17 / February 2016, Matt
Everyone who has a business should have a website. In 2016, this statement is neither surprising nor controversial. A website serves as basically a point of entry, something that legitimizes your business and provides a starting point for anyone who wants to learn about your company, your products, or your service. Instead of opening up the yellow pages, those looking for something reach for Google or Bing or Yahoo. They run their searches and open up the first few pages the results bring up for them.
That is the rub. Anyone can create a website, but if the only people who can find it are those who look you up directly, your customer base will never grow. What you need isn’t merely a website, but a website marketing platform. Your site cannot merely exist, or even just look good. It needs to function fully as your primary marketing tool and as your ongoing connection to your customer base. Your marketing platform must work with a multi-layered approach that builds on itself over time. When you set the site up in this way, it becomes a powerful tool that gets effective and lasting results.
The first layer of effective website marketing comes at the design stage, before you create anything. A carefully planned site map gives your online marketing direction, because you plot out not only what you want to include, but how site visitors will move from one site to the next. Think of your website as telling a story. You don’t just want to ask for a sale before you let your potential customer get to know you, and understand why you are the best option on the market for that person. The way you set that story up and lead your potential customers through your site makes a big difference in the person’s satisfaction with the user experience, and with that person’s comfort level with you and your business.
In addition, the layout can improve your SEO rankings. The more time visitors spend reading each of your pages of content, and the more separate pages they visit, the higher your site’s reliability and reputation ranks will go. More time spent on a site signals the search engines that you have high-quality content worthy of higher page rankings. Thus, leading your visitors through the site in a way that has them reading more and spending more time on each page adds to the impact of your other SEO work and helps bring you even more visitors.
Finally, setting up the design to do all of this in an enjoyable way helps these potential customers stay with you and want to become customers. You do not want to get visitors lost in an impenetrable maze. Rather, you want to lead them down a clear path through your site that lets them enjoy the experience. When you do this, you boost the impact of your website marketing significantly.
Finally, the writing must offer something more: quality. If your prose bores your audience, or comes riddled with grammar and spelling errors, you will not rank highly for long. You want writing that creates impact, that presents clearly the case for you and your brand, the case for your site visitors working with you instead of one of a hundred competitors seeking their business.
SEO content, then, is much more than using the right keywords in the right concentrations. Website marketing success relies instead on clear, concise, direct writing that inspires action in your readers. Layer this throughout your site, and page rankings and conversions will follow.
Local SEO is critical to your website marketing success, and is only becoming more so over time. A majority of search activity comes through mobile devices, and those devices prioritize local results over others. Someone who searches for pizzerias while driving through Albuquerque will first find results for pizzerias in Albuquerque, rather than results in Tuscon or San Francisco. And those businesses that take the time to optimize for local search traffic will rank higher in those searches.
Moreover, the benefits of building your local search rankings are common sense. Your most likely customers are the people nearby. General SEO work will effectively steer traffic your way, but the highest conversion rates will come from site visitors who are nearby. No one in Albuquerque is looking to drive 300 miles for pizza, absent a particular affinity for a pizzeria they already know. If you have a local, physical presence, you want to get the visitors who can actually visit your store.
This begins with the basics. Your site must contain and optimize around your name, address, and phone number. You also need to confirm that this information is in the relevant local directories, and appears there correctly. This can be a long, frustrating process, but that process pays for the effort a hundred times over if you catch and fix errors. No one should have to guess at what information about you is accurate.
Next, build in your local importance to your website marketing. Build to recognize neighborhoods and local landmarks, to acknowledge what matters to others in your community. Your site will lead more people to you if you optimize to your local area, and will drive more conversions within that area if you show your potential customers not only that you know the area, but that you are part of it.
Just as with textual content, of course, you want your visual content to be unique, relevant, and high quality. Stock images or videos will not cut it here. Instead, you want to create original visual art for your viewers. This helps lift your page rankings higher, and also directs more readers to your site because the results aren’t split among multiple online locations for the same visual media. You want your visual content to create more reasons for people to visit your site. Be original, and work only with partners who will help you create original content for your website marketing.
