Johanna took a great brief, understood exactly what I wanted and made it so much better
-- Gary Betts, Sculptor
Posted by Chris on November 12, 2013
Over the years the search engines – and Google in particular – have put a lot of time and effort into refining their ranking criteria in order to prevent the kind of easy, often "black hat" Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tactics that worked in the past. The days when an unscrupulous web designer could simply fill the blank space on a page with hidden keywords and achieve a good ranking are long gone. Some unethical tactics will actually hurt your visibility or (in the case of link farming for example) even get you de-listed. Nowadays you have to work to achieve visibility.
The good news is that the process doesn't have to be onerous. The search engines value original, quality content, frequent updates and non-reciprocal links. They put increasing emphasis on the social media activity linked to your site. This works both ways – by encouraging visitors to your site you increase activity and generate links that in turn increase your search engine visibility. The single most important thing you can do is simply to keep your site fresh.
It's easy to set-up a website and just leave it – especially if it has an initial "wow" factor. Unless you have a complete monopoly in your field of business, at the very least you should be looking at completely renewing your site every few two or three years. It would, however, be a big mistake to leave it at that.
Nothing gives a worse impression in our experience than turning up on a site to find the blog posts or news items abruptly stopped over a year ago. It tells potential customers that you don't care. Ditto a site that looks ancient and outmoded, even if its content is current. If you're going to have a blog and/or a news page (and we would strongly recommend both), you need to keep them up to date and post something on them at least monthly and preferably weekly. The news you post needn't be earth shattering – it could be a new product or service, a new member of staff, a charity event you've sponsored or something funny the office cat did. Even if no one reads the article, Google will register it as activity and it will help boost your rankings. If you can post really relevant, exciting content, it will encourage potential customers to return regularly and to link to you, both of which again will improve your visibility. There is a strong feedback loop here to take advantage of.
Facebook and Twitter are powerful tools, both to connect with your customers and improve your rankings. If you don't have a Facebook page and Twitter account yet you really need to set them up. A blog is also a great asset and can be set to feed directly to Facebook and Twitter so that you need only post an article once to have it appear in all three media. It is important to post on your site first, rather than directly on Facebook or Twitter to the ranking benefit. Putting a "Like" button on your pages is also a very good idea. Again, it doesn't take a great deal of effort to make a big difference. Just a few paragraphs and perhaps a decent photo taken with an inexpensive digital camera is all it takes. The content needs to be original and fresh – Google will detect content that has been lifted from somewhere else and assign it a much lower value, so manufacturers' press releases are of limited value if you don't also include your own take on the article, which will also help boost your own credibility and establish a rapport with your audience. The aim is to become an "authority" site.
Google Analytics will enable you to see who is visiting your site, telling you their age and gender, where they come from geographically, how they reached your site and how often they return. We can't recommend Google Analytics highly enough and it will provide you with a wealth of marketing information in readily comprehensible online reports that you can use to power your marketing campaign and inform your advertising spend. This is really a subject all of its own and we would encourage you to find out more at http://www.google.com/analytics/
You can put as much effort as you want to into keeping your site fresh, but even a small amount can make a big difference to your rankings in a competitive environment. A half an hour a week or a couple of hours a month isn't a big price to pay to get the most out of your website investment. Not taking the time to do so could give your more web and social media savvy competitors a crucial advantage, robbing you of precious customers and business.
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