The Internet is a great leveler that allows small businesses to overcome its limitations and compete with global brands on an equal footing. However, the era when small firms could attract clients from all over the world by simply setting up a website has passed.
Today, only a well-optimized website with quality content and high search rankings can break through the clutter and attract targeted leads. A firm trying to use the Internet to earn quick profits is unlikely to enjoy real and sustained growth for long.
While establishing a credible virtual presence requires time and a lot of effort, firms that stick to the task are assured of fantastic returns on its investments over the long run. Optimizing your small business website involves something more than merely uploading generic blog posts at random intervals.
The process requires a clear strategy, proper data analytics, the right infrastructure, and a committed and holistic approach towards quality content and effective user engagement. Read ahead for 13 important points you should consider when optimizing your small business WordPress website.
1. Boost Load Speed
We live in a world where competition is increasing and customers’ attention span is decreasing. Your site’s visitors are probably accustomed to reading just 140 characters at a time. Failure to attract and retain their attention will hurt your firm’s reputation and growth prospects. In such a scenario, having a site that takes a lot of time to load on the screen can lead to disastrous consequences.
Use online tools to compare the loading time of your website with similar sites run by peers and competitors. Services like GTMetrix and Google PageSpeed will help you track your page loading time, and the overall size of the pages on your WordPress site.
Don’t tinker with your hosting plan, themes, or plug-ins without collecting adequate data. Incorrect diagnosis may result in complications that may further reduce the loading time of your website. Once you are certain that loading speed is indeed an issue, identify potential reasons, which may include issues like:
• Inadequate hosting plan
• Slow and bulky themes
• Bloated plug-ins, or
• Images specs that are unsuitable for online viewing
Don’t hesitate to spend more on a faster hosting plan. Trying to save money by running a site that attracts very little traffic due to high loading times does not make business sense. Instead, focus on increasing sales and profits through faster hosting, improved visibility, and greater flow of targeted traffic.
Don’t make the mistake of uninstalling plug-ins at random. Caching plug-ins like ZenCache and W3 Total Cache are designed to improve your site’s loading speed. Removing such plug-ins may result in your WordPress site taking even more time to load on the screen.
2. Optimize Your Permalinks
Once you have sorted out hosting issues and loading delays, it is time to focus on the basic structure of your website, especially the URL structure. WordPress does not automatically create relevant URLs. Opting for pemalinks and incorporating relevant keywords in the URL can help improve your site’s search rankings.
A URL like yoursitename.com/?p=07121 is unlikely to help search engines or visitor understand the nature of content on the webpage.
URLs like yoursitename.com/Best-2015-photos and yoursitename.com/photography-tips-for-beginners will help search bots index the page properly. Surfers can decide whether they want to visit your page or not in a span of just a few seconds.
Sorting this issue early can help you avoid the task of having to edit a large number of pages in the future. Creating the right site structure early will help improve user experience and search rankings.
3. Have a Mobile-Friendly Website
With 60% of all Google searches taking place through mobile devices, having a mobile friendly website is a no-brainer for small business owners. For those still in two minds, April 21st 2015 is Google’s final deadline for setting up mobile-optimized websites.
This is the day Google’s next algorithm update, aptly described as Mobilegeddon, will be rolled out all over the world. Members of Google’s Webmaster trends team have predicted that this mobile-centric change may have a bigger impact than the Panda and Penguin updates.
With technology moving towards wearable devices, you just cannot avoid optimizing your WordPress site for smart phones and other mobile devices. Consider these points when optimizing your site for mobile devices:
• If you already have a mobile version of your site, then make sure it is functional and navigable.
• Having a unified or separate version holds no relevance for search engines. Hence, focus on the quality of end-user experience.
• Make sure your site is visible to search bots. If your site cannot be crawled, then it won’t show up in mobile search results.
• Be prepared to be penalized if your entire website is not fully navigable on mobile devices. Look beyond your homepage. Make sure each and every page of your site can be viewed on mobile devices.
4. Use the Yoast SEO Plug-In
Having unique SEO friendly meta data on your website is essential to improve your search engine rankings. Instead of creating meta tags manually, you can consider using the Yoast SEO plug-in.
The conventional approach towards meta data creation involves creating the title and description text, and inserting relevant keywords later. Instead, research keywords, identify all keywords related to your business, and use the plug-in to create optimized meta data for all the pages of your website.
The plug-in also helps tackle the issue of duplicate content by introducing the noindex meta tag, which instructs search engines to ignore such pages during the indexing process. While you can rely on other measures to minimize internal and external content duplication, this plug-in is a useful backup that minimizes the risk of facing penalties for having duplicate content.
