This post is part of a multiple-series guide about Online Marketing For Small Businesses. In this post I will discuss the basics of getting people to visit your website by explaining search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine advertising (PPC).

In the previous part I discussed how to build up a good online presence. I talked about developing a website using different content management systems and how to tackle social media.

Having a good online presence is crucial for the next step: Increasing your website traffic. If your website and social profiles aren’t good and engaging, all your efforts getting visitors to your site might be for nothing. They might be disappointed by your site or cannot find what they are looking for and simply leave. They are “bouncing” from your website.

Once you are confident that you have a good online presence, you can go on with the next steps! Always remember not to be satisfied with your website or social network profiles. There is always room for improvement!

Now, let’s talk about how you can increase your website’s traffic!

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization means optimizing your website internally and externally so that it ranks as good as possible for your defined keywords in organic search results. These results are all pages that rank below the ads on search engines. Ranking high in the SERPs (search engine result pages) can result in high website traffic and the best thing: You don’t have to pay anything to rank high organically! (You obviously need to invest time, though)

screenshot of paid and organic results

There are two kinds of search engine optimization techniques: On-page and off-page. All efforts that can be done on the website and its source code are called on-page optimization. Logically, everything that can be done outside the website’s dimension is called off-page.

On-page optimization

On-page optimization basically means altering a website’s content and source code so that it’s more relevant to search engines for a certain selection of keywords. There are a couple of main factors that can be easily optimized:

Keywords

Keywords have been the most important aspect of website optimization. Only keywords can bring in people who were searching for those keywords. They also help Google determine what your webpage is about so that they, hopefully, rank you well for them.

Be very careful when you’re inserting keywords into your content. The rule “a lot helps a lot” definitely does not apply in this case! Keyword stuffing is being penalized very strictly by Google. It basically means using way too many keywords on a website.

Especially after the so-called “Penguin” update to Google’s search algorithm many websites experienced significant drops in search traffic because they have used keywords in a way Google doesn’t approve. Some SEO experts suggest that a keyword density up to 3% for the best result.

However, using keywords within reasonable dimensions won’t be considered as bad practice. Just make sure they make sense and that it won’t get annoying for readers. Google’s Head of Webspam Matt Cutts pointed it out quite well:

The first time you mention a word, you know, ‘Hey, that’s pretty interesting. It’s about that word.’ The next time you mention that word, ‘Oh, okay. It’s still about that word.’ And once you start to mention it a whole lot, it really doesn’t help that much more. There’s diminishing returns.

Always keep in mind: First optimize your content primarily for your visitors! Afterwards you can think about search engines. Use Keywords naturally and where they make the most sense. If possible, place them near the top of your page and in the beginning of paragraphs. This seems to have a positive effect on ranking. For example, search engines mostly use the first few sentences of a website for the description of your search results. If you have the most important keyword(s) in your first sentences they will be seen by search engine users and might encourage them to visit you.

Titles

Titles tell readers what a page or a certain text is about. That’s why Google pays special attention to the HTML title tags, especially  to <h1> and <h2> tags. Make sure to use headings on all your pages and include important keywords. But keep in mind that it’s better to use only one h1 heading on each page.

Keep your titles nice, short and interesting. If they are too long (>70 characters), your readers might either get more confused or don’t bother to read them at all.

URLs

Your website’s URL is an important ranking factor. Since it can be a real pain to change a domain name you should choose a good name right from the start. If your URL includes a keyword, you probably experience a ranking boost for this keyword.

Another important thing is to avoid dynamic URLs, such as this one: www.domain.com/index.php?abcd&12345. It doesn’t communicate at all what this address’ content is about. A URL like www.domain.com/furniture/chairs clearly says that it’s about chairs. People are more likely to click on URLs like these.

Images

The images you have on your pages could also drive some traffic to your website. By optimizing the source code a little bit, you could get them to rank well on Google’s image search.

Make sure to use keywords which fit to the image in the file name. This makes it a lot easier for search engines to determine what sort of image it is. Search engines are not able to “see” the content of images, yet.

