives you access to some information not readily available in Analytics, and allows you to receive updates from Google regarding issues with your site when you might otherwise be in the dark. While you’re at it, it a good idea to cover your bases and set up Bing Webmaster Tools as well.
5. Set up goal tracking in Google Analytics to track your leads, sales, etc.
While you may think that Google Analytics’ Goal Tracking functionality is primarily for e-commerce sites, it is actually a versatile tool that can be used to track other types of goals, such as watching a video, click on a particular item, viewing a certain page, staying on the page a certain amount of time, or submitting a contact form. If you haven’t already, go ahead and identify your main goal or goals and set up goal tracking in Google Analytics.
6. Optimize your site for search engines:
Tracking your goals in Analytics is only useful if people are actually finding your site. For the greatest efficacy, search engine optimization (SEO) should be an on-going process, not a one day project, but there are several quick and easy steps you can take right now to help search engines index your site properly:
- Optimize title tags – Each page needs an optimized title, no longer than 70 characters in length (including spaces), containing relevant keywords. Avoid the temptation to simply string keywords together in a meaningless list — the title should actually reflect the content of the page in a useful way. Remember that your page title will appear at the top of your listing on the SERP and will therefore be the first thing users see about your site.
- Optimize meta descriptions– Your mileage may vary concerning how long the meta description should be before Google cuts it off in the SERP, but most experts will tell you somewhere between 145 and 160 characters, including spaces.Your meta description should contain one or two keywords, but its true potential is as a marketing opportunity — after all, this is the description that will appear in your listing in the SERP and is essentially your “elevator pitch” (perhaps we should start calling them a “SERP pitch”?) to persuade the searcher to visit your site.
- Check your URL structures – Check to make sure that your site’s URL structure is relevant and organized. Pages should be divided into relevant subdirectories; for example, www.yoursite.com/products/super-amazing-product.html or www.yoursite.com/services/web-design.php. If you have multiple local branches, it is a good idea to make a subdirectory for each locality.The file name for the individual page should contain keywords relevant to the page, with each word separated by a hyphen. Do NOT string together multiple keywords. The URL for your page will appear beneath its title on your SERP listing; a long, spammy URL will make your site appear less credible to the user.If your current URLs are not perfect but are still relevant and easy for the user to read, you may be better off leaving them as they are. If you do decide that they need changes, be sure to 301 redirect the old URLs to the new ones so that you can maintain the SEO value from the previous URLs and do not end up with dead links.
- Add headers – Headers (typically the largest text on the page) are an important method of organizing information on a page. They break up the text and indicate to both the user and the search engines what the content is about and which parts are the most important. Headers range from H1 (the largest) to H6 (the smallest). You should only have one H1 header, generally at the top of the page, describing its content. For example, the H1 for your “About” page would be something like “About Our Company”. The text below that can be broken up with H2 and H3 tags as needed. As always, try to fit in relevant keywords, but don’t overdo it.
- Avoid keyword stuffing – If you’ve been reading along so far, you’ve already gotten the picture. Make sure to include keywords, but keep them relevant to the page, and do not try to stuff in as many as possible. Not even in the meta keywords tag. If keyword stuffing is already present on your site, take down to trim down the keywords to a more reasonable amount.
If you are not sure how to make these changes, don’t despair. If you are using a content management system (CMS) to manage your website, most will have SEO options such as changing the title and description built in. If you have another company managing your website, you could just give them a list of the changes you want and ask them to do it. OR, if you want to really see what SEO can do for your business, you could call up the #1 SEO company in Atlanta (hint: it’s us) to do all of this — and more — for you.
7. Make sure everything is up-to-date.
If your site is run on a CMS, such as WordPress or Joomla, make sure you are running the latest version of the CMS. If you are on an older version, go ahead and update the CMS. Be sure to back up your site first. Keeping your CMS up-to-date reduces bugs and improves security.
Make sure your content is up-to-date as well! Your business has undoubtedly gone through changes since you first created your website; make sure that these changes are reflected in your on-site content. This brings us to our next thought, user experience…
8. Optimize your site for conversion.
Make the most of your website by optimizing it for conversion. If the design is looking stale, refresh your site’s look with a new design. Provide useful, quality information, and use headers to divide your content into easy to read chunks.
Another way to improve conversion is to make sure that each page contains a single clear call to action. Whatever you want the user to do, make it easy for them. For example, we have seen leads skyrocket for clients simply after adding a contact form to every page.
To really maximize your site’s potential for conversion, invest in user testing. There are different levels of user testing available, such as a simple heatmap which shows where users are clicking to an actual video of a user’s experience viewing your site. Many of these options are more affordable than you may expect, and they are enormously useful in understanding where your site could improve.
9. Add a blog.
A blog can add tremendous value to your website, potentially attracting natural backlinks and helping you rank for long-tail keyword phrases. Your blog is also an opportunity to show you as an authority in your industry. If you are not sure what to write about, check out Google Trends. By typing in a keyword phrase, you can see related search terms that are popular or rising in popularity. By writing about one of these topics, you can increase your chances of getting some of that search traffic.
10. Go mobile!
According to a study by Compuware, 57% of consumers would not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site, and 40% would instead go to a competitor’s site if the first site they visit provides a bad mobile experience. As mobile Internet use continues to rise, expected to soon eclipse desktop browsing, no business can afford to be absent from the mobile web.
In most cases, the best scenario is to use fluid styling so that the your main site and your mobile site have the same URL and the same content, but presented differently to better fit the different screen sizes. It is usually necessary to completely redesign your site to make use of this method, but the results are worth it. However, if this is not feasible for your business at the moment, or if you feel that your mobile viewers would be better served with a completely different experience from your main site, it is also possible to redirect mobile traffic to a separate site built out in a subdirectory or subdomain (such as m.yourdomain.com).
Bonus Tip: Make someone else do the work.
Funny how a top 10 list can turn out to be so long! Which such a long list — and these are just the basics — it’s easy to see why most business owners would choose to outsource Internet marketing. If you’d rather focus on your own New Year’s resolutions (whether you resolved to simply get fit or finally complete that Masters in Postmodern Underwater Ballet you’ve been dreaming of), call Cardinal Web Solutions today and let us make 2013 the best year ever for your business.