How to Improve Your Website – SCORE Workshop for Small & Local Businesses Part 2

The Role & Importance of Content, SEO, CTA, Conversions and Analytics – Part 2

In The Role & Importance of SEO, Branding, Content Usability and Beyond Part 1, we reviewed the importance of selecting a brand name and defining your brand voice and personality. In Part 2, we dig into website content, blogging, setting up conversion tracking and more.

Optimizing for Users & the Web

Build Better Website Pages

Visitors to your site have a short attention span, so you have only a few seconds to impress them before they take off to somewhere else. Most likely they are there because they have a problem that they need solved. They have a need – and are seeking a solution – from you. Don’t waste the opportunity to prove that they have come to the right place.

Ask yourself these questions about your home page, and other pages as well:

  • Does the content reflect an understanding of your audience’s potential issues?
  • What are you telling them about your brand that will make them trust you?
  • Does the content speak to them?
  • Does the content contain all the pertinent information about your brand?

Best practices is to have between 300 to 400 words of well-written copy on your home page that clearly tells the visitor what problem(s) you are solving and why your brand should be trusted – form an immediate connection with them.

Other top pages on the website should each have their own unique focus. Avoid multi-topics on one individual page. If the content is important enough to tell visitors about, it warrants having its own page. For example, if you are a gourmet food shop who has take-out, caters affairs, hosts tasting events, all while having a chef who wrote a cookbook and are selling cooking related items – you should have a unique webpage for each aspect of what you do.

Write Great Content

As we’ve written, content has always been king. It is what compels your site visitors into action. Well written copy is crucial. You should have at least a few hundred words on each page focused on just one distinct topic.

Are you a writer? If you failed every time you wrote a book report or paper in school, find someone who is an experienced writer. Give them an outline, a few paragraphs, or some bullet points on what to cover. Make sure the content is professional and exciting and clearly projects your now well-defined brand voice.

Remember: create content that others will want to share. When they share it, Search Engines will recognize your website as the original source of that content and the social signals will influence your visibility in the search engines. Your content needs to be great, because you will be in competition with others. The Search Engines have to decide whose content to feature in the SERPs; if they think yours is the better match, then yours will be displayed.

Once you determine what topics will be covered, take the next step and perform some content optimization. You will need to learn to conduct and incorporate keyword research. How do you do that? Start by reading these blogs: Keyword Research Part 1 & Keyword Research Part 2. These two posts, and the exercises included there, will give you a solid understanding of the process.

Image Files

The images you put on your website should be original and easy to share (i.e. Pinterest friendly). Search Engines can’t see the image the way people do (although they will likely be able to do so in the future as their technology continues to improve). When you optimize an image, you have to tell the Search Engines what the image. Try to maintain consistency with images throughout the site. Set-up a naming structure and stick with it.

  • Name all your image files with descriptive names. Don’t name files with unspecific names, i.e. ‘6374image.jpg’. If it is the image of a corkscrew, then name the file “red-corkscrew.jpg”.
  • Use lower case letters with hyphens in between the words.
  • Include Alt attributes for your images. This should be a full descriptive sentence, similar to what you would say to describe the image over the phone to someone who could not see it. For example, an Alt attribute for the image below could be: “A modern orange and green chess set with a clear board on a wooden table.” Do not use the Alt text as an opportunity to keyword stuff, this is considered “black hat” and the search engines can flag your site as a site that’s trying to manipulate them.

A chess board with orange and green pieces

  • In addition, a Caption can be added under the image to further describe it. The copy surrounding the image will also signal to the Search Engine’s what the image contains so make sure images are topically relevant and described in the content as well.

Title & Meta Description

The pages Title & Description goes into the code of each page. The Title does not appear on the page for the visitor, but it is seen in the browser. In Firefox, for example, hover your mouse over the tab and the Title will appear:

Screenshot showing title for DragonSearch homepage

That is your Title Tag. Again, it is focused with keywords relating to that particular page.

The Description generally shows up in search under the Title Tag when your page is shown in the SERPs:

Screenshot showing rich snippet search result for DragonSearch

Blogging & Strategic Ongoing Content Creation

Every new blog post is a new page added to your website. Every page on your website has the potential to become a “door” to your website through which visitors can enter it. That means every page can be a new opportunity to be found, to talk to (and with) your audience, and to convert their visit into a sale, request for information, etc.

What Do I Blog About?

This is a frequently asked question. While blogging can be a good opportunity to explain some of your products or services in more detail, your audience will typically care much more, and will connect with you much better, if you talk about the passion points behind your brand and your offerings. It’s important that you find those passion points, determine the issues and needs your audience is dealing with and what solutions you can offer to help.

Take a look at some of the large brands to see how they are focusing on these passion points instead of on their products purely. Coca Cola says they are in the business of happiness and their competitors are companies like Disney. Red Bull focuses on extreme sports and experiences. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz recently said on the “The Daily Show with John Stewart” that his company is about people, both customers and employees, and their experiences.

If you are a local business, you can include events and other local topics in your blog that you know are of interest to your customers. For example, if you are a restaurant and caterer, instead of just blogging about your food and recipes, expand your content horizons to write about the area in which you are located. The culture, the events, the types of people, the environment, the schools, the kids, how to plan a wedding, hire a DJ or live music for an affair, frozen food from the 60’s – the things you can write about are endless. You can be creative and enjoy the experience of connecting with an audience that may not necessarily have been looking for your restaurant in and of itself. If they found your blog post on ‘wedding music’ then they have discovered your website, coming in from a different avenue than the normal search for what you specifically do. Bingo – now they know that you do catering and perhaps their daughter’s wedding is coming up in the fall!

