We all know the importance of a digital presence in the marketplace today, and all of us have worked hard on designing, creating and maintaining a good website. But, is our target audience seeing our website or finding it? If not, why not?
I recently attended a short course for professional development in marketing and online communications at Cardiff University, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Unit on search engine optimization. There I learned that not only does your website have to have relevant content for your target audience (a given), but it must actively show the search crawlers (also called search robots or bots) that it has relevant information. And, it must appear to have good quality information and be trustworthy in order to be recommended by the search engines. Tips from the course helped each of us create a list of things that we could do to improve the performance of our website – something that might be of interest to you too.
How to assess your current standing within the market
A good starting point is to type your brand or company or business name into a search engine and see what comes up. Which of your competitors appears ahead of you? Do you appear on the map? Do you have any reviews or a star rating? Do any of your social media icons appear? One suggestion made was to use “Google My Business”—open an account and verify your business with a verification postcard for a more professional looking site. And use it to have a bit more control over what appears in the search results.
Then, put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer and type into the search bar a keyword or keyword string that a customer might use. For example, I typed “cutting edge hearing aid technology”. What comes up? If you’re not in the top 10 listings that are returned to you, then there might be room for improvement.
How to improve your search engine rankings
Here are 5 areas to work on to improve your search engine rankings:
- Research keywords and search phrases
Make a list off the top of your head of words that end users or potential end users might use to find information on the web. Make a list of 20 keywords (e.g. hearing aids, hearing loss, hearing aid specialists, hearing aid batteries, hearing aid reviews, etc.) and search phrases (where can I get my hearing tested, where can I buy hearing aids, what are the best hearing aids for mild hearing loss, etc.).
Think about general versus specific long-tail keywords (keyword strings) – you need a wide spectrum. Think about your geographic location, language, formal vs. informal language, and age groups. Also think about where people are in the purchasing funnel or buying journey. Think about their problems and how those problems can be solved. Think about what niche you can occupy.
Now, which keywords or search phrases are the most commonly used or relevant? There are free tools available such as Google AdWords that you can use to assess the relevancy of keywords if you want to dive deeper in this area.
- Optimize your pages with these keywords
Now, make a table of all your webpages and assign these keywords to different webpages. Each webpage should have 2-3 keywords with the strongest ones on the strongest pages. Set out which keywords should be targeted where.
Each webpage should address a different “searcher intent”, and you should be able to find these different keywords on the page. Look on a webpage at your page title, headings, subheadings, text, meta description, and pictures. Are your keywords for that page there? Don’t jam in too many keywords so that it reads badly – make sure that it reads well.
"Each page is an opportunity to answer questions people have – what’s the question this page answers?"
- Link-building and outreach
When search engines look for trustworthy sites, they look for inbound links to assess trustworthiness. What’s a good and useful link from an expert in the field and how could we get more inbound links like these? Who might be persuaded to link to my website? Who can I establish and build a relationship with? Types of linking sites include blogs, businesses, forums, social hubs, and directories. Who should be linking to me and doesn’t (yet)?
- Check page load time and optimize for mobile devices
For good SEO, you also need a good load time for your webpages. Ideally, your webpages should load within 3 seconds. Page load time is a substantial signal in SEO, particularly for mobile devices. You can use Page Speed Insights to see how Google measures the performance and accessibility of a webpage. They also offer some suggestions.
- Look at your call to action buttons
This last step is part of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). After making the effort to bring people onto your website, you now want to keep them there and encourage them to take some action. Make sure that your call to action buttons are bright and cheerful (not gray) and in a color reserved just for call to action buttons – a color that is not used a lot elsewhere on the page.
Of course, there was a lot more content in the course than we can convey here. This is just an overview of the basics. We’ll be working on some of these areas for improvement over the next few months at Bernafon and will continue to focus on search engine optimization as an ongoing part of our digital marketing strategies.
Do you have plans to review your website by the end of the year? Or, is this on the list for next year? If so, I hope some of these suggestions are helpful for an SEO strategy of your own.