One of the first points to consider, when thinking about creating a business website, is the locality of your target audience. Are you aiming to attract customers from other countries, or are you concentrating solely on the country where your business is located?
There is a very good reason for asking this question and it is something that very few people consider when they develop a website. The domain extension you select and the actual physical location of a web hosting company’s servers can affect whether or not your website will appear in Google’s local search results.
Many small businesses only wish to serve a specific location within a country itself, say a particular town or district. For these businesses, local search can be very influential. Google is placing great importance on local search and it is important to a small business for their website appear within these results. But for this to occur, their website should have the correct domain extension and be hosted on servers that are geographically relevant to their target area.
When deciding if a website is relevant to local search results for a particular location, Google will examine two essential factors.
Has the website got the correct domain extension for that location?
Is the website hosted on servers local to the specific area?
Let’s take a closer look at these two factors:
Most web design companies and SEO specialists always insist that a business opts for a .com extension. Search engines do favor this extension in general but not when it comes to local search results. The only exemption here is local searches in the Unites States. In the US, Google automatically defers to .com.
The reason Google considers a website with a country-specific extension more relevant to local search is they assume (with good reason) that the site will likely contain content that is more relevant to search users from the same country. It is that simple.
The second important factor is the location of the server a website is hosted on. This is often overlooked by many web designers and SEO companies. It is not always prudent to go for the cheapest reliable web hosting company, without knowing the location of their servers.
This applies to all countries. Many of the popular web hosts have servers that are located in eastern European countries — where property, labour and utilities are cheaper. It is important to do some research before choosing a web host and if you cannot find the information on their site, phone or send them an email. Ask where their servers are located and if they are unresponsive, or dodge the question, the servers are probably not located locally.
There will be perfectly reliable web hosting companies with local servers and the difference in price between these and those with non-local servers will often be negligible. Google does rank server location when they provide local search results, so this is an important choice if you are looking to appear in these results.
There is another factor to consider for any small business that targets a specific local community. Servers located in the same locality as a particular location-based search query can also influence a website’s position in the local search listings.
As with domain extensions, Google presumes the website hosted in the same locality will contain the most relevant content for that area. This is not only country-specific; it can also be area-specific, so bear this in mind when choosing a web-hosting provider.
Google claims that one in five search queries is now a location-based search. At present Google is the prominent search engine and the above two factors do influence how a website is ranked in the local search results. Keep these factors in mind and give your website a local search advantage.
Daniel Offer is a partner in the Facebook chat programme Chit Chat for Facebook.
Before you launch your new website make sure you get these ten fundamental tips right. This checklist will ensure you are maximising your web presence by having a strong search engine ranking position for targeted keywords in your industry.
1. Cross browser checks
Make sure you have done a thorough check on all popular browsers before your website goes live. The ones to check are IE 7 and 8, Firefox 3, Safari 3, Chrome and Opera.
2. Check that all your links works
Although it may seem like an obvious tip, use a free tool like Xenu Link Sleuth to check for dead links on your website.
3. Create a custom 404 Page
Design a custom 404 page to ensure users aren’t clicking off your site if they come across a dead link. Use this page to give users popular links and a search facility for them to continue to find the right page.
4. Choose the right keywords
Keyword research is highly important when constructing content for your website. Pick two or three word terms as these are easier to work with and are known to have a higher conversion rate than single word terms.
For instant traffic to your website, use Google Adwords Sponsored Links. These ads are typically displayed across the top in a beige colour and down the right hand side of the search results. However, be aware that your campaign may cost you a lot of money if incorrectly set up and monitored.
Add a blog to your website but don’t use your blog to only talk about your products, instead discuss non-commercial topics which will help to drive traffic to your website i.e. a guide to buying the right widgets.
5. Make sure your title tag includes keywords
Make sure each page of your website has a unique <title> tag and that this tag starts with the keyword targeted to this page. For instance:
<title>Metal Widgets | Buy Aluminium, Brass and Steel Widgets for sale at Bobs Engineering</title>
In this example, the title tag has additional information such as different types of metal and selling messages like “for sale”. Also notice the company name is at the end.
6. Consider your meta description for high CTR
To attract a high number of visitors via Google, consider your meta description tags. Use this tag to display your unique selling point such as:
“Free next day delivery on our award-winning Leather Sofa – guaranteed to be the lowest price sofas for sale online”
7. Proofread and check your site
Get your family and friends to check all details on your website before it goes live – this includes phone numbers, email addresses, addresses and names. Ensure all your place-holer text has been removed!
Make sure each page of your website contains at least 50 words of exclusive content. Pay particular attention to product details and category descriptions and ensure you include the target keyword for that page.
Don’t be tempted to copy text from other people’s website or catalogues as this will incur a duplicate content penalty from Google. You can test how unique your content is for free at http://www.copyscape.com/.
