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Do you know if your website is optimized by page or based on the entire website? Over the past 20 years of the commercial Internet the process of how the search engines determine how relevant pages within our website are for a particular search has changed quite a bit.
For those that can remember programs like Archie and Veronica, you can appreciate that there were times searches would take hours. Since then the search engines send a spider to your website to learn what is on each page. This information is brought back to the search engine database and is used to display results to those seeking the information.
To take this discussion further, each search engines has its own algorithm that determines if a web page is relevant to a search request. The most important item you will notice in this discussion is about relevancy by each web page and therefore each web page address or URL. Since search engines do not like duplicate information within a website you have to consider how to optimize each page based on the information on that page. How you optimized your privacy statement web page has to be different from how you optimized your services web page.
Keywords are used by people seeking information to describe what they hope to find when using a search engine. Keyword searching is the most common form of text search on the Internet and the searcher uses their own experience and knowledge to determine what keyword or phrase they will type for their search. The good news is that over time, the search engines have tools that will let us know how people may be searching for information on a particular page of our website. Armed with this knowledge you can now make changes to your web pages.
The focus of our discussion relative to keywords and content relevancy is specifically about organic keyword ranking. We will not touch on paid sponsored search advertising that most know as pay-per-click (ppc). We will also focus our attention on key phrases instead of keywords. Keywords tend to be very broad, have a lot of competing web pages and make it difficult to get top rankings for searches. Key phrases are a much better Internet marketing strategy.
For search engine optimization (seo) by web page, keywords or phrases are defined as the exact phrases used by searchers to find their information. Unlike ppc, seo requires knowing the exact phrase because the page will rarely appear under similar keyword phrases.
As an example, if you had 100 keywords or phrases that you want people to find you under and your website only has 50 pages, you will have to consider building up to 50 more pages to your website.
Once you know how you are going to optimize each page of your website, you will have to consider both technical changes to the HTML code as well as visible changes to the text on that page. In addition to this, consider that the entry point to your website may no longer be your home page. For this reason you will need to consider a call-to-action on each page of your website or re-visit your website flow in order to convert the visitor to your home page.
It is difficult to explain all the various details of per page optimization (ppo), however, the minimum would be the title, meta description and visible text copy. Some of these changes you may be able to accomplish using a content management system (cms) or reach out to your Internet marketer. Your web designer may not be the best source for this as their mandate is to create a visibly appealing website, not necessarily to focus on the technical coding of the website.
One additional point to make is that search engine optimization of your web pages is only one factor in the overall search engine ranking process. Many other factors play a role that include but are not limited to links from the outside to pages within your website.
Does your firm have an Internet marketing firm to support your business objectives with your website?
Do you think that W3C compliant web site HTML code can positively impact your Web site’s search engine rankings? Although you will find mixed opinions about this topic on the web, W3C compliance is incredibly important for browser compatibility and overall site usability. Therefore, it’s fair to conclude if code works well for the visitors and browsers, it can only benefit your efforts with the search engines.
The general concept is that while W3C compliant code may not necessarily propel your search engine rankings, bad coding can indeed cause lower rankings – especially if coding errors are significant enough to prevent search engine spiders from reaching your page.
Businesses and their Web Developers
Many businesses encounter obstacles related to W3C compliance. For example, a business may not be educated to recognize that W3C standards exist. When a business is aware of W3C standards, it may be challenging to distinguish between various Web site development disciplines, such as Creative Design vs. Applications/Databases vs. Assembly.
Let’s consider the different disciplines, and their involvement with coding. Many Web designers aren’t aware of W3C compliance or concerned with code. At the same time, many application and database developers are neither concerned with the creative nor W3C compliance. For these reason, you should look for someone with an understanding of coding structure to assemble the Website’s creative design, applications and databases.
There is pressure on Web developers (not creative designers who usually never look at Web site code) to ensure a Web site displays properly in different browsers. Finding a Web developer who creates an attractive site, that is also W3C compliant, can be challenging. Many talented Web developers do not create W3C compliant sites due to the time involved, as well as the lack of appreciation received from the client for doing so.
The slow conversion to “standards-based-development” is partially a result of how easy it is to create a non-W3C compliant Web site. With the boom and instant gratification of ‘what you see is what you get’ (WYSIWYG) site creation tools like Dreamweaver, it is now relatively easy for Web developers to create professional looking sites with little code knowledge. Overlooking source code errors happens easily because no one ever reviews the code. Some examples of sloppy coding would include improperly nested elements, unclosed tags, and unrecognized parameters.
