Search engine optimization is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. SEO is short for search engine optimization.
Recently I checked search engine placements for some web clients. I landed on a property maintenance website. The site was quite interesting. However, the site had no address information on it!
I navigated everywhere in disbelief – curious to find an address. My search left me wondering how a site visitor would know if this outfit would be able to help them or not.
Further investigation (I’m sure a standard Internet surfer looking for a service would likely never do) showed the site’s domain was registered to someone in California.
Looking for a property maintenance companies in the Keene NH area, a company from California wasn’t going to be any kind of a fit!
Besides the above issue – not having at least a city and state on a website – if looking for someone local for services – you don’t know if they’re local – even if they are. Most web visitors won’t bother to check – they’ll just move on to the next search result.
Business owners – particularly those providing services – should make their geographic location fairly obvious on their website. If their original web developer didn’t, it’s usually an inexpensive change to make to a site. It will increase business from the web and filter out callers who are too distant to be a good fit.
This week is a closely related follow up to last week’s article. As I mentioned then about a lack of a phone number, it seems like it would go without saying that a website trying to sell something should have an email contact someplace on it.
Last week I was referring to a web developer’s website with no telephone number or email address on it. Some developers put forms on their sites to try to get out of displaying an email address. The main issue with forms – besides the fact that form output is more often than not considered spam by many mail servers – is that people generally don’t want to fill them out. It’s much easier these days to click on an email link and send off an email saying exactly what you want to say. Of course you can speak it even more clearly but email may be the next best thing.
If you can’t find an email address to contact someone, my advice is to just move along to the next prospective web developer on your list. You want to deal with a web development company that makes it easy to be reached.
Do I really have to say a web developer simply has to have a phone contact where one can at least leave messages?
As unbelievable as it may seem, there are those out there without a listed phone contact. I saw a website recently where there was no telephone number or email address on it to reach someone for service. I know you won’t believe it when I tell you that individual has been in business for many years.
The owner asked me how I managed to get so many clients and grow CharlesWorks to handling thousands of websites. I couldn’t resist mentioning there was no contact information on the website. The response was they didn’t want lots of junk emails and people knowing their phone number.
It reminded me that back in 1998 I started CharlesWorks because I wanted to help as many people with their web related needs as possible. I knew from having been in business earlier in my life that there are always going to be spam phone calls (just like spam emails). But that’s part of the cost of doing business.
So think twice if you can find a phone number to talk to someone.
It is great to get referrals from others. That’s why it’s important to deal with a web company that understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you. I always ask folks I meet when the last time was that they received referrals from the web hoster or web developer before moving to CharlesWorks. Usually the answer is never. I am amazed to usually find out at that point that even their local folks they give their web business to don’t bother to refer folks back to their own clients.
You need a web developer that does that as a rule. You need a developer that one or more of its staff are in high powered networking chapters and will refer business back to their own clients.
That’s what reciprocity is all about. You need a web company that practices that at every opportunity.
One small way CharlesWorks does that is through its CharlesWorks Directory. We help our clients get found on the web and increase their web traffic by keeping information about them on thousands of sites on the Internet.
If you have been feeling that your relationship with your web company is rather one sided, it’s time to deal with one that cares about you!
When exploring who to have build your web presence or do your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), look to see that the web company you’re considering is an accredited member in good standing with the BBB (Better Business Bureau). The BBB does a lot of your homework for you. It actually checks out businesses for things like the fact that they really are in business and what the company’s website states.
This can be very important: make sure the company really is accredited by checking for them on the BBB website. There are many unscrupulous companies out there that place a BBB logo (with is a copyright infringement) on their site and have never even applied for BBB accreditation.
Companies must apply to and pay a fee to pass accreditation member of the BBB. Once again, these are all factors that point to the integrity of the company – it’s reliability – its dependability. You want a company that is going to help you and that thinks about its web clients – so the web company’s BBB accreditation is very important.
Reliable web development companies often maintain a committed presence in local networking groups. This keeps them in touch with those in their communities. It also makes the web company more accessible to those needing services. Developers usually give great service to those they see face to face weekly.