8. Use a sitemap and submit to Google Webmaster tools
Generate an XML Sitemap and submit it to the Webmaster tools of Google, Bing and Yahoo. Using GWT, you’re able to diagnose any crawl issues with your website and get statistics on which pages on your site are broken and how many pages on Google have been indexed when the site is launched.
9. Use Google Analytics
To analyse and monitor the success of your website, set up a Google Analytics account. This way you can measure the traffic to your website and keep an eye on visitor retention. It is also a useful tool for checking the success of your keywords and highlights what people are searching for.
10. Contact authority sites for valuable links
Once your website is launched, the next stage to improving your ranking for a particular keyword is to have a significant number of links to your website using your target term as the clickable text link. This can take a lot of time and effort so it can be beneficial to get a professional SEO team to help you with this.
These tips were brought to you by Leeds SEO Company Blueclaw.
Since we launched our small business resource website in April many people have found the Marketing Donut through typing various queries into search engines. When we looked under the bonnet of our website, we found some more curious examples of the search terms people have entered. Either accidentally or intentionally, people found their way to the Marketing Donut by searching the terms from the following list:
If you would like to know more about search engine marketing and optimisation, we have some handy resources available.
Getting more people to your website is obviously going to do great things for your business. You don’t need to be IT savvy or an SEO geek to improve how you get found online. With the growth of social media, you can gain more attention with less effort and slowly but surely get your business name to the front page of Google.
A key point made in this video is that you need to focus on tracking results so that you can refine what you are doing to get better results. How have you managed to track your web presence and growth?
What is spam?
It doesn't matter. Definitions or legal views of what constitutes spam don't matter. Your personal interpretation of spam doesn't matter. What does matter is people's reaction to your marketing activities. Because the moment someone calls your marketing 'spam' it becomes spam.
Can the Spam to Spare the Ham
Your email campaign or brilliant Twitter strategy may be legal, legitimate marketing efforts with every opt-in box ticked, but if people start shouting 'spam!' then you've got a problem. Even if you can rightly argue that you're on the right side of spam laws, you shouldn't waste your breath. Apologise, stop the campaign and come back with something less offensive.
A Brighton-based business recently discovered how this principle works in reality. They were using Twitter to push a new web directory, when people starting crying 'spam!'. The company argued that they were using Twitter reasonably to promote their directory. No, argued many in the local Twitter community, they were abusing Twitter and generating spam. Enough people flagged them as spam and within days their account was suspended. A brilliant social media campaign? No, it was a disaster. They managed to alienate the very people they should have been trying to woo.
Listen to your audience. If you hear even a whisper of 'spam' then be wary. Be prepared to change your approach in the face of criticism. And don't bother arguing the definition of spam. If someone feels that you're spamming them then you are. So stop.
As with many things there is often a solution and increasingly that solution is web based and I don't just mean your simple search engine query input and pages upon pages of answers solutions. Clever computer types have created a myriad of tools for web analytics and monitoring. Some tools offer fantastic graphical representations that will illustrate where you have come from and where you ought to be going. Having demonstrated the web application of Tweetdeck in my previous post as a means of monitoring your small business online in the real time stream of consciousness that is Twitter, this post will demonstrate to you just how you can analyse your company blog-where it has come from and where it ought to go. Whatever purpose your blog serves, it is expected that posts will be categorised and then subcategorised by 'Tags.' Not only will tags organise content for you, search engines love nothing more than to feast on tagged content. Tagging makes life easier for you, search engines and your reader. Now here comes the web solution to analysing your blog content. Assuming your blog has an RSS feed-many blogging platforms throw this nugget in for you- copy and paste the feed URL into the appropriate field on Wordle, sit back and watch it make a pretty diagram for you. Wordle, in their own words, ‘…is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.’ Now you could compare your Wordle diagram with your blog’s ‘Tag Cloud,’ should you have one or just take the results at face value. What does it tell you? Does the diagram match up to your perceptions of what you think you blog about and in turn demonstrate you are writing on topic and selecting the most appropriate tags for your wonderful content? Or does it highlight a need to tweak your content? It could be that it encourages you to write more broadly or to focus on one particular topic in order to readdress the balance or to fine tune your niche. You will see that I have produced the Wordle diagram for this here blog, we can see that ‘Marketing,’ ‘Business’ and ‘Online’ feature prominently, as you would hope for a blog which shares the latest thoughts on marketing to small businesses in an ever increasing online world. It could be suggested that the Marketing Donut blog would do well to drive more content along the lines of the key topics which are displayed on the Marketing Donut site itself in order to increase the depth of coverage in the field of Marketing. Give it a go and see if it gives you an illustrated guide to being on topic or not. Where have you come from and where do you want your blog to go?