Online business has changed the world for big industries and mom and pop stores alike. Last week was Google’s annual “Get Your Business Online” week. I participated by being an Advisor on Google’s new Google+ Business Community. It made me realize that there are still many businesses out there with no online presence. From experience I know there are many more who do have a website they think it is doing a good job for them (but it isn’t).
What does being “successful” online really mean though? That question has as many answers as there are businesses. For one it might mean being able to reach a global audience. For another it might mean being able to sell a physical product online that can be shipped to the customer and thereby expand their market far beyond their own area. For another it might mean just being present on the first page of search results in their own area for certain search terms.
Small town America is a great example of a place where every business can benefit in some way from being online. I live in Selinsgrove, Pa which is a small, college town along the Susquehanna River almost mid way between Williamsport, Pa and Harrisburg, Pa. We have all kinds of businesses here from industrial manufacturers to main street coffee shops.
No matter what your goal is as an online business there are some things that are constants. The main one is having a website that is optimized to be in line with published best practices. Following these rules is one way to make your site more attractive to search engines and thereby improve the position of your site in search results. Following the rules applies to every piece of content that you create (blog posts, images, videos, news releases, product descriptions) so it is not a “one and done” thing that only happens when you build a website.
You might think that this is something that usually happens whenever you hire a professional to design a website. Unfortunately that is not the case. I often review sites in the area that were professionally built and about 90% of the time those sites are significantly lacking in fundamental ways that negatively impact their reach and exposure. These issues can usually be fixed but if the site owner doesn’t know they exist they won’t be.
Online Business, On-site Considerations
- Traffic Rank – Are the search engines even aware of the site and if so how much traffic is the site getting in comparison to competing sites in the businesses’ desired market?
- Back Links – Based on the amount of time that a site has existed, how many other, quality sites link back to the site?
- Page Rank – If I do a search for the product or service promoted on the site in the obvious market area for the site does the site show up? If so, where is it in comparison to competitor’s sites?
- Speed – the faster your pages load the better you look to a search engine. The home page of my own site has load times as low as 471 milliseconds. I looked at one the other day that took 15 seconds to load. If my site was competing with that one (all other things being equal) I would be on page one and it would be, well, out of business.
- On site – There is a host of things pertaining to how a site is constructed that have a bearing on how it is ranked by the search engines. These too have to be taken into consideration and are often not done or not done properly. Here is a partial list; metadata pertaining to page title, description and keywords. Images compressed and described, HTML to text ratio, local directories, linked social networks, mobile/tablet rendering, mobile load time, site code, internal links, external links, keyword consistency, flash, frames, number of css and java files, headings, robts txt, xml site file, www resolve, site cache, site backup, site security, rich snippets and more.
Every site should have all of the above aspects optimized. Whether you want to reach the world or just your own town, site optimization is a must. In addition, because “best practices” tend to evolve over time you need to be aware of changes and make adjustments accordingly. I know that seems like a lot (and it is) but there is no shortcut. You either do it right or accept the fact that you just won’t do as well as you could on the web.
The second major area that every business can benefit from is the ongoing creation of Content. The search engines look for the best content to show whenever someone makes a query. That content should also be created in accordance with the same best practices that I referenced earlier in this article. This is true no matter what kind of content it is; written, photo, image, video.
By creating content on a regular basis you keep your site fresh and the search engine will index your site more frequently as a result. In addition you will give existing and prospective customers more details on your products and services. By doing this regularly you become an expert source of information on your topic to your readers.
These rules apply whether you are a large national company or a local pet shop. It is true that there are some differences in ways that you can focus more attention to local search as opposed to a general search but that is another topic. The point here is that maintaining a web presence for an online business is a complex process and many (if not most) business websites have not kept up with changes in best practices. As a result their owners are not even aware that they should be doing better than they are online.
If you would like me to do an analysis on your website please email or call to set up a time to talk about your site and your goals in having it. If you are on Google+ I would be happy to review your site with you on video via Google Helpouts.