While these errors may not affect the display of your Web page to a user, it can be an entirely different story for search engine spiders. Non-compliant Web page coding can result revenue losses due to your site not being ranked. Additionally, your Web site may be inaccessible to a larger audience, difficult to navigate, or difficult to maintain.
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
What exactly is the W3C? W3C was created in 1994 in collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), with support from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and the European Commission.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) sets the standards for coding HTML and CSS for Web pages. These standards are created for the very basic Web site to the most complex Web site and include things like Accessibility Standards. The W3C will also provide tools to validate your HTML and CSS code for free. You do not have to guess at the problems, they will not only identify them, but also explain how to correct them.
Requiring your Web developer to insure W3C compliance of all web pages may have the following positive benefits
• Better chances for good display rendering in different browsers
• Decreased dependency on error correction of browsers
• Potential speed boosts for your Web sites
• Increased opportunities for search engine spiders to understand your web pages and positively impact search engine rankings
So, why would one take the risk of having bad Web site code, if good Web site code will help visitors and search engine spiders alike?
Have you considered that your home page is not the only entryway to your Web site? In fact, visitors may never even view your home page, but instead, may access your site through its interior pages. This reality must impact your internal Web site marketing strategy. Especially since visitors are arriving at your site through interior pages:
• Have you ensured that all your Web site pages include a call to action?
• Does the flow of your Web site meet your business objective of generating revenue?
In October 2008, changes to Google’s algorithm affected how Google views and ranks Web site content. For example, duplicating content and information from one Web page to the next is not viewed favorably. Instead, Google prefers that each page contain it’s own content and topic; and ultimately, each page should also be optimized uniquely. This is known as content relevancy; and it greatly impacts the entry point of a visitor to your Web site.
Let’s take an extreme example. If the privacy or legal pages of your Web site were optimized within the header tags and visible text, then theoretically either of these lower priority pages could be ranked for terminologies about “privacy” or “legal” statements. If a visitor enters your Web site from one of these pages, do they contain the appropriate call to action to engage the visitor to further explore your Web site?
If you’re wondering how someone would enter your Web site through an inside page and not through your home page, the answer is fairly simple. Google and other search engines index all of your Web site’s pages. When someone searches for a keyword or phrase, if an inside page is relevant to the search, then the inside page may show up in the search results.
The fact that any Web page may become an entry point, affects the internal marketing of a Web site’s design, layout, and flow. Most companies and their Web site designers spend a lot of time on the home page and not nearly as much on the inside pages.
Capitalizing on interior visitors requires a Web marketing analysis and strategy, versus simple design changes.
To develop an internal Web site marketing strategy, an internet marketing team will evaluate Web site statistics, as well as click density heat maps and your Web site analytics. A variety of questions need to be answered to determine how the internal Web site marketing should be changed:
• How many visitors are reaching the inside pages?
• Which pages are they reaching?
• What do they do once they arrive?
• How and why did they arrive at a specific page?
• How many people visit inside pages of your Web site as an entry point?
• Do they continue to explore your Web site or do they leave upon arrival?
• How long did they stay on those pages?
Look at your Web site’s statistics to learn more about answering these questions and to capitalize on Web site traffic arriving through interior pages. What percentage of visitors are entering through inside pages?
When you develop your business Web site, do you think about return on investment or how it will look? In the early 1990s, it was easy to ask a system administrator to develop a Web site. Back in those days, the Web site was mostly a brochure, and many didn’t necessarily focus on a call to action, the business brand, or the creative design. The 1990s did not require the sub-specialization needed for today’s successful Web sites.
When engaging in Web site development today, it’s critical to evaluate return on investment. In order to foster results and return on investment for a Web site development project, there are several elements which require consideration. In this discussion, we will not touch on the obvious creative development, but rather emphasize other process elements.
Brand Recognition and Strategy
How will your business name and brand interact with Web site visitors? What will these visitors take away from the Web site; and how will this strategy impact your marketing outside of your Web site later? (A very simple example that tends to be overlooked is your Favorite’s Icon for your brand, since this Icon may carry over into traditional print marketing pieces.)
Research, Strategy and Planning
Every page of your Web site has to be optimized differently and adhere to content relevancy algorithms of the search engines. Understanding how each page will be optimized is important to facilitate Web site marketing. You do not need to guess how to do this, rather use various existing tools that will help you.
