Good Search Engine Optimization starts with a current, secure, bullet-proofed and regularly maintained and updated website.
As much as it pains me to say, I visit so many websites that have broken bits – Twitter feeds not feeding, pages that are missing, images that have disappeared, logos that are pixellated, security holes – the list goes on and on.
And you know what? It’s a turn off. I know I’m not the only one.
Put it this way: There are 2 gas stations, right next to each other. You pull in and one has a sign saying the bathroom is out of service, the gas pumps are rusty and the glass on the front door has been replaced with a piece of cardboard. The other is pristine. Which one are you going to? Which one will you come back to? Even if the gas is a little more expensive at the well-kept place – which one is going to get your business?
Bingo. Point proven.
Websites are no different. You get one chance to make a first impression. Make it a good one – and make sure your site is well-maintained and that everything functions like it should. This isn’t necessarily search engine optimization – it’s user experience optimization. BUT – Google does look and see what’s what when it comes to maintenance. It’ll find the dead links and missing images – and it WILL affect your overall rank.
Step One: Maintenance & Updates
EVERY website requires regular updates. The landscape of the internet changes pretty regularly, and most websites (especially sites using a CMS like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla) need to stay updated to stay secure and stay on top of the changes to how devices and users see them. If your site hasn’t been updated in a couple of months (or years,) you’re running the risk of security holes and missing functionality. Not good.
Here are a few things to check – or make your web developer check…
- Core Software: Make sure you’re running the latest and most stable version. Otherwise, you’re open to risk – and risk equals lower rank.
- Plugins: See above. Make sure you’re current. Plugins can actually break if you update your core and skip the plugin updates.
- Images: Take a minute and go through your site to make sure your images all load – and load quickly. Even if they’re not missing, you may run into problems if they’re too slow. Optimize image sizes – you’ll have a faster, higher-ranking and more usable site.
- Forms: Go in regularly and test your forms. You might be surprised by how many contacts and leads you’re missing out on.
- Google Analytics: Check it! If you see a flat line, something’s wrong. Is Google still seeing your site?
- Search Console: The same as with Analytics. Make sure you’re still there – or suffer the slings and arrows of Big G.
- Links: Make sure internal links are still correct – and pay attention to external links, too – Google likes everything to be correct and current.
- Titles and Page Descriptions: Tinker and adjust – but make sure that every page has current, relevant and search-friendly titles and descriptions.
Step Two: Regular, Consistent Content
Google LOVES a consistently growing website.
Now, here’s the rub – it has to be GOOD content. Not just search engine fodder. Regularly creating relevant content can be difficult and time-consuming, but the name of the game is to make yourself the expert – not just in your customer’s eyes, but in Google’s eyes. They want to see you know what you’re talking about, and that you’re passionate enough about it to “talk” about it regularly.
A few ideas for new content:
- Blog Posts: This is the most obvious – but it seems to be the most difficult for people to be consistent with. Hell, it’s even hard for us sometimes. But, the more and more you post, the easier it gets. You don’t have to post a million word article every day. But, good and consistent posting WILL help your rank – and it’ll also give your visitors reasons to return. Returning visitors are MUCH more likely to go with you for services or products.
- Add a FAQ: People like to have their questions answered – and if you can answer those questions before anyone picks up the phone or sends and email, it’ll not only give your customers a good feeling, it’ll save you time (which we all know is money,) and it’ll make you look like more of an expert. Win!
- Add a Team Page: People love to see people. If you have a crew, highlight them. If you’re a one-person show, give a warm and friendly intro. It makes you more human – and humans like to deal with humans.
- Social Media: Highlight your social media platforms. Have a Twitter feed, pull in your Facebook posts. Hell – even a Spotify playlist is good for generating interest and showing folks that you’re active (and still in business…)
- Add To Your Home Page: Add a few new lines. Change up the images. Keep it fresh. If folks come back to your site and see that you’re active, that creates a level of trust – all with a couple of new words and a fresh photo.
- Service or Product Descriptions: Add ’em or freshen them up. Make sure they’re current with technology and buying trends. Don’t get crazy and mention the latest single by Beyoncé – unless you’re selling Beyoncé merch – be real, but be current.
Step Three: Market Your Site & KEEP MARKETING YOUR SITE
Again, consistency is key. Don’t think that a single campaign or a couple of mentions on social media are going to get enough asses in the seats. You need to keep it up. Hammer it and you’ll get more visitors.
You know I’m going to put in a bullet list of stuff:
- Newsletters: Develop a list (you DO have a list, right?) and send out regular and interesting newsletter.
- Social Media: It’s free, it’s effective and it’s easy. Besides, you’ve got Facebook open in a tab already, right? You know you do…
- Facebook Ads: A little spend can equal a big return.
- Local Directories: There are a million local directories. Not only can people find you this way, most of them offer backlinks – which is ALWAYS a good idea.
- Print: Yeah, this is decidedly old school, but a well-executed direct mailing can get a lot of eyeballs. Same goes for ads in publications (especially locally.) If nothing else, this will help with brand recognition. There’s a reason Arby’s still stuffs newspapers with ads…