It’s a rarity for businesses to not operate a website these days. Even small mom-and-pop shops that began long before the era of the Internet have gone digital, albeit some were a little more hesitant than others. But while launching a website – whether for a multi-national, billion dollar corporation or the local pizza place – may be easy, to have that website actively help grow the business is another matter all together.
Simply having a website (one among the ever-expanding billions) isn’t enough to earn a business any attention, promote its brand or grow its profit margins. Search engine optimization, the practice of making changes in different areas of a website so that search engines can help find and deliver targeted audiences to the site, is practically meaningless unless companies first consider several issues
The first issue to launching a successful site is determining the purpose of that site. Is a business looking to generate leads or sales? Is the site simply a branding tool, perhaps to promote a new line of products? It’s critical to decide what actions the site is supposed to encourage visitors to take. Say the website’s goal is to encourage visitors to call an office. Are there phones and staff ready to handle the incoming calls when the site delivers them? Having a call to action for website visitors but no follow through on the company side is just as bad as having no call to action in the first place.
Next, a business needs to take a serious look at who its audience is. This should have been decided when first developing a business plan, but maybe the demographic need to be tweaked for online audiences. Different demographics – Millennials vs Boomers for instance – approach the Internet in different ways and businesses should carefully hone in on the best prospects.
Finally, businesses need to realistically determine competition. While the audiences might be the same, the Gap is not necessarily competing with a local boutique in Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s important to consider geographic and business factors when determining true competition. Who is directly competing in the same market space, with the same products and looking to target a similar audience. While both the Gap and the boutique are clothing stores, they cater to different clientele and operate on much different budgets. At the end of the day, that local boutique cannot compete with the advertising budget of the Gap, so it should look to be competing with the other boutique across town.
Many of the aforementioned factors should already exist in a business plan or marketing plan. But it is easy to forget the basics when faced with the daunting task of implementing a successful website and SEO plan to promote it. There are several tools that exist to help a business determine the best keywords for its site, provide the traffic sources of its competitor’s site and grade the site on its content, trust value and more. Once the ground work is in place, successful, long term SEO and SEM strategies can be created.
Once a business has determined the site’s purpose, audience and competition, then it is time to consider website structure and website navigation. While both of these can be modified over time, based on consumer response and SEO results, it is important to design the website to be as fluid and easy to navigate as possible. The structure and navigation feed directly into the overall user-experience, which is a crucial thing to be aware of.
The website’s design should reflect its goals. If the goal is to sell a product, it should be evident from the home page and carry throughout the rest of the site. If the website was designed to generate business, it should have the proper tools to help convert visits into actions.
Perhaps there is a “Contact Us” form on every page, so the user doesn’t have to go looking for it back on the home page. Maybe the company’s phone number is strategically listed several times on a webpage, pushing the call to action even more.
A business’s website should make it easy for the user to conduct business. Pages that are complicated, difficult to navigate or cluttered detract from the user-experience, often causing users to leave the site altogether and finding another company to do business with.
While a site’s structure and navigation needs to be firmly in place before even beginning to create an SEO campaign to promote it, it is important to keep SEO practices in mind when developing the website. Creating each page as its own point of entry makes it easier for the search engine spiders to locate specific keywords and direct the user towards that page. If the website is structured appropriately, several pages may rank in the search engine in addition to the homepage. The more pages from the site that rank, the greater chance a business has of getting the interested user to reach its site.
Suppose there is a business that supplies restaurant furniture for chain restaurants. Its website should have a different page for each product that it sells- tables, chairs, counters, etc. Depending on how many products are in each category, the website could delve even deeper, creating pages for the different types of chairs – booth seats, stools, patio seating, etc. As the pages get more specific, so do the keywords. That way, should a restaurant owner be looking for stainless stéel bar stools, the search engines can automatically pull up that page of the website.
Search engine optimization is a long term process. There are many factors that contribute to the success of a SEO or SEM campaign. Some are easy to identify and others require careful analysis. But the first thing a business can do to help itself is to create a website that is well designed, structured and has a clear purpose.
About The Author
Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing. With over 12 years of experience Nick Stamoulis has worked with hundreds of companies small, large and every size in between. Through his vast and diverse SEO, search engine marketing and internet marketing experience Nick Stamoulis has successfully increased the online visibility and sales of clients in all industries.
As a way to share his extensive knowledge about SEO and search engine marketing, Nick Stamoulis currently writes daily in his SEO blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal (or SEO Journal) which has grown to become one of the top SEO blogs in the search engine optimization and search engine marketing industry.