Search engine optimization (SEO) tactics that companies have used for years no longer apply. Prior to Google's Penguin and Panda updates, companies focused on technical SEO tactics like keyword optimization and link-building to drive traffic to their sites. In the current Google environment, websites that produce interesting content relevant to targeted keyword phrases that are shared on social media get traffic from search engine queries. The overarching goal of Google and other search engines is to provide the best user experience for their customers. Companies that are successfully using their websites for business growth are focusing on optimizing the website experience for customers, not search engines. Mark Kilens (@MarkKilens), Manager of Customer Training at marketing automatiion software provider HubSpot, describes the situation this way, "CEO (Customer Experience Optimization) is the new SEO." Here are some tips on how to optimize your website for business growth.
Use Keywords Organically
The copy for your website pages should be succinct and natural. Yes, keywords are still an important element of website optimization. However, they should be used organically - if your site visitors see that your repeating phrases unnaturally, they will bounce off your page to another site that gives them what they're looking for. A good rule of thumb is to optime one keyword phrase per page (no more than two) and to include it in the page title and a header within the page. In your copy, you should use the keyword phrase once every two or three paragraphs unless more frequent usage sounds natural and unforced. Your copy should be brief - no more than 200 words per page. If you want to go deeper than 200 words, write a blog post on the topic and promote it through your social media accounts.
Avoid Gobbledy Gook
I'm a huge fan of David Meerman Scott (@DMScott). In addition to being a brilliant author and speaker, he's a really nice guy. He published the GobbledyGook Manifesto, an exploration of over-used phrases in business writing that detract from the quality of your content. No one cares or believes how innovative, results-driven and industry-standard your products and services are. Scott describes the solution this way, "Here's the rule: when you write, start with your buyers, not your product." I highly recommend that you download the Manifesto from the link above and use it in your writing. The GobbledyGook principle also applies to images on your site. Does this woman really work for your company?:
Rather than use stock images, consider using photos of your actual employees. One of the things you want to do with your website is to convey your brand, which is ultimately the personification of what you do as an organization.
Whitespace Is Your Friend
Too many websites cram so much information into their web pages that it becomes overwhelming for the user. Each one of your web pages should have a purpose that is easily comprehensible to the visitor. To test your website for the customer experience, use the blink test. Close your eyes and then open them and look at the web page. You should be able to understand within 5 seconds what the intent of the page is.
Try the test with this web page:
What you don't see in this screen capture is that the banner with the free shipping offer is changing every 3 seconds or so and there's much more below the fold that you don't see. In my opinion, this is way too busy.
Here's an example of a clean, crisp website that makes good use of whitespace:
It's clear what the intent of this web page is. There are three banners that change slowly that take visitors to lead generation landing pages. Navigation to the various website sections is available at the top left of the page. This is an excellent use of whitespace.
Avoid Flash - It Slows Down Your Load Time
I'm sure that there are web designers who will disagree with me, but Flash and other elements the slow down how fast your site loads will hurt your inbound marketing efforts. While it may pop up quickly on your 35 MbPS Fios connection, it doesn't on your customers' slower connection speeds (particularly mobile!) Many web users are like me - if they wait more than a second or two for a website to load, they bounce off to someone else's page. Many SEO experts speculate that Google is taking load times into account in their search engine algorithm.
For most businesses, the primary purpose of having a website is to sell their products and services. If that's the case for your business, follow the principles above to optimize your website for business growth. While your flash video introduction may look cool, it's not growing your business. The priniciple to follow is simple - optimize your website for your customers and products and you will be successful.