Welcome to Part 1 of our four-part website series! Today we’re talking about the best ways to bring visitors to your website.
Your website exists so people will interact with your business and buy your product, service, or idea. So while having a nice-looking website is important, your audiences need to find the site online if it’s going to fulfill its purpose. There are three ways to do that: search engine marketing, search engine optimization, and link building.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Have you ever searched for something on Google, like a camping stove or a pair of shoes, and seen a page of results that looks like this?
All those ads highlighted in yellow are search engine marketing campaigns run by different camping supply distributors. By advertising on search engines, these companies are ensuring that their products will be seen by potential customers who are ready to buy.
It can seem pretty daunting trying to place your brand on the first page of search engine results, especially when you’re going up against massive companies like Walmart and Canadian Tire. But notice that smaller brands like Gear Up and Live Out There are listed, too. Search engine marketing is a great way to elevate smaller, more local brands to the same level as multinational organizations.
Every company wants to be first on Google, but that isn’t always a realistic goal, especially because Google takes location into account when it generates search results for specific queries. So if someone in the Midwest is looking for a business like yours but you operate in Edmonton, they’re not going to see you in a list of search results.
And that’s okay, because instead of trying to reach all people, you should be going after people who could actually become your customers. That’s why it’s so important to use SEO to tell Google where you are and which areas you serve.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO causes your website to rank higher in lists of search engine results. By building your site and writing your content in a specific way, you can make the site more attractive to search engines and bring in more visitors as a result. There are a number of different ways to optimize your website, and we’re going to look at a few of the most effective ones.
Title + Meta Tags
Google uses title tags and meta tags to display preview content in lists of search engine results. Because this tells searchers what kind of information they can expect to find on a particular website, your tags should include popularly searched keywords that’ll bring visitors to your site. Most website editing systems and content management platforms make it easy for you to manage your tags.
XML Site Maps
An XML site map is a file listing all your website’s pages and when they were updated, which helps search engine crawlers (or “spiders”) sift through your pages more efficiently. Basically it’s a structured way for Google to know about all the content on your website and for you to tell Google which content is most important. This content is then displayed to searchers based on what’s most relevant to their search.
Creating a site map by hand is time intensive, which is why any good content management system not only does it for you, but also notifies Google anytime you update your website. We especially like the tools that automatically notify Google when you update your website, so Google knows about your new content right away and starts directing traffic to that content.
A redirect automatically sends visitors from one URL to another. For example, if you redesign your website and rename all your pages, you need to redirect old pages to new ones. Otherwise, when a customer tries to visit a page they’ve been to before, they won’t find the page they’re looking for, which creates a poor user experience. But by redirecting old content to new, you’ll give them the same great experience they’ve come to expect from you.
Redirects are also important for SEO. Google puts a ranking score on every URL. This is called “authority” because it means other people consider your content valuable, accurate, and dependable. So if you launch a new website and the old URLs disappear, you lose all your carefully built-up authority.
Luckily Google is smart enough to transfer authority to a new page when it encounters a redirect. That way if you’re replacing a page or launching a new site, you won’t wipe out your past SEO efforts and have to start over.
This consists of placing your most important keywords within the content elements of your actual pages, like headers, sub-headers, and body content. It’s also a good idea to place these keywords as close to the beginning of the page as possible without it feeling forced.
The best way to implement on-page SEO is by writing content for people first and for search engines second. Your site will be most successful if you work with a good copywriter who has SEO experience. This will make your content friendlier and easier to read, which ties into link building. If people like what you say, they’re more likely to see you as an authority and share your content with their friends.
Inbound link building involves getting other quality websites to link to yours. This builds authority as a result. It’s not easy to do, since you can’t control whether or not someone links to your site, but here are a few ways we’ve found helpful.
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