One of the most asked questions in web development is, can you make show up on Google? The answer to this question is SEO, Search Engine Optimization. SEO is what helps your website to make it to the first page of Google search. I have heard it said, that the worst spot you can be is on the second page of Google search. While, I think that this is a little bit of an exaggeration (I know I have used the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th page in Google before) the point is well taken and also very much understood. So, how do you get there? I recently had a client ask this very question and I wanted to detail out all the steps that are necessary to make this possible. Like all things, the answer is no so simple but it can be done.
SEO is all just a bunch of stuff that my website developer does, right? Well, I really wish this was the case because I would sell the secret formula and my business wouldn't stop growing! However, there are things that both the web developer and the content manager need to do. Here are some of the things that you need to make sure your web developer does for you when you are updating or creating your website.
A 301 redirect is a way to tell the search engine that a link has permanently moved somewhere. This works if you have multiple URL's pointing to a single site or if you have changed some content on your website. SEO means no broken links!
Google works best when you register your website in Google Analytics. This helps to tell Google that your site exists and you also are able to register a site map with them so they can index your site better.
Regardless of Google Analytics, you should have site map on your website. This tells the famous web crawlers how to traverse your website. It gives them easier understanding which means your site will be indexed better.
When you Google something, you see a short description of the website or the page you are have searched for. This is the meta description. At the very least, your website needs a meta description that spreads to all pages. However, having a unique description for each page is far better.
Along with the meta description, a title tag is just as important. These two pieces make your website user friendly when they are looking through the results on Google.
Your website MUST be mobile friendly. If it isn't, you need to get your money back or get it fixed ASAP. Google takes the mobile friendly question into account when indexing your site.
Accessibility is becoming a bigger and bigger priority, and this is a good thing. There are thousands, millions maybe, of people who cannot browse the web like the majority of the world. They have some sort of impairment that prevents them from doing this. The web is for everyone and we need to make sure we are providing for them. Can you imagine not having the internet at your fingertips? This is a topic that requires a whole other article (maybe one day) but for now make sure your developer is aware of your desire to make your website available to everyone.
In order to be SEO friendly, you have to have great content. Everyone is fighting for the top spots on the search engines. The thing that really makes your stand out is your content.
Keywords used to be considered the best way to be SEO friendly. Content managers would name drop the same word as many times as they could in a page several years ago. However, our search engines have gotten smarter and they no longer consider the keywords quite as heavily as they used to. This does not mean they are not important but they are not a magic bullet either. A keyword needs to be considered important on your site or your page but it isn't as important as they used to be. Just make sure your content makes sense and accurately describes the meaning you are trying to convey.
Pictures are NOT content that the search engine likes. You need to make sure that you have text along with your pictures. Pictures are great for human interactions but you need to keep in mind that humans do not index your site. Robots could care less about the beautiful pictures you have posted. When you do post pictures, because you should, make sure you have the alternative text setup correctly.
Yes, Google does watch how often your site is updated. You need to make sure that your site does not get stagnant and old. Google likes fresh content and someone who regularly updates their pages. A great way to make sure you are doing this is having a blog. This post is a blog and I am doing it partly because I am keeping my site from getting stagnant. Get a blog and talk about everything from your business to your favorite food. It helps!
Maybe the most important thing you can do for your site is to make sure it is visible and available on the web. If your website is nowhere to be found except at your URL, then your SEO isn't going to be very good. The web likes it when your URL is listed anywhere and everywhere.
One of the best ways to get your website out there is to post it on to business directories like Yellow Pages, Yelp, and the many others that exist out there. Starting out, I would just focus on the free ones. You could spend an entire week putting your website out on these platforms and I suggest that you do, it will be worth it. There is one catch to doing this, salesmen. When you sign up for these things you are giving these companies your number for them to bother you about advertising with them. We will get more into advertising later but for now let's just say, be smart with your money. It is wise to spend money at these places but be cautious and don't believe all of the life altering things they will promise. It just doesn't work like that.
Social Media has provided an excellent way for your to get your business out there. Your website should have its own social media accounts. These accounts should also be updated regularly. Content is a big deal and you need it everywhere! The large companies pay people to do this but since you are probably a small business owner, you will have to make sure you are on top of this.
Backlinks may be the most important thing that could happen to your site. This is one of the reasons why the business listings and social media accounts are so important. A backlink is anytime another website has a link to your site. You can thing of this as a friend referral. I have seen websites that were far better put together not being as well listed as another one because of backlinks. Get your site out there and have all your friends talk about it.
Have a marketing campaign. Mail Chimp has a free platform that works great. Get people signed up on your website and then blast the emails at them. This helps with your customer base being focused on your product and allows for more SEO friendly practices.
What you are selling also depends on SEO. If you are selling something that is being sold by the big box stores, you can beat them on the Google Search results but your job is going to be a thousand times harder. These stores have whole teams of people that do what I am describing here and then they also have the money to put it wherever they want. If you are selling a product that is available at a Walmart or an Amazon, please be patient and focused. Focusing on a small area of the state first and then broaden your sweep as you look to expand your business with better sales. You are in for a tough time but one that has been overcome before.
Your advertising doesn't stop online. Get your name out there. SEO can be a friendly conversation with a stranger in line for coffee. Many times, this is the best way to advertise.
Have multiple URL's, it won't hurt. Get your name out there anywhere and everywhere. Do your best to make sure your URL matches your business title or practice the best you can. Having a "COM" URL is still the best but search engines are getting much better at looking at all of the top level domains now a days.
Ads are another topic that will require its own post and hours of your time. Please do your research before you spend your hard earned cash. Advertising online is a must today but it is also one where there are so many pitfalls for giving people or company your money and getting nothing in return. Always start small and go big after you find out what works. When you are ready, pull out your Google skills and go to work. There will be a plethora of opinions out there on where and how to advertise. Make sure you use common sense and follow your gut on this one. Don't buy into the sellers as they are there trying to make a sale. Make sure you know exactly how much you want to spend and where.
Yes, unfortunately there are things that aide in SEO that you can do absolutely nothing about. Fortunately, the list is small.
I have had a customer that had an absolutely horrible website and had no SEO practices in place but they were still ranking very well on the SEO scale. Why? Because they had been around for 15+ years. It matters how old your website is. You can expect even just a year of visibility to help in this category. Be patient and make sure your site is SEO friendly and keep it around for as long as you can!
As always, make sure you are doing your homework. Topics like this are so confusing and everyone has their own opinion on what is best. As a business owner, you must make sure you are making the most out of your money. The only way to do that is to make sure you know what you are doing and trusting the trustworthy.
You may be thinking to yourself, "Jordan, this is going to be so much work!" I would definitely agree with you. You have to remember that every business everywhere wants to be on the top 2 spots on the Google Search page. In order to get there, you have to be on top of your game because your competition now a days is literally the whole world. This takes a lot of time and energy. However, your website is a constant salesman that never quits. It is worth it in the end.