Part of your site mapping involves creating internal links within your website. You want to do more than just lead them from one page to the next. While this is important, your site should also allow visitors to reach key pages regardless of where they are. Your contact page is a great example; wherever a potential customer might currently be reading, you want that person to be able to click a link and easily move to your phone number or a contact screen. Similarly, e-commerce should always be available, from any page on your website. Internal links should allow potential customers to convert quickly and easily into actual customers.
While part of this is availability of the internal links, equally important is visibility. No one likes to have to hover a mouse in multiple areas, or search a screen for the right link. Your site design needs to make the critical links prominent on each page. It may be a shopping cart icon for e-commerce, or an envelope or telephone icon for your contact screen. Or, it could just be large, clear words on the top of each page. Do what fits within the visual and thematic scope of your site, but make sure people can get to the places on your website you most want them to reach.
Finally, your linking should include the ability within the flow of one page to move to another where applicable. If your About page mentions your physical location, link out to your contact page there as well. If you have pages about different products, link among them to help customers find related products. Your website marketing does not happen one page at a time; each one builds on those before and after.
An effective internal linking design both leads visitors to the crucial areas of your site and makes it convenient for them to be there—thus helping you hold their attention longer and building your site rankings more. The effect may seem subtle in the scheme of your overall design, but it allows everything else to happen smoothly: moving through your site, gathering critical information, and making actual purchases from you.
Beyond social media, you can guest blog on other websites. Be careful to do this by specifically working with sites whose work you are proud to appear alongside. If you consider a company beneath what you provide, or if you do not trust that company, do not offer to guest blog. Your reputation and your brand form the backbone. When you do find companies that provide a good fit, though, reach out. Not only can you learn more about your own business, but you can better understand how other successful companies reached the point they did. And this serves as the ultimate symbiosis, because it helps both you and the other site improve audience and site rankings.
On the other hand, be wary of “opportunities” to purchase backlinks to your site. These tend to appear on directories that compile unrelated links, or link from other locations that have nothing to do with your site. You can get flagged as a spammer. And even when you do get traffic, it comes from people who may or may not have any interest in your product or service. These links are essentially junk that does not contribute to your overall website marketing plan.
The more reputable, relevant links you can create that lead back to you, the better. Your website marketing efforts should always include outreach, as your associations and your reputation among your competitors in the marketplace help your rankings and your bottom line. By itself, this represents a small piece of the pie. Layered in, though, it helps push your results higher than you can without trying to get others to help.
Perhaps the most important layer of all in your website marketing efforts is consistency. When you build out your website, you create the most effective marketing tool you can for that moment. You create an effective site map, you optimize your content, you optimize for your location, and you create stunning visual effects. You link internally to help your cause, and you create additional streams for outside links that further build your traffic. But you are not finished; the moment you stop work and rest, the website’s performance will start to falter.
One reason this occurs is that fresh content has a shelf life. Search engines reward consistently fresh content; if you never add to your site’s offerings, you cannot achieve that. Set up a blog, or a comments function for popular content. More important, create and contribute new content regularly to your site. Keep building out your content library. This gives you new pages to have rank highly, gives your regular customers reason to go back to your site in the form of new information to read, and gives you more content to which the search engines can send viewers.
In addition to new content, you should continue to monitor the performance of what you have. When visitor numbers and page rankings flag, there may be legitimate, temporary reasons that it occurs, or there may be issues that require attention and amendment. If you create your website and let it lie dormant, you cannot continue over time to achieve optimal results. Test, measure, confirm—and then do it again. Over time, small adjustments will keep you succeeding and help you build on your initial success. But if you let it go, even the best website will eventually falter.
1st in SEO works with companies of many shapes and sizes, and we know how to customize the 7 Layers of Website Marketing to achieve results. Contact us today to get started on the optimal path to your success.