So every business has a website, right? If yours doesn’t, we really need to talk. But for the rest of you, I know many of you wonder just what you are supposed to do with it, right? You got the thing built, it exists online (“hosted” in Internet talk), and looks pretty. But now what?
The Cyberverse can be overwhelming for business owners. You have enough to do already without having to become a web developer to boot. So what I want to do in this article is clear away some of the confusion and explain for you the three most valuable, and doable, things you can do to get value from your website.
1) Create quality content.
In the early days of the Internet (like 5 years ago), there were a few tricks you could use to make sure your website ranked high on search pages. Those tricks centered largely on keywords and back links. Well, suffice it to say that, while keywords are still important, the Internet is a much more sophisticated place nowadays, competition for high rankings is drastically greater, and the big search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) are demanding more and more quality and authenticity from websites. Now, you don’t have to be Shakespeare, but you must have original, relevant, focused content on nearly every page. Google prefers about 300 words per page. This is serious and real. We have seen client’s rankings improve and even the cost of their online advertising drop simply because we wrote fresh, professional content for them.
2) Start a Blog.
In the same vein, it is increasingly so that blogs are a back door way to bring people into your site. I will explain, but first let me define what a blog is. A blog (short for “web log”) is a running collection of writing broken into individual bits of focused content, usually between 500 and 1000 words. Think of it as a regular newspaper column about your business that lives on your website. And while we’re on that, it should actually live on your site. There are two main types of blogs, offsite and onsite or integrated. You can start a free offsite blog at places like Tumblr or Blogspot, and that is fine. However, if you want your blog to actually benefit your home site and your business, it needs to be integrated into your business’s site. That way, when people find your writing, they don’t have to click other links to find your site. Integrated blogs also help with our next topic, SEO.
Now, when I start talking about blogging, most business owners stop me and say, “I am not a writer. I don’t even know what to say.” Understood. But let me ask you this: when you are in the grocery store or at your kid’s baseball game and someone asks what you do for a living, what do you say? In other words, if you can talk about your business to strangers and customers, you can be a blogger. Just think of a blog as an expanded FAQ page. List the ten questions about your business you answer most, then answer them in writing. You now have your first ten blog posts.
The beauty and attraction of blogging can be summed up in three words: short, relevant, and conversational. People can’t give you much time; when they go looking for information, they want it now, and not a dissertation. Blogs are about brevity and focus. Also, because your posts will discuss topics specific to your business, blogging is a great way to send out fingers of information that can touch potential customers in ways even your home page cannot, making them eminently relevant. For instance, Google a question like, “What is the best kind of ceramic tile for use in a bathroom?” and see what happens. You will get a list of blog posts specifically answering that question. Then, once you click a post, you are on the author’s website, where s/he can now sell you on his/her business generally. Hence, the back door. Last, keep it conversational. Again, how do you talk to your customers? Do you use lots of jargon and industry terms? Not if you want to sell. Keep it simple, geared toward the general public, and your blog will be fine.
3) Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Search Engine Optimization is quickly becoming the most needed and least understood web marketing tool for business owners. In plain terms, SEO is a way of creating and organizing information on your site to make it easily findable by the search engines; it is marketing your site to the Googles of the world. And why does that matter? Well, think about this: how many competitors do you have? How many have a website? Now how many spots are there on the first page of Google results? Exactly.
There is onsite and offsite SEO. Blogging and quality content are two effective onsite tools, but they are not enough. The only way your site has a chance to consistently show up in those natural, or “organic”, first page results is to have a smart, assertive, consistent offsite SEO program. To put it in perspective, you can make the first page with less than stellar content. You can make it without a blog. But you cannot, you will not, and under no circumstances should you hope to show up on the first page of search results without optimizing your website for the search engines.
So what is involved in offsite search engine optimization? Well, that is an article all by itself. SEO is a complicated and ever-changing, but necessary enterprise and, frankly, you should not try this at home. What you should do is make an appointment with a web marketing company and ask them to tell you about their offsite SEO offerings. If they look confused, turn around and walk out. It’s that important.
There is a lot to know about your business’s place in Cyberspace, and I know it can be daunting. However, start with these three tips and you will be well on your way to gaining real value from your company website.
Thanks for reading.