In this day and age the internet has become the shop window for many new and existing businesses solely trading online. Setting up a credible website is not the only challenge the marketing department face these days, as regular maintenance and updates are essential for the continued success of the site and in-turn the business.
With increasing competition on search engines around the world a business that fails to prepare, prepares to fail. Building up an online identity cannot be done overnight and takes a considerable amount of time and resources to begin rising up on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). Search engine marketing can help businesses large and small be found online for the relevant terms associated with the products or services of that company.
But before any business hires an external search engine marketing agency or in-house employees to undertake search engine marketing it is vital that they ensure their website is optimised and efficient. This will aid the search engines with indexing, making it easier for customers and potential customer to find a website. Most of the common on-page pitfalls can be avoided with a bit of hard work from the marketing team. Here are some practical tips to help your websites perform better online:
The term ‘meta’ was originally an ancient Greek word and its literal meaning is ‘about everything’. Meta data is an essential part of your website as it provides information about the different pages held on a website and make up an indispensable part of the algorithm puzzle the major search engines use to show the most relevant sites within its SERPs. There are three types of meta data:
Optimising your meta-data won’t magically make your site number one on Google for every term ever – but it will help.
These tags are visible to the search engine spiders and visitors to the site. Tags are commonly used to inform both parties on the theme of the page. The meta title tags can be seen on the open tags of your internet browser when visiting a site and also when a website appears within the SERPs – it is the information that is underlined and is usually the first thing a “user” will see when spotting your information on the search engines.
It is good practice to include the primary keywords of the webpage within the meta-title. You only get 35 characters (including spaces) to sell a page and failure to optimise meta-titles can affect click through rates. Click here to see an example of a well optimised meta-title-tag.
The meta-description appears directly below the meta-titles when your site information is displayed on the search engines. The description is made up of 160 characters; the space is often referred to as “the shop window” on the search engines as it is the section that gives the most important information on the destination of that page and its contents.
When creating the data is it important to use a few of the keywords within the description but to also make sure you write naturally. Putting together a natural description will encourage click-through to your site compared to over optimised sentences that fail to provide relevant information or relevance. You need to give the users searching on the engine a reason to click through to your website so make sure they know what they are expecting by using clear and thought through text.
These tell the search engine spiders which keywords your pages/site your website is optimised for. Unlike other meta-data the keywords are not visible to your users. Building a good balance of keywords is essential for your website, because if you fail to discuss and mention the keywords you associate with your product or brand then it is very likely you will fail to be noticed online.
One of the best ways to understand and identify the keywords across your website is to put those pages of interest through a keyword density tool which enables the users to see how many time a certain word is mentioned on the page. Checking the keyword density of a page can help a page be better optimised and avoid potential penalisation for the over optimisation of webpages.
The optimisation of the meta-data will help promote the value of your website to the search engines and your visitors. Creating more intelligent data can create more opportunities and potentially help a website rank higher on some search engines.
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A sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional meta-data about each URL. Sitemaps can easily be created to inform search engines like Google about a websites’ pages and structure, giving them guidelines on which pages to crawl.
Many web developers in-house or externally will create a sitemap for a site but it is essential to check you have submitted the sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools, as it will help your website potentially rank quicker/stronger than without one.
61 percent of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision, which in my eyes make them essential for a business offering a service or selling products. Integrating a reviewing process with a third party extension can be a walk in the park. However some review systems work better than others, depending on the content management system you use.
Customer reviews are hugely important in ecommerce for improving your conversion rate, and can lead to an uplift of 18 percent in sales. For those that are looking for more information on setting up a review system, Feefo and Trust-Pilot are two of the biggest and most recommended customer review systems out there.
Considering the fact that Google has begun to include social signals into its algorithms, every webmaster should have integrated social sharing buttons on content and arguably product pages.
Giving users the chance to share products and content is good for all parties, however, implemented social media channels have to be monitored to ensure any negative feedback/spam is dealt with immediately. It can look very unprofessional when a customer is complaining about a product or service online and the organisation in the firing line ignores it.
The common buttons to include are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.
When optimising a website for a new business, it is of course vitally important to get the foundations blocks in place by providing meta-data, tags and site maps whilst encouraging customer interaction with your website. However, never underestimate the importance of a well optimised menu structure for both a user and search engine. Products should be divided into easily accessible categories so the user can navigate to their item of choice and Google can clearly understand which page is most appropriate to rank for that key term. Breadcrumbs should firstly be integrated into the product pages of the website and then pulled through into the search results page using best practise mark up.
Heavyweight fashion giant ASOS provides us with a good example as you can see clear breadcrumb navigation on the product and search results pages.
Offering your customers regular quality content is a must in this day and age, as the publishing of regular content can increase online visibility, which in turn can potentially attract your target audience towards your website.
Not only is content creation a great technique for picking up natural traffic but when it is done well it can attract natural links to your website. The more people that are naturally linking to the content and pages on the website, the more likely, in theory, you are going to appear higher in the SERPs.
Engagement is the key to success online – if you work to cater for the needs of your customers not the needs of the search engines then you should go far and enjoy a smooth and successful online reputation for many years to come.
About the Author
Karl Young writes on small business topics and is an international seo expert at the UK’s largest search marketing agency, Search Laboratory.