Optimizing your website means analysis, insight, and understanding of… your customer!
The US Department of Commerce, along with nearly sixty other authorities on consumer spending habits and trends, estimates that domestic, year over year (2012 vs. 2013) e-commerce spending totals will rise by over 15%. This points to the increasing level of importance around building, managing, and marketing highly effective websites. Companies can no longer thrive on word of mouth alone, and organizations are quickly discovering that a powerful website can drive increased customer traffic, better brand awareness, and ultimately – higher sales. But one of the key components to any website is a deliberate approach to SEO, or search engine optimization. While SEO isn’t everything – it is an important part of a company’s overall strategy, and should be approached with a common sense attitude.
Up until a few years ago, search engines operated in a manner that awarded higher rankings to websites that were saturated with buzzy keywords, and popular search topics. SEO became a household phrase (most tech-savvy households at least) and drove a lot of website owners to create webpages that were designed to score high on analytic reviews, but did little to bolster a company’s actual market presence.
An extreme example of this is a story that surfaced a few years ago in which a website marketer suggested to his client that the phrase “Paris Hilton pictures” be embedded on the site – in white letters and on a white background. This phrase would be all but invisible to any visitors to the website, but the fact that it referenced a highly ranked search phrase led to increased site rankings. While this company may have been involved in selling plumbing supplies, their ranking reflected an artificial approach to heightened visibility.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo – three of the highest profile search engines on the market today, have addressed many of the ways websites can “game” their systems, and have designed ranking protocols that place emphasis on real content and relevant search results. In fact, adding useless information to a website in the hopes of increasing search rankings can have the opposite effect. Google’s Panda update started penalizing websites for low quality content. Google reports that they modified their search ranking process over 500 times during 2012 – almost 1.4 times per day!
SEO Pitfalls to Avoid
Duplicate content – Many companies will try to achieve ranking for two separate but similar keywords. To accomplish this they’ll build two different landing pages that tend to have similar content. Several variations of the keywords will be distributed among these pages. Google will undoubtedly find and identify the synonyms and provide ranking for the different keywords. It is important to understand that contemporary Google ranking protocols punish websites for duplicate content, so be cautious about constructing several landing pages with content that is nearly identical.
Misguided keyword strategy – Keywords are important, but it is crucial that the website contains keywords that will drive actual rankings and provide a benefit to visitors that search via your chosen keyword. “Keyword stuffy” is when companies try to saturate their websites with every known keyword related to their industry. Keep it simple, accurate, and applicable to the target market.
Constructing websites for search engines, not your customers – Countless hours are spent analyzing search engine analytic reports. This is an important part of developing and managing an effective website, but it is secondary to building a site that is designed for the satisfaction of your audience. Analytics is important, but making sure your customers find valuable information via a simple and effective website is crucial.
Issues with link building – Online marketers contend that having tons of links and back links is of paramount importance when it comes to garnering high search ranking results. While appropriate internal and external links will help your site achieve better visibility, links need to be relevant and you need to use common sense. Links using keyword-focused anchor text may help rankings, but you don’t want to oversaturate links with these important words and phrases.
Build your website for your customer and you’ll drive results.
Recently, a You-Tube video surfaced that was produced by an employee of an Internet news agency. The manager of this news group was evidently more concerned with the ranking and views of each individual news story versus the quality of the actual content. This prompted one fairly disgruntled employee to produce a “resignation video” that was set to a tune by Kanye West.
Ultimately, the video went on to draw millions of views (over 16.6 million as of November 2013), and the employee even received a job offer on the Queen Latifah show as a result of her insightful video. The point of the video was clear – the employee showed her boss that by creating interesting content that the world would want to share, rankings would skyrocket and unique views to a webpage would be incredible.
Good SEOs know that common sense drives consumer engagement.
SEO isn’t all that different from traditional business fundamentals. Let’s consider a brick and mortar auto repair shop. They decide to plaster the outside of their building with fifty different pieces of marketing that each deliver a unique message about the range of services offered by the repair shop. If the shop doesn’t deliver a positive and engaging experience once the customer is in the building, the business will not see a sales lift that is commensurate with the keywords splattered across their windows.
The shop needs to deliver an appropriate message via their signing or advertising (SEO), offer a range of appropriate and compelling services (content), and make the entire process a simple to manage and stress-free affair (site navigation, load speeds). By understanding what the target market is really looking for and blending this with the basic fundamentals that help lift search engine rankings, a company will be poised to see better customer engagement, higher sales opportunities, and a more visible presence among the big search engines.
Build your site as if SEO doesn’t exist. One of the biggest issues that companies are facing today is the lack of insight into which specific keywords are driving the majority of their traffic. Don’t worry about it! Focus your website so as to satisfy the needs of your client and build your web presence to offer value and to provide a memorable and positive experience. Don’t count clicks – count new customers and repeat business. The best analytical reports are no match for building a high quality website that addresses the needs of your target market.