A big question web designers get is… How can you help my new website do well with SEO? The question relates to search engines and how websites can rank well for search terms thus bringing in traffic to the site that could lead to sales and profit. It’s a great question and more business leaders are interested in SEO because of its potential. Having a little background in SEO, I thought I’d share the basic needs your small business website needs in order to cover your SEO basics.
Basic SEO Needs for Small Business Websites
For small businesses, covering the basics is a good starting point. A good designer, like at SLD, will cover these basics with your design. You also need to have an understanding of content basics in order to set your site up for SEO success. There is a lot of detail you could cover with SEO, but here are five basic details to get right when launching your new site.
1. URL and Titles
The most important rule of SEO is to remember that it’s about people, not search engines.
Your site needs to be optimized for people. Think about what makes for a good experience on your site. Do this and the search engines will like your site as well. This is what the search engines preach anyway. They don’t want sites optimized for their algorithms. They want to show good sites that people find relevant.
For the last few years I’ve been a big proponent of relevant URLs. These would be URLs that are easy for people to understand what the page is about. For example, the Services page on your site should have a URL like this: http://www.yoursite.com/services It’s basic. It’s easy to remember. It’s optimized. Think simple and short with URL structure. Titles are similar. There are two titles on your website you need to be concerned with.
The first is the title of your page. Our previous example was the Services page. The title or headline (see: #2) for this page on your site could be as simple as Services. The other title to consider is the title search engines use for their purposes. If you go to Google and perform a search you will notice the link in the big blue letters. This is the title of the page in the context of search engines. It’s possible for the title of your Services page to be Services for visitors and Services for search engines. But in some cases it’s better to have two separate titles.
In the Services example, it might be better to have a search engine title that is something like: Residential Plumbing Services in Chicago, Illinois by Joe’s Plumbing This is more relevant to people trying to determine if they should click on your search result. When they arrive on the page they’ll already understand some of this information so a title on the landing page could simply be Services or Services by Joe’s Plumbing. This brings us to the next section…
The on-page title and the headline of a website page are probably the same thing. I still feel headlines warrant discussion in a different section. My feeling is that a visitor to any page on your site should have a good understanding of what the page is about within a few moments. That’s about all the time someone will take when deciding if they want to stay on the page.
In our Service page example, the main headline should be Services. It’s simple, but to the point. People will understand that they are in the right area of the site if they’re interested in your services.
Below the main headline are sub-headings, which go into more detail. On a services page you could list your your various services and provide more detail under each heading. The headline structure allows people to scan the page and then dive in for more detail.
Search engines are concerned with conversion. They want the sites they send users to as relevant as possible. This means that your site needs to convert. If you have contact forms or other calls to action on your site you need to make sure they are being utilized. Obviously this is something you’re already going to be concerned with. You want to make more money and that requires leads and contacts.
Search engines want to associate with successful sites. They track conversion at various points in the online funnel. The better sites are rewarded with higher rankings.
Websites can be confusing. Think about sites you’ve visited that don’t really lead you through the site in a way that makes sense. Most of the time you will probably leave the site frustrated. The navigation on your site is important. You want to have a good understanding of how you want visitors to travel through your site. Think about how the average visitor will benefit from your site. It’s hard to think about the visitor instead of yourself, but it will help you and your designer understand how the site should be laid out and navigated.
Consider a common situation for someone looking for a plumber. Maybe they are looking to do some work in their master bathroom. They get a tip from a friend about Joe’s Plumbing. The new visitor heads to Google and types in “Joe’s Plumbing in Chicago”. Joe’s site appears near the top and the person clicks the result. The visitor checks out the home page. They read the basic information about the business. The home page then has a call to action for the visitor to move on to the Services page.
This is a pretty basic next step. From the Services page there is a call to action to contact Joe’s via phone or contact form. A conversion has been made. The visitor is happy. Joe’s Plumbing is happy. The search engine is happy. This is a basic conversion, but it’s important. Think about the ways your visitors will navigate your site or how you want them to navigate your site and work out the structure with your designer.
5. Content Strategy
The final basic need for SEO is a content strategy. We’ve discussed a few elements of content above (headlines, etc.). These are important, but content strategy goes beyond headlines. Your home page and every page on your site needs content. In most cases, you need content before your designer can even begin their work. It’s best to work with a content strategist or copywriting when developing everything for your site. I find it’s good to work with someone when discussing how you want to sell your business to your target customer.
The team of you, the designer, and the copywriter is great for developing the content strategy. Much of the content on your site will be static. It will be informational and persuasive. The goal is to sell your business to the new visitor. Search engines will also use the static content on your page to determine where it’s appropriate to rank your site.
Don’t write with this in mind, though. Focus on your target visitor. Beyond static content is the issue of fresh content. Search engines have been adamant recently about the idea of continuously updating websites with new content.
By adding new content to your site, it gives users a feeling like the business is actually alive and doing well. It makes us all feel better to see a site that is “fresh” rather than content that is obviously five years old.
You could create a news section on your site or even a blog. Find something you can do on the site to keep the content fresh and continuous. Search engines love fresh content because people love fresh content. These are the basics when it comes to SEO. For your business, focus on these five strategies with your designer and copywriter. Your site will be in great shape in the eyes of the search engines.