Today, it’s generally accepted that when a customer is seeking information on a company their first inclination is to visit its website. Then why is it that in 2017, 35% of small business owners indicated they believed their business operations were too small to warrant a website? As they say, if you’re not growing you’re dying, and if your goal is growth in 2018 then a website is one of the best tools to widen your brand’s reach.
If you’re considering building a website this year, or refreshing your current one, three of the most important things to keep in mind include usability, aesthetic appeal, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Your first step should be to consider the end user of your site. Who are you targeting, and what information is most relevant to them? From there, you can determine what content to include, and how the information should be laid out.
Utilize the menu to group information so that users can find it intuitively, and home page buttons to direct them to pages on your site where you’d like to see increased traffic. Use a call to action when possible to encourage users to engage with links, such as “Sign up for our Newsletter” or “View Upcoming Events.”
Regardless of your industry, contact information such as your business phone number, hours of operation, address and email should be quickly accessible. An easy and inexpensive way to test the intuitivity of your site is to time friends or family members to see how long it takes them to find pertinent information.
And remember, users want to navigate your site as quickly as possible, so text should be used with purpose. Your mission statement should be short but powerful, as should your product or service descriptions.
Design is critical to conveying your brand’s identity, enhancing the user experience, and creating emotional appeal. If you haven’t already, you should establish your brand standards before designing a website. This document will outline appropriate uses and variations of your logo, and the colors, fonts, and types of imagery that will most effectively convey your brand’s value. These standards will be used to inform the design of all your communications materials. In establishing specific parameters, you will enhance your brand’s value through consistency, and more easily draw inspiration for future marketing campaigns.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engines populate their results based on algorithms that determine which pages are most relevant to the user’s query. An SEO strategy aims to increase organic traffic based on knowledge of these algorithms. There are a lot of factors that contribute to a solid SEO strategy, three of the most critical include: user engagement, content and keywords, and mobile optimization.
RankBrain was Google’s third most important ranking factor last year, and they indicate it will become an even larger asset in 2018. So, what is RankBrain? It is essentially a machine learning system that collects data on how users engage with their search results, and ranks the websites accordingly. The top factors considered are dwell times, bounce back rates, and click through rates.
Essentially, the more people that click on your site and spend some time there, the higher your ranking will be. To achieve a high click through rate and reduce bounce backs, it’s important to develop your site’s content with SEO in mind.
It used to be enough to include just your keywords in your content and meta tags, but today Google also looks at the context to determine whether you are comprehensively covering a topic.
To show that your site has strong context, you should also add LSI keywords to your site. These are terms that relate to your topic or business, and there are plenty of online tools to determine which are most effective for your established keywords.
One of the best ways to improve SEO is by creating original content, such as longer blogs, that include strong keywords and context. A blog page is also a great way to showcase your industry expertise without becoming too wordy on other pages of the site.
If your website is not optimized for mobile, 2018 is officially the year to fix that problem. 60% of Google searches now originate from a mobile device, and as a result Google will adopt a mobile-first index this year. This means that for SEO purposes, Google will first consider the mobile version of your site. Any content that is hidden on the mobile version will be completely ignored for search ranking purposes.
To prepare for the mobile-first index, make sure that all of your content is displaying correctly on mobile, and is still intuitive. Remember, bounce back rates are a critical factor in SEO, so you don’t want users leaving your mobile site because they can’t properly view its information.
The best practices in online marketing are always changing, so it’s important to continuously research what’s relevant in SEO, and the tools available to increase traffic to your site. A website opens your brand to the world; keep usability, aesthetic appeal, and SEO in mind to ensure that it’s well represented.
By Caitlin Harder