There are many networking groups out there. I don’t consider chambers of commerce networking groups. I say that for a few reasons. First is that there is no commitment to go to the meetings. Many join chambers and never attend meetings. One can join just about anywhere without committing to attend. Some belong to many chambers with no commitment to attend. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to belong to a local chamber and actually be involved.
Web development companies belonging to BNI (Business Networkers International) are ahead of the game. In order to participate in BNI the company’s representative must commit to a minimum one year and agree to show up weekly. Relationships are built among BNI members. This encourages referrals passed among members.
Bear in mind the web company should be able to pass all the items on our checklist (click to see the list again in a new window). That will be the most homework you can do to ensure the best probability of a great outcome with your website development.
Whether face to face or on the web, there’s only one chance to make a first impression. This short checklist contains “must haves” for a website. It’s unbelievable to leave them off a website. We’ve seen web developers as well as web do-it-yourselfers not provide the following.
Phone number – You’ve lost credibility right away if there is no phone number. Many people – yes even today – understand that talking actually accomplishes more faster.
Contact email – We recommend posting an email address. Some use forms keeping email hidden. Forms are easily “spammed” making more work.
Business location – Tell visitors at least what city you’re in. Customers wanting to deal locally appreciate this.
Hours of operation – Whether you expect foot traffic or take appointments, there’s nothing worse than guessing whether you’re open or not.
Who to deal with – Let visitors know who they can deal with. Staff shrouded in anonymity don’t appear helpful.
Aesthetics – Websites should appear clear and organized. Visitors expect some things in certain places – like navigation. Make it easy find items/topics and get around the site.
Website success happens by building visitors’ confidence in your business. Providing as much information as possible will help immensely with this process. Contact your web services provider for assistance. They, just like we at CharlesWorks, should be there to help.
Domain ownership is like home ownership. Domain fees are like home taxes. Stop paying taxes and see who really owns your home!
Domains are sold through hundreds of “domain registrars” around the world. It costs in excess of $50,000 to become a registrar. Registrars answer to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). It maintains a database of all domains to ensure domains can’t be duplicated.
Most domains are registered by web development companies. Accepted common practice is to obtain domains for their client, set it up and build a website accessible with it.
Losing a domain can easily be avoided. Common reasons I have seen for folks to lose their domain names are as follows, in the most common order:
1. Renewals ending up in spam buckets or returned with dead/outdated email addresses.
2. Church parishioners/employees who have a falling out.
3. Business employees who move on regardless of circumstances.
Avoid Gmail, Yahoo or other “freebie emails” with your domain. You’ve ZERO control over and can’t even call them.
Seek out reputable web developers OUTSIDE your organization to handle your domain names. Avoid “one man shows” and startup developers. Use BBB accredited businesses who’ve been at it at least 10-20 years. They’ll likely look out for you and protect your domains.
People purposely search the web, looking for services or information. Ten seconds is what websites have to grab their attention.
They land on your impressive looking site with beautiful graphics moving all about the page.
The clock’s ticking. “Come on already!” they’re thinking. They hit that back arrow – they’re off to another website!
Or they’re at your page with oodles of information! They scan left to right, top to bottom. “Oh, that looks interesting over there!” and in the blink of an eye, they’ve clicked on an ad – and off to someone else’s website.
Viewers always judge websites by clarity, design, and detail.
Do your aesthetics relate its message, using appropriate colors, fonts, graphics, etc.?
Is content structured to quickly determine:
•What is your website about?
•How you can help them?
Is your website cluttered with ads or distractions, diluting its message?
Whether you or a professional designed it, have someone unfamiliar with your website or your business sit down and give their opinion.
Ten seconds is about all you have to gain a viewer’s trust and interest. Both the design and structure of your content are crucial elements in keeping a viewer on your site – and turning them into a customer.
Many tell me “Facebook is a waste of time – a real time-sucker.” That’s true for those who believe it. Yet, there’s great value in a Facebook presence.
Many business startups think just a Facebook page can grow their business. While not impossible, it’s as likely as winning the lottery.
Sending potential customers to Facebook subjects them to Facebook’s ads promoting one’s competitors. I’ve also seen embedded Facebook information on business pages listing the business’s competitors. Part of a web presence is to only have one’s business put in front of potential customers. That’s what effective advertising is about.
