Benefits of a Search Friendly Website

The process of putting your business online involves more than just building a website. As with other areas of your marketing your website requires careful planning to ensure it will be a success. One area which is crucial to that success, but sadly often overlooked, is a search engine friendly, or search friendly – website.

What is a Search Friendly Website?

A search friendly website is a website that has been designed from the ground up in a manner that enables the search engines to find, crawl and index the website’s pages. You may think that sounds easy but you would be amazed at how many search engines, such as Google, are unable to list a website because of technical issues.

A search friendly website should also ideally rank highly in the search engines for keyword phrases related to your business. Personally I would take search friendly a step further and say that a search friendly website is a website that is also user friendly. By that I mean a website that users (your customers and prospects) find easy to use and engage with.

What Are the Benefits of a Search Friendly Website?

A website that looks great but has no one visit it is not very useful. It’s kind of like a bricks and mortar store that is tucked away out of sight, and no doubt out of mind. The search engines are like busy shopping strips and ideally you want your business, or website, to be positioned up front and centre so you can attract lots of prospects and convert them into customers. A search friendly website can deliver this prime position to you. Some additional benefits of a search friendly website include:

  • High visibility in the search engines;
  • Increased targeted traffic to your website;
  • A website that is search friendly is usually more user friendly – meaning your prospects will find it easier to use and therefore convert into customers;
  • Saves you time and money by not having to find someone to optimise your website after it has been built;
  • Increased customers and sales!!

What Stops a Website From Being Search Friendly?

As I mentioned above you would be amazed at the number of websites that don’t appear, let alone rank, in Google purely because of the way they are built. Here are some common issues that can harm your website and stop it from being search friendly:

Frames

In the earlier days of the internet frames were hailed as the next big web design weapon. These days frames are probably one of the worst offenders when it comes to having a search friendly website as most search engines cannot follow links via frames. Even if a search engine does index your pages it is usually just the content of the page so a user is taken to a page of your website’s content with no visible logo or navigation as they are part of a separate frame. Frames also cause problems for users when using the browsers back button, printing or bookmarking a page. There are some remedial fixes available but they really are an interim fix until you can get your website re-designed.

If your current website has been built using frames I would highly recommend you consider redesigning it.

Flash

Flash is not the total search engine friendly killer it once was but you do need to ensure that the web designer who implements a flash website for you either develops a HTML version of your website or creates a website that can incorporate Flash within your HTML search friendly website.

Again I would avoid a purely Flash built site if at all possible.

Dynamic URLs

Dynamic URLs are generally seen in e-commerce websites and Content Management Systems (CMS) that have not been designed in a search engine friendly manner. Here is an example of a dynamic URL:

  • http://www.mywebsite.com.au/products.php&123=prod762&subproduct

Re-written to be search engine friendly the URL would look like this:

  • http://www.mywebsite.com.au/products/123/prod762/subproduct/

Dynamic URLs can cause problems with the search engines who may find them too complex to index. Generally speaking they can be avoided by ensuring that the system you use allows search engine friendly URLs. If your website already has dynamic URLs your web designer should be able to work with you to correct the problem.

Splash Pages

A splash page is usually the entry point of your website which contains an animated image/message and not much else. Apart from all the usability issues I’ve raised about them in the past they generally contain no content a search engine can index which makes them redundant to the search engines as well as your users.

Poorly Implemented Page Title and Meta Tags

Unique well crafted page title and meta tags on each page of your website help the search engines to understand what each page of your website is about and rank it accordingly. A website with the same page title and meta tags on each page makes it difficult for the search engines to understand the contents of the page which in turn will affect their ability to rank the page well.

What To Do If Your Existing Website Is Not Search Friendly

If your existing website has not been built in a search friendly manner I suggest you talk to a web design company who specialises is search friendly web design to see what can be done to rectify the problem. They may be able to make changes to your current site, or re-design it to ensure its search friendliness. A company that specialises in search engine optimisation (SEO) may also be able to help you.

Its also important to review your current site for it’s potential to convert visitors into customers. If the design is not up to scratch in this regard it may be better to re-design the website from scratch.

How Can I Ensure My New Website Is Built In a Search Friendly Manner?

The best way to ensure your new website is built in a search engine friendly manner is to find a web design firm who understands the importance of search engines to the success of your website and has knowledge of search engine optimisation and search friendly web design. Alternatively select web design and search engine optimisation firms who are happy to work together to ensure your website is search friendly.

