A recently client said to me “I want to make sure my new website shows up on Google”. Of course, that's the goal of many clients who come to me looking for a professionally designed website. And I hear these questions a lot. So, in one place you can find your answers to the basics of SEO: Beyond Keywords.
First, let's start from the beginning: website design. The design of your website has more to do with search engine optimization and being seen by the search engines than one might initially think. There are many “do it yourself” website programs that make most people think that you can design your website with no assistance from a professional. Well, you might get a website, but you might NOT get seen. Many of these do it yourself programs throw in extra codes (the information that tells the webpage how to appear). To search engines, like Google, Yahoo, etc., all those extra codes look like extra words, which means more information to sift through before reaching the important TEXT and KEYWORDS within your website. The search engine gets tired and moves on, leaving your website ranking lower than others. Allowing a professional to design your website would likely bring you more customers simply because of the coding factor.
TIP: when looking for a website designer, make sure you ask if they also understand coding. Many designers use the same “do it yourself” programs you do and ma not have any idea how extra coding affects the website.
Using your keywords within the text is extremely important. Even more important is to use your keywords within your page title and headers and to have them coded correctly (AGAIN WITH THE CODING!). Just as the prominent text on your webpage is used to tell a visitor “this section is important” or “this section is about …”, the same is true for page titles (the area above the page that appears when you go to a website) and headers (the highlighted text within your website). If these areas are important enough to catch the eye of your website visitor, then they are worthy of being coded as important for search engines as well. For instance, if you own the business “Equestrian Farm” and offer boarding for horses in Maine, you might be tempted to put your business name on the page title. Surprise! Think about using some of your keywords within the page title “code” … “Horse Boarding in Maine by Equestrian Farm”. Much better!
Ok - so let's move on from all this coding and talk about links. Even if you design your website yourself, you can add important links within your web pages that will flag the search engines to your important keywords. Within each and every page of your new website design you can place a few links to OTHER pages within your own website that, like visitors, will lead search engines to those important words, phrases and pages within your website. For instance, our “Equestrian Farm” company also training for young horses and may have an entire page on their website dedicated to explaining this and other services offered at their farm. On the home page, you might have a brief paragraph telling of other services offer and includes this sentence: “We offer boarding and training for your horse.” There are two ways you could use this to your advantage.
1. “We offer boarding and training for your horse.”
Example 1 at least offers a link to another page on the website using keywords. However, it is less likely to be picked up only because a search engine will see the word “boarding” and “training” and have no reference as to what kind of boarding or training, thus pushing it to the back of the pack.
2. “We offer boarding for your horse and horse training at our facility in Maine.”
Example 2 incorporates the keywords “boarding … horse” into the same link, as does the reference to “horse training”. Now, when someone searches for either of these phrases, they have already been flagged for the search engine as important and are more likely to be included in the search results.
TIP: Avoid using links that simply say “click here”. Why waste an important link on words that don't matter? A great alternative is “click here for more information about training your horse”. A quick easy change that can bring results!
And while we are talking about links, search engines LOVE links back to your website. The more good links back to your website, the better! Seems a bit like a popularity contest, but it works. How do you get these links? Well, there are the obvious search engine submissions (Google and Yahoo! are just two of many). But there are many other options that a professional website designer knows about, such as directory listings, free article submissions, and reciprocal links (I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine!). These links act as a referral for your new website and tell the search engines that you are worthy of their attention.
TIP: Beware … there are some bad directories out there and those can hurt you more than help you. This is where the help of a professional can pay off!
So, there you have it - the basics of search engine optimization beyond just keywords. Feel baffled? Then call a professional website designer. Many include the basics of search engine optimization in the price of designing your website. Remember, having a website is good, but having a website that gets noticed is money well spent!