Twenty years ago, the fact that you had a website was enough. People would come for the novelty.
Ten years ago, it became tougher to attract visitors. But it was still easy if you knew how to build a mass of incoming links.
Today, competition for visibility and visitor loyalty is fierce. Your site not only needs constant exposure to your target market, but must also engage those who visit.
Why? Because the moment you drop the ball, your 10 biggest competitors will be waiting to court your audience. And you can bet they’ll pull out the stops to keep them engaged.
There are 21 things you should be doing with your site as 2016 rounds the corner. Together, they’ll help to ensure the right people see your site at the right time. Read on for the 21 keys to keeping your site visible to your target audience.
Key #1: Create A Sitemap
You should have a page on your site that contains links to other pages. That helps the search engine spiders do their job. Will the spiders be able to crawl your site without a sitemap? Probably. But why not make their job easier?
Key #2: Differentiate Your Title Tags
You’re trying to rank on Google for various keywords. Make sure each page on your site has a different keyword in the title tags.
Key #3: Reclaim Bad Links
Links are the currency of SEO. The problem is, there are a lot bad (i.e. broken) links out there. Go through your site and find internal links that are broken. Then, use Google Webmaster Tools to find external links that are broken. Contact the folks running those sites and ask them to correct the links.
Key #4: Focus On High-Value Keywords
High-value keywords are those that are relevant to your business and easy to rank for. Focus first on those that indicate commercial intent.
Key #5: Find And Purge Orphan Pages
Orphans have no links pointing to them. They get little to no traffic. And the few folks who stumble upon the pages usually leave unsatisfied.
Find such pages and get rid of them. On the slim chance your orphans are important to your messaging, add links to them on your sitemap.
Key #6: 301 Redirect Changed URLs
URLs change. Maybe you’re transitioning from dynamic to static URL. Perhaps you’re shortening them to make them easier to remember. Whatever the case, create 301 redirects on the old URLs to automatically send folks to the new ones.
Key #7: Customize Your Default 404 Page
If someone tries to find a nonexistent page on your site, they’ll be presented with a generic 404 page. Most such pages provide zero direction. But you can create a custom 404 that provides links to other areas of your site.
Don’t leave visitors hanging in limbo. Give them options.
Key #8: Install An Analytics Package
Analytics tell you where your traffic is coming from, which browsers your visitors are using and the most popular pages on your site. You’ll also see views, unique visits, bounce rates, goals, conversion rates and more.
Don’t miss out on this valuable data. Install analytics and start tracking your key metrics.
Key #9: Make Your Images Search Engine-Friendly
Just like you optimize your pages, you should also optimize your images. Make the filenames keyword-rich. Use relevant, keyword-rich alt tags. Keep the file sizes small so they’ll load quickly. Link to each image from an XML image sitemap.
Key #10: Blog
Blogging isn’t a fad. It’s a key business tool you can use to connect with your customers and prospects. Your site should have a blog regardless of your industry.
Key #11: Appeal To The Eyes
Written content is fine. But it’s not enough. People are drawn to visuals. Pull readers in by using attractive images on each blog post.
Key #12: Clarify Your Message
Are you trying to reinforce your brand story? Or are you trying to communicate why prospects should hire your firm?
Whatever the case, you have 3 seconds before you lose the visitor’s attention. If he or she leaves without understanding what you’re trying to say, it’ll take a Herculean effort to bring them back.
Be concise and get to the point.
Key #13: Have A Way To Get In Touch
You need a way to reach out to the folks who visit your site. Don’t expect them to return on their own. Most won’t. Instead, offer an incentive in exchange for the visitor’s name and email address.
Key #14: Provide Direction On Every Page
At the end of each blog post, tell the reader to sign up for your mailing list. On each product page, instruct the visitor to make a purchase. On your informational pages, direct the individual to download a white paper or case study.
Place a call to action on every page of your site.
Key #15: Add Social Media Buttons
Social sharing buttons encourage visitors to tell others about your content. Some social media tools allow visitors to add content to your site (you’re still the gatekeeper and can control what gets posted). Other tools allow folks to sign in using their Facebook or Google Plus accounts.
Social media integration will broaden your reach and increase your visibility.
Key #16: Map Out A Defined Visitor Journey
A visitor journey is the path a person will take once he or she arrives at your site. You define that path. Your goal is to move the visitor closer and closer to becoming a customer.
Key #17: Create A Responsive Design
Your site’s design elements should resize based on the devices used by visitors. Your site should be attractive and easy to navigate regardless of whether someone is viewing it on their laptop, Android phone or iPad.
Key #18: Schedule Automatic Backups
Don’t assume your server is bulletproof. If there’s a hiccup, you may lose portions of your site. Make sure you have backups in place to reload in the event a hiccup occurs. The best approach is to schedule backups to execute automatically on your server. Schedule them weekly at a minimum. If possible, have them occur daily.
Key #19: Make Sure Your Site Loads Quickly
Slow-loading pages irritate visitors. They also vex Google, prompting it to penalize your rankings. Optimize your page load speed to avoid both problems.
Key #20: Keep Plugins And Extensions Up-To-Date
Developers routinely update their plugins, extensions and themes to resolve bugs, add features, improve performance and tighten security. Make sure you have the latest versions installed on your site. Don’t risk a crash.
Key #21: Pay Attention To Admin Details
Do you know when your domain expires? Are you certain your credit card information is up-to-date at your registrar and host? Double-check these details. Then, add reminders to your online calendar to check them again when the deadlines approach.
If you want your site to be visible in 2016, there are a lot of details you’ll need to address. Contact our design experts to find out how we can help. Design & Promote can handle the marketing, search engine optimization, social media integration and brand messaging to ensure your site is found by your target audience.