The age of the internet is upon us! No longer can we idly sit by and hope traditional brick-and-mortar marketing techniques bring business into the door. Today, a business needs an online presence to stay competitive.
This doesn’t mean you need to spend all night reading up on the new Penguin and Panda updates for the Google Algorithm, how to leverage Local Listings/Directories for a backlinking strategy, how a Pay-Per-Click Campaign can boost your site’s overall organic click-thru-rate, or any of the other online marketing jargon. Just think about what you can do with your website.
If you have a website, these quick “Do’s” and “Don’ts” are a great guide of how to make small tweaks in your website’s design and the content of your site to help your customers organically find you. If you don’t have a website yet, then this is a good place to start on how to build one!
First we will start with the layout/design of the site:
The actual layout of your page is important both for an easy-to-read site for a potential customer, as well as an easily accessible page for search engines.
Website Design Do’s:
- Have business name, business phone number, and business address on every page (Try to have this in the header and/or footer for consistency)
- Try to have a call to action on every page (This can be a form, a phone number, or an email address (preferably a form or phone number)
- Want to have full site navigation on the top left to right in matter of importance
- Have a map where applicable (Home, contact us, etc.). This is important so that people can find you/get directions to your business, and also to give search engines another indication of where you are
- Use local-focused SEO. All the traditional jazz of an optimized page, but more specific to your target audience with both long-tail keywords and localized towns (instead of just “Plumber” you would write “Plumber located in Sacramento CA”)
- Include subject in title tag
- Include subject in URL
- Include subject in image alt text
Website Design Don’ts:
- Don’t be too image heavy. You want to have important content visible above the fold so the reader is able to see the basics first
- Don’t fill your page with calls to action. You want to engage with the customer but not be an overbearing telemarketer
- Don’t put a map on every page taking up the entire page. This pushes the important content out of the way. When people are ready to find you, they will look on the pages they think this information would be (Homepage, About Us, Contact, etc)
- Don’t list navigation (the pages of your website) vertically. It’s better to have the tabs laid out across the top. We naturally read left to right, so a vertical navigation can impair user experience
- Don’t try to over-optimize your SEO metadata (Meta Title, Description, Keywords), Alt Tags, or url. Search engines penalize those who try too hard! You are writing for your customer, not some heartless machine
If website layout, meta data, and other physical design elements are too much for you to worry about right now, then the most important thing to focus on to be found organically is the content on the page. Great content should quickly and concisely let your reader know what you do, how it can benefit them, and how you will deliver it.
- The way content is written should both be easy to read, grammatically correct, and rich with keywords and towns served (though not overstuffed)
- Be a thought leader on a given subject
- Create unique content. Write about you because your customers want to know more about YOU and what you are about, not what anyone else does
- Consider having a blog on-site. Blogs are a great way to constantly update your site with fresh content. This both allows your readers to follow you and allows for search engines to know more about your business!
- Don’t go after keywords you want to hit simply because others aren’t going after them. Write about what you actually do so your customers can find you. Don’t write for search engines, write for your customers. Google and other search engines are really good readers/editors now, and will serve good and relevant content to those looking for it
- Don’t steal content from other sources! Search engines know who wrote what content, and if you steal it, they will catch you and hurt your rankings for it
- Don’t set it and forget it. You want to have fresh content on your site. This doesn’t mean you should change up your homepage every few weeks, but you want to ensure that you’re content is relevant for the time-period (i.e. Have a page titled “Recent Events/Sales)
Your website is your virtual storefront; just like a physical storefront, you know there are things you can do to make your business more attractive (keeping a clean shop, register at the front so you can greet people, proper amount of space, etc.) and welcoming (the labels/descriptions for your products, experienced staff, etc.). This is true of a virtual storefront as well! Knowing what you should and should not do with your virtual storefront – your website – can give you the all-important leg up on the competition!
BONUS TIP: In the age of mobile devices as effective as desktop computers (and in some cases more effective), having just a website isn’t enough. A 2012 study by Localeze and 15 miles found that 61% of mobiles users ran local searches from their mobile devices. Mobile search is vital for a local business being found, which means DO have a Mobile site (or a responsive site) to accommodate customers on all devices!