New Years' resolutions are a great thing... IF you carry them out. As Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (probably) wrote, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"! No plan is bad, but a plan that's never put into action is just as bad.
This New Year, make a resolution to get your website really cranking; and it's not hard to do! In my years of browsing I've seen some pretty horrible, and some pretty awesome, websites. Sadly, I've seen more of the former than the latter. Ever been to a site and thought, "Wow! That's a really cool looking website!" but been unable to find what you want? That's not uncommon. And there's some good reasons for this, but more on that later...
How do I supercharge the website experience for my visitors?
Google is now placing some pretty heavy emphasis on how users interact not only with your website, but with the results on the SERPs. That's RankBrain and you NEED to understand it and what it's looking for! You can find out more on Neil Patel's article. Or dig deeper into RankBrain here.
Aside from RankBrain, there are really 2 other ranking elements - content and backlinks. And while you have some measure of control over backlinks, they're much more problematic to control than content. YOU are the one solely in control of your content! When it comes to sailing the USS Content, you are the Supreme Commander.
Which means, if your site isn't performing well, YOU are also responsible.
The good news is... you're also able to fix it!
And along with your content, make sure your site is built logically so visitors can actually find all that great content you are going to write. When you hop into your vehicle to take a long cross country trip of a few thousand miles, you're probably heading to your favorite map website to figure out the route.
Why? Because you want to actually arrive at your destination!
So do your visitors. If they clicked a link to get to your site, they're hopeful of finding the information they need. Don't rob them of the roadmap!
2 website elements you can easily control
Content and Architecture. Content is what you write on the page, architecture is a huge area, encompassing the site design - the look and feel - the navigation of the site - how simple it is for users to fond, and get to, information, and on-page SEO - will the users ever find you on Google and other search engines?
Content is still king. But don't mistake content for text only. Images and videos are huge content items, especially video since Google bought YouTube in 2006.
Google ranks "authoritative" content higher that non-authoritative. There's a definition in the quote box. One thing to keep in mind is that longer (to a point) is better than shorter. You're probably not going to be considered "authoritative with a 4-500 word article. Research has shown articles getting ranked on page 1 are now 1-2000 words.
Within authoritative content there are a number of different types and it's important to make sure you aren't missing any. And once you get those great authoritative article don't forget to share. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Alignable, and more.
CURRENT TRENDS/EVENTS - It's always great to be the first to write about something, but, let's face it, it's unlikely you will be. However, you CAN be the first with your perspective. Talk about something new or trending with your personal spin.
EVERGREEN CONTENT - Unfortunately, new and exciting events don't happen every day. The bulk of your site will be solid "evergreen" content. There's a lot which doesn't change, or can be easily updated to current stats. A great example of this is a "How to" topic.
BLOG POSTS - I have to admit to being guilty from time to time here. Website owners often underestimate the power of blogging. It's not shoving you, your company, or your product/service down their throat. Blogging is about informing, becoming an authority, and nurturing. Yes, you can blog about your company or products OCCASIONALLY, but visitors won't return to a blog full of self-serving back-slapping. Educate and inform, and you'll develop a strong following.
PROBLEM SOLVERS - All your clients had problems when they came to you. For whatever reason, they chose YOUR solution above all others. When you figure out what problems you solved for your past/current clients you have the basis for a great article. I find a great way to do this is an FAQ page. State the problem, then give the answer. Don't want to give away your trade secrets? You won't - with the amount of information on the net, be assured someone else has already done it!
CASE STUDIES - This is common on attorney websites. Not only do case studies showcase your company's skill and solutions, but they act like a portfolio as well
WHITE PAPERS - Generally these are in some sort of downloadable format - PDF is great.
Website architecture is how your site is built. How easy is it to use? Answering that yourself is a bad idea - of course you know where everything is if you built it! Try asking others - like your wife, husband or kids. My wife is a great critic for me!
When a visitor lands on your site, do they know why they're there? This may seem self-evident, but does your site instantly tell them they're at the right place to get there questions answered?
Is it obvious where they should go to get in-depth information?
