Let’s face it, social media is everywhere. When listening to the radio or watching the nightly news, it is hard not to hear about the wave of social media. Many businesses are jumping on the band wagon and dipping their toes in the social media water. While this can be a great marketing strategy, it is also important to note, that social media channels are not the “silver bullet” of online marketing. Many times marketers will neglect one aspect of their marketing campaign to try another one.
As a business, moving into social media is a great idea, but not at the expense of your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It is important to make sure that you do not neglect your website as you move resources to developing the various channels necessary to have a strong presence in the various social media outlets. When moving into social media, it is important to have a plan to keep your website updated and relevant for the users. This will also help to support your social media effort. Below are some things that you should always be working on with your SEO alongside your social media campaigns.
Title and Description Meta Tags — Does each page of your site have unique meta data that is relevant to the page content? If not, work on this to ensure that every page of your site has a chance of ranking for the keywords that are featured in the content.
Keyword Research — When was the last time you researched the words you are going after? Keyword research is something that should be done on a continual basis. As search trends change, you need to update your keyword lists so you can target the words that your customers are searching for.
Linking Strategy — What is your linking strategy? Do you have one? Building backlinks is one of the most important factors when it comes to boosting search results. Having a strategy to build high quality links to your site should be on the top of your list for things to accomplish. Links can come from directories, blogs, authorities in your industry and other websites. Create a plan and stick to it.
Web Design — Is your web site still the one that your cousin created for the business in 1996? A well thought out optimized web design can be the difference between conversions and a 90% bounce rate. If your site is not appealing, you will lose customers once you get them to the site. Now may be the right time for an updated look and feel, or a complete redesign.
Social media and SEO go hand in hand. It is important to make sure that you have the bases covered in both and are creating content in each to give your customers new and interesting information, so they will have a reason to continue visiting your website and your other social media channels.
The hardest parts of a website re-design or improvement are the aspects of the site that are not immediately visible. We can all form a quick opinion on the look and feel of a site, but critical aspects, like usability, navigation and user experience, are harder to assess. The way a visitor can and does move through a site shapes their experience on that site in a significant way. It is not enough to make a site clean, informative and aesthetically pleasing, the controls and navigation must be intuitive and clear as well. Page organization under category topics must be logical and functional. Once the user has found the desired information, they must be able to easily navigate back to the start, or onto related pages.
It is often difficult for designers and developers to assess the usability of a site, as they tend to be over-familiar with the design and the back-end, and have never been a true user of the site. When implementing a re-design or new navigation, have colleagues and associates test the site for these navigational and usability issues, and take their feedback seriously. Watch how they navigate through the menu, and how they use features of the site to find desired information. Then, if you must, give up some design high ground, and modify your structure to give your visitors the smoothest possible experience!
Optimized, or search engine-friendly, Design is a growing topic for us here at MoreVisibility, and I am glad to have the chance to blog on behalf of our Optimized Design Department! Our crack team of designers and programmers has been assembled to optimize and re-design clients’ sites for greater crawlability, relevance, and of course, beautiful design and functionality. As you would expect there are many aspects of a site that need to be modified to make it SEO friendly, but one of the most critical and difficult components is implementing stylesheets, or CSS.
CSS stands for cascading stylesheets, one of the prettiest names I think that the web development community has ever come up with. CSS was standardized by the W3C in the mid-nineties, but it wasn’t until the current decade that all browsers supported the platform. In recent years, a growing numbers of forward-thinking web developers have been using CSS exclusively to format their sites, with very efficient and beautiful results.
So what does CSS do? CSS is a stylesheet primarily, so as you can imagine, you can use it to format paragraph text, headers, sub-texts, etc. The stylesheet is referenced in each html tag, <p> for paragraph, <h1> for header, so that when you change an element of your <p> tag in the CSS, your text will change throughout the entire site. Online projects have been set up to showcase just how much you can change the look of a site, by simply formatting the stylesheet. CSS Zen Garden (http://www.csszengarden.com/) is one such project, where designers are challenged to just change the .css file, not the html, with amazing results.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to providing you with a consistent and energy-saving website, CSS can be used to format the entire layout of your site, from header images to navigation bars, and from separating columns to making input forms. Through the magic of a <div> tag (division- a catchall “box” that you can resize, stack, nest, and generally manipulate), your site can be built- out entirely using CSS, giving you clean code, table-free layout, and one place to reference your formatting. The amount of code on each page is cut drastically, and gives you a site that search engine spiders find a lot more crawlable.
So why aren’t we all swimming in CSS accessibility? Developers have been slow to adopt CSS, out of comfort with their old methods and the different interpretations with which the browsers read stylesheets. These issues can be remedied by a developer with plenty of CSS experience, who can create a site that looks great, is search-engine friendly by nature, and maintains a consistent look and feel on every browser and every system.
But if you cannot spring for an entire re-design, try implementing CSS for just your fonts, headers and links. You will soon fall in love with its ease and accessibility!
To check out the range of CSS-design possibilities, see CSS Remix (http://www.cssremix.com/), a showcase of the best and most beautiful designs out there. For fun, click on one of the featured sites, and in your browser window, go to View>Source, and marvel at the scarcity of markup! It’s magic! And the engines will love you too!