A short time ago, a client asked me: “Can you explain briefly how this site can be found on search engines. If I was to google “copper roof bird houses” and I had those exact words somewhere in my website, would it pull it up towards the top of the results or not?”
Although this was a very good search phrase, unfortunately, I had to answer, no, his site would probably not appear near the top of the search results. At that point in time, he had 3 things working against him:
- he had a new website (no “cred” with the search engines),
- he was in a highly competitive business (building custom bird houses and feeders), and
- “copper roof” wasn’t a uniquely distinguishing feature (lots of bird house makers use them).
How Search Engines Work
Search engines are by nature poorly understood by us mere mortals. The reasons are understandable, however. The secrets are well-protected as to not provide SER (search engine results) favoritism to those that can break the code. The search algorithms also change frequently, again, to keep people from thinking they got it figured out.
While I’m not an SEO (search engine optimization) expert, I frequently read blogs and newsletters about SEO to check that I’m implementing SEO best practices for each website, newsletter, or blog that I create. For example, for each website that I implement, I include the following best practices:
- keyword research and selection
- competitor research
- keyword inclusion in page content
- back-end coding of all title, header, alt, and meta tags
- manual submission to top search engines and directories
- inclusion of XML sitemap and search engine directives
- regular assessment of web statistics
Some “experts” would even suggest that the inclusion of sitemaps and submission to search engines aren’t necessary. But, since I’ve found conflicting information on this, I’ll continue to include these steps.
Beyond SEO Best Practices
Implementing SEO best practices, however, is just the start. If your website is new and you’re in an industry with lots of competition (web design? Yeh, I feel your pain!), here are some things you can do to help yourself:
- You have to give the search engines time to realize you have a credible site
- You need to build your online reputation:
- Look for opportunities to make references to your website via links from other sites, mentions in social media, and contributions to blogs
- Create good content that keeps the reader interested and on your site
- Create your own blog, newsletter, or social account
- Add customer testimonials to your site
- Don’t rely on web searches for people to find out about you:
- Encourage people for whom you’ve done work to recommend you to their friends. (I give my clients a $100 credit if they make a referral that results in a new client.)
- Leave several of your business cards in coffee shops that you frequent (Check first, but most shops are ok with this, at least where I live.)
- Look for other opportunities to leave your business cards behind or to network with people in complementary fields or industries.
- Make sure your friends and family are familiar with what you do so they can make recommendations (“My brother-in-law makes some great one-of-a-kind birdhouses. You should give him a call…”) I even put a little reminder at the bottom of my personal emails.
What Else Can You Do?
You could implement a pay-per-click campaign, such as Google AdWords. This requires some investment on your part in terms of time and money, but you can do it yourself.
You could hire an SEO consultant that could help further with content, keywords, and “pay-per-click” campaigns. Search for “SEO consultant”; do some research; check reviews and customer comments; compare companies, pricing, and breadth of services. But, don’t pay them to do something that’s already been done on your website.
Monitor your website’s analytical information to identify improvements as well as problem areas. (Example: Visitors may not be on your Products page but a few seconds because there is nothing that interests them.) If you’re not sure how to get this information, talk to your webmaster.
If You Build It…
Unfortunately, we’re not as lucky as Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams.” Just because you have a website doesn’t guarantee the visitors will come.
However, like a fine wine, a good website does get better with age.
What other techniques have you used to help build the online and offline reputation for your business? Click on “Leave a Comment” below to share your insights.
Next time: TBD