Search Engine Promotion
No Strategy. No Success.
Whether you're planning the launch of your first site, or wondering why your site counter is actually moving backward, stop. You need a strategy to promote your site to search engines and to visitors. A plan of action based on five key factors, all of which should be weighed carefully before you take another step. Here are the five, most important considerations in the development of any search engine promotion.
1. The Site's Objectives
What are your expectations for the website? These will usually point you to the site's objectives. In the case of commercial sites, the broad objective is straightforward — to sell enough goods and/or services to become profitable.
However, you might also want to educate, motivate, persuade and inform in addition to, or instead of, selling. A top-down analysis of your site's objectives is the place to start the development of your action plan.
Once you've determined the site's objectives, keep them front and center during the entire development of an SE promo strategy. It's important that any search engine understand your site's objectives on the very first spider visit.
2. Market Analytics
Essential. Who are you trying to reach — your sales demographic? What do the members of your demographic need? How do they make purchase decisions? Are they computer savvy? Critical to the design and implementation of a search engine promo strategy is to know your market.
And the best place to learn is from the competition. Pull a Google on the competition to see how the successful sites do it. Perfectly ethical and a measurable, absolute guide to what works and what doesn't.
But you can't stop there. Market metrics are also a part of a successful promo strategy. The development of multi-dimensional metrics will be useful in virtually every step of the design, development and SE optimization phases. There are plenty of metrics software packs on the market. Some are even free.
The problem with these number crunchers is simple: all they do is provide the raw data. Number of hits. Average number of pages viewed. Ratio of visitors to buyers. Just stats, not strategy.
Analytics gathered using a variety of apps and tools must be properly correlated and analyzed to develop an effective search engine promotion. It's not enough to have the data. You must interpret the numbers in order to take actionable steps.
An over-achieving website doesn't just happen. It must be crafted. It requires highly-specialized knowledge of everything from HTML, SEO and CSS to human nature and purchase motivators.
Search engines spider sites in a variety of ways. The simpler and clearer your site is to an SE spider, the greater the likelihood that your site will be assessed and ranked properly. Conversely, if the technical design of your site isn't dead on for search engine spiders, a site may be mis-indexed or even banned from SEs altogether for what spiders perceive as black hat tactics, though it's simply inept (and therefore costly) programming. You might as well hang out the 'Going Out Of Business' sign.
Techno-factors come into play during the design phase, the development and testing phases and after the site's launch when refinement, optimization, content updates and routine site maintenance are undertaken.
Any well-considered strategy must provide the means to design (or redesign) the site, develop it, promote it to the SEs and optimize it over time. Search engine promotion and site optimization aren't goals. They're part of the process.
4. Plan Your Presentation Layer
Once the technical aspects of the site have been incorporated into your promo strategy, turn your attention to the presentation layer. The presentation layer can make or break a site, regardless of how well-designed the technical structure supporting the site's skin.
Navigation should be simple. Buttons and links clearly labeled. The user should always be able to go 'Home' from any page. Check-out should be clear, uncluttered and instill buyer confidence. A site map is useful to visitors and SE spiders. Anything less will hurt the bottom line.
The site skin also presents the look, feel and tone of your on-line enterprise. Stately and dignified, WiLd & KraZy, helpful and concerned — all determined by the look of the site. Color combinations, type font and size, type placement and the tone of the content make up your public persona.
And the skin is spidered right along with the back office so it should appeal to eyeballs and make spiders happy, as well. Header placement, number of headers above the fold, keyword density and other SE search parameters must be fine-tuned for successful search engine promotion.
5. Promotion and Optimization
Once you've gone live with your site, you've only just begun. The world of ecommerce is fast-paced and cutthroat. And if you don't promote your site to search engines and to potential buyers your chances for success diminish accordingly.
Today, site success depends on promotion - search engine promotion and eyeball promotion. You can promote on a shoestring or you can launch a pedal-to-the-metal campaign with banner ads, Google Adwords, links building and opt-in cultivation. If you aren't SEO-experienced, you'll be best served by professionals who can track site activity, develop useful metrics and devise and implement a strategy for improved site performance.
The same goes for the process of optimization. Sites must be search engine optimized and conversion optimized — two very different things. Much of SEO takes place behind the scenes. That's why it's essential that you use SEO pros to actually build your site. This is not where you can cut a few corners.
Then there's conversion optimization — converting visitors to buyers. Most of this takes place at the presentation level. Does the site meet or exceed the visitor's expectations? You have 6.4 seconds to convince a visitor to explore your site. That's how much time web users devote to site evaluation.
DIY or Go With The Pros?
94% of all ecommerce ventures tank. Down in flames. Many of these failures are based on poor business models, but just as many are due to poor site design, lack of SE recognition, an off-putting presentation layer or a home page that looks like a carnival midway.
If you're a start-up and you don't know much about SEO and SE promotion, do not let your teen-aged nephew design your site. And if you're the owner of an underperforming site and you can't figure out why, don't waste your time tweaking. You're losing sales every day.
If you know ecommerce, develop a strategy that encompasses all five of these critical facets. If you don't know ecommerce, hire somebody to do it for you.
It's the best money you'll ever spend.
About The Author:
Frederick Townes is the owner of W3 EDGE Web Design (http://www.w3-edge.com/). W3 EDGE is a Boston web design and Internet Marketing company (http://www.w3-edge.com/web-site-design-internet-marketing.html) that provides bleeding-edge web development solutions and marketing services to help you make the most of your online presence. You can contact him at their Boston office at 1-617-375-6134 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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