One of the most common questions we get asked by new clients is how to get some traction on their website and get good rankings, traffic and sales.
In this months article, we explain some fundamentals that you should understand if you rely on your website to generate business for you.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the practice of making your website highly attractive to search engines (primarily Google and Bing) to attract visitors who may be looking for your products and/or services.
There are thousands of companies that ‘specialise’ in SEO but in our experience we have found that the majority of them lock you into long contracts with expensive ongoing fees which little to no result (or sometimes even a negative effect). We have spoken with many people (including some of our own clients) who have been enticed with the promise of first page rankings, guaranteed number 1 positions, etc. Unfortunately most of the time we have seen this result in little to no boost in sales and in some circumstances, we have seen some SEO firms use ‘black hat’ techniques to quickly boost rankings which then ultimately leads to a client’s site being blacklisted and business stopping overnight.
I believe that it is important for all business owners that rely on online marketing to have an understanding of how SEO works so that they are empowered to make decisions that will provide a return on investment.
I personally have been doing online marketing for 16 years and over that time, a lot of things have changed (especially in the past 5 years). Back when we started in 2000, it really was as easy as launching a site and then sitting back and watching the traffic (and dollars) roll in. Unfortunately it is just not that easy anymore and getting sales from online marketing requires a strategic and diverse approach.
The first step is to ensure your website is search engine friendly. This is ensuring that your site is built on an SEO friendly framework which allows for the following:
- Rewriting of dynamic pages so that they all have unique page names
- Ability to set title and meta tags (or have software that automatically does this for you based on the content of dynamically generated pages)
- Automatic generation of XML site maps
- Set up with Google Analytics (so you can actually see what people are doing on your site and how they came to your site). You can set up an account for this at http://analytics.google.com
- Set up a Google Webmaster Tools account (so you can receive notifications from Google such as warnings on toxic links, news on your site, etc). You can set up an account for this at http://www.google.com/webmastertools
- Have the ability to have an integrated blog (more details on this later)
- Ensure your website is mobile responsive or has a separate mobile site
The above is needed as a foundation for your website so that work can be done to attract relevant search engine traffic and convert that traffic into sales.
This is only a starting point and in order to gain good rankings and traffic from Google and Bing, you need to work on two major things:
1)Links coming into your website
2)Content on your website
There are many ranking factors that Google looks at (literally hundreds of factors) but many of the important factors relate to having great quality links coming into your website and great content on your site that matches what people are searching for.
Links count as ‘votes’ for your website.. however Google looks at the source of these links to determiwhen counts a highly important whereas a link from a website that has no rankings or traffic itself will usually mean nothing. As of 2015 Google also started giving sites negative scores if they had what they refer to as ‘toxic’ links. Toxic links are links coming from sites that are set up purely to try and influence rankings of site they link to. Google does a very good job and determining if you are trying to ‘cheat’ the system and it often results in warnings or even black listing.
The best way to get links is to first approach any local industry or government websites to see if you can get listed on them. Next is to build relationships with bloggers that are in your industry and either submit content to them in exchange for links to your site or to ask for product/service reviews with a link to your site.
Apart from the standard content of your site, you should be blogging on your site. By blogging, I don’t mean creating a free wordpress blog and throwing up a couple of generic articles.. I mean writing informative and interesting content on a regular basis for a blog hosted on your own website.
I often get asked if it is better to have an integrated blog (ie. A blog built into your website) or an external blog (eg a wordpress blog). In my experience, I have found that businesses benefit more from an integrated blog for the following reasons:
- When people are on your blog, they are also still on your website which means that you can have calls to action to buy or enquire about products and services
- Google sees the content of your blog as part of your site so therefore when someone links to a blog article, they are linking to your website
- Articles on your website increase the authority of your site which is a major ranking factor for Google and Bing
- Social media sharing tools in your blog expose your website to social media channels
When writing content for your site, Google says to not worry too much about specific keywords or trying to write for search engines. Your content must be compelling, interesting and of use to your target market. Google’s sophisticated algorithms can determine this automatically and will give you ranking boosts accordingly.
Probably one of the biggest tips I can give when writing blog articles is to put yourself in your customers shoes and ask what would they be searching for. For example if you have a real estate website that allows people to sell their own homes then they would be searching for something like ‘how to sell my home’. You would then create a blog article with that exact title and then write a few paragraphs with advice on how to sell your home with a link to your registration page as a call to action at the end of the article.
Many clients ask us if it is worth doing adwords campaigns. In the past we used to advise against this unless you had a substantial budget or were in a very competitive industry. However in early 2016, Google made a slight change to how search engine results show which changed everything. Up until this time, adwords were shown on the right hand side of search engine results in their own area. Many tests around the world showed that only 20% of visitors clicked on adwords and most people clicked on a search result on the left hand side in the number 1, 2 or 3 position.
In early 2016 Google then moved the adwords results to show mixed in with ‘organic’ search results. They put adwords results as the top 2 or 3 positions above organic results in most cases. This then caused adwords in the top 3 results to then gain a lot more traffic and organic results to drop significantly in traffic. This means that now if you rely on competitive kewords that your competitors have adwords campaigns running on then we recommend you do the same. No amount of organic rankings can get above those top adwords positions which means that in the past if you were number 1 organically, you could possibly be number 3 or 4 if adwords are showing above your organic results.
In regards to running adwords, Google has some very good tools to help you do it yourself and they also offer great customer service. I always recommend you try it yourself out first and if you don’t have the time to monitor it or want someone else to look after it for you then we can set up a campaign and monitor and report on it for you each month.
Conversion Rate Optimisation
One aspect of online marketing that is often overlooked is conversion rate optimisation. This is the practice of using various techniques to increase the percentage of visitors that come to your site into converted customers or enquiries. As most ecommerce websites only have a 2% conversion rate, it leaves a lot of room for improvement without having to actually generate any more incoming traffic.
Some easy ways to improve conversion rates on your site are:
- Set up retargeting – this is where someone visits your website and then for 60 – 90 days will start seeing your banner ads on popular sites, facebook, etc. This is a really cost effective way to get visitors to come back to your site. We can assist you with setting up a great retargeting campaign
- Set up live chat – Every single customer that we have suggested live chat to has noticed a significant increase in conversion rates. People live it when they are on a site and can quickly ask a question or get pointed in the right direction without having to search through your website. For more information on live chat and how to use it with your website, click here
- Ensure all pages on your site have a call to action (eg. Call now, click here to buy, etc.). We see many websites waste an opportunity where they do something such as blog about a topic then don’t ask the reader to enquire or buy something.
I hope this helps and gives you some ideas to get traction with your website. Please feel free to contact us at any time if you would like any assistance with your online marketing.