I have been working at my own little website for over a year and it gets good traffic, but I'd always like to do better. Doesn't everyone want to be ranked #1 on the big search engines?
To find out all the tips and secrets to have a more effective website and one that people will see, I spoke with Jill Schoolenberg, Vice President of GoDaddy Canada. Jill shared with me all the top tips to help small business websites get up there in the search engine rankings.
What are the top tips for small business websites to consider when starting their site?
Starting a website can be a huge boost for a small business, especially in Canada. Statistics Canada says less than half (42 per cent) of all small business have a website and only 12 per cent are selling online. While launching a website might seem overwhelming, and it can be done quickly and easily, especially if you take these things into consideration:
Pay for only what you need.
Having a small business means watching every part of your budget. There's no point spending money on tools you won't use, so you shouldn't be paying for them. If you only need a business email address, then that's all you should buy.
Get an experienced partner.
Small business owners know their industries better than anyone else, but even they need somewhere to turn when entering new parts of the business world (or just tackling a new project). Before you jump head first into your next web project, source some advice from people who do it for a living. Maybe you need to know how to build an effective email marketing campaign, or are simply unsure of how to best use your LinkedIn profile to grow your business.
Whether you're looking for strategies for tax season, trying to grow your email marketing list, or looking for help fixing common WordPress errors, find an experienced partner who can help guide you. And when you have questions at 2 a.m. it's important to have access to someone who works the same hours you do.
These days, mobile devices are the primary tool people use to search for information. Ensure your content looks as good in a mobile format as it does on your website. As many new customers will find you online through their mobile device, you need to make a great first impression.
What are the top tips for the best visuals on a website?
Remember the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words." It holds true for websites. Visuals communicate your brand online. If you can, use your own photography to showcase your products and establish your leadership in the category. If that's not possible, there are many cheap and even free options for stock photography.
Some products don't lend themselves naturally to beautiful photography -- diapers, for one, comes to mind! In that case you can focus on the outcome of using your product, and how you want your customers to feel. For diapers, a smiling baby captures what you're offering better than a literal product shot. Remember that pictures are far more likely to be shared than text, so start with your visuals and plan other elements around them.
How can you get your website on the first page of the search engines?
Most search engines keep their proprietary algorithms secret, but there are some common guiding principles to help improve your ranking:
1. Remember content is king. Keep your content brief, fresh and relevant.
2. One factor that influences your ranking in search results is how many other sites link to your website. The more credible the other site is, the greater the effect it has on your own ranking. Encourage websites with strong reputations in your industry to link to you by creating compelling content.
3. Today, several of the top 10 features used for ranking come from social media, so you'll want to be active on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
How long does it take to be high in the search engine rankings? Is this important? Or is it more important to be in front of your potential customers?
Many of the top sites that show up in rankings are promoted sites. In other words, they pay for their rankings and are marked with the word "Ad." Many companies will also pay for key search words so that their sites appear near the top of search rankings. If you can't afford to pay for search words, try to mimic what the "big brands" are doing.
Check out the words that yield the top search results for your category and see if you can include them in your site. If your business is focused in one geographic area, then make sure you highlight that on your site so local customers can find you easily. Send the pages of your website to Google, Yahoo! and Bing to help ensure they include you in their databases.
How fast you move up in search ranking depends on a number of things, including what your competition is doing. Search is an ever-changing game that requires constant attention and diligence.
How to keep your customer base coming back to your website?
There are several ways to keep your customers coming back. One of the most effective and affordable is to have an ongoing dialogue with your customers via email. This should be a combination of "value-add" information and trying to generate new sales from your customers.
"Value-add" information can include like new uses for existing products, free upgrades, and educational and training events. You can drive new sales with special seasonal offers and alerting customers to new products. Remember, for most businesses it's easier and sometimes less expensive to keep your current customers satisfied than to acquire new ones. Respond promptly to any inquiries or feedback you receive. With compelling content, a simple link to your site and responsive service, your customers will keep coming back for more!
What are the top three mistakes that websites make?
1. Forgetting to have a plan. Building a website can be easy, but just like a good meal, it's best to follow a tried and tested recipe. Think about the purpose of your website. Will it be used for sales or marketing? Plan all your content before you begin: visuals, information about your products, and of course include information on how to contact you.
2. Not choosing the best domain name for your business. You want to choose a domain name that aligns as closely as possible to your company name. It should be short and memorable. If your business is located in Canada, consider choosing a .CA domain extension. It's also a great idea to choose more than one extension, to help protect your brand and reputation from interlopers who may buy different extensions in an effort to attract your customers.
New extensions are available every day and can help establish you within a category (for example, .photography or .guru). Using your domain as your email address is another way to signal that your business is professional and established.
3. Making your website too busy and cluttered. Remember that "less is more" in website design. Some business owners throw everything and the kitchen sink in their site, which makes it impossible to navigate. Keep your site clean, fresh and easy to use. Your website reflects your brand - don't let your customers think that you're disorganized or unfocused based on your business's virtual home.
I love all these helpful website tips and will use them as I continue to work on my blog this year!
Your suggestions are always welcome, as I continue on my journey to live life to the fullest. Let's have the very best 2015!
Visit Sacha daily at SachaD.com
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