The best way to find companies who have this expertise is by doing your homework, asking questions and looking at other sites they have built to see how search (and user) friendly they are. If they don’t seem knowledgeable and/or interested in search engine traffic I would suggest you run, not walk, away.

Conclusion

A search friendly website is vital if you want to receive targeted visitors to your site from the search engines, such as Google. Ideally having your website built in a search friendly manner from the ground up is the ideal way to go, however if your site has already been built talking to the right people can help you rectify the problems and reap the reward of targeted traffic to your website.

Local SEO Isn’t a Walk in the Park: According to Matt McGee

I’ve always found Local SEO an interesting prospect. Often what works to rank one site doesn’t work for the next. Trial and error and a lot of hard work is what will ultimately get you results, much like traditional SEO. Matt McGee agrees and has written a great post Why Local SEO is Harder Than SEOs Think. It’s well worth a read.

The Google Grail: Getting to the Top

With search engines accounting for up to 75% of visitors to a website, and Google being the dominant player in town, having your website listed and ranking in Google is vital to your online success. In fact not being in Google is like having an unlisted phone number. Unfortunately many business owners discover this to late and are unsure how to rectify the problem. The following article will provide you with a series of strategies to help ensure your site is listed, and at the top of Google’s search results.

There are a number of ways to ensure your website is at the top of Google. The three main approaches I recommend you start with are:

  • Building a Search Friendly Website
  • Optimising (SEO) an Existing Website
  • Implementing a Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaign

Building a Search Friendly Website

If you are about to start building your website you are in the perfect position to ensure your website is designed and built in a search engine friendly manner from the ground up. By search engine friendly I mean a website that is easy for the search engines to find, crawl and index. A search friendly website should also rank highly in the search engines for keyword phrases related to your business.

Unfortunately many web designers have no understanding of the search engines and do not take them into account when creating websites. For this reason it’s important that you find a company that understands how important search engines are and can help you develop and implement a strategy to ensure you are capitalising on the targeted visitors Google can send you.

The first step is to find out what knowledge of the search engines your potential web designer has. if they have none I would suggest looking for some alternative companies. Once you have determined your web designer can help you to create a search engine friendly website it’s time to sit down and discuss the strategies you will adopt. You and your web designer should discuss:

  • Website Goals
  • Your Target Audience
  • Keyword Selection
  • Content Creation

Website Goals

Talk to your web designer about what you want to achieve with your website. This could include generating online sales, attracting targeted leads, increasing newsletter sign ups, online subscriptions, advertising sales and so forth. These goals will help you with the steps outlined in the next few sections.

Your Target Audience

It’s important that you define your target audience(s). Who is your website gong to be targeted to? I would recommend breaking your audience down in terms of:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Location
  • Income
  • Internet skills

It’s also important to consider primary and secondary audiences. Perhaps your main audience are people you want to sell products to but an important secondary audience is existing customers to whom you provide online product support.

Defining your target audience will help you to plan your search friendly strategy. For example whether your online audience is local, Australia-wide or International will have a big effect on the approach you will take in relation to Google.

Keyword Selection

Keywords are the words and phrases that prospective customers type into Google to find products and services they are looking for. Too often businesses fall into the trap of using words they, and their industry have for describing their goods and not those their customers are using. A successful keyword strategy will look at the words your customers are using – this is vital, as they are the ones you are appealing to.

I always recommend you start by brainstorming with your web designer to come up with an initial list of keywords. When undertaking this consider looking at the keywords used by your competitors as well as talking to your existing customers to see how they describe your offerings.

This initial keywords list can then be used by your web designer who will do further research to come up with a list of relevant, regularly used keywords phrases to incorporate into your website.

Content Creation

A main component of any campaign to get to the top of Google includes creating interesting content that encourages other websites to link to you. These “links” help boost the popularity of your website (as well as attracting potential customers) and helps you rank higher in Google.

There are numerus content creation ideas you could consider. They include:

  • Publishing a blog;
  • Hosting forums;
  • Publishing a newsletter;
  • Writing articles on your subject area;
  • Running a topical directory.

These content strategies can be implemented over time and will help your website stand out by containing valuable information relevant to your prospective customers as well as helping your rank higher in Google.

All of this information will help you and your web designer plan and build a website that not only appeals to your target audience but helps propel you to the top of Google. Remember building a website is an ongoing process and working on it steadily over time will help increase your chances of top search rankings.

