Before we begin, please take a few seconds to soak in our favourite analogy.
As the designers and builders of your website, think of us as property developers. We’ve designed and built your perfect house, in a lovely neighbourhood, and handed you the keys. It’s exactly as you want it, better than the other houses in your neighbourhood. But why should anyone come to your parties? That’s where socialising (IE promoting yourself) comes in.
Our job as designers and builders is to make sure that every box is ticked to make your website compliant to what Google expects, and to make sure that when people find you they are very impressed with your image. But raising your website’s profile to thrust it through Google is in your hands.
For a website to be successful and make you money, it needs to be seen. Websites don’t just wander to the top of Google and start pulling in enquiries – they get there by being noticed, talked about and thrust in people’s faces. Think about it – marketing budgets from small businesses can be anywhere from £10 per month to £10,000pm+. A £30, £45 or £60pm website does not replace a marketing budget. If it did, marketing budgets would not exist. That’s not saying you need such a budget, because everything in this guide is essentially marketing that you can do yourself.
Make your website better for Google
Dwell for a while on the above statement. Google wants the best internet possible – a useful, helpful, fast and modern internet. Help them, and they’ll help you.
Here the things we feel are the most effective ways of getting your website seen, used and strongly listed in search engines:
1. Get a Google My Business account
When it comes to social media for business, Google is the king. It’s the ultimate directory listing, and this is Google’s playground, so let’s play by its rules. It ties in well with your website, and displays good information to its users when they search for your company. It makes your company look ‘legit’ and makes you part of the Google club.
Tip – We put a Google icon on our websites by default. If you set up a Google account, let us know so we can enter the code that links your website to your Google profile and back again.
2. Review your website’s content for improvements
The biggest factor in your site’s natural Google presence is its content. If your content could be improved upon by expanding it, rewording it, focussing it (removing bumf and unrelated detritus), adding more pages or being more helpful – do it as a high priority.
3. Make sure your products and services are competitive online
The internet has ushered in a new, hyper-competitive world of buying. If your price is higher than somebody else’s for the same product or service, you’d better give a seriously good reason for it. Otherwise, roughly 120% of visitors will buy from them, not you. Modern consumers want everything now, for as little money as possible, and they have 10 other websites at their fingertips waiting to make it happen.
Research what your competitors are charging and how they are delivering their service, and if you need to charge more, make sure you justify it clearly.
4. Get listed in local (or relevant) directories
Google is a very clever thing. When someone searches for “Carpet Cleaners in Bristol”, Google will analyse everything it knows of, and determine the most useful thing for that person to see. If it sees 10 mentions throughout the web that your company cleans carpets in Bristol, and sees those mentions linking to your website, it’ll present your website to the customer as a good solution. Simple really, isn’t it? In addition to directories specific to your area (if you have a local service), here are some key national directories to list in:
- Thomson Local
- Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn
There are many more, some free and some not. We have some specific tips when doing this:
- Don’t bother with directories that look amateurish or underground, or if they don’t show up in the first 5 pages of Google. Just get yourself on the local ones and big national ones
- Don’t get caught up in whether it offers a “no-follow” back link to your website. Google barely uses page rank (a system it used to use to pass reputation from one website to another depending on how they are linked) these days – it’s cleverer than that. If it looks useful, do it.
- Be prepared to receive the odd marketing call and email from some directories. They make their money by a) displaying advertising and b) selling premium ads to you, so they will try to sell their services. And on that note, we rarely witness anyone benefit from a featured directory ad, so think carefully before buying any such listing.
- If money’s tight, skip past any directory listing that costs money. There are dozens more that charge nothing and probably give the same benefit.
Tip - We’ve never paid for a directory listing and have a solid stream of business through our website.
5. Talk about your website online
This is a legitimate activity that you should do. It is also the old trick that used to have a bad reputation. Have you ever had an email from "insert very distant country here" selling you SEO? Generally what they do is feed your website’s address into a program that fires it out as spam across thousands of random forums and comment sections, plaguing the bottom half of the web with your address and some irrelevant promotion. Google rewards websites that are talked about online, and used to reward unrelated & random mentions too. It now punishes them. Don’t buy this service.
