It’s late on a Tuesday night and I get a frantic message from an acquaintance I haven’t talked to in a lonnnnnng time. What do they need? Well, to “pick my brain for a sec” of course! Normally I don’t mind this since I get really bored out here in the woods and could use the refresher on website basics myself, so I dive in and take a look at their site. More often than not, the problems I find are almost always the same. Somewhere between idea and execution, whoever built the website either failed to or didn’t know how to include the basic data that search engines need in order to match their site with potential customers. Since my answers are almost always the same, I took one of my more recent “skim-overs” changed a few identifying details, and figured I’d share it with you.
Now be warned: This is by NO means a comprehensive guide, but it should be plenty to get you started. You can find much more detailed tutorials and a few great free tools at sites like SEMRush, and SEOMoz to continue guiding you on your path to greatness.
The majority of how search engines “see you” depends on what you have directly on your site. In fact, I’d call it a 70/30 split between on site work, and backlinking across the web. Since controlling your own site has the most impact we’ll start there. Search engines don’t see sites the way we do. Images, color, all the stuff that makes it pretty doesn’t matter to them at all. If you want to see what Google sees, pull up your site on a regular computer browser, then on your keyboard press Ctrl+U at the same time. This brings up your pages source code. The googleable stuff. At first it looks like a foreign language, but after a while you can get pretty good at deciphering it. These are the main things Google and other search engines want:
A Meta Title – This is your website’s name the way Google will show it in their search listings. This is the single most important place where you can tell Google exactly where you are and what you have. Most easy website builder platforms just use whatever you have in the “Site Name” field on your settings. If you have access to the actual HTML editor or header.php in wordpress’s case, you can manually beef up your Meta fields. Always stick to the most specific location references, and the most broad category titles.
Meta Description – This should be a one-to-two sentence keyword-laced summary of what you offer. Don’t let it be too vague. Think back to your writing lessons in school and answer “What do I offer? “ in the form of a statement. Adjust the suggested description for accuracy, and use the services you most frequently get requests for. You can upsell with additional services within the written content on your site.
Meta Keywords – Keywords really mean “search phrases” because this is what google uses to answer “What are you selling” in the most direct way. What specific terms do you want to DOMINATE? Remember that what you put online gets ranked and listed for its relevance to what THE WHOLE WORLD is searching for, so keywords are where you tell the search engine what part of that world you want to reach. You may not ever be #1 for a general term like “Real Estate” but you’re not trying to reach the whole world, so you can choose keywords like “Arkansas Homes for Sale, Fayetteville MLS Listings, Bentonville Open Houses” and so forth. Try to stick to about 20 key phrases per page, and make sure that page talks about those services in the content.
Now for content… When they say “Content is King” they forgot to specify that it should be well-written for the human reader, detailed, broken down to only one or two topics per page, with one “home page” summarizing and linking to it all, and formatted in a way that makes it easy to browse with the human eye and even easier for the search engines to know what parts are the most important. In general, I think most sites could afford to get a lot more detailed in what they cover, with a separate page that describes each of their services. On each page I would also include a blurb that invites readers to take an immediate action such as signing up for the newsletter, browsing the online shop, or linking to the contact page.
That may seem like a lot of work, but it’s the foundation for getting better local listings, and all the off-site work in the world won’t help until your on-site game is strong. That’s when you want to do things like submit to Google Local listings, create a profile on Yelp, and start dipping into social media marketing. Making a website “pop” is a full-time job at first, but once your onsite and initial off-site work is done it only takes a few hours a week to keep it moving.
To see some of the handy blogging tools I keep close by when I go out in the field, check out this collection on my Kit.com profile!
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