Thursday, September 27, 2012

6 Easy Tools to Drive Traffic to Your Website

If you have a website, you have probably heard about rankings and Search Engine Optimization, SEO, which essentially means optimizing your website so that it appeals to search engines and ranks high in search results.  There are a few tricks that non-technical web maintainers can do to help drive traffic to your site for free and fairly simple to use.

1.  Use free tools to track visitors.

Google Analytics has a gold mine of data about your visitors and other statistics.   You can plan and track campaigns, visitor locations and even drill down to what type of computer your visitor has and what his or her domain is.

2.  Claim your Place Page!

Claiming your Google Place Page is one of the most important things you can do if you are trying to reach local or regional customers.  It's free, it's easy but will literally 'put you on the map'.  Google™ map, that is, which is what people see first.  Searches are becoming more and more mobile so having your place page will also help when people are searching on the fly and want instant results.

After you get your official place page, do not forget to add your information and other pictures, also called engagement objects.  Make sure to check that the pictures convey the message you are trying to get across.

This process can take up to a month - you actually have to submit an application to Google to claim your place, it's not a given.  Plan accordingly if you are launching a new website or expecting to see instant increases in customers or web interest.  Here's a great step-by-step guide.

3.  Include Quality Score Indicators. 

I have to admit, I did not know what these were and I maintained more than one website for over five years. The key word there is maintain; we were able to update and change content, plug-ins and other things but we hired a web developer to set up the websites so they were formatted correctly and optimized from the beginning.  Quality Score Indicators are those items that you typically see on every website along the bottom or additional tabs such as:
  • About
  • Copyright
  • Privacy policy
  • Executive Bios
  • News Releases
  • Social Plugins
  • Engagement objects (you know those little picture boxes that show up?  Yes, those things.)
I can name six of these, you?

You should also always have your business name, physical location and phone number on every page. How frustrating is it when you have to search to find a phone number, mailing or physical address?

4.  Keep it Fresh.

Fresh content is important.  If your press releases are two years old, put them in archives and remove the press page.  Old content indicates to the viewer that you may not still be in business or up on the latest technology or systems.  

Duplicate content and just listing key words at the bottom are frowned upon by the search engines.  If you are going to blog, do it regularly.  Prime example:  I wanted increase traffic to a website I used to maintain.  I met with an SEO expert at a training and he suggested doubling my blog posts - and bingo!  My traffic increased over 150% over a one-year period just by the increasing the frequency of blog posts. 

5.  Look at how things are written.  

People are lazy readers anymore.  We are becoming programmed to search and find, rather than keep track of where things are.  If you use Gmail instead of Outlook, you know what I mean - no more folders for every single topic, if you are looking for a past email, just search for it. 

Use the KISS principle - Keep it Short and Simple.  Also keep in mind:
Heat image - how readers look at a web page.
  • Readers skim.
  • Stick with short sentences (10 words or less) and paragraphs (1-4 sentences).
  • Use bulleted and numbered lists.
  • Identify headings as headings, not just bold the type.  Also capitalize post titles.
  • Avoid duplicate content (duplicate pages are a no-no in SEO terms.)
  • Make it fun to read!  Include pictures that are relevant, not just a canned image or cartoon character.

6.  Be creative but not Sneaky.

Finally, search engines use a number of different things in their mathematical ranking approach.  It is best to not try and outwit the system or take shady shortcuts.  Done correctly and with strategic key words and phrases throughout your website, your site will rank higher.  If you are seeking local customers, just signing up for your Google places page will help in a big way.

One thing that you can do is to take your keywords and business name and include common misspellings.  Not on a visible web page but in the site set-up and design.  

There are numerous other ways to drive content to your website, but these are a few that you may find useful.  Above all, a website is a work in progress.  Constantly updating content and keeping it fresh is an ongoing part of maintaining a quality website.