I get a lot of support tickets come in asking for help on SEO and ranking higher in Google. I truly feel that pretty much all of these people are wasting too much time focusing on the wrong question. The real question is… how do I serve my audience better?
People are the key
Let’s think about this. If I was a search engine, I need to provide my users with search results that will be the most useful for them. If I did not, they would go somewhere else. How would I determine what is the best content to show my user? Should I base it off what webpages have the best meta tags? Or should I base it off the websites that have the most people visiting them for that topic? I am pretty sure that you know the answer…
The key to developing a sustainable web based business is people. Without them, your site is just hobby. The best way to build an audience is to find your niche, preferably something that you are passionate about. The love that we have for our work will shine through. People will take notice and come back again and again to experience what you have to offer.
Providing content to your audience
There are many ways that we can provide content to our audience. The most popular one on the web today is probably a blog. Blogs are a great way to generate content for your audience and ensure that they come back to your site on a regular basis. Other popular means of generating content for your audience are podcasts, video and social networks.
Another amazing way to build your audience is to team up with another authority in your niche and cross promote each other. When starting off in the forrest of the internet, it can be really hard to be seen. It can be a very daunting task if you are trying to do it on your own. But if you were to team up with another authority in your niche, you could help build each other’s audience through cross posting via guest blog posts or podcast/video appearances.
From a technical standpoint, your search engine ranking will be vastly improved with the more external sites linking to yours. This tells Google that other people think that your content is important enough to link to. However, don’t try to do this artificially. Provide great content that you are proud of, and people will link to you.
It takes time
I have built a pretty amazing audience over the past 6 years (this did not happen over night). I have used all of the before mentioned ways of interacting with my audience. The key to my success though was not that I was trying to build an audience or rank on Google. I have built a successful audience because I serve them with passion for all that I do. I currently interact with my audience via primarily video and social networks. I have a ton of video content for users on both Vimeo and my YouTube Channel to help them build amazing websites. And over the past couple of years, I have built an amazing RapidWeaver community on Google+.
In the future, I plan on getting back into podcasting. As for blogging, as with most people on the internet, I should do it more. The key to both of these strategies, keeping a schedule it vital to success. You must release content on a regular basis and stick to a schedule, whether that be once a week or every 2 weeks. A good strategy to ensure that this happens is to batch create content. Then schedule it out ahead of time. This will ensure content will always be ready even for those crazy weeks where we just don’t have time to create new content for our users.
While I do feel passionately that we need to spend more time focusing on serving people, we cannot forget to at least implement the technical basics of SEO. Here is a quick bullet list of what I feel needs to be done on every webpage.
- Maintain a sitemap.xml file that contains all of your webpages. This is a must have. Its easiest way to inform search engines about your entire site.
- Make sure that your page urls contain keywords. You know exactly what this webpage is about just by looking at the url: http://joeworkman.net/rapidweaver/stacks/.
- The page title (via the
<title> tag) tells search engines what the main focus of your webpage. This is also the title that shows up in search results.
- The page description
<meta> tag allows you to provide a larger summary of your page contents to compliment the page title.
- Use header tags (
<h6>) to define your content into sections.
- If indexing images is important, make sure that your image names are relevant and that you use image alt tags.
If you want more info on how to implement these technical basics in RapidWeaver. I have an entire chapter in my book dedicated to it. You can get it at http://rapidweaverbook.com. Will Woodgate also wrote an amazing article on the 10 steps towards improving RapidWeaver SEO. See what I just did there? Cross linking FTW! ;-)
Last but definitely not least, our webpages should look attractive and be easy to use. There really is no technical reason for this. Its just that if you want people to stay on your site and come back, it needs to be easy to use and preferably is not be hideous. I see a lot of peoples websites everyday. I will tell you that many times, less is more. I don’t have any hard tips for you here as I don’t truly feel like I am a top flight designer.
But as a visitor of websites, I can tell you that the hot pink and purple tile background that you were debating for your site is probably not going to be a good idea! Its also ok to split your content into multiple webpages. You don’t need to cram everything you would ever want to tell your visitor onto one page.
“One effect per page” is the best advice that I can think of for adding things like lightboxes, tabs, sliders and accordions to your webpage. If you ever find that you want to nest any other these inside another, just stop and rethink your layout. K.I.S.S.
People want you
The entire point of this post was to hopefully make you reflect on what you are spending most of your efforts on. We tend to forget that we are still dealing with people on the internet. Our websites are digital store fronts and I like to compare my website to an actual physical store. I want to connect with my customers on a personal level. I want to make sure that they know that they are buying from me, not some billboard and info graphics on a website.
Let’s take an Apple store as an example. As of today, its possible to walk into an Apple store, purchase something off the shelf with your iPhone and walk out the door without ever interacting with another human being. Would Apple store be packed to the brim with people if there was no one there to serve customers? Of course not! Apple stores are packed to the brim because there are tons of Apple employees who’s job it is to serve and help us with what we need.
Our customers need that sense of a personal connection. If you can build that, then you will have a sustainable web presence. Meta tags wont get you there. Focus on people, not Google.