Is Your Website Search Engine “Friendly” (Part III)

In Part I of this series (6 Questions to Ask that Will Help You Determine Whether Your Website is Search Engine Friendly) I discussed the need to make your website search engine friendly before you try to do Search Engine Optimization.  I think this is a necessity even when you have no budget for actual professional SEO, simply because search engine friendliness is possible and beneficial for any website budget.  It only requires some awareness when the site is being developed and the cooperation of your website developer.

In Part II of the series I discussed the need for a sitemap and search engine friendly URLs.

In this final installment I will be discussing questions 5 and 6 of our original topic, and both are discussed also by Google in their instructions for making your website “Google Friendly.”

Question 5 – Does your site have a substantial amount of relevant text on the home page?

Search engines are text-greedy.  They have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into discovering, indexing, organizing, and analyzing textual content.  Sure they also put a ton into image and video search, but text still is the locomotive that drives their engine.  So are you giving them text that will help them get a bead on your site?  If not, you’re definitely not showing them a friendly face.

Take a look at your home page.  Remove the images.  Google recommends looking at your browser in Lynx, which is a text-only browser; what a nightmare.  I think the most recent version of Lynx was created when Eisenhower was president.  Easier: Use Google Chrome and browse your website with images disabled (at least for this, Firefox is much more difficult to configure).  Now try to figure out what your website is about.  Can you do it?  Is there enough textual content without the aid of images to help the search engines determine what your home page is relevant to?  If not, you need to figure out a way to beef up your textual content.  Doing so will go a long way toward making it more welcoming to Google.

Here’s an example for you.  Note the images-on/images-off difference for Venus Clothing (who somehow bagged the very desirable name venus.com).  Note the screen capture below with images off.  There’s virtually nothing there!

screen capture of venus.com to show display with images on

 

 

another screen capture of venus.com showing images turned off and virtually no content

 

Question 6 – Does your site hide key information in graphics?

This is related to question 5, but a bit different.  Graphics can get you into trouble in a couple of ways with the search engines.  One is by slowing down your page load time (see question 2 of this series).  But additionally lots of companies make the mistake of putting their name, phone number, even their address into a pretty graphic that someone created using Photoshop and then dropped into their webpage.

Look at the examples above for Venus Fashion.  Even their company name is missing except for a small copyright notice at the bottom of the page.

While your browser is still in text-only mode (see above for instructions), see if you can find key navigational information or key company information.  If you can’t, turn images back on and see if it suddenly shows up.  It’s ok to leave key information embedded in images and graphics, but it’s not OK if that’s the only way it appears.  For example, if your company phone number is part of a beautiful image, fine.  Just make sure that you have it somewhere else on the page as text.

Well, I hope this has been helpful to you in making your website friendlier when Google or Bing come knocking…or rather, crawling.  If you want to go deeper into this topic, you can take a look at this guide from Moz, however when I looked at their article I found it, frankly, overwhelming.  As a business person I usually need immediate steps that I can take now, rather than a dense theoretical guide that I’ll get to in that distant and hazy future that never comes.

And for you SEO professionals who might be reading this, if you have run into other Search Engine Unfriendly stuff that business can and should watch out for without a huge investment of money, please leave it in the comments.

As usual, if you found this useful, please do me a favor and give it a Like, a +1, or a Tweet.

Internet Marketing for Local Business is a Team Sport

online-marketing-for-local-business-team-sportWe in the online marketing and SEO community need to do a better job communicating with our business audience.  We speak with clients regularly who expect that they can hire an SEO/SEM agency, wait for their rankings to soar, and reap the benefits.

Unfortunately, like most things in life, it’s not quite that simple.  For today I’d just like to focus on what you should expect if you engage a Local Internet Marketing expert to promote your “brick and mortar” business.  The operative expectation is this: be prepared to be a part of a team.  Don’t expect your “web guy” or your “seo gal” to do it all for you.  As a business person, you will need to play a vital role in making your local Internet marketing push a success.

