Columnist Stoney deGeyter offers some pointers on how to get your website into tip-top shape to help you compete in online marketing.
There is a good analogy to be made between the health of a website and the health of a human being. If we equate exercise and diet to optimization and marketing, it’s a nearly perfect correlation.
The fact is, many people live normal lives without any sort of regular exercise or a healthy diet. Eating healthy is a lot more expensive, and it takes a lot of time, thought and research. And anyone who exercises regularly can tell you that it costs money to get the right equipment and/or gym memberships.
We all know that anyone who puts time and effort into healthy living enjoys a much higher quality of life than those who don’t. Yes, they also sacrifice a lot to do it, but in the end, they do it because it’s worth it.
Those who don’t may feel the same way. All the time, effort and sacrifices are just not worth it for the life they want to live. And that’s fine. They’ll likely have shorter lives and not plan on competing in (let alone winning) any marathons.
But the problem with our healthy living analogy and website health is that life isn’t necessarily a competition. You don’t have to be a diet and exercise freak to have a normal life. That generally can’t be said of succeeding on the web.
How To Make Your Website A Contender
Online, everything is a competition. If your website isn’t healthy enough to compete, you lose, which in many cases affects the profitability and viability of your business.
If you want your business to win the online marketing race — or at least place in the top 10 — you have to train for it.
Here is a five-point training regimen that will help you whip your website into shape and be a true contender in online marketing:
1. Website Architecture
Website architecture is the foundation of a properly functioning website. While most websites work just fine, they often suffer from severe limitations.
Think of a car that hasn’t had a tune-up in 100,000 miles. It may still get you from point A to B just fine, but the overall performance of the vehicle will soon start to suffer, if it hasn’t already.
Some great tools for checking on website architectural fixes are:
- Screaming Frog
- Microsoft IIS
- Google Webmaster Central
- Web Developer Toolbar
- Wayback Machine
- Chrome Developer Tools
- Bing Webmaster Tools
- Moz Analytics
- Google Analytics
There are others, but that should be more than enough to get you started. Each will provide you with reports on specific things that are not as they should be. Specifically, you’ll want to look for:
- Broken links.
- Long, short or missing title tags.
- Long, short or missing meta descriptions.
- Missing alt tags.
- Duplicate content.
- Missing heading tags.
- Slow loading site issues.
- Poor mobile experience.
- Sitemap issues.
- Robot.txt issues.
- Canonical tags.
- Page rendering across devices.
- Crawl errors.
- Structured data.
- Internal links.
This is just the low-hanging fruit that is typically an issue for most sites. Once you get these things cleared up, you can begin digging deeper to find other issues that may be hidden underneath these basic problems.
2. Keyword Optimization
Keywords are still (and always will be) important, which means optimizing your site for keywords is necessary.
In the past, keyword research was a means for finding the right words to stuff into your content. Today, keywords are used to gain a better understanding of what your audience is searching for and how to write content that provides solutions for what they want.
Keywords are also important when determining your navigation structure and links. No sense having a navigation link that reads Submolecular Teleportation Devices when your audience simply knows them as Transporters.
You should also use the core phrases/topic of each page in title tags and page headings. But when it comes to the content, don’t look so much to keywords to determine how to write the content.
Rather, look at what topics the content should cover, and then write to sufficiently provide your visitors the information they need.
Regardless of what you do that brings in the money, every online business must also now be a content publisher.
That’s because today’s consumers want more than a list of products to buy. They want information that helps them buy the right products for their needs.
They also want tips, tutorials and other free advice, and they are more likely to shop from the brands that provide it — which means that you have to be producing content that your customers want and need on a regular basis.
This content helps establish you as an authority and builds up your brand recognition. The more quality content you write, the more you’re able to get your brand name in front of those who are most likely to become your customers.
And remember, since Google just wants to rank sites that searchers want, your content will play a big role in getting rankings.
Not only will it help you rank for keywords that drive business, but as Google sees that you have become an established authority, you improve your chances of getting your content ranked above the less authoritative content of a competitor.
4. Social Media
Content publishing is only the first step to building your brand. The next is promoting that content to your potential customers. That’s where social media marketing comes in.
The role of the social media is threefold:
- Build optimized social profiles that are more likely to be followed.
- Help your content reach places (customers) it otherwise wouldn’t.
- Increase engagement with your brand.
In order for any of those things to be accomplished, you have to start with great content. But you can’t build a strong social presence by simply posting your own content.
You build it by engaging with your customers, providing helpful links (to third-party content, as well as your own) and answering questions.
The businesses that are most successful at social media do all of those things really, really well.
And while social shares don’t factor directly into search rankings, Google is keeping an eye on what searchers do, want and need. If your social media activity brings more attention to your site, the mentions and links you may get as a result can be a signal to Google that may provide an indirect boost in rankings.
The final piece of the regimen for success is to not just build a site that sells your products and services but to build a site that meets the needs of your visitors. That means focusing on specific usability issues such as:
- Easy navigation.
- Clear calls to action.
- Simplified contact/shopping options.
The goal is to make your website a seamless experience for visitors. They should never have to think too hard about what to do next.
Your navigation, links, calls to action and overall user experience should make it all effortless for the visitor.
Don’t be afraid to test different options, such as image placements, button colors, link locations and so on. Sometimes, even the slightest change can make a huge difference.
The goal to optimization isn’t really to optimize a site for search engines but rather to create a “healthy” experience for customers, wherever they are. The more engaged visitors are with your brand (on and off-site), the more you’ll see your online visibility improve.
While training for a marathon may not be necessary for most people in order to live a normal and healthy life, the same can’t be said for businesses. In the business world, every day is a marathon, and you’re either passing or being passed by the competition.
The higher you want to go in the ranks, the more strenuous the workout gets. Some people are happy being in the junior leagues where the daily workout is easy. But if you really want to compete, you need to spend time and money on your workout regimen.
Focusing on the five points above will put you on the path to being a contender. How much you invest in them will determine how strong a contender you will be.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)