When you first look at a website, you know whether it “looks” reputable — but a professionally-designed website, while critically important to the reputation of your business, won’t bring you more traffic. If you want your business website to be search-friendly (and not just a pretty face) you will need to know a little about how search engines look at your website.
How do you make sure search engines list your business?
Traffic is what our customers want most — in the form of highly qualified leads (that convert to happy clients). If your website is already generating lots of the right kind of inbound leads, you can stop reading now. However, if you are like most of our new customers, you want more prospects to find your website. Making your website show up on the first few pages of search results (organically — not in the ads) is what we all know as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
All I need is a Google-friendly site, right?
Most people are familiar with Google for search, but now that Yahoo! returns its results from Bing, it’s important to consider both Google and Bing in SEO. Depending on who you ask, Bing might be providing 30% of all search results today! If you think your prospective client uses Internet Explorer, they are probably using Bing. Luckily, a lot of the SEO we do for our customers’ websites work well for both search engines.
How your site looks to you and how your site looks to search engines is very different, and is the key to great websites.
So, how do you make your website look attractive to your prospects AND make sure you are attracting inbound leads? Here are a few strategies we use.
1. We have optimized our WordPress theme.
In order for a website to appear in the first few pages of a Google or Bing search, the website “code” needs to make sense to the search engine. Many themes try to be all things to all people, and are loaded with tons of features (read: extra code) that Google and Bing need to sift through (and that also makes your website slower), so we use only a lean and mean theme tailored to our customers’ needs. In addition, we use only one <H1> tag per page (or article), so the search engine knows how to index each website. When there is a lot of text included on a page, like services, we break it up it into manageable sections with keyword-rich subheads wrapped in <H2> tags. We wrap business addresses in <address> tags, so Google Maps or Bing Maps can index business locations correctly. Depending on what kind of information you are sharing, there are other special “tags,” called schema, that you can include to help search engines find you and share you with your perfect prospects. There are even LocalBusiness tags to help you provide all the information about your small business to be profiled with search engines!
2. We do our keyword research.
If a prospect searches on your company name and location, they will have no trouble finding you. But what about all of the prospects who don’t know about you yet? Our strategy is to work with our customers to brainstorm search terms (keyword phrases) that perfect prospects might type into Google or Bing. This is the most important strategy for effective SEO — researching the most effective keywords — or more accurately, “keyword phrases.”
Once you have brainstormed your top 10 – 20 keyword phrases, research to see if these terms are being searched, and how many sites contain these keyword phrases. There are several tools that we use to find these measurements for our clients, but Google Trends is the easiest to use. In addition, for many of our clients, localizing their SEO is a very important part of converting prospects to paying clients if services need to be delivered in person or within a certain geographic area.
3. We work well-researched keywords into website pages.
Have you ever seen long string of words or endless lists of locations at the bottom of a web page? In the past, meta keywords and hidden text was helpful for SEO and search rankings, but this is now considered cheating and gets you ranked even lower. Google and Bing work hard to help us find what we are looking for through the use of effective (and highly secret) algorithms — so there is no easy answer for which keyword combinations are best to include.
We optimize each page to a specific keyword phrase and use the Yoast plugin to test our results. We always focus on writing clearly and persuasively first and we never substitute SEO for clarity. We try to use plenty of synonyms as we write website content. While our clients might use terms like “practice areas” or “of counsel,” someone seeking their services might use the term “legal services” or “I need an estate lawyer” or simply “attorney.” Even hidden content counts. For example, we would never name a logo graphic “logo.gif.” We make the name relate to our customer’s services, such as “management_consulting.gif.” Since search engines can’t “view” photographs or images, be sure to use quality alternate, or “alt” text for every image and work in keywords.
We are patient.
Finally, we have realized that this all takes time. SEO is a process, not an event, and inbound leads and marketing lists take time to build. When we need a quick-fix, we consider pay-per-click campaigns or more traditional (expensive) marketing. We know from experience that organic SEO is more like a marathon than a sprint, and now that we are well-optimized, we have a steady stream of inbound leads, and these leads are almost always our perfect prospects.