The logo for the Victoria Web Marketing MeetupIn the latest Victoria Web Marketing Meetup we chose to do a night featuring live reviews of websites owned by attendees. The idea was to answer any pressing questions for at least 3 site owners while educating (or refreshing) the rest of the Meetup crowd. It was a lot of fun and although we had fully planned for a break half way through the 2 hour session the questions just kept coming and I decided to keep up the momentum… I would like to think attendees got a lot out of it. Anyway, below are a few of the issues I noted on the reviewed sites along with some answers provided for anyone who missed the evening or wants access to the URLs mentioned. I hope you find it useful.

1. How to optimize your website for local search

In this situation the website provided a local service but did not have its address located in the footer of each page on the site. I strongly recommended updating the footer to include the name address and phone number (AKA N.A.P) for the company because it would increase the odds the site would appear in local search results on Google. I also stressed the importance of using the same formatting for the address everywhere on the site and the Internet to maximize the likelihood Google & Bing would give them credit for their address.

In addition, I gave a quick walkthrough of the basics required to market a website successfully in local search based on the teachings of David Mihm’s annual Local Search Ranking Factors report; effectively the local search handbook.

2. a) Why having a business blog is a great idea?

Many website owners are frustrated because they can’t seem to compete in the search rankings. This can be for many reasons but one of the top  is often the lack of links to their website. When I mention link building most owners blanch (understandably) and many give blank looks. Fortunately there is a better way to get people to link to your website – write great content! That means not just writing good content on your service pages (though that isn’t a bad idea) but to have a blog where you, the business owner and professional, can show your expertise. You see many business websites exist which talk about all of the wonderful things they can do to help clientele but after a while that just isn’t enough for a discerning prospect. No, a person who is really doing their homework will want to see a business knows what they are doing and a blog is a great place to show that off.

For example, if you were a masseuse you could use a blog to discuss the best post-massage exercises to do and food to eat. You could also discuss the best massage styles for particular ailments or explain the various styles and their overall benefits. Simply put, a blog is a fantastic medium to not only promote your knowledge and business but to help others find great information in search engines. Catch that? Nice segue, eh! That’s right, search engines love good content because good content is what a search engine wants to provide to its searchers so they will come back and use the search engine again and again. That is why writing good content, simply put, is the best marketing tactic out there and the best medium to deliver it is a blog.

b) What if I have nothing to write about on my blog?
First let me remove some barriers.

  • Writing is a scary thing at the beginning for just about anyone not familiar with the artform but like anything practice does make perfect and you may find your workmate or wife/husband makes an excellent editor. After a few posts you will probably start to like writing or at least you will find it a lot less painless than you had imagined; if you still don’t like it look at the third bullet!
  • You may feel you don’t have the time but consider you only need to write (at minimum) twice a month and the posts on your blog do not have to be long… heck they could just be a few sentences full of tips or an example of something that happened at work the other day which may help others avoid or encounter the same situation. I recommend buying a cheap audio recorder and recording ideas for posts as you go throughout your day; I find this a fantastic method because it is always tough to think of an article idea when you need to.
  • If you genuinely do not have the time to write or don’t want to then consider an employee or co-worker. If even they are not an option you can also hire incredibly talented writers online for as little as $40 per article; a bargain considering a great article can bring business in droves.

All of that said, there have been instances where I had to agree that a blog would not be a good fit (or at least it would be a difficult fit) for a company. This is usually because the company sells something incredibly pedestrian or technical which does not suit a regular writing schedule. In those cases you will have to make do with powerful testimonial pages on your site and perhaps a personal touch in the form of a video introduction describing your products/services knowledgeably. If you need any ideas please give StepForth a call or request a web marketing consultation.

3. Do search engines care about META tags anymore?

Nowadays META tags play absolutely zero role in how well a website will rank in a search engine. In fact, you can totally forget about using the Keyword Meta tag… it is a waste of space; it was devalued by search engines a few years back. The Description Tag, however, is very useful for one thing; influencing searchers to click on your website in the search rankings instead of another search ranking. You see the Description Tag is your opportunity to create a pitch – a reason why a searcher should choose your website over another. The key issue here is the tag will only be used (and not always – it is up to the search engine) if it is highly relevant to the content on the page. In other words, make sure you make the Description Tag reflect the page’s intent clearly and you will have a greater chance of having it used as the description for your page in search results.

Again, just to be clear: Description Tags do not help your site rank BUT they can help your site get more visitors when you already rank well.

4. How important is the Title Tag? 

The title tag of your pages play a considerable role in how well your pages will rank in search engines as well as how likely someone will click on your page versus your competitor. This is why it is incredibly important to create a unique title tag for every page in your website – otherwise they have a much lower chance of ranking well in competitive search engine results.

5. How to optimize a website for search engine rankings.

This is a pretty general question but it reflects the answers I provided in my live reviews fairly well.

NOTE: Before reading the following be sure not to sacrifice the usability or readability of your website just to improve rankings! These tips are meant to be utilized with that cardinal rule in mind.

Here are some of the points that came up:

  • Plan your targets: each page of your website should have one or two central keyphrases they are trying to rank for. Do not try to rank each page for a large number of phrases unless they are all closely related (this is a broad rule which is applicable to most small business sites but not all). This can lead to topic confusion which will decrease the chances of a ranking. In cases where a page has a lot of topics it is often a better idea to break the page into two or more pages so each page focuses on a single topic. This will significantly  increase the relevance of the page and therefore the chances of a page ranking in search results.
  • Internal linking strategy: When you create a link within your website to another page within your site try to use text relevant to the page you are linking to. By doing so you will provide an additional indicator on what the page could/should be ranked under in search results.
  • Do not over-optimize: Search engines are vastly more complex than they were just a few years back (at least Google is). As a result, you should not hammer into the search engine what a page is about by overutilizing the same keyphrase over and over again in the same pattern (i.e. “search engine optimization tips” written 6 times throughout a 500 word page). In fact it is best to let the page speak for itself by making it a page about SEO tips and just focus on creating a great piece of content. Google often has no problem understanding acronyms and synonyms within an article and using this information to determine the overal relevance of a page. This doesn’t mean you should not use the phrase you are actually targeting the page to rank for but definitely feel free to mix it up and don’t always use it in the same form (i.e. tips for SEO, or tips for search engine rankings, etc.).
  • Images should be optimizated too: Do not forget images on your website can also be valuable opportunities for obtaining search engine rankings and visitors! What do I mean? Remember Google Image Search? Perhaps you have seen images showing up in standard search results. This is happening because Google knows certain images may be relevant to a searcher’s results and there is no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of this! In the ALT attributes of an image on your web page type in “image of” or “picture of” or “pic of” followed by a simple description of the image. These ALT attributes will help search engines deduce the photo’s content and will increase its chances of being found in search engine results. BONUS! Here is an old but still useful video from Google describing the importance of the ALT Attributes on your website! “Using ALT attributes smartly

And there you are! If you want to learn a lot more about SEO or perhaps 301 redirects (another topic that was raised) we have a substantial web marketing knowledgebase you can check out.

If you are in the Victoria (YYJ) area I hope to see you at the next Victoria Web Marketing Meetup where we will feature 3 speakers all on the subject of How to Create Effective Blog Posts.

Written by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.
Say hi to Ross on Google+ or Twitter (@RossDunn)