You can also use this plug-in to create a detailed site map for submission to Google Webmaster Tools. This seemingly minor step can help you steal a march over peers and competitors who may not have understood the importance of creation and submission of the site map.
5. Alt Text for Images
How to cover all relevant keywords without resorting to keyword stuffing? This is a perennial issue faced by website owners with no clear or perfect solution. Moving beyond text and using images to cover important keywords is a simple and elegant solution to the issue.
Search engines include the alt text or alternate text used to describe the images included in your blog post or web page. This means your content can show up in the results page for specific keywords even if these keywords were not included in the site’s text. This can also help your website appear in Google’s Image Search.
Considering that images and infographics are always preferred over text, using alt text can help you enjoy double benefits of improved rankings and better user engagement on the site.
6. Avoid Internal And External Content Duplication
Reusing the same content on different pages in your website can hurt your rankings. Ideally, you should have unique content on all pages of your website. If you intend to use the same internal content on multiple pages, then you should strategically noindex certain pages to prevent Google from seeing the duplicate contenet. If you are serious about your online presence, then it is advisable to remove all instances of internal duplication as early as possible.
External duplication occurs when you syndicate your website content on third party websites. For example, it is common for small businesses to copy their ‘About Us’ page onto multiple business directory websites such as Yelp. Another common mistake is syndicating your blog content across multiple article directories.
The best way to tackle the problem of duplicate content is to avoid it completely. Apart from the search engine ranking issues, duplicate content is unlikely to impress the visitors to your site. And repeating content may create a poor user experience and, as a result, decrease the number of leads your website attracts.
7. Create a Strong Call to Action
Maximizing customer engagement is the best optimization strategy ever! Include a strong Call to Action on each and every page of your website. Encourage surfers accessing your site through desktop or laptop computers to contact you through email. For surfers using mobile devices, make sure they can call you by simply clicking on the number.
Instead of having one standard and formulaic Call to Action for the entire website, create multiple messages that encourage visitors to initiate contact through email, telephone, and social media.
If you have an effective SEO strategy that is focused on targeted leads, then each and every visitor is a potential long-term client. Implement ongoing engagement strategies to improve your conversion ratio. To avoid sounding repetitive and monotonous, mix CTAs with image and graphics-based CTAs to grab the attention of the visitors.
Convincing visitors to submit email addresses can convert a passive visit into a lead for a successful email marketing campaign. If used effectively, the CTA can improve your firm’s visibility, maximize brand recognition, and generate more online sales.
8. Focus on Quality Backlinks
A backlink is another website linking over to your website. While creating backlinks left, right,and center may do more harm than good, this does not mean you should ignore this option completely because they are still a very strong Google ranking factor. A sensible and conservative strategy focusing on creating high-quality backlinks with reputed websites can prove very beneficial in the long run.
Using aggressive backlinks as a shortcut to reach the top of the Search Engine Results Page is likely to do more harm than good. But treating link building as one of the many business promotion strategies at your disposal, and creating backlinks in a holistic manner can make a huge difference to the popularity of your website.
Backlinks help your firm maximize the benefits of all other optimization strategies. Improved visibility resulting from backlinks with authoritative third-party websites can boost your search engine results and generate a steady stream of targeted traffic and leads.
The trick to extracting value from backlinks is to focus on quality. Here are some ideas:
• Niche directories and associations.
• Local directories like Yelp.
• Create amazing blog content that attracts backlinks.
• Guest post on high quality third-party websites.
• Create helpful content for websites like Tumblr and Blogspot.
9. Quality and Informative Website Content
The importance of having quality content on your website cannot be over exaggerated. With social media ‘viral shares’ offering instant global recognition, a business website with quality content can enjoy high visibility even if it ignores all other aspects and facets of effective optimization.
With weak content, your website is unlikely to enjoy sustained growth in its search engine rankings, popularity, or credibility. While short-term surges may take place, you are likely to be, sooner or later, weeded out by search engine algorithm updates and tweaks. Without good content, other optimization tactics are unlikely to provide sustainable results.
There is no universal benchmark defining quality content. It depends on the nature of your business, characteristics of your target audience, and scale of your operations. Generally speaking, good business content fulfills these parameters:
• The content is in sync with the tastes and preferences of the target audience.
• The information provided is accurate and precise.
• The visitor gains detailed information about all important aspects and facets of the business.
• The content is designed to be shareable on social media.
• The content begins with providing information and ends with user engagement through an effective Call to Action.
Creating text-heavy content when your firm caters to customers in the 18-25 age group is just not going to work. Instead, minimizing text and using graphics, infographics, and even videos may help impress your young and tech-friendly customer base.
