BY KRIS B. JONES
Over the last 17 years, I’ve helped thousands of entrepreneurs and businesses generate more web traffic and sales through search engine optimization (SEO). As founder and former CEO of Pepperjam, which was sold to eBay in 2009, and current CEO of LSEO.com, I’ve seen the industry from a lot of perspectives, and I’ve learned that there are some basic SEO questions that all business owners must answer.
According to Internet Retailer, the growth of e-commerce was up 14.6 percent in 2015. As this trend becomes more prevalent, so does everyday business chatter centered on SEO. But sometimes — especially for small-to-medium sized businesses that have legacy clients from a strong local brand (think restaurants or auto shops) — the term “SEO” delivers the purest form of dread.
Some people might have gotten ripped off by a hack SEO agency, and now refer to everything SEO-related as a scam. Then there are the ones who simply say SEO is dead, and their online presence can do without it.
But there’s no doubting it — the higher your business ranks in Google, Bing or Yahoo, the stronger your business will be. SEO ensures that customers can easily locate and index your website’s pages, and ultimately serves the potential customer in an effective way.
Before you either seek out a reputable agency or work on SEO in-house, take a look at these simple questions to make sure you’re on the right track.
1. Is my content diversified?
Is the bulk of your content simple text and a few photos? This is the case for many, but one must think like an investor who knows a diverse portfolio is the key to achieving success. A well-diversified website contains a lot of content, mainly text in the form of product copy, blogs and reviews, along with photos, videos and infographics.
But you must make sure each one is optimized. Are you using the proper keywords in your headlines and copy? Do your photos contain descriptive ALT text and captions to keep visitors engaged? Did you compress your videos and PDFs to make sure site speed is on target?
2. Are my technical/on-page SEO metrics finely tuned?
Start with technical metrics. Are your hosting configurations tuned? Most hosting companies like GoDaddy or WPEngine offer free support, and you can ask them simple questions such as, “How’s the overall health of my hosting configurations?” They may find something simple that will vastly improve your website.
Also, there are various online tests to help check the site speed. Analyze the basics of on-page SEO, such as page titles (Do you have correct/catchy keywords?), URL length/structure (Are there keywords up front? Are they fewer than 512 pixels?) and meta descriptions (Is the marketing message clear?). A tool like onpage.org can help.
3. How about visitor metrics?
Every business should understand how to read its Google Analytics report. There, you can find some crucial visitor metrics that can help you optimize your site — both from a content and a technical perspective — to garner more traffic, and ultimately more sales.
Here are the top metrics you should be studying:
Click Through Rate (CTR): You want this trending positively. Tweak notable elements that influence CTR like page title, meta description and URL structure.
Bounce Rate: This is when a person visits your page but quickly returns to the search engine page. The higher the bounce rate, the lower the authority, thus bringing it to the bottom of search engine results pages (SERPs). You want to stay below a 40 percent bounce rate. Quicker load times and more appealing content are the notable factors to optimize.
Time on Site (Visitor Engagement): This tells you how long a visitor was on your site, and which pages they spent the most time on. The longer the better, because it drastically improves the above two metrics. Notable factors for additional engagement include content length and types, such as video, information image captions, and the number of resources you have.
4. Is my content trustworthy and authoritative?
Visit every page and ask yourself this very question. Think like an editor, and only have the most trustworthy and authoritative content on your site. Solve problems. Add value. Did you check all the facts? Would readers view it like it was written by an expert in your industry? If not, revise accordingly.
Grammatical errors and false facts can immediately dethrone your authority. Look at the page from a designer’s perspective, and make sure the layout is crisp and easy on the eyes — especially on mobile, which is surpassing the desktop as the viewing platform of choice.
Well-written, trustworthy and authoritative content naturally becomes linkable assets, which helps build the holy grail of SEO: backlinks. When other reputable sites link to yours, search engines see your site as authoritative, thus increasing its ranking in SERPS. This is a solid content strategy for obtaining links from places like industry-relevant sites, directories, press releases, .edu sites and social media.
Answering these questions is the first step toward bringing your website to the top of SERPS, which will not only help grow sales, but also play a fundamental role in building brand awareness.