Optimising (SEO) an Existing Website

If you already have website that is not performing in Google you need to discuss your options with your web designer or a search engine optimisation (SEO) expert. It is important to point out that SEO is a medium to long term strategy. It takes time to implement and see results but once the results start to roll in you will reap the rewards for a long time.

Your SEO or web designer will help you to ensure that your website can be crawled and indexed by Google and will be able to rectify any problems your website may have. They will also help you define your target audience and help you research and select the appropriate keywords for your business (see above in Building a Search Friendly Website) and incorporate them into your website.

Finally they will be able to monitor and track your success and make recommendations to increase your targeted traffic based on your own specific needs.

Implementing a Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaign

The quickest and easiest way to get to the top of Google is to implement a Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign. PPC campaigns are a short to medium term strategy – they can be running within hours and are a great way to drive prospective customers to your website quickly. For this reason a PPC campaign can compliment your SEO efforts. It sends you targeted traffic quickly while you wait for your SEO efforts to kick in.

Pay Per Click (PPC) ads are the sponsored ads you see on search engines such as Google. With Pay Per Click advertising you pay only when a customer clicks on your ad, regardless of how many times it’s shown. You select your search terms and set an amount you are prepared to pay if someone clicks on your ad. When a user searches for, or is using, a search term you have bid for, your ad will appear on the right side of results pages under the heading Sponsored Links. If a user clicks on your ad you pay the amount you bid for that term.

Pay Per Click is a great way to target hundreds of niche keyword terms for a relatively low cost. In addition it is highly targeted and the results are highly quantifiable.

A search marketing professional will be able to help you with ad copywriting, landing page copywriting and design, and set-up and monitor your PPC campaigns. As with building a search friendly website or implementing an SEO campaign you’ll need to sit down and determine your goals, target audience and keyword list. This information will help you develop a successful PPC campaign. PPC campaigns are highly quantifiable which will ensure you can measure the return on your investment (ROI).

By focusing on the 3 strategies above you’ll be in the perfect position to propel your website to the top of Google, ensuring your website receives targeted visitors that you’ll then be able to convert into paying customers.

Website Health Check: Is Your Site Search Friendly?

Kalena Jordan from Search Engine College has written a great article titled “Secrets Your Web Designer Isn’t Telling You”, in which she asks:

If I was to ask you right now “Are you absolutely certain that your web site is optimized for high visibility in search engines?”, what would you say?

Sadly the vast majority of websites have not been designed with the search engines in mind, and worse, many business owners have no idea that’s the case. And with so much traffic coming from search engines, it’s like being cut off from your air supply.

What to do?

If you already have a website, do some research to see if your site is listed in the search engines — especially Google. A quick way of doing this is to type your business name and/or website address into the search engine to see what results are found. Ideally you should be listed at the top of the results.

As well as making sure your site is in the search engine it’s important to see if your website ranks for keywords related to your business. So if you are a motel located in Bondi, for example, try typing “bondi motels” into the search engine and seeing what is returned. Ideally your website should be prominent. Repeat this for a variety of phrases.

If you are listed and ranking for relevant phrases good for you, however if you are one of the majority who is no where to be found, it’s a good idea to get some outside expertise to help get things sorted.

If you are about to start building a website, it is a good idea to discuss your search engine strategy with your web designers. If they don’t have one, or have no idea what you are talking about I’d suggest firing them and finding someone who does know.

Remember: Having a website that’s not in the search engines is like having an unlisted phone number.

References
Secrets Your Web Designer Isn’t Telling You by Kalena Jordan.
Website Health Check Report by ThinkProspect

Seven Sins of Website Design

Your website is one of your most important marketing tools. Unfortunately what many people don’t realise is that a badly executed website can let you down and cost you sales if it’s not built properly. I consult to a lot of people who approach me when they realise their website is not performing as they expected. When analysing these sites I find the following 7 website mistakes crop up time and time again.

1. Inconsistent Brand Image

This is perhaps more common with websites that were built over 3 years ago but so many websites have no connection with their company’s brand image. When building a website you need to make sure that your web designer has a good understanding of you business’s goals, brand and current marketing materials and can reflect them into the design of your website.

When starting work with a new client I always ensure they send me copies of their current logo and any marketing material they use. This includes, business cards, letterhead, brochures and any advertisements they run. I then use these to help ensure that the design we come up with is an accurate reflection of their company’s image and brand.

