It goes without saying: if you can’t be found on the web, your business is in danger of dying.
That’s why most business owners understand the importance of incorporating search engine optimization into their marketing strategy. But when it comes to website design and its structure, many websites fall flat. An ineffective homepage, poor navigation, no call to action, bad internal linking, and a missing site map can lead to few conversions, little stickiness, and reduced crawlability.
So while efforts are being poured into attracting new customers by way of traditional SEO, leads can still vanish on the basis of a poorly designed site. Consider these five essential tips to make the most of your site while maximizing your SEO results.
Your homepage is the gateway to your business for your customers and the search engines. It conveys an important if not critical message to your potential customer. A good homepage should capture your audience immediately while offering a call to action. Navigation should be simple and crawlable for the search engines, front and center, and preferably at the top of the page. Creative use of images and color are also an important factor in retaining a potential lead once they land on your site. Make the most of your homepage by including a contact form above the fold, redesigning navigation if it’s buried, and using images and color appropriately. If your site looks generic or outdated, the likelihood of retaining a potential lead is slim.
Navigation is an essential component to a user’s experience. If it’s buried or too deep, your potential leads will exit your site leading to poor stickiness. Navigation should be straightforward. Stay away from deep menus that require the user to click through multiple pages just to get basic information. Make sure your navigation offers information quickly with the fewest clicks possible.
A great way to check if your website is search engine friendly is to look at the cached text version of the website from Google.
- Go to your Chrome browser and type in the URL bar: “cache:www.sampleurl.com” (Of course, replace “www.sampleurl.com” with your website.)
- Then click on the link to the far upper right that reads “Text-only version”.
- Look to see if you navigation links still appear.
3. Call to Action
A call to action refers to the response you want your users to perform, whether you want them to call to schedule an appointment or purchase your product. Always offer a strong call to action to capitalize on your SEO efforts. Make sure to include a call to action in your Title Tag element as this will help your website listing stand out in the search engine result page. Potentially, you could gain a higher CTR at position #4 if your Title Tag call to action is more compelling than positions #1-3. Also, include a phone number or a “Buy now” button on every single page, including blog posts. We already know that visitors make way to your website by keywords, long tail searches or direct visits, so make it easy for your visitor to buy or call, no matter how they got to your site. Don’t assume your user already knows what you want to sell. Make it clear as day with a strong call to action on every single page.
4. Internal Linking
Internal linking is an SEO strategy used to improve the functionality of a website when it comes to connecting your pages relevantly. It can increase website usability since it reduces the number of clicks required to get to important information. Internal linking also allows an SEO to strategically use anchor text to create page relationships.
Since Google’s release of its Penguin update, internal linking can make the website worse in some cases. All too often, it is abused as a keyword-stuffing mechanism, in turn devaluing its significance. Alternatively, internal linking has no strategy at all, with various keywords pointing to a slew of random pages or posts. So before you create any internal links, make sure they are 1) natural, 2) useful, 3) relevant, and 4) consistent. Come up with a plan prior to internal linking to make the most of future pages and posts should you hand off the reigns to a webmaster or blogger.
A sitemap is an essential component to your website since it dovetails on the importance of navigation. Sitemaps usually come in two forms: one for your user, and another for search engines. The user sitemap is a single page that displays all of your website pages and subpages, making it easier for the user to find what they want. On the other hand, a search engine sitemap is usually not visible to the user (unless the specific URL is known). Instead, it is created to increase your site’s crawlability, telling search engines about your website pages and their importance through specific XML language.
When a sitemap is missing, not only is your website in danger of being crawled improperly, but user experience suffers as well. Always include both kinds of sitemaps on your site. Many people believe that if a URL is included in an XML sitemap, it will automatically be indexed by the search engines. This is not necessarily true, as an XML sitemap is only guide to Google and not a requirement. The use of popular plugins can help you create sitemaps on the fly. If a sitemap plugin is not possible, you can use any of the popular sitemap generation tools including Google Sitemap Generator to create sitemaps automatically.
About the Author: Steve Peron is the co-founder of Elevated Search a boutique SEO firm based out of San Diego.