Search engine optimization (SEO) is a term that gets thrown around a lot, and many distributors quickly get overwhelmed or just aren’t sure where to start. SEO is an umbrella term around three main goals:
- Making sure that your website is being crawled by search engines
- Helping your website be found when people are searching online in the natural search results
- Once a potential customer finds your website, ensuring that they can easily use it
Guidelines from popular search engines like Google and Bing are constantly evolving, so what worked a few years ago will not necessarily be today’s best practices. However, building your website for the best user experience, focusing on high-quality content, and ensuring your website is being crawled by search engines will always go a long way.
Creating a domain for your website is the first step to SEO. It gives your brand an identity and provides an easy route for your customers to find you. Ideally, a domain that has a highly relevant keyword or two in it is even better and will pay dividends down the road.
As a search engine, Google holds a whopping 92% of the worldwide market share as of September 2020. So, if you are limited on time, focusing on Google will give you the best return. Google offers an enormous number of free tools, training courses, and certifications to help users at any level.
Your next steps are to create accounts for your website with Google, including Google Analytics and Google Search Console. If you plan to also do search engine marketing (SEM) down the road, then now is also a good time to create a Google Ads account. Add your tracking code to your website, link up your Google accounts so they can all communicate with each other, and verify your website. It could take a couple of hours to get all this set up, especially for a beginner, but it’s key for ensuring that you have a strong SEO foundation.
Once everything is created, add the URL for your website sitemap in your Google Search Console account. This tells the search engine how your website is structured so it knows how to crawl it. If you have an ACS-created website, this will be easy! Sitemaps are automatically generated for you and can be found by adding /sitemap to the end of your domain name. For power users, you can even upload a custom sitemap to your website in the Settings > Uploads section. Once all this is set up, it can take a few days for your site to be fully indexed. Be patient! SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
There are a couple of technical house cleaning items to stay aware of moving forward. First, stay on top of any crawl errors that are noted in your Search Console. Second, if you remove a page, redesign, or move your site to a new provider, make sure that you do not have any “dead links.” If you have indexed URLs in your Search Console that are no longer being used for whatever reason, just create a redirect to another page with similar content.
So, you’ve made sure that your site is properly being crawled by the world’s top search engine… now what? The next step is to help your website be found when people are searching. The top way to achieve this is through compelling, unique content with strategic keyword usage. Content can include blog posts, case studies, press releases, and your company’s competitive advantages and offerings.
The verbiage used in your content is critical. What kinds of questions will a potential customer ask that you can write content to answer? How do your customers talk about your products? It’s okay to use technical, industry terms for things like decoration processes, as long as you’re also including layman’s terms in the same article and headlines. If you’re confused about what keywords to weave into your content or don’t know where to start, there are several free or inexpensive platforms that can help. Some of the most common ones include Google Ads and SpyFu. Avoid stuffing keywords unnaturally into your content. The search engines have caught on to that old trick and will now penalize you.
Consistently adding new content and updating old content are also important. This shows the search engines that your company is active, and it gives you other marketing opportunities for clients to go to your website. Creating quality content regularly can be an overwhelming task, especially during your peak selling seasons. ACS's marketing services can help with custom marketing content tailored to your needs.
Once you’re generating engaging content consistently, make sure you’re taking care of other housekeeping items that help search engines know what’s on your website. Some of these include:
- Adding alt tags on your images; these tell a search engine what is happening in a picture
- Adding an H1 and meta tags on your pages
- Ensuring all your important copy is live text and not in images
- Creating landing pages that reinforce your top keywords
- Verifying your page names and ensuring your URL structure is SEO-friendly
- Link Building
Link building is another area that when done well is very helpful, but when executed poorly can hurt your search engine rankings. For example, say you recently completed an interesting project for a member of your local chamber of commerce. Then, you created a blog post or case study about it and posted it on your website. You sent a link to the post on your website to be included in your local chapter’s newsletter. The newsletter is posted on their website, which includes a link back to your blog post. Search engines love this kind of linking from another website to yours. However, if you have a link on your new article that is listed on a page with a ton of other links that have nothing to do with each other, the search engine will see that as an unnatural link and penalize you.
User Experience & Ease of Use
The last pillar of SEO is your website’s ease of use. A high bounce rate (rate of visitors quickly leaving your site) in Google Analytics is usually an indicator that visitors are not sure what to do next from your homepage. There are a lot of factors that can fall under the ease-of-use pillar, but a few areas to evaluate include:
- Linking your content to other areas of your website
- Mobile compatibility
- Optimizing website images for faster load times
- Clear calls to action
- SSL certificate with HTTPS URL
Remember that SEO isn’t a once and done task, but a mindset of how you maintain your website as a living representation of your business and brand online.
Want support on your website SEO efforts? Contact us today to learn more about how ACS can support your SEO goals!