Businesses invest a lot of time and effort in creating a Web site that reveals their expertise, as well as their brand.
Building a professional, informative Web site with a high-end design ensures that customers will have confidence in your company. But what good does that do if no one ever finds your Web site?
It's critical that your Web site and search engine optimization work together.
In the big picture, what's the return on investment for a site that looks great but has very little traffic? A ghost town of a Web site isn't going to bring your target audience in, and your growth is stifled.
On the other hand, if you've exploited your SEO and have high traffic but a lightweight Web site, you'll have the opposite problem: lots of prospects, but very few customers.
How to Build a Credible Site
First things first: when you build your site, make sure it's clean, professional, and user-friendly.
Here are some issues to consider in the construction phase:
1. Avoid using Flash
This is simple: Flash is not business-friendly. Search engines usually can't detect information imbedded in Flash, and Web site reporting on Flash sites is difficult and inaccurate. The maintenance is endless, and you won't be w3c-compliant. Worse, many Web sites' hosts disable Flash to avoid spam advertising, so all your effort is for nothing.
2. Avoid low quantity of content
Visitors come more frequently to sites with consistently new content; it makes their time investment more worthwhile. They're also driven there by search engines, which pick up sites with high content delivery more easily.
3. Pick only one spot to use motion on your homepage
This refers back to some of the issues with Flash, but it can also look cheesy to have an abundance of motion icons. Pick one place where it will make an impact, and then step away.
4. Use consistent fonts
Have you ever read an Internet article and noticed that it jumped to a different font halfway through? It was jarring, and it made you question the professionalism of the site, didn't it? Don't do that to your readers.
5. Avoid overcrowding
A crowded Web site makes it difficult for your clients to find the information they're looking for. Great design utilizes clean lines, open space (within reason), and user-friendly fonts. Once you draw customers in, you can follow up with additional information. Focus on the hook.
6. Avoid placing many Calls-to-Action on the homepage
Call-to-Action buttons, which implore you to "Buy now!" or "Post a job," are great for getting people to take action. You need to clearly explain what each one is for, so you want to minimize the number you place on your homepage -- that real estate has other uses.
7. Don't use templates
Templates are efficient, yes, but they prevent you from being able to adequately brand your business. They're too generic, and they carry less value than customized sites. They also hurt your compliance with different programming languages.
How to Optimize SEO
A great Web site that's representative of your brand and your mission is the first step; the next is to make sure people land on it. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you maximize SEO:
1. Is the site w3c-compliant?
You may have heard people ask whether a mark-up validation check is necessary. It absolutely is -- it debugs your site, it reduces the amount of maintenance you'll do long-term, and it's a sign of professionalism.
2. Do we have SEO-friendly URLs?
You've no doubt racked your brain to find a URL that quickly summarizes what your business is all about. Sometimes, however, the things that seem helpful (punctuation, lots of words) make your URL difficult to remember, type, or protect. "Clean" your URLs as necessary to ensure that search engines are zoning in on you.
3. Are all meta tags in place?
These title tags not only are highlighted on a browser, they're also culled by search engines and displayed in search results. Make sure your meta tags are relevant, brief, and utilize keywords.
4. Is RSS feed provided?
RSS feeds allow publishers to automatically syndicate their content. That means you can publish content once, and it can be viewed from many different programs simultaneously. RSS feeds can be read via the web or mobile devices; this is a big benefit in the current marketplace. Make sure you're mobile-friendly.
5. Have we checked the site speed?
You can check your site speed using Firefox's page speed tool. Maximizing your page speed cannot be underestimated. The longer a customer waits for your page to load, the higher your probability is of losing him.
6. Is there enough dynamic content?
Text is great, but you'll want to engage your clients with graphics and images as well. Dynamic content allows you to build content "on demand," with the content tailored to your users. Caching (recycling) your content will give you more flexibility in this arena.
If you take each of these items into account, you'll be well on your way to building a site that's user-friendly, as well as a search engine's best friend. Presenting a professional image, while maximizing your SEO, will help you bring in prospects and convert them to customers. Make your Web site work for you. If you build it, they will come.
Photo credit: Sitebuildertips.com
Hassan Bawab is the founder and CEO of Magic Logix, an interactive digital marketing correlation that combines dynamic Web site development, professional Web site design, SEO and integrated online marketing, to drive new leads with high conversion.