Here are some of the important pieces of media and information you will need to provide to whomever is acting as your search marketing expert:

  • Access to passwords, login ids, email accounts used to set up listings, and so forth
  • A clear description of your business
  • Clear, quality photographs of your business
  • Complete access to your website
  • A way to change the code on your website pages
  • Good descriptions of your goods and services
  • Time for responses to the SEO consultant’s questions and requests (these responses need to be timely)

A Few Details

The first thing that the local optimization expert will do (or should, if they know their stuff), is ask you about any areas where you have created an online presence.  You might have set up an account on Yelp, or Google Places (also known as Google+ Local).  You might have set up different identities on these sites for different locations of your business.  It will be up to you to track down those details, which involves thought, interviewing employees, and pouring over old emails.

Then, the Internet Marketing consultant will need to make sure that your local listings on the major search engine local portals (by that I mean Bing Local, Yahoo Local, and Google+ Local) are formatted in just the way that those key players are expecting.  The consultant will probably have to make changes to your listings, and the search engines will need to send you a verification request (which is usually a postcard).  You will need to alert your employees to any mail, or even phone calls, that come in from Google, Bing, Yahoo, or Yelp.

Next your Internet marketing consultant will need to you to give them a good description of your business and high-quality photos.  Increasingly Google, especially, are relying on visual representations of your business, and so top quality photography will pay off.  Typically, this will be a role you will need to play.

Then your Local SEO expert will need to coach you on how to enroll your customers in leaving reviews about your site, and where it’s best to leave those reviews (it will vary from business to business).

After that, expect regular requests from your local SEO expert to provide media, changes to your website, social media interactions, keyword ideas, access to people in your organization who might help.

Local small businesses are no longer getting a pass with Google and the rest.  They need to work hard to create a quality site with great content that conforms to the (sometimes) quirky rules of the search engines in order to score.

But if you and your web company do the hard work of functioning like a team, your results will show up on the score board.  But remember, you have to do your share.

Roy’s Blog: Viking Ship and SEO Talk in Las Vegas

Viking ShipRecently I dropped in to visit my favorite Las Vegas furniture store (also a client), Vizion Furniture, and a poster on the wall, entitled “The Burial of a Viking Queen,” caught my eye. The poster described the recovery and restoration of a Viking burial ship dating back to around 800 AD. The ship contained the remains of a Viking queen and her attendant.

What is unusual about this particular ship is that 90% of the original wood was still intact, preserved and hermetically sealed from decay by the clay in which the ship had been buried. Usually when Viking ships are recovered, only the iron rivets survive. However in this ship wood, metal, leather and even woolen materials were preserved. Artifacts found in the ship included two small axes, kitchen equipment, a small wooden chest, with hinges that still worked, beds, sleds, wagons and a small vertical loom.

Paul Mikkelsen, owner of Vizion Furniture recommends a visit to the reconstructed vessel, called the Oseberg ship, which is on display in the Viking ship museum at the University of Oslo Museum of Cultural History. He has considerable world knowledge and we have spent many enjoyable moments discussing Viking ships and various aspects of Danish culture. Visit the museum website to read more about the story of the Oseberg find as well as other Viking artifacts.

Vikings and SEO

Carved Dragon on Viking ShipThe recovered Viking burial ship, also known as “Dragon Ship” because of the dragon carvings on the prow, reminds us that something that is built well will stand the test of time. Like the Viking ship, great SEO is a building process that will establish your website with a solid ranking presence for the long term.

Viking warriors were well known for their ferocity and ability to conquer wherever they landed. They were more than that, of course, and had a rich culture with its share of poets, lawmakers and artists. They were feared and admired throughout their 200 year reign over the Northern seas.

Like all great organizations, Vikings had their own code of ethics represented in the Nine Noble Virtues:

            1. Courage
            2. Discipline
            3. Fidelity
            4. Honor
            5. Hospitality
            6. Industriousness
            7. Perseverence
            8. Self-reliance
            9. Truth

As in all great endeavors, one can say many of these virtues are needed for long term success. And this can be applied to SEO as well. Great SEO requires, among other virtues, discipline, industriousness and perseverance. An SEO program can require months of dedicated work, sometimes up to a year or more, before the full reward is obtained. Ranking well in organic search is the result of a combination of factors that are carefully crafted by Google in their famous algorithm to provide its clients with the highest quality organic search results. Like with your real world business, your Google ranking requires you to build a solid reputation online with, among other things, interesting, original and relevant content, a wide-reaching and positive online reputation, effective landing pages, a solid, healthy website, and the recognition of your peers through relevant backlinks to your page content. Remember the Vikings as you embark on your website, SEO and Internet Marketing odyssey.

