How to improve your web presence
It’s always the little things that get you. If the devil’s in the details then the Internet is literally the devil’s playground. If only there was a handy list of common things that tend to slip through the cracks that you could read. If it cut to the chase and provided insight that generated tangible results, even better. As it just so happens, that’s exactly what this post is about.
5. Registering with DMOZ
DMOZ is the granddaddy of web directories. It’s so trusted that Google uses it to pull page descriptions for sites that don’t include them. DMOZ is also known as the Open Directory Project and it’s staffed by volunteers which can make getting listed take its sweet time. And while it’s true that it could take awhile, the few minutes you spend requesting a listing are well worth it.
Why’s that? Well, one of the key arguments used in the search algorithm used by Google to rank pages in their search results is a thing called PageRank. PageRank is essentially a reputation score that Google assigns a website on a scale of 0-10. A site with a higher PageRank means that Google thinks it is more of an authority on the subject it covers.
One element of Search Engine Optimization involves increasing a site’s PageRank. This is done in two ways: by improving the website and the content it contains or by increasing the number of inbound links to the website.
DMOZ is a powerful inbound link. By itself it’s known to add +1 to your PageRank. I can’t guarantee that it will happen to your site when it’s accepted to DMOZ, but if there’s such a thing as an easy first step for SEO, this is it.
Another benefit to DMOZ is being able to craft your own default page description. As was already mentioned above, Google uses DMOZ to pull site description information for pages on sites that don’t contain them. In the process of submitting your request to DMOZ, you’ll have the opportunity to submit your own site description. It’s as close as you get to a ‘default’ page description, so take some care and consideration when developing your phrasing.
4. Have a Current Sitemap
Sitemaps are easy things that accomplish a simple task. But for some reason the process of generating a sitemap creates all kinds of confusion. So let me break it down for you. A sitemap is a page with links to all the other pages on your website. When it’s formatted for a person, the page acts as a kind of directory to all the different parts of the website.
The other kind of sitemap is meant for search engines and is written in a markup language called XML. For this reason the sitemap is often referred to as the XML sitemap. When you see it, it’s not particularly pretty. It just looks really repetitive. But it sure gets the job done.
The format is simple enough that if you had a list of all the links on your website you could hand write the code somewhat quickly. But nobody in their right mind does it that way. The easiest thing to do is to use a sitemap generator. There’s a free tool at xml-sitemaps.com that works really well for generating sitemaps.
If you know what you’re doing you can go in afterward and adjust the values and take out any redundant links. If this is more or less all Greek to you, then fear not – the sitemap you just generated will work just fine. But why did you need a sitemap for search engines again?
3. Submit Your Sitemaps to the Search Engines
Search engines drive the bulk of traffic to your website. It only makes sense then that you want all of the pages in your website cataloged by the major search engines. The first step is to create the page with all of your site’s links on one page. This is your XML sitemap. The next thing to do is to submit that sitemap to Google, and Yahoo/Bing (whose tools are combined together).
The basic routine is the same for each search engine:
- Login or signup and then login
- Enter your URL
- Verify your site (either by uploading a file to your server or by adding a meta tag to your frontpage)
- Submit your sitemap URL
There are two huge benefits to doing this: first, you can be sure that search engines are indexing your site and second, all of the engines provide you with valuable data you can use when doing further SEO. You can always hope that the major engines are finding you and spidering your site completely or you can do it this way and know for sure.
2. Telling Your Users What You Want Them To Do
Thus far the list has been pretty SEO heavy. But the fact of the matter is most small business websites still suffer from flier-itis. In a good portion of the sales meetings I sit in for clients who want a new website at some point they invariably say “when a user is browsing the site” or “when they’re looking around” or any of a half a dozen other phrases that means the user is wandering around the Internet to click on a link and see what it does.
This mindset has its roots in the early days of small businesses building websites: there’s so much room, let’s put it ALL up! Then users can browse at their leisure!
Wrong. Your visitors have a reason for being on your website. You have a reason for having a website. The faster you connect your needs with your users needs, the faster everybody gets what they want. The harder you make it, the harder it’s going to be.
This is how it works in practice. It sounds SO EASY but it really isn’t. Look at your own site and see how you measure up.
What’s the #1 thing you want from your website? Sales? Leads? Something else?
On an e-commerce site it makes sense to offer featured or best selling products on the front page. This way users who come looking for those items can find them easily without having to search for them. If you’re a lead based business — real estate, medicine, legal or otherwise — distill your message and ask for the user to contact you by making a form available right on the frontpage.
1. Setting Goals
Quick, how did your company’s website come into existence? Did it happen after careful consideration or did it happen by somebody running in the room and shouting something that loosely translates as TEH INTERWEBS IZ DA FUTURE!?
95% of the websites and online marketing projects I have been a part of started with no goals and no idea of setting goals. And universally those projects turn out to be Titanic sized disasters. There’s something about the Internet that allows people to get in touch with their inner creative freak where ideas like value and profit seem to lose their meaning. Goal setting and ROI is for The Man.
This results in the creation of a website that everyone will agree at some point in the future “doesn’t work”. Why doesn’t it work? And how, exactly, is it broken? Nobody knows but everybody can feel it. And then it occurs to somebody that this Internet thing must be hard.
It’s not so much that the Internet is hard as much as it is detail oriented. And if there’s such a thing as a devil, right here, he’s blinding you by throwing a million insignificant variables at you at once. I think this is why business owners don’t like to set goals for their websites. It hurts. For most people, technology is just popular wizardry. We don’t know exactly how an iPad works but golly-gee we sure do love to swipe our fingers across it. Magic!
That same thought extends to websites except now technology is no longer a fun tech toy, it’s the bedrock of your business. Couple that with the fact that hiring a web development firm is expensive and bringing in a tech person isn’t exactly cheap either. Now you’ve got techno-fear and fiscal conservatism working against you.
You’d think at this point you’d step back and try to press forward logically — with solid business principals. But that never happens. Instead very very smart people get stuck concerning themselves with intimate details about a website instead of the big picture.
I will give you a real example. Several years ago I was working with a client who had resisted setting goals for their website. They were in my office on a weekly basis complaining about their lack of Internet leads. And weekly I would suggest quantifying his problem and then taking the steps necessary to achieve the result. And you know what he wanted to talk about instead? He wanted to talk about where the Google Analytics code goes on a page. The argument boiled down to either putting the code in the head of the website or right before the closing body tag.
In a certain light, this can be a fun discussion for a few computer nerds. One throws down the gauntlet. The other opens up the LiveHTTPHeaders plugin for Firefox and they see whose right, talking smack all the way. Call it a game of King of the Nerd Mountain. But if you’re a business owner, this should not be a concern for you. You’re not impressing anybody with your arcane knowledge. In fact, you’re stepping on our delicate nerdy toes.
Instead you should be declaring the stakes. 10 new leads next month! 15% increase in sales! Or whatever seems appropriate for you.
The real work – the work that will make a difference – starts once you’ve failed the realistic goals that you set for yourself. Then you can dig into the analytics, find the problem, and turn your website from one that “doesn’t work” into one you’re proud to show off.