This guest post was written by CanDace Johnson, digital marketing expert and EGF Consulting Corps member.
It’s no secret that Google is the biggest search engine site in the world. It’s also one of the biggest opportunities to direct new traffic and potential buyers to your business’s site. But to seize that opportunity, you need to make sure that your website follows a few guidelines so that Google and other search engines can find you.
These guidelines are formally called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Each year the SEO rules are updated to create a better user experience, and to allow for smaller websites to have a chance to rank next to the biggest competitors in search results.
Before we dive into the best practices, there are a few things you should know before creating your SEO strategy:
- There are no quick fixes or hidden secrets to become the #1 ranked website on Google.
- Think about your website from the customer experience. What search terms would they would use to find the products you offer?
- SEO is an ongoing process. You should always be evaluating results and optimizing your approach whenever you add new content and images to your site.
Here are 5 keys steps you can take to make sure your business’s website is SEO-friendly.
1. Do your research:
Before you can implement changes, you need to determine what keywords suit your business. Google AdWords offers a free keyword ranking tool where you can search keywords for your site, evaluate keyword trends and receive insights on the number of people searching for those terms.
There are a couple different keyword lists you need to create, and a few questions you should ask yourself prior to setting up your lists:
- Keywords for your business as a whole: What services/products do you offer? What solutions do you offer to customers? Why do customers need your service or business? Use the answers to begin your search for keywords. For example, if you’re an online furniture store, your keyword searches will start with “furniture store,” then get more specific from there.
- Keywords for each product or service you offer: Using the same example, if you sell mustard-colored dining room chairs, this would be one of your keywords you would research for your list. How many ways can you describe that chair? Is it velvet? Linen? A specific style of chair? Think of all the different ways a customer might search for each specific product online.
- Go broad, and then get specific. Think about your competition. You're not the only furniture store on the internet, let alone in your town. Think about smaller, more detailed descriptions of your brand so that you can be found on the internet.
Are you an Italian furniture store? Or a handmade furniture store? What unique services or products do you offer to make you stand out from everyone else? The more specific your keywords, the more likely you are to be found. You need to do the research, and make sure these are the search terms people are actively using.
2. Properly structure your website:
Once you have your keywords, make sure you’ve added them into your website in a way that makes sense to your audience. If you’re building a new website, then this is will be your first impression on Google, and the most important impression you can make. If you’re an established website, things get a bit more complicated.
Think of Google as a giant archive. Once you set your criteria, it can take a long time to change Google’s mind about what you offer. After you edit your site descriptions, page names and content, your changes can take months, or even years, to show up on Google. With an older website, it’s best to implement these small changes to your old content as you’re adding new content.
If you’re building your website now, make sure your webpages are named accurately and the descriptions of each page are clear, concise, compelling and SEO-friendly. Check that you’ve added the best keywords for your business in a way that’s compelling and easy to read, but not obviously intended for SEO. Your customers and search engines will know the difference.
3. Name your images and add alt text:
There are many ways customers can find your content in a Google search. They should be able to find your website on the main search page, any news articles written about you in the news section, and your products in the image section.
Your images need to be named in order to show up in a Google image search. Take a minute and search for a product, then click on the image search tab on Google. Every product you see here was named according to the term you just searched.
Name your images not only when you save them, but also once they are on your website. Add alt tags for your images as well.
Alt tags are special labels implemented in the back end of your website to make them more SEO-friendly. What should you name your product images? Use your keywords! You should also include the brand name, the name of the product and the product type. If you have multiple images for the same product, go even further. Don’t give all of them the same name. Instead add descriptors, like “front image,” “back image” or something that makes each name unique.
4. Create compelling content:
There’s a reason most websites have a blog: It gives you many opportunities to add keywords and content to your site.
Updating your site frequently is incredibly important. I often tell clients to think of their website as the window display at a brick and mortar. You need to change it frequently to draw customers into the store. This helps keep your current customers interested, and gives Google another reason to crawl your site.
Make great content, and you can build more trust with your customers and provide an easy way for Google to crawl your pages for your search terms. Before you put pen to paper, there are a few things you should know:
- Know your audience. What type of information are they looking for online? If you own a furniture store, they may need decorating tips, trend updates and information on different fabrics for upholstery.
- Yes, your goal is to sell products, but did you know that education sells better than just showing your product? If you are an expert in your industry, people will want to buy from you. Write content that informs and provides value beyond your products.
- Use your keywords appropriately — don’t try to trick Google. Yes, you should add keywords. No, it shouldn’t be obvious that that’s what you are doing.
- Create content people want to read, share and save.
5. Use Google's other services:
Google offers incredible tools, and you should be using all of them. Make sure you sign up for, update, and maintain the Google My Business page for your business. If you own a retail location, this will give your customers your address, images and reviews. Take control of this page so you can control the narrative of your business.
Google AdWords is one of the best ways to help Google understand what you’re selling. Though this service isn’t free, it’s the best way to get your perfect audience to your website and get them to convert. It’s also going to help Google figure out exactly what you sell and who needs it.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to building an SEO-friendly website. With consistency, time and dedication, you can have all the search engines working for you.
But remember one thing: SEO isn’t everything. While it’s important, your SEO strategy shouldn’t diminish your brand message, or your branding style. It’s always a variety of actions that make your business successful, and this is just one of the many steps you can take to increase your revenue.