Although no longer as critical as it was a decade ago, establishing a well optimized business website is still one of the best ways to help customers find your local establishment online. While customers may find your Yelp page or business directory listing through a local search, if they can then follow the link to a helpful, informative website, they’re much more likely to pay you a visit. A well-optimized website also strengthens your overall web presence, giving all of your listings a boost in the rankings.
What is a Well-Optimized Website?
A well-optimized website takes advantage of all of the most effective search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, while providing useful and relevant content that visitors will find helpful, informative and/or entertaining.
Above all, you want to keep your site user-friendly and fast to load, so that customers don’t get frustrated and leave without fully checking it out (known as a bounce rate). Google and other search engines will downgrade websites that aren’t working properly, are slow loading and/or have a high bounce rate.
Search Engine Optimization Techniques
SEO techniques involve choosing the right keywords and managing the various parts of your page so that they contain descriptions and content that will help your page rank higher in searches for those keywords. The most important parts to consider are the title tag, meta description tag, header tags, image file names and alt tags as well as, of course, your text.
Choosing the Best Keywords
Keywords are the actual words or phrases that a user types into a search box in order to find what they are looking for online. While volumes have been written over keyword selection, in the interest of time we’ll condense it to a basic concept. Your keywords should reflect your product or service differentiators, whether you’re the fastest, the cheapest, the most convenient, the highest quality. Whatever it is that makes you better than your competitors should be included in your keywords. Next is location; users often type in their location when looking for a local business. Include your city, your county and your specific neighborhood or borough. As for your product or service, concentrate on specific descriptive keywords over general ones, i.e. Shiatsu rather than just massage.
Create a Compelling Title Tag
You’ll find your title tag near the top of your site’s html; it usually looks something like this: <title>My Page Title</title>. Your title tag also appears at the top of your browser and performs much the same function as the title of a book. Start with a primary keyword right at the beginning and try to work in one or two more if you can, separated by a dash or a | symbol. Avoid making it one long list of keywords, however. Make sure the primary keyword is relative to the page content or you could be penalized by Google. Keep your title tag under 69 characters; anything else will be cut off. Create a unique title tag for every page, and keep it relevant to the page content.
Reinforce your Title with a Meta Description Tag
Like the teaser for a book, a meta description tag is used to give a brief description of the content of your page, and usually looks like this in your html: <meta name=”description” content=”My description” />. It should reinforce your page title, be clear and concise and entice the reader to visit the page when they see it in their search results. As with the title, place your primary keyword near the beginning, and avoid using too many keywords (called keyword stuffing). The meta description is limited to 160 characters.
Create Interesting Header Tags
Header tags are your page headlines, starting with one large one <h1> and a number of smaller sub-headers decreasing in size, <h2>, <h3> etc. Your H1 tag is the most important, and should entice the visitor to read the rest of the page. Include your various keywords in your header tags, but remember, they should break up the text and define the next section, so keep them relevant.
Include Image File Names and Alt Tags
Too many people upload an image without bothering to rename it from whatever designation the camera gave it. This is an excellent opportunity to include a relevant keyword, as well as provide a description of the picture in the Alt tag. The Alt tag appears in place of the picture if the user has images switched off, if somehow the picture won’t show up on their browser or they’re visually impaired and using an audio assistive device.
Include High Quality Text
Your text should include a liberal sprinkling of your keywords, but avoid the frowned-upon practice of keyword stuffing. Make your text helpful, informative, useful and/or entertaining, and above all, relevant to the site content.
What About Links?
Avoid the temptation to purchase links; you could be penalized. Instead, try to get links by engaging with others in your industry through guest blogs and references. The more your page is cited by other websites, the higher its search engine ranking. Google is increasingly looking at social media links, likes, shares and so forth, so be sure to connect your website to your social media pages and post regularly.
While developing a strong, authoritative web presence takes time, it is possible, especially at the local search level. While most of your website may be static most of the time, you can keep it fresh by including a blog page, and linking and sharing with your social media pages.