It’s never fun to be the bearer of bad news.
So you’ve spent a good bit of your hard earned money, and a lot more of your own time than you expected on launching a new website. And now business will start rolling in as visitors flock to your website, right?
It’s always a little heartbreaking to have to tell clients exactly how stiff the competition is on the web for what they are selling. There are literally billions of websites on the web, and chances are that there are quite a few websites that offer exactly what your website offers.
So what do you need to do to make your website stand out from the competition and easy to find? Search engines are the primary way that people find content on the web, and search engines want to do the best job possible of directing people to websites that are most relevant for the search terms they are using. So the simple answer is that you need to optimize your site for the search engines (SEO).
Search Engine Optimization 101
First, do no harm.
Your website must be designed and coded so that its content is accessible to search engines. You do not want your site coded in a way that makes it more difficult for the search engines to see your website content. A good web developer will know what this means.
Start with a good foundation.
This includes your domain name (does it include the words you want to be found for?), your website’s content management system (WordPress is great for SEO), your website’s information architecture (the way your content is organized) and the actual text on your website’s pages (does it actually include the words you want to be found for?).
Make sure your site is relevant.
Keep up with what’s important to your website visitors or your website will be ignored. Is your website fast to load? What about responsive (mobile-friendly)? Is it secure? These are all metrics the search engines use in their rankings because these things are becoming much more important to web visitors. Focus on creating high quality content for your website and other sites will link to your site. If you stuff your pages with keywords, or buy useless links to your website, the search engines will not be impressed. In fact, they may penalize your site. You have been warned.
Maximize off-site resources.
Now that you’ve done some work on improving the search engine optimization of the website itself, it’s time to do some work on off-site search engine optimization. This includes doing things like getting high quality, relevant links to your website, creating entries in the important online directories (like Google+, Yahoo, Bing…), making sure those entries are consistent and creating social media entries for your website. You can also use Google’s Webmaster Tools to help Google get more info about your website.
Analyze. Rinse and repeat.
If you add Google Analytics to your website you’ll be able to monitor how well your site is performing. Search engine optimization is never FINISHED. You must continue to monitor how well you site is doing compared to your competition and continue to make improvements to your site to prevent it from losing ground. The good part about that is that there’s always room for improvement!
Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide is a good place to start learning the basics of SEO. A happy little Googlebot will walk you through the guide.