I’ve been doing some work lately in the murky waters of SEO. It’s an interesting area in which to investigate, and I’ve come up with a few steps to help your make the most of your marketing (from and IT perspective). We’ll never know how to do a perfect job of SEO, but you can improve your companies marketing by doing some or all of the following 10 steps.
The biggest tip is: Where people go, so will search engines. Make sure your site is useful and informative, and engage with your customers.
1 – Stop, and Think about Your Business
Time to do a bit of business analysis here, time to take a step back from your day job and have a think about the following:
- What does your business or organisation do?
- Where does your business do what it does?
- How well do we do what we do?
- Why do you need traffic?
From here, lets assume you’ve come up with something as simple and profane as the following:
- “We sell Widgets”
- “We sell throughout the Somearea, but mainly in Sometown”
- “We are the fourth largest provider in terms of sales in Somearea”
- “We want to sell more Widgets in Somearea”
Granted some businesses may struggle pigeon holing their businesses in such a way, but the thought now will pay off in the longer run. See my Business Analysis Notes.
2 – Sign Up on Google Adwords
Google gives you an excellent resource to find out what people are searching for, use it. Get yourself on Adwords, Reporting & Tools, Keyword Tool, have a play, find out if people are searching for “Widgets in Sometown”, or if they’re searching for something like “where can I buy Widgets?”, this will determine your next steps. It will also estimate traffic for your, all free of charge.
If you choose to advertise later on you’ll have an account all ready to go.
3 – Your Domain Name
Does it represent what you thought about and discovered in step one and two? In other words if your domain name Companya.com, how would you feel about creating a new domain for sales? Something like “Sometown-Widgets.com”?
Many organisations have multiple domain names, you can keep Companya.com as is, and create a new resource online. If you domain name is what people are looking for, you already stand a pretty good chance of improving your search rank. Thats why if you search for a well known brand name the site with that name usually comes up pretty close to the top. Domain names are fairly cheap, consider investing in a couple to protect your property and great ideas.
4 – Take Your Webhosting Seriously
We’ve found that the more serious you take your domain, the higher a ranking you’ll get. This could be down to a variety of factors, including responsiveness of your site, technical bells and whistles (ie page compression), good practice things like NS on different subnets, etc. Also we’ve found that other websites on the IP your webhost gives you can affect your rankings, for instance if on the same IP address as your site uses there are a variety of link farms and virus infected sites this will likely affect your rankings.
Spend some money, do the job right, consider investing in a VPS or Virtual Server that you can control, at the very least consider getting a dedicated IP address for your website. This includes creating a site map for your data, and if you’re using a CMS make sure it’s updated as updates are available. Google rewards you being a Good Internet Neighbour, so spend some money and do it right.
5 – Your URLs & Pages
If you sell Widgets in Sometown why not have a page or a URL of that nature? Like www.companya.com/widgets-in-sometown/. You’re wanting search engines to help you get more customers, help the search engines categorise it and find it. Use your title tags on your pages to reflect it’s content. Take the example URL above and the work we’ve done in step 1, lets have our Title Tags as “Sometown Widget Sales”, this will help search engines discover your content and categorise it. Don’t expect the crawl bots to understand the complexities of the English language. If you sell Widgets in Sometown tell the world.
4 – Your Keywords
Following on from point 5, if you sell Widgets in Sometown make sure you have that on your page. Use your head, get the words in there. Something like “Welcome to Company A, we sell Widgets in Sometown, please feel free to browse the Widget Catalogue” will work wonders. If your site matches the keywords identified in step 2, you’ll be doing well. Help the search engines to help you.
Often it’s the case that each industry will use it’s own terms and language, this may not be the same things that people are searching for. Remember Step 2, well what you find out there should direct what you’re going to be putting here.
5 – Have Interesting & Updated Content
If you have a static site that never changes you’re not helping yourselves much. Search engines can be told when you update you website (most CMSs do this pretty much by default), the more often you can get search engines on your page the better your ranking. Plus people like to see a website is update and still running. Consider adapting some of your content for mobile users (ie iPhones, Blackberrys and the like), what will these people need on your site? Again have a think and see if you can accomodate these customers.
You don’t have to do a huge amount, have a blog page, have a catalogue. Your blog can be as simple as what your business has done this week, have you got any new Widgets that are interesting, new members of staff, etc. If you’re launching a new product range you can get some free self publicity, use your keywords in your blog posts if you can, build up that reputation as a place to go to as an informative site about Widgets.
While I’m on this topic, why not buy a custom theme for your CMS (you are using a CMS right?). It will differentiate your site from your competition, and it’s not expensive. Again be a Good Internet Neighbour.
7 – Use Facebook and Twitter
Social Media is slowly taking over the world, get your business on Facebook, even if you don’t use it, set it up! Both Facebook and Twitter give you a way to update your main site via Widgets and the like and people like to see an updated website. Don’t think you would have anything useful to do with Facebook? Why not just post a link to your new blog entries on Twitter and Facebook for the time being.
8 – Sign up for Analytics & Webmaster Services
This follows on from point 4 in being a Good Internet Neighbour. Have an interest in how your site is viewed on the internet, how people find it, how well it does what it does etc. So sign up on Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics and Bing Webmaster, make sure you share your data anonymously within the applications.
Again we’re going for the Good Internet Neighbour theme here! It seems reasonable that if Google knows just how well your visitors find your site it’ll help your visitors find it. Not only that but you’ll be able to see how your content is working and if you can improve it any.
9 – Be Prepared to Spend Some Money on Advertising
If you take your website seriously, so will the public and search engines. Spend some money on Adsense, investigate other avenues to get your message out there. Consider putting adverts in traditional print media (newspapers, magazines, etc). This follows nicely on to Stage 10.
10 – Build Links (Ethically)
There are businesses out there that make a living selling you links to your website, search engines will penalise you if they catch you, never a good idea. So you need to build it up a bit more organically, you will have to spend some time and probably some money. Here are a few sources we’ve come across where you could build links:
- Suppliers – Many suppliers will link to you, it helps the public find you to buy their products. Some have directories, do some research and find out who will link to you. Get yourself linked.
- Local Community Sites – Most areas have a local community website, see if you can get listed on the resource. Some may charge for being a sponsor, others may not. Be polite and nice, these sites are under no obligation to help you, remember you are part of the local community.
- Directory Sites – Use legit directory sites, like the Yellow Pages, get yourself listed, will likely cost you some money but it’ll be worth it.
- Customers – Do you sell to any companies? Would they be willing to give you a link? Again be nice, and do your research, some may some may not, even a news article about your Widgets on your customers site will help.
- Blogs – Do a search and find some blogs about Widgets, read and comment on their articles. Provide useful advice and comments. Don’t be upset if your comments don’t get published, many bloggers get paid to advertise certain comments. If in doubt drop them a line asking them about it. Be prepared to put your hand in your pocket and again be nice.
- Colleges and Universities – Do you take students on internships or work experience, will their colleges and universities be willing to link to your site? Do they need someone to talk about Widgets to their students? Ask the questions, get those links in.
- Trade Associations – Is there a national Widget Sellers Association? If so would they be willing to link to you? Ask them.
- Newspapers and Magazines – Is it worth advertising? Often a newspaper will have an online version of the paper copy and would include you in the online version. Plus advertising can be effective for increasing sales none the less.
- Sponsorship – To get that nice warm fuzzy feeling why not sponsor a local sports team or sports event? It’s traditional advertising and they’ll give you a link from their own website.