In today’s world of business, if you don’t have a website your chances of surviving in the business world is slim.
A website not only provides you with an online presence but it also provides Google with much of the information it requires to give results on your business when someone is searching for the products or services you offer. And over recent years Google has become a little more advanced, yet simplified the process at the same time, to help any business rank well and drive more business, and it costs nothing to utilise.
Beyond just the standard Google website search results, the information on your website gives Google the information to provide results for Google Maps, Google Voice Assistant and Google local business results. These results allow people to easily find businesses that are not just online, but ones that are close by to their location or ones that have the best rating, or even the businesses that are still open say between 6pm and 8pm, or on Sundays.
However, all the information Google offers in its search results needs to come from somewhere first.
When it comes to building a website, there are plenty of options, from the DIY website building services such as WIX or Shopify, or if you are a little savvy yourself you could download WordPress and build your own website within a few hours. Or there is the option to have it professionally created by a website developer.
While all the options will ultimately produce the same thing, that being a website, how this website will work best for your business in driving visitor traffic totally depends on how it will be planned and built, and while there are many factors involved in building a website that ranks well, there are three things that are often overlooked….
We’ve all see the WIX advertisements where they show you how easy a model a comedian or a Youtube Vlogger can make a website in just a few minutes, but that’s all great if being found online isn’t important. There is a lot more to success website.
The Layout of your Content
Beyond a nice shiny design of clever text and glossy images, your website layout needs to be carefully structured, and this is overlooked by many web designers, particularly ones that come from a graphic design background. Graphic designers tend to focus on the overall style of the site, and less on the main elements that will make a website appear in search rankings.
Without getting too technical, the main things to remember when building a high-ranking website is that Google tends to view the site in a particular order, which is the top header content (title, description and Google snippet), then the footer area, and then the first three or four lines of the first paragraph of the page. This has been the rule for the past decade or so and is still very much relevant.
So now, breaking down those three areas, what content should you have in them?
Well, as mentioned, the Header area of the website is basically mostly code, and while you can manipulate this yourself easily in WordPress using a free plugin such as Yoast, you may be limited if you are using an online website builder such as WIX or Shopify, but what you are looking for is the SEO titles and descriptions which you can customise to be more search-specific to what people would be looking for.
The Footer area of the site should contain the additional information in columns that will help local results (eg, voice assistant, local search, Google Map results). This information could contain a combination of your address, trading hours, phone number, and even ABN, and don’t forget the business name again with the Copyright symbol and year as this can assist others in knowing that your website has been updated recently.
In one of the footer columns if there is room, you could also add a list of your most recent blog posts. As you add a new blog post to your site this should automatically update throughout the footer on every page. When you post a new blog post on your website, if you have set the site up correctly with an XML sitemap, Google will be pinged to notify that new content has been added and your site will be reviewed again. As Google will see the new text on the footer of each page it will prompt it to review all pages and add any new or relative content to its results, pushing your site higher on the search engines. this strategy works very well for brand new sites that want to rank fast on Google. An active site with valuable content will usually rank faster than a static site of less value to offer.
Another key factor in the design of any website is the actual layout of the content. While keeping text close to the top of the page gives Google more to read, it also increases the load time of your site, however adding a call to action on your site close to the top ‘above the fold’ area means that if you’re trying to get more visitors to make an enquiry, this is the place to add it. There is nothing worse than a great looking website, but it is hard to find the phone number or contact form! When you add a call to action you’re usually also lowering your bounce-rate of the site with the call to action, and therefore telling Google that people are interested in your site and that it has value, rather than bouncing away to another site.
How much is a Picture Worth?
The image content selection of your site plays a valuable part of your ranking on Google, in numerous ways. There are three factors to website images, which are the size of the image, the name and Alt tag of the image, and the image itself.
Ensuring your image is optimised to load fast while having clearly defined pixels is important so that Google can scan the image to help in determine what the image content is about. For example, if the image is a photo of a red car than it will know the type of car, model and colour from the pixels.
Next you need to ensure you name the image correctly, with a unique image name. Rather than the photo of the red car being image1234.jpg, rename it to red-bmw-325,jpg, or if it is a local based service you may want to add in the suburb or region for that area (if you are selling red BMW cars in your region). You then want to upload them and add the Alt tag to each of these images, so in this instance you might have an ALT tag such as ‘Sunshine Coast red BMW 325 car sales’.
And the image selection itself is very important. You’ll usually find you’ll get a much better result on the search engines if you use your own unique photos rather than a stock image, as other images that have already been seen by Google on another site will get a higher ranking than you based on their age and authority, over a brand new site of little value. As mentioned, Google reads the pixels, so one trick if you are using stock images, is possibly consider flipping the image over so that the pixels would be unique to the previous image. Obviously this is not always possible, but if it is a photo of a tree, a dress or general items that won’t matter, this is a good practice to give a ‘unique pixel imprint’. Or you could just take your own images for the best result.
Giving Google a heads up
While Google will usually eventually crawl any website, there are a few quick and easy steps you should take to get a faster and better ranking result.
If you’re working in WordPress, install Yoast SEO, and then go to the Features, under the General tab, and click on the small Question Mark icon next to XML Sitemap. Here you’ll be able to find and view your sitemap. Copy this link from your browser and then go to Google Webmaster Console and add your website and link the sitemap to it. You should instantly receive an email from Google to announce that your sitemap has been added. Wait a couple of minutes and then go back into your site and fill in the Yoast snippets found on each of your Pages and Posts directly under the main edit area. I recommend completing your snippets over the series of a few days rather than all in one session, as each time you add or change a site’s content it pings Google to let it know you have made a change. If you do it all in one go you might only get one ping, where as doing a little SEO each day or every few days will give you multiple pings, which shows the site is more active, and therefor should see Google revisit your site more and give you a higher priority ranking.
You’ll also want to consider setting up a Google Analytics account as well, which allows you to see the results of your SEO labour, where your visitors are coming from, what they are looking at, etc. You’ll find Analytics also has a Demographics section, where you can check out the gender, age and interests of your visitors, as well as what type of device they are using to view your site. All this provides interesting information for you to continue refining the layout and content of your site.
So before racing off and creating a website yourself, or hiring the first web designer that you find, make sure you or they understand the key factors beyond just creating a pretty website. If the site doesn’t have the right values to attract visitors you could be wasting a lot of time and money, and potential customers.
Author: Chris Bourke
Smartfish Creative, ChrisBourke.com and online marketer at MaximumWebSuccess.com