Competition and Competitor research helps determine why other Web sites are ranked before yours and how to plan the development accordingly. Also, the ways in which competing Web sites are designed, how they flow and how their Web site metrics are performing will help determine what needs consideration in the planning process.
Subsequently, if every page is optimized differently then each page can become an entry point to your Web site. The impact this has significantly changes the content of each page of your Web site too.
Business and Creative Objective
This objective will determine how to develop the Web site flow. What is the call to action to get the visitor from the entry page to an information page to an action page?
Content Management Systems (CMS)
CMS gives you the ability to manage your Web pages without having know HTML code. It is an interface, in most cases, similar to using Microsoft Word. CMS uses a database and program infrastructure in order to give you this ability to present the Web pages to visitors. To use CMS, a Web site may be prepared using templates and needs to be planned for current and future considerations.
In the above items, you will find that the disciplines needed for Web site development in today’s business environment cover:
1. Brand and Marketing Intelligence
2. Creative Design
3. Technical Programming, Software and Databases
4. Web Site Assembly, Management and Maintenance
We have seen many times where clients expect their Web developers to have the knowledge and experience to plan around Web site that has results. While some developers possess this capability, unfortunately, the time and discipline required to understand these aspects are not necessarily a part of the average Web developer. Sometimes clients and Web developers have a mis-communication or misunderstanding around the expectations of the realistic results that could be better managed with the appropriate skill set.
As we think about business Web site development, we have to realize the project is not only a minimum of 3 months from start to finish, but also plan around the expected results and return on investment. You are no longer developing a brochure, but a business tool that will help generate revenue. Does your Web site perform to your business objectives?
Website Technical Marketing is the process of insuring your website, your web pages, and the web server all work together. The process helps to insure the website is indexed, that the pages are ranked by the search engines, and that the website will function technically on the Internet.
You would be wrong to think this is search engine optimization (SEO). Search Engine Optimization is a sliver of the work. At SmartFinds we have taken the entire Website Technical Marketing process and developed a Proper Protocol Package (P3). Our technical checklist will address technical issues without compromising the visual design of the website. A sample of what is included in this process:
- Recoding of Website to current standards
- Per page search engine optimization (seo)
- HTML and CSS Validation from the W3C (The World Wide Web Consortium)
- Implement with SmartCommerce™ (E-Commerce and Content Management System)
- Implement hosting server software applications that aid the process and help monitor the marketing process.
Our P3 process also helps to answer, plan, implement and monitor the following types of questions:
- Is your website on a shared server?
- Is the shared server black listed because of another website on the server?
- Is your website blacklisted?
- Do you have server website statistics?
- Do you have analytics about your website?
- How do the website statistics and the analytics compare?
- Is your website code using current standards?
- Is your website code compliant with the W3C standards?
- Do you have link errors within you website?
- Does your website link to web pages that generate an error?
- Does your website contain all the current header tags?
- Are you using a sitemap on your website? This is not a web page, but a file that sits on the hosting server for the search engines.
- What have you done with your sitemap, if you do have it?
- Do you have an account with the major three search engines for your website?
- Does your website contain all the necessary server files for the search engines?
- Do you have any hindrances due to security that would impede your website from being indexed or having your web pages ranked?
As you can see Technical Marketing is much more involved than basic search engine optimization and no longer the process that was undertaken of the wild wild west of the 1990’s.
If you want to start by setting up your website’s sitemap, check out the sitemap generator from XML Sitemaps.
Many times when we engage our clients in a Content Management System (CMS) training session, we’re introducing a CMS to individuals who have not previously been involved with updating the back-end of a Web site. At the start, there’s often a sense of excitement, followed closely by anxiety and nervousness. The training attendees seem outwardly concerned that one mistake will drop their company’s Web site like a house of cards – and leave them holding only a pink slip! The good news is that it typically doesn’t take any time at all for these staffers to relax, gain comfort, and become pros.
A CMS after all, is an application which is intended to allow less technical individuals to update, edit and manage content on a Web site without necessarily being knowledgeable of coding or Web site programming. Having a CMS at the fingertips of internal staff allows for easy and instantaneous Web site maintenance. While some items still require a technical Web developer, a large portion of work can be handled by non-technical staff members using the CMS.
Many of today’s Content Management Systems are power-packed with flexibility and function. Features of a highly automated system may include an online store, shopping cart, credit card processing, inventory management, cross-selling, customer and order history, gift certificates, coupon codes, automated email notifications, shipper integration, invoice and packing slips, customer ratings/reviews, content management and much more.
