What I Wish I'd Known Before I Built My Website, Part 3 - SEO friendly!

At David's recent What I Wish I'd Known Before I Built My Website talk, it was clear that business owners are concerned about making their sites SEO friendly.

Even if they weren't sure what SEO is, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce members at the lunch were worried about it and how the ranking of their site affects their business.I need an SEO friendly website We talked previously about how important it is to choose a designer who understands the technology of website function, not just aesthetics. Your designer needs to understand SEO as a part of that technology, so that your site is built for search engines from the ground up. Here are some tips to make your website SEO friendly!

When you build a website, you always have two audiences: the search engine and the customer.

The search engine is looking for rich, credible content, while the customer wants simplicity- to get in and get out. Why is the search engine looking for legitimate content rather than just checking to see if you sell the widgets the user searched for? Because a decade of SEO experts gamed the search system, and Google fought back with algorithms called Panda and Penguin. Sorry, but it's true. And yet you still need to trust these people with your business! Search engine algorithms are regularly updated, which is part of why SEO is an ongoing investment. And search engines look for regular content changes, while users don't have the same need.

After all, if you have a website and nobody can find it, what good is it?

Your domain name is the first place you can affect your ranking, and you may want to choose pragmatically. BerkeleyMassageTherapist.com is a good url for a massage therapist, no matter what your business is actually called. You will need to provide your SEO expert with clear and specific information about your business, so they have the correct terms to work with; there's no better time to create a vision of your ideal customer and what they would be searching for to find you. Does your business deliver gravel to three East Bay cities? Make sure the SEO expert knows that, so all three cities can appear on each page. If you have a separate person from the designer or SEO expert creating the content for your site, such as a copywriter, make sure that writer understands content optimization.

Your SEO and marketing investment in your website is as critical as the site itself; David recommends earmarking equal dollar amounts for building and marketing the site.

Building a website is like having glossy brochures produced. Those brochures will not help you attract any new customers if they are sitting in a box under your desk. In order to make those brochures work for you, you need a marketing plan to get them into the hands of your target customers. Likewise, if your website strategy includes using your website to attract new potential customers, you need a marketing plan to get those potential customers to see your website.

Now, nobody in the room ever wants to hear that. And they want to hear the next part, that SEO, content marketing and social media are time investments that will take months to pay off, even less. But most business owners are familiar with traditional advertising, and the time and money investments it represented.

Making your site SEO friendly and creating a social media marketing plan (which we'll talk about next week) is advertising, plain and simple.

One of the members of the presentation audience was the owner of a sixty-year-old family business with no website. Business owners like this need to reallocate their advertising budget for the 21st century. How much are they spending on Yellow Pages or newspaper ads? Paying for a 2" by 2" ad in a paper vehicle that's thrown out after one day seems pretty crazy compared to a website that advertises your business worldwide, 24-7, with everything from product descriptions to customer testimonials. You won't be be able to do everything at once; your SEO or marketing expert can give you tips and tricks to create a strategy that will put your site to work. The important part is understanding that it's not enough to build it and hope they will come; you need to bring people to it.

The point is not to be intimidated, but rather educated and realistic. Better to build a smaller site that people will visit than a larger one that will gather dust. Your site doesn’t need to be the biggest, flashiest, or even the best. It just needs to be effective in helping you reach your goals.

Part 4 of this series. Part 2 of this series. Part 1 of this series.