This is it – article number 6, and the final in my 6-part series relating to your Mothership – your website or main online hub! This series is all about creating, designing and maintaining a professional online home, from setting it up, to updates, design and SEO. Here are quick links to the other articles, just in case you missed them.
Week 1 we looked at what constitutes a ‘Mother Ship’ (here), Week 2 we researched naming and hosting options available to you (here), Week 3 we checked out what your Mothership looks like (here), Week 4 was all about what to include (here), and last week was ‘Best Practices’ for saving and storing your web content as well as streaming video (and other multimedia) and adding e-commerce (here).
You’ll hear this term thrown around, often in a sales pitch from a website developer. It stands for Search Engine Optimization, or as I think of it: The art of making Google (and other search engines) love you (your site). Lets take a look at the different elements of your Mothership that you can update to make it a beacon for your audience.
As technology advances, Meta Tags are no longer the primary method that search engines use to source relevant content. However, they do still add to your search-ability and also influence accurate classification of your site. There are three areas that need your attention: page titles, site description and key-word tags.
Description: Your site description is the text that appears under your URL in a search engine results page. It should also include all your keywords and tags. If you understand HTML, you can add this yourself, if not ask your developer nicely.
Keyword Tags: Keyword tags are words and phrases that are relevant to your site – they must be directly relevant to the site content to satisfy SEO guidelines for getting more traffic. If you don’t know HTML well enough to add these yourself, there are plugins and software downloads that will help you add Meta Tags to your site, or ask your developer.
Keywords / Search Terms:
Set some time aside to create a really strong list of keywords. You’ll use these words not only for site SEO, but also in your site content, press releases, and bios. They are incredibly important. To get started, answer the following questions, your answers should be structured preferably in 2-4 word phrases.
What is the purpose of your website, including your product and/or service (if you have more than one, do this for each)
Words and phrases you think people will use to find your product/service
Local and geographic phrases people might use when searching for you (city, county, state or other references such as city districts or zip codes)
Information people might search for that pertains to your industry (for example, search phrases that begin with “how to..”) that you can provide on your website (if you provide valuable content, visitors are likely to bookmark and/or share your website.)
Next, use a keyword research tool such as Google Adwords Keywords Tool to find:
Suggestions of related keywords to add to your list
Search volume (how often a keyword/keyword phrase is searched daily, monthly, or yearly. More often is best!)
Your site should be mostly HTML, as search engines scan HTML text, limit any Flash. Any text on your site should also be heavily littered with your keywords. This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many people fail to take advantage of this as an SEO tool. Also, be sure to utilize image descriptions and tags within the HTML of your site. These are referred to in code as ‘Tag Alt’.
An inbound link is a link pointing to your site on another webpage. These are becoming more and more important in SEO optimization as Google (and other search engines) consider inbound links a great indicator of the quality of a website. It makes sense; it’s the equivalent of getting a great referral from a valued member of the public. The larger and more professional the site your link is listed on, the more gravitas search engines give it.
Inbound links are very desirable, so lets look at how you get other people to link to your site:
1. Engaging, remarkable, and relevant stories are still the best way to get people to link to your site. Writing blogs or news updates, or producing video that goes viral can encourage thousands of people to add your link. Sharing your stories via social networking sites can encourage this. Write a provocative blog title and use your profile updates to drive traffic to it.
2. Link exchanging is becoming more common. You might even receive emails from companies in similar fields to yours offering to link to your site in exchange for you linking to their site. It should be noted that such exchanges are not looked on kindly by search engine software as it’s kind of cheating! One-way links are best.
3. Another way to add inbound links to your site is listings on industry-specific sites. Actors can add their URL to their listings on IMDB, Actors Access and Backstage profiles. You can use website.grader.com or Google Analytics to find out the number of links to your site.
There are different tools available to you (some free, some not) that allow you to see a traffic report for your site. You can find out how many visitors overall, as well as how many are ‘unique’ (first time) viewers and at what times of the day, days of the week your site is most popular. Tracking allows you an insight into your audience and their behavior and to adjust your site design and your content to best meet your audience’s needs. You can move the most important elements of your site (for example your newsletter sign-up) to the most clicked on areas of your page. You can analyze which blog posts or news updates got the most attention. You can even find out what keywords (search terms) were used by people who visited your site. This is important information as it allows you to constantly add and update your list of keywords and in turn your SEO Meta tags, as well as the copy on your site and blog.
BLVDStatus.com provides keyword, traffic and inbound link statistics in an easy to navigate interface, and offer an affordable basic plan.
CrazyEgg.com provides heat mapping of your site. Areas on your site that get the most interest or receive the most clicks are graphically displayed as hot. The view is similar to heat-sensor goggles you see in movies. CrazyEgg offer an affordable basic plan, and offer a 30-day money back guarantee.
Google Analytics is a free service and offers all of the trafficking services mentioned above. You can compare your site to a competitor site, and find out how long visitors spent on each of your pages. http://www.google.com/analytics/
Run your site through website.grader.com to find out all your site’s SEO flaws, then follow the advice provided to correct them.
A Note About Content:
“It’s what inside that counts my friend, it’s not the skin it’s the nana.”
(Bollo, The Mighty Boosh)
We’ve covered the esthetic and technical elements of your site, but you need to think of the Mothership as more than an online resume or showcase. Your site is not a ‘destination’, but an interactive factory consistently producing interesting, viral content. You are not a broadcaster, shouting your sales message at people who dare to get close enough to hear it! To get people to your site, to get them to interact and communicate, to get them to keep coming back as regulars, and to get seen, you must provide an incentive. Content is the bait! Don’t let the quality and frequency of your site content ever wain.
Content can be your blog entries, your videos and photos, your reviews, comments on other people’s blogs, re-tweets of industry-related news stories – everything that you create. Constantly think about what you can give and contribute to the people within your online community. You gotta give to get, this is the one of the most important rules of social media marketing. In the coming chapters we’ll explore this concept in much more detail as well as look at all the different platforms available to you to accomplish this.
Use Flash sparingly, as it is becoming increasingly common for people to surf the net via mobile devices and not all smart phones support it.
Create regular back-ups of your site and all it’s associated content.
Create a community, don’t be a foghorn selling your brand, instead engage and entertain visitors!
Encourage ‘regulars’ by continually offering up to date and engaging content.
Create a magnetic hub for your industry that draws people in!
Make it easy for visitors – give them what they want in a glance and let them take it home (RSS, newsletters, etc).
Links: get your site linked to as many high-value, industry-related sites as possible.
Not just a pretty face – make sure your site functions properly ALL the time.
Remarkable content makes other people mention you and pass on your stories. These create echoes in the online universe that never go away. They are paths back to your site that, unlike paid advertising, don’t have an end date.
And that rounds up the basics of smart, effective websites – I hope you enjoyed it!
Next Monday, I am starting a new series – an actor’s guide to blogging!
Until then, enjoy your week – and keep sharing!
“People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people – and that social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”
Image by Les_Stockton via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.