Not surprisingly, individuals really prefer to utilize a system that looks and feels familiar. Something that isn’t intimidating to even a beginner. One of the many reasons, after all, that the Internet itself became increasingly accessible and desirable around 1995 is that people became more comfortable with it – and so, CMS users also seek a system that is easy to understand and navigate.
A particularly well-liked CMS among our clients is a proprietary system which we refer to as “SmartCommerce System”. The SmartCommerce system is appealing because it looks and feels familiar right from the start. Compared to many other CMS, the SmartCommerce system is search engine friendly and the code is W3C compliant.
SmartCommerce basically puts a Web site on auto-pilot and improves the functionality and overall user experience – both for e-customers and for personnel who manage the company’s Web site. With the user-friendly Content Management System (CMS), non-technical personnel can easily manage the Web site’s content directly. For example, staff members have the direct capability to modify existing product information, upload new products, and specify custom quantity discount levels as needed. In addition, staff members can upload Web site videos and product images. Furthermore, they can designate product pricing – and set up related products to display together on the same Web page.
Most CMS software can be adapted and tailored to meet the needs of any e-commerce level – from an existing e-store handling thousands of daily transactions to a new e-store launch. For example, a simple start-up site may only require basic capabilities of online store and credit card processing, while a more sophisticated Web site may utilize the fully advanced features. The front-end design is also typically flexible to meet the marketing image and design of any product or corporation.
Are you currently utilizing a CMS? How is it working for you? If you’re not utilizing a CMS, may we answer any questions for you?
The other day at a prospective client presentation, we provided the client with metrics, analytics and additional information about their Internet presence. Included in the data were insights into their keyword ranking, competitor analysis and brand review on the Internet. Toward the end of the meeting, one of the attendees commented, “We didn’t know what we didn’t know!” This comment certainly caught everyone’s attention and brings to light a worthwhile consideration, “What don’t you know about your Internet presence?”
The amount of data available about a company’s Internet presence, brand, Web site, and competitors is staggering. Tapping into this publicly available data is only half the battle. Interpreting this information in a manner that helps a business grow and increases revenue is the most critical component. I believe the latter motivated the client to comment “We didn’t know what we didn’t know.”
- What are your Internet metrics? In other words, how does the Internet community perceive your Web site? The basic components of this data would include – but are not limited to, your Google Page Rank, your Traffic Rank, and your link popularity at each of the major search engines.
- What are your competitor’s Internet metrics?
- What is your ranking for your selected keywords?
- How many searches and competing Web pages exist for these keywords?
- Are there additional keywords to consider which provide a balance between high searches and lower competition?
- If you type in your company name or a variation of your company name into a search, what are the results? What about typing in your domain name?
(This is all publicly available data that does not require access to your Web site statistics or Webmaster Tools.)
After gathering the information, the next, most critical step is to interpret the data to determine which Internet strategy will best benefit your business.
It is important to understand the process is about more than your Web site; Ensuring your Web site is technically effective, that your pages have relevant content, and that keyword landing pages are developed is only part of the equation. Many businesses quickly flock to spending too much time on their Web site and adding pages, without realizing they also need an outreach program outside of their Web site on the Internet to truly affect their Internet metrics and analytics.
Enlisting a content marketing program along with developing a technically effective Web site coincides for a cohesive strategy. Doing one without the other does not produce the desired results. Here’s a brief look into both elements:
Web Site Technical Effectiveness
Most of the technical requirements are within the Web site and on the server. We’re talking about sitemaps, having W3C compliant code, link title descriptions and image descriptions to mention a few. Then there is content relevancy which involves tailoring the written content so search engines can identify a Web page’s authority on a search topic.
If you want to start by setting up your website’s sitemap, check out the sitemap generator from XML Sitemaps.
For this conversation, let’s define content marketing as “the convergence of editorial and advertising, using multiple formats that allows for viral distribution to raise awareness about your business and Web site.” When we talk about content marketing, we’re talking about posting information that will have a shelf life of years.
Content marketing is about establishing your business as an authority on a topic or multiple topics relevant to your business, products, services, and industry.
Content items may include articles, news releases, photos, PowerPoint presentations, social media marketing, and videos, to name a few. As this information is distributed, you are increasing the critical mass of information about your business.
What Don’t You About Your Internet Presence?
If we consider your Web site and the amount of Internet information that is available about your Web site, how much of this are you aware of? Do you know how the Internet community perceives your Web site? Take a look at your metrics or share your feedback, and let us help you interpret this data.