Is your address (for brick and mortars at least) and phone number instantly visible, or do they have to hunt for it?
Is you phone number clickable in MOBILE ONLY? It doesn't need to be clickable in desktop, laptop, or even tablet as most of them won't call. Making a desktop number try to call results in a confusing error popup. Do you want to confuse your visitor?
GOOD MENU STRUCTURE - In WWII, to confuse potential German Invaders, the British government ordered street and road signs to either be removed, or pointed in wrong direction. Is your website like that? Does a visitor get to a page then wonder, "What am I doing here? Or what can I do here?" Web design etiquette says important information should always be 1 click away from the current location. Don't make visitors hunt for what they want; make it simple!
MOBILE FRIENDLY- Google now ranks websites as desktop and mobile. With over half of internet searches being made on mobile devices, you cannot afford to have a mobile-friendly (or responsive) website. These sites adapt to the size of the screen they're being viewed on.
A SECURE SITE - Again, Google is pushing this barrow, giving a ranking push for secure websites. It's not just eCommerce sites that can benefit from being secure; every site can receive a benefit from it, other than just the Google push. Site visitors will recognize the secure site and feel more secure browsing. If viewing on Chrome, a large "Not Secure" appears next to the URL in the address bar. What does this tell your visitors?
FAST LOADING - At the cost of sounding like a broken record, Google is going to love you more for a fast loading site. In their quest to provide their customers (internet seachers) with the best possible results, they love fast loading sites.
MEDIA - Research shows that there's a direct correlation between an article with 1 image and an article with no image. It shows the former rank higher than the latter. Interestingly, adding more than 1 image doesn't seem to have any significant effect. But make sure your images are properly optimized, otherwise they may actually work against you.
CLICK TO CALL - With the upsurge in mobile-based searches, not only should your phone number be front-and-center, it now MUST be clickable to call your business.
6 Tips to make your website perform (and make you look good!)
"So what can I do to make my site better?" you may ask. Great question! These 6 tips can help your visitors get the best from your site.
GET BLOGGING - If you don't already have a blog, get one and get posting! If you've never blogged before, start gently - try once a month. Then, once you get more comfortable with it, start increasing the frequency. When you post, think of information that will educate and inform your customers and visitors. Don't think there are "trade secrets" you mustn't give away. Trust me, someone already did, probably years ago! Aim for a minimum of 500 words; 1000 is much better. To become authoritative, your articles (posts) need to be full and helpful.
CHECK YOUR STRUCTURE - Is your content easy to find? Are important pieces of information hidden away too deep in your site?
GET MOBILE - Is your site mobile friendly? Check it out here. If it's not, as Captain Picard of the starship Enterprise used to say, "Make it so!" If it is, fantastic! However, even if it is, check it out on a few mobile devices to ensure that it actually looks OK.
LOCK IT UP - Add an SSL certificate to your site to make it https. As a company we take this very seriously and give a free SSL certificate to every one of our clients. If you're not one of our clients, ask your designer. They aren't very expensive and they make you look like "one of the good guys".
IMAGINE THAT - Make sure articles have at least one image. And every image must be optimized. This means the image should be reduced to the correct width & height in a graphics program, not requiring the browser to do this online. Every image should also have an appropriate SEO description attached to it to let search engines know what it relates to. Check out your site loading speed here.
CALL ME - Make sure your phone number is not only easily find-able (we like to put it in the header and, often, again in the footer), but, on phones, can be clicked to bring up the phone app. The easier you make it for customers to contact you, the more likely they will.
Do it now!
These adjustments can have a huge impact to your site visitor's experience and to your Google ranking. Some are easier than others - optimizing images takes a little time, but isn't hard, and can seriously decrease page load time.
Adding an SSL certificate to make your site secure can be a little more difficult, but is a big deal for security conscious surfers.
One of the most difficult ones is making the site mobile friendly. Often this can mean a total site rewrite (we don't charge for a site rebuild), but the reward is equal to the effort required. Giving your users a clean, fast mobile experience will keep them on your site longer. And it will make Google love you, and your site, more.
But, please, do it now!