A blog is not static. It is an opportunity to have conversations with your readers through the comments. When your visitors leave a comment on your blog, have a plan in place for responding to them. Go beyond just thanking them and try to continue the conversation, ask questions, etc. When AOL’s Simon Heseltine guest spoke at DragonSearch, he shared some great tips about increasing audience engagement and blog commenting.

In addition, new content helps search engines better understand what your website is about. So keep your blog topics relevant to what the overarching theme of your website is.

How Often Should I Blog?

It’s not about the frequency but more about the quality and consistency. It is much better to write less frequently if the quality of the content is very high, then to publish low quality content every other day. Find the frequency that works for you and try to be consistent. Many successful blogs publish once a week, or bi-weekly, or even less frequently. Focus on the quality of the content most of all. Low quality content will not only turn your audience away but will also dilute your website’s overall value. This can result in the search engines not returning your site to searchers.

Conversions & Call to Action (CTA)

What is a Conversion?

What defines a conversion will vary from site to site and business to business. Conversions can also change overtime depending on what kind of campaigns you are running and what the objectives are for those campaigns. Determine what should be a conversion by defining your goals. These will be specific to every business and should focus on the main business objectives. Many people still focus on ranking in the search engine results pages (SERP) as their primary goal. Here is a good summary of why rankings should not be your goal. Instead of improving rankings or driving more traffic to your website, driving more quality and targeted traffic is a much better goal. Here you’ll find some examples of common goals to help you get started.

How Do I Handle Calls-to-Action?

Once you have clear goals for your website, ensure that your design and structure make it easy for your visitors to convert on the website. Where will you place the call-to-action? Will you have a form? Where will it be? Remember:

  • Have good landing pages that focus on converting visitors and include enticing calls-to-action (CTA) on your site to lead potential customers to those landing pages.
  • Be careful with CTAs; it’s important to have them but don’t overdo it. Too many calls-to-action will be distracting and overwhelming for your visitors and they will be much less likely to follow them.
  • If you have a submission form, make it easy to submit; only ask for information you HAVE to have in the first contact. Start with public information first, i.e. First Name, Last name and then ask for more private information. If you have a multiple step conversion funnel, like an ecommerce platform, as you are taking customers throughout the checkout process, closely plan each step and make it easy for them to understand where in the process they are.

The Importance of NAP

You will rarely find something about SEO that is illogical. If we met at a party and hit it off and exchanged contact information – what would you think if I gave you three different addresses? Would you be confused if my card had a different name than what I told you in our conversation? If I gave you different phone numbers with different area codes, would you know the right one to call? All of that would leave you confused. Inconsistent NAP information (Name, Address and Phone) can easily confuse the Search Engines, too.

Search Engines want to identify one consistent NAP across everything on the web – your site, your social platforms and any directories or other site you are listed on. So don’t have “Smith & Smith Law” AND ”Smith and Smith Law Firm” AND “The Law Firm of Smith and Smith’. Remember, decide on your brand name and stick with it. The same is true for your address – be consistent. Decide on either “New York, NY 10002” OR ”New York, New York 10002” or “2376 Elm Blvd. South” OR “2376 S. Elm Boulevard.” With your phone number, designate one as the prime contact number. Overall, NAP is important – spend the time to get it right. Other sites like directories often self-generate your NAP info, pulling it from other sites. Therefore, if you are not consistent, a big mess can occur, and it is hard and time consuming to clean it all up!

Using Google Tools for Insight

Google Analytics (GA)

There are free comprehensive tools that Google provides to monitor your website. Google Analytics will tell you everything you want (and should) know about the traffic to your site. You can start exploring this valuable information and little by little get comfortable digging deeper and deeper into analyzing your audience. Start by getting the free GA code, and putting it on every page of your website. As soon as it is there, Google will start pulling in data.

Google Webmaster Tools (GWT)

Be sure to sign up for Google Webmaster Tools, a free tool provided by Google. After you verify your site ownership, it will provide you with valuable information about your website and how Google sees it. You can set up email forwarding so that you get email notifications if Google finds any issues with your site. Among other things you can submit your new pages to Google, see if their crawler is hitting any roadblocks or issues when crawling your pages, check out the links to your site that Google is seeing, etc.

You’ll likely find this video from Google’s Webmaster Tools that discusses building an SEO and online strategy helpful:

Monitor, Test & Experiment All the Time

Keep a close eye on how your website is performing at all times and continually tweak and test things. There is no “one way” that will be true for all websites, you have to find out what works best for yours. The way to do that is by testing, experimenting and constantly changing.

Much of the content of this post we presented at a small business workshop for our local chapter of SCORE, a national organization that offers free business counseling services. You can view the full presentation from the workshop below or download from SlideShare.

For more advanced SEO considerations and tips check out this summary and presentation of our advanced SEO workshop we gave at Webgrrls in New York City.

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have or share additional tips in the comments below.

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1 comment on “How to Improve Your Website – SCORE Workshop for Small & Local Businesses Part 2

John Cunningham

Thank you so much for this valuable content. Applying this advice goes a long ways towards building a successful on-line presence.