by: Katie Hellmuth Martin
There are several basic principles to follow in order to create a good SEO (search engine optimization) environment on your website. There is also a myriad of ways to creatively help your website rank in the search engines. Although technologies and tools have changed over time in order to improve your website's SEO, what has not changed is the end goal: getting ranked highly in the search engines. Translation: when someone is searching for what you sell, they type something into Google (or Bing, Yahoo, etc). And your website is the one you want them to see right away in those search results, and click on. Of that statement, "see and click on" is another challenge, after you've ranked highly for a term. In this article, we are going to focus on two ways to rank highly in the search results.
These days, there are several ways to rank in the search engines:
- Your own website ranks.
- Another website ranks for you, like a review site (Yelp) or a social networking site (Facebook), or another website that talks about you (blog, press, retailers who sell your product, etc.).
- Location on a map for local search results.
- Ads (Google Ads, Bing, etc).
We are going to focus on the first two: your own website, and another website that ranks for you. And, we're going to use a case study to help it all make sense.
WHEN YOUR OWN WEBSITE RANKS FOR A SEARCH TERM
A lot of business owners new to SEO think, or expect, that the goal is for the home page to rank #1 in the search engines. While this hopefully is the case for when a potential customer searches for your business name, it may not be the case for if they search for what you sell, and don't know your business name. You want those people because there are more of them. There are more people who don't know about your business than there are those who do about.
How do you find these people? One way is to attract them to your website. More specifically, attract them to your interior website pages, like products, articles, about us, press, staff page, etc. The content on the rest of your website, aside from your home page, is very specific, and probably holds the exact answer to what your new customer is looking for. You want these pages to rank highly in the search engines. The only way to do that, is to follow these steps:
- Title tag: your "title tag" should have the keyword terms in it. Ask your website person how to access this, and edit accordingly. Or, tell them precisely, word for word, what to put in there. Or, hire and SEO copywriting expert to write this for you, and submit to your web person.
- Body copy: in your main body copy for an article you wrote, or a product description, be sure to mention the keyword a few times.
- Image alt attribute: If you have an image on the page, fill in the alt attribute with a description of what the picture is. This, usually by default, will include the keywords you are targeting because you are describing the picture. Depending on what kind of website you have, this may not be easy to access. Ask your website person how to access it, or tell them precisely what to put in there.
- Links from the page: If you can, link from your website to another website that has to do with the topic at hand. Or, link to a page on your own website that deals with the topic at hand. This may be tricky if you are a shopping website and are trying to sell your product, as, duh, you want them to click "add to cart", not on some related link to another website. But, get creative. If you blogged about it on your blog, or if the press covered it, link to the press coverage.
WHEN ANOTHER WEBSITE RANKS FOR YOU
Another website that talks about your company may out-rank you. Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, or other heavy-hitter news websites that gave you press may outrank your website for a specific term. Usually not your company name (hopefully not!), but for more specific terms, like for what you sell. If that is the case, and if you have control over the content that is on that other website, like at Facebook or Linked In or our website here, edit the copy so that people want to click on a link on that page that gets them directly to your website. This is where our website comes into play and can help with your SEO so that you can get more sales. Sometimes, our website ranks for companies who otherwise may not be ranking for something they sell, be that a good or a service.
At one point, we were ranking page 1 on Google for the term "breast cancer awareness month pink earrings". Why? We don't sell earrings. But one of our members does, and she listed her product in our shopping directory. Our member's website is ranking on page 10 for this term. It seems as though people want to show their support for this cause by wearing pink earrings, and they'd like to find a pair right now this instant. Well, one of our missions is to help people buy what they want - from small businesses. So when this member posted her product (pink earrings) in our shopping category in our Marketplace that we created specifically for "Breast Cancer Awareness Month Shopping" , it ranked for her product. Why isn't the company who is selling the earrings ranking for the term? Here is why:
- Title tag: The search term "breast cancer awareness" is in our title tag. A very valuable area for search engines, who weigh that spot heavily. The term is not in our member's page title at this time (hint: add it right now!).
- Body copy: The page on our website that is ranking is the "landing page" for this shopping category. It includes other products that are connected to breast cancer awareness. Therefore, the term, "breast cancer awareness" and "pink" are both mentioned several times on that page, as opposed to on our member's product page where "breast cancer awareness" is mentioned only once. On a product page, it may not make sense to mention it more than once as it could sound silly. This can be a challenge for ecommerce websites if they want their copy to make sense to normal humans vs a search engine robot. ;)
- Images: Our landing page has pictures. Those are fun and attractive for search engines. We give our members the ability to easily write their own alt attributes. Pretty sweet. Normally this is hard to get to by someone other than a techy.
- Links: Because there are other products being sold on this page, there are links to related products on the page, or so thought by a search engine. Of course, a person looking for pink earrings might not care about pink soap, but hey, it probably helped a little bit.
- Home Page Links: For a limited time, the member's product was featured on our home page and side columns. That helped, but the effect will fade away when the product is no longer featured. The most recent Marketplace listings created by members are automatically featured on our home page and side columns. Again, pretty sweet. It's like a free ad.
- Social Links: We link to that product and landing page from Twitter, and also did from our Facebook.
So what are you waiting for. Get into our collection of wonderful products and services from small businesses and independent brands by joining today and creating a presence here, and help your customers find you. If you're not ready to do that yet, just be aware of other websites that are ranking for you, and make sure you are shining on them!