How to Make Your Website the #1 Search Result
Best Practices for Getting the Best Search Results for Your Website
"I built a website. Why isn't it at the top of page 1 of Google Search Results forevermore?" We've heard this a few times.
When you build a website for your organization or have someone build it for you, you likely bring a set of expectations to that process. The expectation that people can now easily find information about you. The expectation that the information people can now find out about you is correct and/or up to date. The expectation that, whether someone searches for you by name or by your field of expertise, your website will be the #1 recommended result. While these are completely understandable (and quite common) expectations, reality may often be unexpectedly different. Truth is, building a website is just step one in the process of ensuring that people and search engines are aware of your existence.
Think of your business as an island and your website as its harbor, with pages of information for people to "dock." As with any new build, however, whether brick-and-mortar or online, just because you create it doesn't people will be aware of its existence. You need to send out signals to let people know where you are. Let's begin with the website itself, as if you are launching it for the first time...
Provide information on your website that clearly and distinctively reflects who you are, what you do and how you can be contacted.
In addition to visually & textually assuring site visitors that they have reached the website they intended to visit, make sure that site visitors can easily find your postal address, email contact and phone number within seconds of landing.
You got them to visit the website. Now offer to continue the conversation.
Getting visitors to your website is the hard part. Getting them to interact with you is another. Give them a reason to stay (special deal), to continue a conversation with you (sign up for your email list or request a personal follow-up) or to do something specific (buy your product).
Create new content and update your website on a regular basis.
Post news. Share events. Add to your project portfolio. Refresh content. Create new webpages. These are a few ways you can remind search engines that your website is actively maintained. Develop a content calendar to help you abide by a schedule that works well for you.
Review analytics regularly.
Numbers and pie charts may not be your bag, but it's important to make sure that your website is performing well for you. If you can't figure out which data is important and why you should care, find someone who can help. Analytics can be extremely helpful in showing you how your website is being found, how it is showing up in search results, what visitors are doing once they get to your website and identifying areas for improvement.
Check out the competition. They're likely checking you out, too.
Before, during and after a website build, it's helpful to get a sense of what your competitors are doing. Do they have a clear, distinct message? If there's a hair's difference between what you and they offer, do they have a bigger, stronger and/or more expensive online marketing strategy? What opportunities might you have to claim their market share of people's attention? These questions aren't driven by envy, but rather, by due diligence!
Words (the right words) can go a long way. See, you don't have to be an expert at this stuff, you just have to know an expert who is willing to share a few tricks of the trade. You can do this. The more informed you are, the better prepared you'll be to handle being #1 forevermore.
Keywords can play a significant role in your content marketing strategy. While there are two types of keywords, short-tail and long-tail, we tend to value the latter because long-tail keywords prvide more opportunities for nuance. EX: "keywords" (short-tail) vs "keyword best practices" (long-tail). On your website, there are three areas where keywords can help your website become more visible to users and to search engines:
- In Page Content - All writers will tell you that it is important to write in your own voice. This applies to brands as well. Write in the style that represents your brand and/or organization best. With that in mind, also make sure to:
Use keywords and phrasing that most readers can understand. (According to Flesch-Kincaid readbility tests, this means writing for 5th grade to 8th grade...but we think highly of anyone willing to read this far, so we wrote this for high school Juniors and Seniors, America's Future!)
Use keywords and phrasing that people may use to search for your organization online. This is an opportunity to discover the logical and unexpected ways people find you online. Pretend you're a local wine store. Sure, you'd like to be known as "the best wine store in (your location)" but so do the dozens of other wine stores in town. How do you stand out? Well, one thing we learned when doing research for one of our wine store clients is that associating their business and some of their web content, with event planners turned out to be pretty smart. Why? Because people searching for event planners are often also searching for a place they can buy wine in bulk. We're glazing over details here, but you can see how that content association could be a win-win for both client and their existing/potential customers.
Use 200-1600 words on each webpage. 200 is the bare minimum number of words on a webpage that, from a technical standpoint, search algorithms deem authoritative enough to merit a high position in search results for pertinent terms. 1600 seems like a lot, but many content strategists say that 1600 is a word count that demonstrates authority and is, therefore, more likely to be shared by others.
We're talking only about responsible keyword practices here, not trying to game the system by using trending terms, competitors' proprietary keywords or other forms of trickery.
- In Page Headlines - The page headline should describe the content on the webpage succinctly. The headline varies from webpage to webpage and is probably the first thing site visitors see, letting them know they're on a different webpage. It's also among the first things a search engine sees. Those big, honking letters get treated by both as being more important than other words on the page because they look more authoritative. What is most critical, is that your heading reflects the subject matter of the particular page it lives. In terms of length, your page headline can be the same as your page title if you wish, but often is more straightforward in language and has a lower character count. EX: "Keyword Best Practices" vs "Keyword Best Practices of Experienced Experts"
- In Page Titles - Like a page headline, the page title provides a sense of the content on a given webpage, only in a little bit longer form (<55 characters to be safe). It, too, varies from webpage to webpage. The format we recommend is Page Title | Name of Organization because doing so increases the chances that users find you either by typing your organization name or by using more general search terms. Using the example above, "Keyword Best Practices of Experienced Experts | Me, Co." would be a good choice. Why? Because the most important words are in descending order of value to the user performing a general search: "keyword," "best practices," "experts" and your organization name.
For a little bit more insight, have a look at a list of Google's ranking factors. Pretty dizzying and ever-changing, but useful.
Stay tuned for more "best practice tips" in coming weeks...