Imagine that you’re building a boat in order to cross from one side of a lake to the other. The boat is well designed, colorful, engaging, and easy to board. You board the boat, ready to take off on a new adventure! Except, nothing happens. The boat isn’t moving. Then it dawns on you, “Did we actually build rudders, install an engine, or pick up anything to row this boat?” Without these essential components, you will find yourself drifting aimlessly in the water or perhaps never even leaving the dock!
Building a marketing website is no different, and it’s easy to overlook what makes your website work: Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Why is SEO so Important?
SEO is important because it helps search engines like Google or Bing understand what your website is all about. In short, it’s how your website is seen from an organic search (an organic search is simply a listing on a search submission based on relevance to search terms). Starting any conversion cycle means first getting people to see your website. Simply having a beautiful, engaging design won’t automatically make that happen.
“An important aspect of SEO is making your website easy for both users and search engine robots to understand. Although search engines have become increasingly sophisticated, they still can’t see and understand a web page the same way a human can. SEO helps the engines figure out what each page is about, and how it may be useful for users.” (Fishkin, Rand. “Why Search Engine Marketing Is Necessary.” Moz, 2018, moz.com/.)
Designing your website with foundational SEO basics first (before you start development) is a great way to set your website up for success without having to duplicate efforts or clean up a development mess in the future. While there’s no sure-fire formula for driving traffic consistently to your website, laying down a smart framework is a great starting point for your digital inbound marketing. Listed below are five simple things to consider before you begin website development.
Keyword research is one of the first things to consider before you even touch design or development. But why? Can’t I just pick some words that I know align with my business and go from there? You sure can — just like you can cut all the lumber for building a house without measuring at all (yes, that is some serious snark and sarcasm). Keyword research is essential because it helps us determine what it is that we’re actually optimizing, which is to say identifying powerful search terms.
Sounds simple, right? There’s actually quite a bit more to it than just picking out keywords presented to you by keyword research tools. While those are helpful platforms, you’re going to want to enlist an SEO expert to assist in understand what your competition is using, and how you can effectively use keywords as a foundational, evergreen element to your website. Treat keyword research with the same gravity as you would with understanding your audience, and you’re setting yourself up for SEO success.
Information Architecture (IA) is referring to the way that your website is organized, which can impact your search ranking against your competition. Websites are organized by pages, specifically where the page is going to live on the website (Ex: www.yourwebsite.com/about/ for the “About” page), and how the page is named in the url (slug). In the example, I used “About”, which is something most marketing websites have. Now that we’re thinking about SEO, here’s a fun question: can you imagine how many websites have an “About” section simply labeled “About”? You’re right–way too many to bother counting.
Why is this important? Because this an opportunity to utilize the keyword research you just had performed in providing a unique name to each page slug. For example, instead of “/about/”, we could name the slug “/our-story/”, which could potentially provide a higher ranking. But how important is ranking the “About” page? It may not be important at all to your sales cycle.
All the more reason to enlist the help of an SEO expert to help provide a plan and recommendations for your information architecture so you’re not just throwing keywords against the wall, and competing effectively in your market!
Headers, Titles, and Meta Description
Header tags, titles, and meta descriptions can be a huge factor in establishing the framework of your website’s SEO. While just implementing smart headers, titles, and descriptions are important, they are still only a piece of what should be a holistic approach to your website’s organic performance.
Header tags refer to the headings displayed on your website (HTML, referring to <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, and so on). The most important header tag to consider if your H1 tag (<h1>). This is because it’s usually the first thing that your audience will see, and will also be one of the first things that the search engine will see when indexing your website. That’s why it is imperative to:
● Establish an engaging H1 that simply describes your business
● Ensure that there’s only ONE H1 on each website page
Titles and Meta Descriptions refer to the actual page title and brief description of what you will find on the page. They are the quick summary and synopsis of each page. This is important for search engines, as the H1 may not necessarily cover all of the detailed information and the title tag and meta description can provide even more granular detail for each page.
In a perfect world, each page of your website would have a unique H1, title tag, and meta description with no duplication of keywords or terminology. Yet another reason to support the idea that simply using the tools isn’t enough–you’re going to want someone who has both expertise in SEO as well as the acumen it takes to ask you the correct questions about your business and your goals.
Who wants a slow website? The answer will always be a resounding “Nobody!” Page load speed can be a huge factor in organic search ranking. Usually, slow load time can usually be attributed to the following things:
- The current hosting plan isn’t strong enough to handle the website.
- There’s too much going on on the website (massive image files, too much animation, too many videos running in the background).
This is an easy problem to solve up front. The first thing to do is to work with your designers and developers to determine exactly what kind of hosting needs you have so that you are making an information decision when selecting plans. The second thing to do is to work with your design team (which may also be your development team) to help focus your big creative ideas into actionable, effective plans so that your website is loading fast. After all, if your website can’t load quickly, you risk losing potential conversions!
Your keyword research is a powerful compass for helping create beautiful, engaging content and copy for your marketing website. However, it’s important to ensure that you’re not just throwing content and copy against the wall and hoping for the best. Regardless of whether you’re using the correct keywords from your research, if you duplicate content over and over again on your website, there’s a huge chance you’ll be negatively impacted for organic ranking. Taking the time to create unique, pointed content and copy will be one of the “X” factors in boosting your organic ranking. You’re definitely going to want to enlist the help of an SEO expert, who can create a plan for content and copy creation as you begin to scale your marketing website from beginning.
The foundations of SEO can make or break your marketing website, and it’s imperative that you take the time to “measure twice and cut once.” Doing your research and planning up front with a holistic approach to your digital inbound marketing is essential in giving your business the attention it deserves. Helping enlist an expert will set you up for success, and help deliver a winning combination of an engaging, effective marketing website.