But do talk about your business in related, useful circles. Use your best spelling and grammar, contribute to the conversation, and be a useful person online. Google will detect that, and will reward that. Some good places to do this:
- Forums specific to your industry or related industry, sharing help and advice
- Commenting on articles for which you have genuine input
- Using Twitter and social media wisely, genuinely and helpfully. Don’t just Tweet-mash your web address out there - it annoys people, and Google knows.
In general, keep it honest, relevant and helpful, and you’ll be rewarded. Shameless promotion isn’t just frowned on by humans – Google gets annoyed too.
Tip X: Paid Advertising
Read this – it’s the single most effective thing you can do to make your website succeed. Around 75% of readers will skip past this because it costs money. Don’t dismiss it until you’ve read it.
Paid advertising can return your investment (or more) immediately. We’ve put paid advertising at the bottom of the list because we want to make sure you’ve done all the free things first (and also because they can make this far more effective). But once you’re ready to invest into getting serious business from your website, prepare yourself a marketing budget.
There are numerous forms, and it’s up to you to research what would be the most effective for you. It starts with the old fashioned methods – newspaper and publication ads, leaflets and other local advertising. Paid ads displayed on websites can give a sketchy return, mainly because they have a reputation for annoyance.
However, Google’s Pay-Per-Click is highly effective (it works for us) but requires some knowledge of what your potential customers are searching for, how often they search for it and how much to pay for each click. We’ve found that Google are a great help here – if you start a PPC campaign and receive a call from Google, take it, because they will help you in a serious way. And then there’s TV and radio advertising, which is a totally new world for us – it’s up to you to explore.
Vibe Websites: Our best results have come from Google Pay-Per-Click. We have a nice strong presence online thanks to years of doing the above, and have a solid stream of work coming in, but when we find our developers are playing too much frizbee in the office we simply turn on the PPC and man the phones. We’ll generally get all of our ads cost back very quickly, and be solidly into profit on that investment in no time. We have no affiliation with Google, by the way, we just recommend playing by their rules. And we have done a lot of research into our market and keywords, so our PPC is very well targeted.
Axon Fitness: Speaking personally as the author of this guide, my partner is a fitness instructor. She gets a very solid return from local publication and leaflet marketing, usually paying the invoice for the publication with the initial income from the first few customers without ever having to take money from her own pocket. If an ad costs £100, her average return on that is at least £100pm of new business, meaning it takes just one month to pay for the ad and the business keeps its new income. The old fashioned methods can still be the most effective.
Tip Y: Don’t buy Overseas SEO.
It’s not worth reading the painfully worded email that you've no doubt received. The people undertaking these activities may be thousands of miles away, communication can be almost impossible, and generally websites get their presence punished by the activities these companies do. Many of our customers have tried this before coming to us for a website, and we have never seen a success story from overseas SEO.
Tip Z: Website performance
Our websites are great performers right out of the box – you get that with a professionally built site. However, there are things we can do over-and-above normal professional conventions to make your website supersonic – particularly when it comes to loading speed.
Our £100 premium performance bolt-on is a simple, upfront package of work that puts a specialist developer to work in the engine room of your site, squeezing every last drop of performance out of it. By compressing everything, combining scripts, resizing and optimising images and maxing out every factor that speed masters GT Metrix measure a website by, we turn your website into a freak of speed with the weight and spring of a grasshopper – something mobile users love.
Google loves speed. In mid-2015, the head of Google began a major conference with the phrase “The Internet should be fast.” – that’s all you need to know. Again, play by Google’s rules and help them build the internet they want, and they’ll welcome you to page one with open arms.
If you’re interested in our £100 premium performance bolt-on, contact us to talk to a specialist developer about how we can help you.
That's it for this guide - I hope it's been very useful for you. When in doubt, remember that your website is a beautiful new home that people will love if you invite them to your parties. But if you simply sit at home with your feet up and never venture out, the likelihood is nobody will trouble you.