When the internet was new, finding a web site was largely a hit or miss proposition. Although there were relatively fewer sites, the sophisticated search tools, like Google, Yahoo, MSN and others were not around. People tended to “surf” going from one site to another via links on those sites.
Needless to say, things have really changed a lot; search engines are now indispensable as the way to pinpoint exactly what you’re after when searching the web. The development of “local search” has now made it easy to find goods and services right in our own neighborhoods—who needs a tree trimmer if he’s in Nebraska and you’re 3,000 miles away?
A high “search ranking” is the all-important Holy Grail—you want your site to appear on the first page listing that comes up when someone searches for what you offer, and the higher up the page the better.
So how’s your site do in the search rankings? Search Google, Yahoo or MSN for what you’re offering, in the area where you do business, e.g. if you’re a plumber, key in “plumbing (your town name)” and see if your site appears in the listings. If it does, and you’re on the first page high up, congrats! If not, let’s see why.
Rankings in search engine directories depend on a few things like “keywords”, popularity and unique content. Keywords are words, and phrases, that are probably the very words people will key in when searching in a search engine, so if you’re a plumber, keywords like “plumbing, plumber, leak repairs” etc. will be necessary to add into your page code—even better if these same words are actually used in the page copy. For local search, be sure the names of all the places you do business in are included.
Popularity has a lot to do with the sites that are linked to yours and who you link to. The more quality sites that are linked to yours, the higher your popularity score, but I stress, we’re talking quality here. So linking to something completely unrelated to your business, or an amateur’s hobby site will not count. A plumber might link to a reputable plumbing supply, a kitchen and bath store, a manufacturer of shower stalls—all people he does some business with and who will provide “reciprocal” links. Up goes the popularity score!
Unique content simply means that if you just make a carbon copy of another web site with the same information etc., you won’t impress the search engines. Many times, a franchise operation will offer their franchisees a web site but it is really just a copy with a few pictures and the local name changed. No score. So write some interesting and unique stuff about you and your business that no one else can say. Find some fascinating facts about the business you do and write them up in your own words. Watch your score shoot up!
All of this is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s a very complex and ever-changing craft. Too much to cover here but here’s a few more tips:
Be sure all your pictures have “alternate tags” that contain keywords. These are the words that show up when you hover the curser over an image. Our plumbing example might use the tag, “Leaking faucet repair in (name of town)” over a photo of a kitchen sink.
Be sure every page has a title, possible different from page to page—don’t use “Welcome to our plumbing web site”, make the title keyword rich e.g. “John’s the Plumber for fast reliable plumbing repair service in (town name).”
There’s much, much more involved, and if you are really serious, you can hire an SEO specialist to do this for you, but be warned, it’s pricey and it is an on-going job. Start with the suggestions here as the site is being constructed and you’ll be well on your way.
Ken Burgin and Elizabeth Walker are the Marketing Masters (www.MarketingMasters.ca), a full-service marketing and advertising partnership that helps build busy businesses. Send your ideas on How to Thrive in Times Like These to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or call 1-866-908-5720.