Facebook is free. It’s amazing what people do NOT notice when they think they are getting something for nothing.
Many forget Facebook is online to make money for Facebook. Businesses exist to generate income and keep the people running it employed. Nothing wrong with Facebook doing that. We just need to understand when it’s helpful for our own cause – and when it is harmful.
Links from other websites to your own are very helpful for increasing search engine placement. The very best value of Facebook business pages is to have lots of information on them that links visitors back to your own website.
Domain names are the least expensive part – yet the most important – of one’s Internet presence! Here are some tips on choosing them.
Initial Search – Be careful how you search! Unscrupulous companies buy domains people search for to sell at much inflated prices (often $100+ for $15 domains). CharlesWorks at http://CharlesWorks.domains does NOT do this practice. Or just ask us.
Association – Use the name of your business as all or part of your domain.
General Names – More general domain names are most likely already registered to other businesses (it never hurts to check with us first).
TLDs – Top Level Domains are the “extensions” like .com, .net, .org, .club, etc. Search engines today don’t care what they are.
Hyphenated Names – We recommend avoiding hyphens to lessen confusion, unless you absolutely can’t get your words another way.
Variations – Can be an option if your general business name is already registered, like adding “NH” before or after it.
Keywords – Pertinent words in your domain are increasingly important. Simplistically put, search engine algorithms rank the importance of web sites according to words.
Cost – Domains vary according to TLD, Many common ones are still only about $15-$20 annually.
Most importantly, we ensure domains we sell are renewed annually so you will not lose them!
Customers want specific info about products and services. If there have been no changes since your website launched, they’ll look somewhere else.
New info triggers search engines to re-scan your website and index it according to what it sees as current and popular, relative to other websites in your industry. Distinctive and useful content helps the search engines recognize what your site is about. Posting new content on a regular basis gives the search engines a reason to scan your site more often.
Updating depends on your industry and who your competition is. The important thing is to review your site on a regular basis. We recommend a website review at least once a month.
Ensure your contact information up to date – nothing is worse than nonworking phone numbers or wrong hours. Your navigation hyperlinks all need to work as well. Good testimonials are an absolute plus. Noteworthy news posted can also help broadcasting your latest and greatest developments.
If you’re website doesn’t allow you to easily change the text in it, you should consider updating to one that will.
Keeping your website material up to date will help keep your current clients as well as add new ones.
Do-it-yourself website builders make it sound SO easy! And they can be. But there can be a steep price to pay.
I see ads every now and then boasting about how you can build a website in an evening with no previous experience. Several times a month we have people who have fallen into that trap, then contact us to help them out of it.
The biggest issue with these do-it-yourself sites is that you don’t own your site! The platform/servers the site is built on is proprietary – so you’re locked in to that company. Couple that with the fact that the site can’t be easily customized. Also, your site looks like numerous others. Many of these sites are not found well in the search engines. They have layers of coding that makes it easy to make changes but harder for the search engines to “see” what they’re about.
Do-it-yourself sites are generally not through local companies either. So if doing business with local people who will send business back to you is important – that’s another reason to avoid them.
When thinking of having a website built, take the time to ask a developer about options. Simply ask, “Do I own my website?”
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of raising a site’s ranking with the search engines. Sites can have different rankings on various search engines. Each search engine’s scoring methods vary and are closely guarded secrets. Where you “rank” is how close you are to the top (e.g., 1 vs 100).
No one can promise a #1 placement. Only paying the search engine itself can guarantee that! However, there ARE things that can be done for better placement. Understand that search engines are like artificial intelligence. They “read” the text in a site to gain understanding of what a site is about – much like humans do. They understand context and categorize topics.
There’s no magical trick to gaining website search engine ranking. Plenty of information in a website’s text about its products or services is key. More written info about a topic equals more relevant search results.
While photos help aesthetics, text still “tells” search engines what a site’s about. Don’t be afraid to write in great detail about your products and services. Remember: The more pages there are on a site about a topic – the more relevant the site becomes about that topic.
Charles Oropallo (Charles@CharlesWorks.com) started CharlesWorks in Peterborough NH in 1998. His team does website design, hosting, search engine optimization (SEO) and related web services.