A fear shared by every new online business owner is that, after all the time, effort, and money they pour into an online presence, it will fail to generate traffic.
The following is an eight-step search engine checklist to carry out when creating a new business site – or when reviewing an existing one – to prevent it from lapsing into an e-commerce non-event.
1. Keyword research
All good marketing relies on familiarity with the target audience. As a business owner, you should know what words and terms your customers will use to find you online.
“We do that by designing an avatar for a target market, down to specifics of age and demographic,” says David Jenyns, director of Melbourne SEO Services. “Once you understand their problems you can ascertain what they would be typing into Google to solve them. Make sure you get the keywords that match what it is they’re looking for.”
You may find that the ideal keywords are very competitive. Jenyns recommends targeting less competitive terms as well, as this will let new businesses circumvent the competition, and build some easy, relevant traffic early on in the life of the site.
2. Buy a keyword rich domain name
Not only do search results favor a domain that contains a desirable keyword, but people searching for that keyword are also more likely to click on it.
“Whatever your primary keyword is, if you can get that into your domain name, it just seems to rank a lot better,” says Jenyns. “The actual branding of having that keyword in there, if it’s something that your clients are looking for, it will also increase your clickthrough rate.”
3. Correct URL structures
In much the same way as a keyword-rich domain can improve search results, so can having static, logical domain names. It’s important to get this right at the outset, as you shouldn’t change a URL once it has started getting backlinks, as these are vital for search indexing.
“A good URL might be something like: www.yourdomain.com/category/productname.html,” says Justin Bruce, director of marketing at Blue Frog Marketing. “A bad one might be www.yourdomain.com/productid=?1438. That’s a dynamically generated URL, whereas the former one was a static page. Google favors static pages.”
4. Keyword specific pages
It’s important that each of your key products has its own page. Each product will have associated keywords to target, but simply listing these on the homepage is not the most effective way of improving search results for those terms.
“Rather than a classic page that says ‘we’re a florist, we do all sorts of tropical flowers, you want to say ‘we’re a florist and we specialize in bird of paradise flowers and link that to a separate bird of paradise page,” suggests Bruce. “That helps Google believe that you’re a specialist in that field, and will rank you higher if someone searches for that product in their area.”
5. Placing keywords
Once you’ve established what your target keywords and phrases are, you need to place them in the correct spots throughout the site, both in the copy that displays on each page and within the HTML meta-data behind the scenes. This is relatively simple to do, especially if your site is using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress.
“Meta-data is a combination of keywords and key phrases that you want to get known for, but also relevant to what people are actually searching for,” explains Bruce.
There are three types of metadata that are currently most crucial for SEO: title tags, H1 tags, and meta-descriptions, all of which can be found and edited within your CMS, by looking at the source code of each page.
Title tags appear at the very top of the browser window and should be no longer than 60 characters, or approximately three to five words, as this is all a search engine will read. They are denoted in the source code of a page like this:
< t 1 > Here’s the keyword-rich title of the page < / t 1 >
Header tags, or H1 tags, are the bold text that acts as a headline in the copy of a page. They appear as follows in the source code:
< h 1 > A headline containing relevant keywords < / h1 >
The meta-description of a page is a paragraph that describes the page to the search engine. It should be approximately two to three sentences in length or 160 characters. It appears in the source code like this:
< metaname=”description” content=”A keyword-rich paragraph that describes the page” / >
Once your keywords have been liberally applied to this meta-data, use them two to three times on each page where relevant, remembering that readability is more important than search-engine friendliness.
“Usability always comes first,” says Melbourne SEO’s Jenyns. “A search-engine spider isn’t going to pull out their wallet and make a purchase.”
6. Keep key phrases brief
Any information that is meant to act as a signifier to a search engine needs to have a singular, simple, clear message. Bluefrog Marketing’s Bruce uses the example of a gym promoting their spin classes online.
“When you land on the ‘spin class’ page, it needs to say ‘spin class’,” he explains. “You can add more to it, but the more you add, the more it dilutes the message. You shouldn’t put a list in the H1 headings that say ‘pump, boxing, spin, personal training’. If you want to do that, you need new pages.”
7. Internal links
Search engines like to see lots of relevant internal links within a site.
“On your homepage, don’t put everything you do,” says Bluefrog’s Bruce. “Keep all the pages simple, put a paragraph or two with the top keywords, and link from your homepage to an internal page. Those links should include the keyword or phrase. Google likes that approach, especially if people click on the links.”
8. XML sitemap
An XML sitemap is basically a text document that outlines exactly where all the pages on your site are, and how users navigate to them. It shows all of the separate pages and how they’re linked and helps search engines to index the site.
Many CMSs (WordPress for instance) have plugins that can generate sitemaps for you and submit them to Google. Alternatively, you can have one generated at XML-sitemaps.com and submit it directly to Google.
Learn what needs to be done to improve your SEO with a free analysis from Netregistry’s The Optimiser.