Infographic: 10 Tips to Keep Visitors 20 Seconds

This infographic is a companion to a blog post we published that gives some easy-to-understand tips that anyone can put into practice to make sure their web content has the best chance of engaging site visitors quickly.

 Info graphic, tips for writing engaging web content

 

Here’s a snippet of the infographic:

info-graphic-writing-for-the-web-highlight

Feel free to embed this infographic on your site.  Here’s the code:

In Internet Marketing, 10 Will Get You 20

woman with clock to illustrate point for web copywriting article

How to Keep a Visitor on Your Site Long Enough to Make Them a Customer

According to Internet usability guru Jakob Nielsen, the first 10 seconds are crucial to your online success.  Here’s what he says:

If the Web page survives this first — extremely harsh — 10-second judgment, users will look around a bit. However, they’re still highly likely to leave during the subsequent 20 seconds of their visit. Only after people have stayed on a page for about 30 seconds does the curve become relatively flat.  Source: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-web-pages/

When he talks about “the curve,” he means the rate at which users leave your web page.  The drop-off is highest in those first 10-30 seconds.  If you can engage your visitor for a scant half a minute, your chances of being able to communicate your full marketing message improve dramatically.

If you’re a business owner who can’t afford to hire a “guru” to write your web copy, simply keep a link to these tips handy and you’ll be on your way to that magic “conversion” moment when a visitor becomes your customer.

10 Tips for Writing Effectively for the Web

  1. Info graphic, tips for writing engaging web contentYour headline is the key.  Make your headline powerful.  Your headline is the key not just to the first 10 seconds, but the first 3.  Spend time with it.
  2. Understand your visitor.  Before you even get started with point number 1, do some research on who your target audience is.  Research doesn’t have to be hard.  Try asking some of your existing customers or website visitors (for example with an easy online survey) why they came to your site.
  3. Focus on visitor intent.  Once you understand your ideal visitor, and why they came, you’re ready to craft a message that addresses their specific wants and needs.  If you match that “why” you stand a better chance of getting them to ask “how do I buy?”
  4. Engage them.  No one wants to hear your elevator pitch.  People don’t like to be preached at, and make no mistake, a lot of sales talk comes off as preaching.  Instead, involve your visitors with a hook or a question.  Sort of like we did with this blog post, right?
  5. Make it clear.  If you confuse your visitor you might as well give up on them.  And you’re not a good judge of what will confuse them.  Why?  I guarantee that you’re too close to your product or service.  This doesn’t mean you should stop writing your own copy.  Just make sure you share it with at least 5 people outside your organization and see if your written content is immediately clear.  Remember, it has to be clear in seconds.
  6. Don’t fight their eyes.  People have predictable ways of visually taking in your content.  Don’t get so creative in your layout that you ignore typical user behavior.
  7. Use the golden “F.”  Eye tracking studies have shown that people scan a page in an “F” pattern.  They start at the top left, move across then down.  Their eyes stop going across the page as they go down looking for something interesting.  Make sure your important points are top and left.  This is also known as the “golden triangle.”
  8. Go lean.  Too much text puts eyeballs to sleep.  Even if you have a lot you need to say, break it up into short paragraphs and lots of headings.  Better: try always to say what you need to with fewer words.  The Gettysburg Address is not the most famous speech in American oratory because it’s long.
  9. Use bullet points.  Remember those eye tracking studies (see tip 7)?  Well they also show that people invariably will scan bullet points.  Make sure you use bullet points to present the things that are most important to your visitor.  (Use these bullets to match their intent, as indicated in tip #3)
  10. Neuroscience is your friend.  Use it when selecting images.  Part of “writing” for the web is making sure that you include some visuals.  (If people wanted nothing but text they would all have the 1995 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica on their shelf.)  But more than a pleasing image, use a shot with some persons face looking at the visitor.  Reason?  From the time we are babies we are wired to look at faces and eyes.  Naturally you want to make the face relevant to your content.  Example: If you’re marketing a car show the face of someone driving it, or standing by it, or sitting in it.

Get the Infographic

As a visual reminder of these 10 tips, we’ve created an infographic, 10 Tips to Keep Visitors 20 Seconds, that will help you to quickly remember them and apply them whenever you write for the web.  Follow these tips and you’re well on your way to breaking that 10-second barrier and connecting with your next customer.