Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a method of improving a website's visibility in search engines which are often the first method for users searching for products or services online. The higher your website is ranked in search results, the more visitors it is likely to receive. One of the most important criteria is the presence on your website of keywords related to a user's search.
Think about the words or phrases that potential customers might use to search for your product or service. Include them in your copy and use them to create meaningful titles, captions and descriptions for images or video content.
If you primarily serve customers in your local area, it is important to improve your online visibility in search results that are carried out locally, or that include search terms specifying your town, county or region.
One way to do this is to include relevant localised content, such as travel directions and areas served by your business. If possible, include community information that relates to your business, for example a local event that you have supported. It is also important to ensure that your name, address and telephone number appear correctly and consistently across your website - on your homepage, your contact page and any other page where they might be useful for website visitors.
Social media marketing encourages social network users to spread virtual 'word of mouth' information about your business. Social networks are powerful communication tools that allow business owners and freelancers to interact with current and potential customers.
Popular social networking platforms include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. It's important to establish which platforms are most relevant for your business. Once you do, you can set up social media accounts for your business on these platforms and post interesting snippets of information that link back to your website. For example, details of a sale or promotion, news about a brand new product, blog posts, articles or other new content.
You can add 'share' buttons to your website to encourage visitors to post links to your pages on their own social media accounts, and 'follow' buttons to encourage them to subscribe to your social media accounts.
Although the content of your website should take SEO into account, it is important to ensure that it is written primarily for your website visitors, rather than for search engines. Avoid overusing keywords or including unoriginal or misleading content just to improve your search ranking. Provide relevant, useful, authoritative content that is engaging and easy to understand.
Articles about new developments in your industry can be useful if your customers are other traders, and information about the latest trends is helpful if you sell to consumers. Many websites also include articles about the history and values of the business, and insights about key activities, such as the processes used to make a product.
Depending on what type of business you operate, 'How to' articles can be a good way of drawing customers to your website. For example, customers might find a plumber's website by searching 'How to fix a leaky tap'.
Fresh content encourages repeat visits, so it is important to add new content frequently. Include up-to-date information about new products and services, and publish news stories to encourage visitors to return to your site on a regular basis.
Remember that content doesn't just have to be text. You can also add relevant images and videos to your website to attract and engage with visitors. Many businesses have their own YouTube channel, with videos related to their products and services. As well as being available to users who search YouTube, you can make these videos appear directly on your own website.
Blogs allow users to write, publish and distribute information quickly online. A blog with regular, personal, diary-style posts, is a useful method of adding regular fresh content to a website. Blogs are often interactive, allowing readers to post responses and other comments.
Having your own blog can help increase traffic to your website. It's also an opportunity to join a conversation with other bloggers with mutual professional interests. Take time to read and comment on other blogs in your area of expertise. Posting an intelligent comment with a link to your website can raise the profile of your business and your website. Make sure your comments are relevant and respectful. Posting irrelevant comments can be regarded as spamming and could damage your business's reputation.
Online directories can point prospective customers to your website. Many professional, trade and industry associations provide online directories that are specific to their members' line of business. General business directories can also direct people to your website. You can list your business in some online directories free of charge, but many will charge a fee.
Pay-per-click (PPC) is an advertising model in which advertisers pay online publishers a fee every time their advert is clicked by a website visitor. A carefully monitored PPC campaign can be cost-effective, as you will only pay when users click on your ads.
PPC is typically associated with search engines, where adverts are displayed alongside organic search results. PPC ads are also associated with social media platforms. For example, Twitter Ads are 'promoted Tweets' targeted at Twitter users with relevant interests. You only pay when users follow your account, click on your promoted Tweet, retweet it, like it or reply to it.
In this column we introduce some simple methods of promoting your website, attracting visitors and encouraging them to keep coming back. We’ll cover search engine optimisation; producing relevant, engaging content; maximising social media, blogging and pay-per-click advertising.
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