Search Engine Optimization

Of course, you want your website should be the first result that pops up when someone types in your name to find you or your company when they use Google, Bing or any search engine. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a business service on its own and is often packaged with web design services.

It’s not that I don’t see it as very important, but I certainly don’t see it as important as some clients, especially ones new to having a website. I very rarely recommend using an SEO service. Search engines like Google send out bots and spiders to crawl the web all the time and they will find your pages. It might take a month or more but hey will find it.

Now, getting to he top of the search results is a different thing. If you think your photography site will be the first thing searchers see when they type in “photographer,” you will be disappointed for a long time. 

Optimization can be both technical and content-based. On the websites back-end improvements designers can include particular header tags, metadata keywords, alt-tags on photos, and smart use of hyperlinking. Though I use those things, I focus on front-end, content-based factors which I feel are more effective in boosting SEO.

Search results depend on a number of factors and algorithms. Here are some of those front-end and use approaches that I try to describe to clients.

Make your content unique. If someone searches your name + photographer, the results are more likely to be your site. Add other keywords such as a city, state or type of photography (weddings, portraits etc.) and the results improve. One of my clients was very pleased that after a few months a search on Google for “ellen denuto photographer” showed her site at the top. She/we did no special SEO but we did follow these suggestions. 

Keep adding new content. Blogging is a great way to keep content fresh and draw traffic to your website. Blog features on websites using what were originally blogging services (such as WordPress) can be redesigned to be an event, news or updates feature rather than the traditional blog. Setting a regular schedule to post new content – once a week or at least once a month – is a way you can boost your rankings.

Get other sites to link to you.  Google uses PageRank to order search results. Other people linking to your site helps you move up in searches. But it also is guided by the rank of those linking to you. If I link to yur site it will help, but if The New York Times links to your site it will help a lot more. Still, asking friends and colleagudes with websites to mention your URL helps. Put that link in your email signature, use it for online bios or any time someone writes an article about you.

Use social media.  I have a lot of clients who were not interested in being on social media, and honestly, if you don’t plan to keep up t it regularly it won’t help your SEO. It might even hurt. If I see a link on a site to Twitter and follow it and they haven’t posted in the last six months I feel like they are “out of business.” Social media is so important to search results that I know several publishers that include a clause in contracts compelling authors to engage with followers on one or more platforms. Again, active engagement and new content feeds search engines with lots of fuel for their algorithms. If similar sites and competitors are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, etc. then you should be there too competing for eyes and clicks.

Maintaining a social media presence, like updating your website, requires time and scheduling. I have several web clients who also use me for social media maintenance. But you can do both yourself if you’re willing to learn how and commit time to it. If you are starting out, choose one or two. Twitter and Instagram are very easy to use, especially on a mobile device. Depth of engagement on one site is better than infrequent use on three sites.

Consider using video.   Video on your site and on social media is much easier than it was a decade or two ago. Remember that YouTube is owned by Google, so video there will give your search engine results a boost.

Questions for a Web Design Client

questions

The web design process is an interaction between client and designer and includes a lot of questions from each party. Clients often start with costs and how long it will take to get the site online, but it’s hard to answer those questions with any specificity without me asking them other questions.

There is some information I like to get in an early contact – maybe from a contact page on my site. For example:

  • Do you want to improve an existing website or create a brand new one?
  • What is the URL of your existing site (if any)? and it already exists
  • Who is hosting your site?
  • Have you purchased a domain name or signed up for a hosting plan? If not, what is your ideal domain name?

Once we are starting the design process, I will send them a link to my portfolio and to some other sites similar to what they want and ask which websites they like and why. They will often pick a very nice site that is way beyond their budget. Sometimes simple looking sites are not so simple/inexpensive because they use customer designs or include stores.

Not all my web design work is with businesses (I do a lot of artists and writers sites) but it is good to know which websites their competitors or peers are using and what they like or dislike about them. What makes your personal brand stand out from similar sites?

I do a lot of this process, especially this past year, via email and phone (preferable to email), but the face-to-face meeting is still the best for me when that is possible.

You can find a lot more questions to consider asking at business2community.com