It’s not unusual to find websites that make you wonder what the site owner and site designer were thinking. If you’ve ever encountered a website where you had trouble navigating, finding content, or making a purchase, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But I’m not here to slam designers or business owners; I’m here to remind you to ask a simple yet very important question before you build your space online: what is the purpose of your website?
If you answered “to promote my business, of course!” you’re not thinking specifically enough. Try this question on for size: what do you hope to accomplish with your website? Most websites that are trying to rank in the search engines seem to fit into certain general categories. These include sales, lead generation, entertainment, and informational. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but they seem to be the kinds we see the most. Each of them will call for somewhat different SEO approaches.
A website focused on sales does exactly what it sounds like – it sells a product. From an SEO perspective, if you are selling a lot of products that are very similar, duplicate content issues can crop up. Product descriptions will need to be carefully written to avoid a penalty. On the other hand, we can make extensive use of a Google data highlighting tool to get the search engine to see the product information correctly. It involves something called “schema,” and although schema might not be appropriate for certain sites, it can be helpful in this situation.
What if you offer a service that can’t simply be purchased through your website? You are probably trying to generate leads – get potential customers to contact you for a demonstration or a quote. You should make it very easy for visitors to give you their contact information so you can get in touch with them, of course…and you should also set up Google Analytics to tell you about form completion. Sure, you may know how many people contacted you this month, but do you know what they did to find your website? Do you know where they came from? Do you know how that number compares to the same time last year? Properly set up, GA can tell you this, and much, much more.
Perhaps you run an entertainment-based website. That can be anything from a forum to a games site to a social networking website. To my mind, two points stand out about such a site. First, you must make it easy for users to do what you want them to do (play games, take quizzes, whatever) because there are a lot of ways to get entertained online. Second, if you’re offering your main entertainment for free, you still need to make money – and you need to have a way to measure the money you’re making. Not just how much money is coming in, but from where it’s coming, and how much you’re paying for it, just for openers. Again, Google Analytics has ways to help you measure these kinds of things.
Finally, there are informational websites. Some of these are political, some are charities, some may be hobby sites, but all are trying to inform and educate. You will want to measure your traffic, of course, and in this case you have some interesting tools at your disposal. Google has one that creates a trackable URL. You can use it in an e-mailed newsletter to see how many people click through; you can even use more than one to see if more recipients click through at the top of the newsletter or at the bottom. With this kind of information, you can see what is and is not working, and hone your message accordingly to increase traffic.
You may notice I didn’t touch on content and link building. That’s going to be a given for any kind of website, one way or another; there may simply be some differences in the focus. Many websites may be trying to accomplish several things at once. But once you know what your overarching goal is for your site, you know how you need to focus your design – and you know what you need to measure. This lets you turn a general goal like “promoting my business” into a more specific goal, like “making twice as much revenue in Q4 2014 as I did in Q4 2013.” Setting goals that are specific and measurable are the first two steps toward actually achieving them…and knowing what you’re doing with your website. Good luck!
Written By: Terri Wells – SEO