That is the question I hear more than any other. A lot of people can build websites. It takes a lot more effort to get found on the web than it does to simply build a website. There are people out there that tell you they will give you a website for free! What???! How can they do that? Well, that's because they know you won't be found without a marketing effort, and if you sign up with them, they'll try to get you to sign up with their marketing program(s). Keep in mind, though, if you sign up with them, they own your domain (url), which means they own you - unless you don't mind changing your "brand" down the road. Your url should BE your brand. Branding is part of marketing. You need to market your site and your brand to be found.
What is a brand? It's what people know you, or will know you, as. Branding includes creating a uniform look for your company marketing, such as a logo, a "look" for your website that looks similar to other marketing materials you've done such as brochures, business cards, signage, postcards, doorhangers, etc.
So, to answer the question "how do I get found on the web?", I need to break it down into processes, because there are many that need to happen.
Make sure your website is optimized. What is optimized? Why is it important? Search engine optimization ("SEO") is the art of designing or modifying web pages so that they rank well in search results and drive converting traffic to websites. There are over 200 ranking factors that Google uses in it's algorithm to rank a website. These factors include both on-page and off-page statistics. For on-page SEO, you need
- The right amount of text (about 300 words)
- Represent your "keyword phrase" (main topic) well throughout the page
- SEO meta tags (title, description) representing your keyword phrase adequately
- Every page should have an image on it with an alt tag representing your keyword phrase in some way
- There should be some "H-tags" (otherwise known as headings like h1, h2, h3, etc)
- Some bolding or italics to emphasize key points that relate to your keyword phrase in some way
- The url you use should also include your keyword phrase
- Use of images, videos, media of some sort, tagged appropriately
- Get some relevant incoming links
An example of a well-optimized page can be downloaded here. If you have all of this correct, move on to the next step.
Do you have social media sites set up? If not: start there. Create a Facebook Page and a Twitter account to start. You can build from there. Twitter is especially important now that Twitter and Google signed an agreement where Google is using Twitter's pipe in search returns. My blog on Twitter and Google's agreement is here. Other good social media recommendations, depending on what you're site is about: Pinterest, Instagram. Retail service industries (like restaurants, coffee shops) should have Yelp, Foursquare, and other social media referral sites with rating systems accounts. Make sure users can see icons leading (linking) to your social media sites.
Are you transparent - easy to contact? If not: you should be. Set up a chat. Set up a rating system. Make sure you have your contact info, including a telephone number, displayed on a page that's easy to find (top menu works). Add a clickable link to your phone number for mobile users to easily call you.
Is your site responsive or mobile friendly? If not: Yikes! See my other blog post: Mobile-Friendly Websites. I'd halt and reboot.
Submit your site to search engines. Search engines, like Google and Bing, have webmaster tools. Hopefully you've had a sitemap.xml file created with your site. What is a sitemap.xml file and why you need one is a whole different subject I will cover some other time. If you want to know now, please contact me. After you submit your site, hopefully the search engines didn't find any errors!
Begin marketing your site. This is where the real work begins. Just because you've done everything else above, you're not done. I wouldn't expect any great results until 12 months after you've submitted your site to the search engines, and that's only if you've done the following:
- Add relevant content regularly, linking to other internal relevant pages.
- Create regular posts to Facebook and Twitter (Hootsuite can help with making the management of this easier).
- There are tricks to this. You need to make sure you use phrases you want to be found for that you have content created for, AND most important: don't forget to link back to your site!!!
- Submit press releases (ie. PRWeb.com is a good place to create a press release)
- Find linking partners (this one takes the most time and most people give up on)
- Chamber of Commerce
- urbanspoon (if you are an eatery)
- Yelp (if you are in the service industry)
- Living Social (if you are in the service industry)
- Comment on related blog posts, link back to your site
- Email campaigns
- Direct mail
- If relevant: local tv or newspaper ads
- PPC (pay-per-click) advertising with Google and/or Bing
The links send signals to the search engines that the site is legitimate. Unrelated links coming in will cause you grief, though, so be careful. The key to being found on the search engines is traffic to your site. You can't get traffic without marketing. Someone else already has the #1 spot you wish you were in, believe me. So, how do you gain that spot? It takes a lot of hard work and money. The people there already paid their dues in time and money. They didn't get there overnight. Neither will you.
One way you can get a smaller "win" is by optimizing your site for local searches. Doing all of the above, but optimizing your site for your local area, will get you found faster in your local area than not.
For localization, you also need to "claim your location" with Google. They send a postcard out to you to verify that you are stating a true location, so be prepared for that. More on local search optimization later!, as that's a whole other topic in itself.
In summary, getting found is not an overnight process, involves a lot of time, work, and diligence. It's not for the untrained. The lingering questions is this: should you try to do this yourself, in house, or hire a consultant? The answer lies here: if you have the time to dedicate to this, you absolutely can do it yourself. If you have employees, is it better to pay the inexperienced that has more than this on their plate, or hire a professional? I'd hire the professional. The trained professional does it for a living, has experience, will get it done faster and more effectively, and will cost less over time.
I hope I've answered the question: How Can I Get My Website Found On The Web? It's all about marketing.
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