Your website can be the strongest lead generation tool in your arsenal, but only if it’s optimized for discovery. Use these five tips to build your organic reach and keep new users coming your way.
Discoverability refers to how well a website ranks in search engines. A highly discoverable website will rank within the top few spots on the first page of results for a target keyword, whereas sites ranking on even the second page have much weaker discoverability. Search discovery is paramount to the success of your business.
Websites today have to serve as a digitized sales team, prospecting new business, working leads, and converting leads into customers. With that added responsibility comes great opportunity – if you play your cards right. To contribute to your inbound marketing funnel, your website must serve four primary functions:
Within these categories, we’ve identified 21 “must-have” elements to secure your website’s online success. Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing a series of posts unpacking these categories and outlining each element. Up first: Discovery.
Search and “Discovery” drives the online buyer’s journey. According to recent data, as many as 96% of American consumers shop online, so getting found online is crucial. Search discovery serves as the top of the sales funnel in your website’s inbound marketing strategy, and is one of the most important determinants of your website’s success.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the key to maximizing your website’s searchability and should be one of the first things you address when optimizing your website. Ranking well in search engines can drive a steady stream of qualified leads to your site, but it takes hard work and consistency to secure a top spot. The tips outlined in this post will help you start climbing the ranks in organic (non-paid) search engine results.
5 Steps to Optimize Your Website for Search
1. Inbound Links
Everyone wants to be #1. But there’s only one top spot per search term, and some (like “women’s clothing”) are highly competitive. How do you make sure your website claims that coveted #1 position? Off-page SEO is the most effective way to increase your rankings.
Inbound links (links leading from other websites back to yours) are the bread and butter of off-page SEO. Quality is as important as quantity. The greater authority these other websites have, the more authority is bestowed on your own site. For example, a link from the New York Times would carry more weight than a link from a local blogger.
The challenge of off-page SEO is that increasing inbound links can be outside your control. You can’t force anyone to write about you or link back to your site. What you can do is increase the likelihood that you will receive inbound links. How? You can submit your website to online directories, create high-quality and useful content, or write guest posts on other websites. Just remember: Never beg, borrow, barter, bribe, or buy links!
While off-page SEO is essential, don’t overlook on-page SEO. This facet of SEO consists of incorporating your most important keywords within your page content. Other on-page SEO elements besides body copy include page titles, meta descriptions, header tags, image descriptions, and anchor text.
Businesses tend to veer between engaging in too little on-page optimization or too much (keyword stuffing). While it's important to include your keyword as many times as necessary on a page, you don't want to go overboard. If you’re not sure how many keywords is enough, there are many plugins you can install in your CMS that will evaluate the percentage of keyword usages on each page to avoid duplication. We recommend Yoast for sites running on WordPress.
A few keyword pointers that will get you going in the right direction with on-page SEO:
1. Pick a single keyword to focus on for each page.
2. Sprinkle keywords in your meta content (see next section).
3. Write for humans, not search engines.
4. Include your keyword in the page URL.
3. Meta Content
Meta content is the information coded into the back end of a web page that tells search engines what a page is about. It works in partnership with keyword-rich, high-quality content in the body of the page. Think of it like this: meta content tells Google what a page is about, and the page content confirms that the page is truly relevant to the search term.
You don’t have to be a programmer to work with meta content. Most website editors and content management systems allow you to easily edit meta tags without any coding knowledge whatsoever. The meta tags you should optimize on every single page of your website include page title, meta description, H1 and H2 tags, and image alt tags. Be concise and make sure your keyword appears once in each tag.
4. XML Sitemaps
An XML sitemap is an .xml file containing an outline of all your web pages and when they were last updated. Including an XML sitemap on your website enables automated search engine bots to efficiently crawl and index your pages.
Creating a sitemap is easy. You can find sitemap generators online that will create the .xml file for you. Once you get the .xml file, simply upload it to the root directory of your website
If your website is updated regularly (and it should be), it’s good practice to update your .xml file at least once a month so that search engines always have the freshest data.
While adding an XML sitemap to your website won’t be the deciding factor in securing your first-place ranking, it will certainly help because Google rewards websites that are easy to crawl and index.
5. 301 Redirects
We’ve all experienced a time when we clicked on a link only to be greeted by a 404 message or “Page Not Found.” Broken links are usually the result of a page being moved to a new URL without redirecting the old link to the new page.
Every time a visitor clicks on a broken link is a lost opportunity. When a potential customer seeking information can’t find what they’re looking for, they will look elsewhere – probably falling into the hands of your direct competitor.
Broken links are also SEO suicide. Every time a user or a search engine can’t find a particular page, your website loses some search status. To prevent this slow descent into SEO oblivion (aka page two), always create a permanent 301 redirect when you move a page on your website. The 301 redirect will automatically reroute traffic from the old URL to the new page.
When do you need a 301 redirect? Any time you change your site URL structure or alter an individual URL (perhaps to include a new keyword). A common situation when companies might need to redo their entire URL structure is when they perform a complete rebrand.
Bottom line: Keep the SEO juice (and traffic) flowing by setting up permanent 301 redirects.
Stay tuned for the next post in our 21 Website Must-Have Series, when we’ll discuss the importance of creating a seamless user experience.