Further, a business website targeting a global clientele cannot afford to focus on a single language. Creating different versions of the content in different languages must be an integral part of your content strategy. Apart from creating a global presence for your brand, such a strategy will enhance your reputation as a sensitive and responsible brand.
10. Regular Content Updates
Creating good content cannot be a one-time activity. In order to sustain user interest, your website must generate interesting, valuable, and informative content on a regular basis. Apart from the inevitable positive impact on search engine rankings, creating quality content in a disciplined manner will make it easier for your site to win the visitors’ trust.
Haphazard updates, random submissions, and generic information will always create a negative impression on visitors. Submitting just one blog post a month for 12 continuous months, on the other hand, will make a good impression on all visitors. Establish a schedule whether it be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly and then stick to that schedule.
11. Think Like the Customer
Would you trust your money with a business that is running out of a broken down and dirty building? Your business website is, for all practical purposes, the most important symbol of your virtual presence. A website with the following issues is unlikely to impress its visitors:
• Broken links.
• Absence of contact information.
• Poor quality or outdated content.
• Lack of adequate background information about the business.
• Unprofessional website design.
The simplest way to avoid these optimization issues is to just think like the customer. View each and every page of your website from the perspective of an ordinary customer. Such an approach will help you identify issues and implement remedial measures before you start losing credibility. Be proactive in ensuring your website comes across as a reliable and trustworthy symbol of your organization.
Along with contact details and background information, you should also include testimonials, comments, and references from satisfied customers. Mere marketing jargon is unlikely to help impress visitors. Real feedback from past and present customers will make a stronger impression on surfers, and improve your chances of converting leads into customers.
12. Social Media Integration
Social media has converted the Internet into a global forum where people can share their opinions and views about different products and services without (for the most part) any restrictions. Unlike websites that merely facilitate passive communication, social media allows firms and organizations to engage existing and potential customers on a real-time basis.
While there is no doubt that just setting up, growing and maintaining a WordPress website has its own advantages, you cannot afford to ignore the social media revolution. To leverage social media channels for better reach and brand visibility, your strategy should cover these important points:
• Instead of merely copying your website’s About Us content, create unique, informative, and interesting descriptions of your business on different websites.
• Establish a clear and precise editorial calendar before creating profiles. An inactive social media profile can be more damaging as compared to not having a social media presence.
• It is not necessary to be present on all social media sites. A photography blog will gain more from Pinterest and Instagram as compared to SoundCloud or Linkedin.
• Avoid blatant marketing and promotion. Instead, focus on creating value for existing and potential clients.
• Prefer quality over quantity, especially when users are distracted by information overload in a cluttered environment.
Social media can be an effective alternative to search engines for firms seeking a new channel to promote products and services. With more and more people relying on opinions of peers for commercial decisions, a strong social media presence can, apart from improving visibility, result in higher sales and bigger profits.
13. Track Website Performance
The era of making business decisions on vague hunches is long over. Today, Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics can help you track your site’s performance on a real-time basis. These tools help you obtain details like:
• Traffic received by your site.
• Geographical origin of the traffic.
• Bounce rate or proportion of visitors who leave after visiting just one page.
• Time spent by visitors, and the pages that attracted maximum interest.
Identifying ways to improve user experience will become easier when you know that blog posts with images and infographics receive more traffic that text-only updates. The effectiveness of different Call to Action messages can be reliably determined on basis of hard data provided by these analytic tools.
Further, these tools help you track the overall health of your website. Your visitors are unlikely to be impressed if your website remains offline due to frequent hacking attacks. Webmaster Tools offer alerts will help you focus on preventive measures at the earliest. This is a much better option than taking remedial measures after the damage has been done.
Certain changes, like opting for faster hosting services, will result in immediate improvement in the functioning of your site. Impact of other improvements, like disciplined submission of quality content, will be evident only after a few weeks.
Setting up a mobile-version of your website may not offer any immediate benefits. However, as your mobile search rankings improve, you may end up receiving more traffic on your mobile site as compared to your regular site. Optimizing your small business site is not a one-time activity. Rather, it is a process where you have to consider the changing tastes and preferences of your customers to fine tune your strategy.
Until a decade ago, search engines were the sole channel for firms to attract targeted leads. Today, social media sites have removed age-old obstacles and enabled firms, even large behemoths, to engage in real-time communication with ordinary customers.
New developments throw up multiple challenges and opportunities for small and big firms. A sincere and holistic approach towards customer satisfaction will ensure your website can adapt to changes and exploit opportunities to help your business enjoy rapid growth in a sustained manner.