The first thing we must address is ‘on-page’ or ‘on-site’ search engine optimization (SEO). When search engines like Google analyze a website and decide how to rank it, they look at both on-site factors and external factors, which we’ll get to in a bit. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of these on-site factors so we’ll stick to just a few of the most important ones.
Title Tags: Perhaps the most important on-site factor of all is the title of your website and the titles of individual pages on your site. Like the title of a book and its chapters, this tells search engines in a few words, what that page is about. It’s a good idea to include your company’s name in the site title but you should also include relevant keywords (more on this later), including location keywords if applicable. For instance, don’t just make the title of your website “Jiffy Jim”; make it “Jiffy Jim Heating & Cooling – HVAC Systems in Omaha, Nebraska”.
Image Tags: Images are a great way to liven up a website, break up large blocks of text, and provide relevant product and service info to your customers. When you include images on your website, make sure you include relevant ‘ALT tags’, image title tags, and captions and descriptions if necessary. The ALT tags are primarily intended to give blind visitors an idea of what the image consists as they are read by special software programs they use to surf the Internet. However along with the image title tags, descriptions, and even the image file names, these act as important cues to search engines about your website’s content.
Header Tags: To avoid confusion, title and subtitles found within the page are referred to as ‘headers’ in order to distinguish them from ‘titles’ which refer to website and page titles as discussed above. These range from H1 tags for the most important header, down to H7 for minor subtitles. As with the title tags, use these accordingly to tell search engines and your visitors what a given page or section is about.
Keywords are what people search for in search engines to find what they are looking for; including relevant ones within your website content and the tags discussed above can help your site be found by potential customers. There are many powerful tools available like the Google Adwords Keyword Planner for building lists of relevant keywords. However you should be able to come up with a good list just on your own based on your knowledge of your business and what your customers want. These can include product names and types, features, model numbers, location-specific keywords, and so on. Include these naturally within your content and don’t force them into pages excessively as this will harm user experience and could incur ranking penalties from search engines.
And remember, search engines can’t read flash, so if your website is flash-based it likely isn’t doing your search engine rankings any favors. Also, consider making your website easily accessible and well formatted for the increasing number of mobile users (i.e., smartphones, tablets, etc.)
If you own an HVAC service company in Flint, Mich., for example, you obviously want to attract customers from that area. In addition to including your city or town in the website title as mentioned above, make sure your full address is listed on the website in text that search engines can read (i.e., not an image) and if applicable, include an interactive Google Maps feature indicating your location(s).
What about when potential customers actually get to your website? Well, we obviously want them to contact us because we want their business. So …
1. Don’t bury your phone number and email in some hard-to-find ‘Contact Us’ page. Put it front and center, above the fold. Visitors should be able to see it without scrolling down and it should appear on every page of the website (in addition to your contact page).
2. Consider including an appointment-request form on your site. These are easy to set up and by filling out a few fields (e.g., name, phone number, etc.) potential customers can request an appointment or more information. These can be sent right to your email allowing you to respond right away.
3. Include calls to action. Don’t just post your phone number; write “Call (555) 123-1234 for a free quote!” Get creative with these.
Bottom Line: Make it as easy as possible for prospects to get in touch with you and start the buying process.
Make frequent updates to your site. I don’t mean you should be overhauling your website on a weekly basis. What I do mean is that you should be regularly adding relevant news, promotions, new product info (when applicable), and so on; include this in a blog section if you like. Search engines love new content and they will send more visitors to websites that are frequently updated than ones that aren’t. This is also a great way to engage potential customers and generate new business.
Building links to your website from other websites is perhaps the most important “external” ranking factor but that’s beyond the scope of this article. In short, it’s a good thing to have other websites like local newspapers, trade websites like this one, and any other relevant sites linking to yours. It creates exposure for your website and business and helps improve your search engine rankings.
If you haven’t already, create a Facebook and Twitter profile for your business, and while you’re at it, create an account with Google Places/Google+ for Business. These are all free and they’re great ways to keep customers up-to-date on promotions and relevant offerings. They’re also another powerful signal that search engines consider in their rankings. You don’t have to spend hours trying to make some fancy page and tweet 100 times a day. Just share important events and news; for example, “Fall sale – 20% OFF this weekend only.” You can also encourage existing customers to review your business on your Google+ listing if they had a positive experience. These are great for building trust with other potential customers.
With a minimal amount of effort, these strategies can help your business bring in new customers and get a leg up on your competition. Good luck.