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So I Have this Web Site...

Carrie Hill
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"So I have this Web site..."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this phrase. It's not that I don't want to help. It just seems the stuff that completes that sentence makes the SEO in me cringe in loathing.

"...and it has meta tags, but I'm not ranking for anything."

Well -- honestly that's a start, if you've done it right. Did you do some awesome keyword research, make sure you've matched terms to each page that are extremely relevant and crafted your on-page content to be very targeted to searchers looking for those particular terms?

Meta tags aren't the be-all-end-all of SEO, and if you're pulling existing content off your Web site -- try again. Page titles and meta descriptions need to be unique, and have calls to action: (e.g., "Book your Sun River OR vacation online today!")

Strictly speaking, the title tag isn't a "meta" tag. But generally, it's lumped into the category, so we'll go on that assumption here.

If you've crammed 30 semi-relevant keywords into your meta keywords tag -- delete them right now. It's a waste of bandwidth to have these crawled and it's bordering on waving a big red spam flag in Google's face. It's completely unnecessary to even have a meta keyword tag, but it can be helpful if six months down the road you forgot the exact keyword phrases you were trying to optimize your page to rank for.

"...but nobody knows it exists."

This lovely gem is courtesy my friend Matt McGee over at SmallBusinessSEM.com. Just because you have something doesn't mean anyone cares that it exists. Creating a marketing campaign is more than just SEO or PPC; it's creating a brand -- something your consumer can identify with -- and something that sticks out in their mind as a resource they'd like to use.

I've heard from a lot of small business owners who think the Web site will market itself. This is so far from the truth. It's like a plant, a living thing that needs to be fed and nurtured to grow. Without food or water, it's an ugly brown thing taking up space.

"...but my competition is kicking my ass six ways from Sunday!"

What can I say, my Twitter friends rock, and Meg Geddes (a.k.a. @netmeg on Twitter) is one of the best! She sent this goodie and I love when I can talk competitors.

To rank well, you must do everything the person ranking number one is doing, plus 30 percent. More than likely, they've been after the keyword phrases you're looking into much longer than you. You must be better than they are, not only "as good as," to rank well.

Think better usability, better calls to action in your page titles and meta descriptions, more engaging paid ads, better directory listings. Using the best ranking competitor as a baseline for what you need to do is a great way to set a goal and work towards achieving it.

"...and it's built with FLASH, but I'm not ranking for anything!"

Honestly, it probably never will. Unless by some miracle your company goes majorly viral and you receive millions of incoming links, you probably won't rank for much of anything. Flash is an excellent element in a Web site, but a whole Web site built in Flash is handicapped from the start.

While there are ways to optimize Flash, they aren't easy or cheap. Small business Web site owners should have Flash elements on their sites, such as footers or image slideshows, but building the whole site in Flash is a mistake.

"...but I don't know if anyone is really using it."

You must install a Web analytics package on your site. You can't effectively run a real-life marketing campaign without knowing what's going on with your site.

From where your traffic comes from, to what they do once they land, and where they go when they leave, analytics will give you insight into how your Web site is used, and why it's not being used. And Google Analytics is free, so you really have no excuse.

"...but nobody is buying from me. What am I doing wrong?"

Lack of conversions can be a number of things, from usability issues to a completely broken shopping cart. My co-worker at Blizzard, Jill Trujillo sent me this one, and she hears it a lot working in our business development department.

So what are some things you can do? Here are some quick ideas to increase conversions on your Web site:

  • Test your buying process. Is it actually working, or are there errors after submitting info?

  • Shop your competition. Are they doing something that is much smoother/easier than you?

  • Do you collect credit card info on a secure page? Make sure any pages that require data entry start with "https://" because a lot of people, myself included, won't put personal information in a page that isn't secure.

  • Is the booking or purchase path very clear? Too many click choices on one page lead to decision paralysis and if they can't find the path, they won't follow it.

  • Make it easy to bookmark, share, or e-mail the page so they can come back later and buy after they've consulted with a spouse, shopped around, etc.

Online marketing is complex and diverse. There's no one thing you can do to rock. A myriad of elements come together on a site to make it successful.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Toronto, June 8-10, 2009, at the Sheraton Centre Toronto.


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