2. Not Including an About Us Page

People like to deal with other people not anonymous corporations. If I’m looking to buy a product or hire a company online one of the first things I do when I land on a website is check out their About Us page. I want to know who I am dealing with. If I can’t find one I wonder what that business has to hide. Worse is the boring bland About Us that makes me wonder whether the business is run by humans.

Use your About Us page to engage your prospects, tell them about your company and to encourage them to want to do business with you.

3. Not Including Contact Details

Many websites avoid including their contact details. A big no no in my book. Contact details can reassure your visitors that your business does exist and they are able to get in contact with you if they need to.

This is especially important to websites that are selling products online. If you’re wanting people to hand over their credit card details you need to let people know how they can get in touch with you. This is how you establish trust between your site and your prospects.

In the very least I would suggest including a phone number and postal address. A company with no physical contact details is generally not one you’d want to do business with.

4. Ignoring the KISS Principle

In the words of the renowned usability expert Steve Krug “Don’t Make Me Think”. You have about 3 seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. In that time you have to tell them who you are, what you do and what’s in it for them. If you don’t do this they’re out of there – hitting the back button to try their luck, and spend their dollars, elsewhere. Here are some simple ways to help your visitor’s experience:

  • Design each page to have one main objective. Tell your visits what the page is about and what you want them to do next.
  • Keep your navigation labels (Services, Contact Us etc) simple and self explanatory. It should also be consistent throughout your website. This is probably a little outdated these days (well I hope so) but don’t use obscure images in place of text. We call that mystery meat navigation.
  • Make it easy for your prospects by making sure clickable links look like clickable links. Online, an underlined word signifies a link. If it’s not a link don’t underline it.

5. Not Making Your Website Search Engine Friendly

I’m horrified at the number of websites I see that have not taken search engines into consideration at all. Search engines are one of the most common and popular ways for people to find your website. If your website has been designed and built in a way that is not search engine friendly you will have no chance of ranking in the search engines from the get go. Unfortunately there are many web design companies with no knowledge of how to build a search engine friendly website.

At the very least consider:

  • Incorporating targeted keywords into each page of your website. To do this you need to perform keyword research to select the most appropriate keywords related to your business and then assign one or two to each page of your site.
  • Make sure each page has a unique Page Title that incorporates your keywords and is compelling to encourage prospects to click on the link to your website.
  • Including unique Meta Description and Keywords on each page of your website. Again your meta description should be compelling and your keywords should be the same as those in your page title and body text.
  • Make sure your website includes a Site Map. A Site Map is a hierarchical tree linking to every page on your website. It is useful for visitors trying to find a particular page on your site and also helps the search engines crawl and index all of the pages on your website. You can see an example of a Site Map on our website.

See my list of resources at the end of the article for more information about search engine optimisation (SEO) and building a search engine friendly website.

6. Having Splash Pages

The vast majority of people visiting your website have a task in mind. They want to land on your website do what they need to do and then go. So why stop them with some fancy animation page before they can view your site. In a bricks and mortar store would you stop everyone at the entrance and make them view your commercial first? I thought not. So why put them through that on your website? I can’t think of a better, or quicker way to encourage someone to go elsewhere.

7. Websites That Lack Information

Website visitors are generally goal driven. Prospects visit your website with a goal in mind – whether that be purchasing a product, requesting more information or researching a future purchase. If your website does not provide them with the information they are seeking they will no doubt go elsewhere. Unlike many other mediums cost is not relative to space so you have much more opportunity to provide detailed information about your offerings. Use it. Or risk losing a sale.

I’ll give you an example. A while ago I was looking for a barbeque. I went to the website one of the most popular Australian barbeque brands. They listed everything about the barbeques except their prices. Being in a helpful mood I rang their customer number and explained how annoying it was to research their products but not to find prices. I was told they left off prices to stop their competitors seeing them. I kid you not. They figured they’d rather inconvenience their prospective customers than risk their competitors seeing their prices. Something a quick visit to a store or a phone call would fix. Not surprisingly I bought my barbeque elsewhere.

So there you have it, 7 of the most common website mistakes. If you already have a website it may be time to review the site and it’s performance and make changes where necessary. If you’re about to start a website design talk to your web designer about the points made in this article and be sure to address them. Online success is not guaranteed but with careful thought and planning you’ll go a long way in ensuring your website provides your visitors with a positive experience and performs as you expect.