12/12/2013

By the team at Bizcrowd


Are you getting the most from your business website? If the answer is no or you’re not sure then it’s time to give it an overhall focusing on search engine optimisation (SEO) using two added technologies — web analytics and social media optimisation.

SEO is about getting your site to be as relevant to the search engines as possible. Think of it like a first date — appearances and effort count. SEO can help drive traffic to you, increasing sales or leads, enhance your profile and provide effective and low-cost marketing. Web analytics is about measuring the performance of your site using criteria such as the number of visitors it attracts and how long they stay on the site. The following should help you understand a bit more about what drives popular websites, how to improve yours and the pitfalls to avoid.

Links, keywords and clicks

Search engines look at two things: what is on your site and how popular you are. As far as links from other sites to your company are concerned, Google can be compared to a party. If you have A-list celebrities at your party, you must be really cool. Request links from authority figures in your sector — for example, trade associations or complementary, non-competing businesses. Before beginning work on SEO, consider your online business objectives. The key to successful SEO is researching the key search words and terms that your business wants to be found on by search engines, and what words your potential audience is searching on.

Key search words need to reflect what your business does, the products and services you sell and the markets you want to target. But you should never forget the business basics. Search engines don’t buy anything, people do! Online business marketing should always be focused on the customer. Put yourself in the customer’s seat and see how helpful your website is and then review your competitors’ websites. Borrow their best ideas, the ones you can really use and discard the rest.

Avoid using ‘click here’ as an internal link between pages in your site. This does not give the search engines any clue as to the nature of the destination page. Instead, use internal links between pages. Don’t rely on graphics and animation for SEO. As much as your website needs to be pleasing on the eye, search engines cannot index graphics and animation. Thinking about what those search engines will read should also help you define what USP your company really offers. If you decide to use an SEO agency, shop around. A growing number of agencies claim to specialise in SEO: good ones should be able to give examples of satisfied clients and explain their methods in plain English.

Focus on statistics

Analysing the performance of your site is easy, thanks to specialist software and there is a lot available for free, such as Google Analytics. Tis tool tells you which pages people are browsing on, how long they’re staying, their journeys through the site, and where they are coming from. These are the vital statistics that you need to examine to drive continual improvements to your website. Analytics software will also show your website’s ‘bounce rate’, the percentage of visitors who look on your main website ‘landing’ page for a short period and then go off to another site without investigating your site further. Making your website landing pages as engaging, up-to-date and useful as possible will help attract visitors for longer.

If you are planning advertising campaigns, use tailored landing pages on your site relating to the campaign. This allows you to analyse visitor behaviour for specific campaigns. There are many free and low-cost software tools for investigating which are the most popular keyword searches. Take time to research the best keywords for your business. Then once you have mastered this take time to get into the details of the data provided by web analytics and use the information to improve your website and your online business strategy.

Be Sociable

Social media technology, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, offers new marketing opportunities and sales leads for business. Using things like Twitter allows companies to use word-of-mouth to enter markets that would previously have required a lot of money spent on marketing. A small business can, for example, encourage customers to sign up to a Twitter or blog feed giving information about its new services and special offers. Alternatively, a business could distribute marketing information by creating an ‘app’ that customers can download to their phones to get updates on, for example, a company’s products and services.

Customers can ‘follow’ an online business on LinkedIn, Twitter or blog and choose to receive updates on its products. New technology also gives companies the potential to send information to customers based on their location. Smartphones are ‘location aware’, making it possible to search Google Maps for, for example, your nearest Indian restaurant. Nearby restaurants are displayed on a map, plus directions.

As a business you can either push information out via Twitter, MySpace or Facebook, and as a consumer you choose to follow things — pulling in information. The bigger some of these networks are, the more people they attract. It’s the snowballing effect. This is where word-of-mouth comes in. Research suggests that small-business owners are increasingly looking at social media technology as an important online business tool. The first step to take if this is new information for you is to open a Twitter account and subtly market your online business. Avoid the hard sales pitch and don’t be afraid to use (appropriate) humour. Follow other businesses and contacts for possible online business ideas. When tweeting, make sure it is useful information.

Social Media optimization

Social media optimization (SMO) used to be about driving traffic from social media sites but it is now much more important because of its increased impact on SEO performance. The Holy Grail is to achieve both direct social site referrals and a higher SEO rating.

In its essence, the core purpose of SMO is to generate traffic and awareness for a website by sharing content and links across social media and networking sites. Linkability is important but no longer key as search engines are increasingly using the recommendations of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to rank websites in their search results pages. SMO also is integrally focused on the content of a website, the authority of the author and the interaction between the author and the content.

Social signals provide a much better way of filtering out the noise and improving the quality of search results. As it is a way of having your content authenticated by others — if readers share it then it must be good. So try and share your business content on both your private and professional social media accounts. Be warned though that excessive link dropping is not SMO. Resist the temptation to join every LinkedIn Group, Google+ community, and to share links to your content seeking shares or comments. This behavior is not only frustrating for other users but counter-productive as real users are likely to unfollow you or hide your posts on Google+ and the situation is even worse with machine learning, because If there is no interaction with your posts and links, such as sharing, commenting or liking, then this would indicate to any machine trying to learn from the data that your content is not valuable. You would be far better focusing in specific communities and really engaging with a relevant audience and experts.

Bizcrowd is a free to use online community for UK businesses that is designed to help businesses get results by connecting them directly to other businesses that need their products or services.

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