Alt tags are another way to help them determining what an image is about. Alt tags are part of the image’s html code and look like this:

<img src=”/images/image.jpg” title=”cats on a tree” alt=”cats playing on a tree”>

This tag might also be helpful to your site visitors. Should your images fail to display, the visitors will still see the alt tag’s text. This way, they still know what kind of picture it should have been.

Meta-tags

Meta tags are HTML tags which tell Google how to index your site. The most important ones for SEO are the title tag and the description tag.

example of search engine result

Both tags give search engines additional information about your page and tell search engine users what your website is about.

I would recommend not using the keyword tag since Google is not taking them into account anymore. Furthermore, competitors could use them to see what your main keywords are and try to use that information against you.

Page speed

The time your website needs to load completely on a visitor’s browser is called “page speed”, which is also a ranking factor. It is obvious that a good page speed offers a better experience to your visitors. This is what Google supports. It doesn’t want Google Search users who click on a result have slow website causing unnecessary headaches. At trendblog.net we managed to increase out page speed to 93 out of 100 points which is quite a good result.

Internal Linking

Link your web pages to other internal pages to get a good internal linking profile, which is considered to be a ranking factor. By linking to other pages you also send some “link juice” to them.

Link juice is the credit a website gets from valuable external links. If a website links to another internal or external page, it passes on some of its juice to the linked page.

As always, only link to internal pages if it makes sense.

Off-page optimization

All efforts of bringing in site traffic and improving rankings on search engines, which cannot be influenced by your website’s code are off-page optimization techniques. The most important technique is getting relevant external websites to link to you. Just imagine them being votes. The more votes you get from others, the more search engines think your site is popular and relevant for the topics your site is about.

Obviously, links from popular websites count a lot more than links from small or unknown sites. Links from shady sites, which have no thematic connection, can even hurt your search engine rankings. So be careful with the links you are getting.

Next to inbound link building, there are other off-page optimization techniques you should consider doing in order to increase site traffic.

Forum postings

For many people forums are an outdated form of online communication, but they wrong! Especially industry-specific forums are well visited and have many active members.

Find the ones, which fit to your business the most and become an active member yourself. Participate in discussions and create new ones. Show that you know what you are talking about and become an authority. If it fits and adds value to a discussion, include a link to your website or business blog.

Never advertise your business, though. Forum moderators and members want to see valuable content and will ignore or even ban members who advertise their businesses. It might even hurt your reputation since many industry professionals use these kind of forums.

Guest blogging

Guest articles on other blogs are a great way to get more exposure, valuable inbound links and traffic to your page.

Try to find personal or company blogs related to your business and simply contact them with the desire to write a guest blog post for them. Keep in mind to sound casual and to give them some topics you could write about. If your email is friendly and not too long, you might get a positive response.

Once you have the opportunity to write a guest post, make sure to include at least one link to your website, because getting links is one reason you are writing it. Provide the publishing blog some background information about yourself and your business so that they are able to include that.

Social bookmarking

Social bookmarking sites like Reddit, Delicious and Stumbleupon can be good traffic sources. You should look into these sites, get to know them and attract the community to your website.

Basically, every time you publish a good article on your business blog, submit or post them there and, if you are lucky and the content is great, a decent amount of people will visit it. However, social bookmarking sites have to be used carefully. Especially Reddit’s community doesn’t like selfish self promotion. If you plan to start posting on reddit, make sure to read our article on how to get traffic from Reddit.

Link bait

Link bait is content that is worth sharing. It is as simple as that. To be honest, it is quite challenging to create something that many people want to share, but if you leverage your knowledge about your field of expertise you are definitely able to pull it off.

If you publish something you consider to be a link bait, promote it more than you usually do! You want as many people as possible to discover it.

Good examples for link baits are infographics, how-to posts, specific guides or controversial topics.

Local listings

If your business has physical stores, then local listings are an important off-page technique to get more exposure and customers. Add your business to different local listings, such as Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Yellow Pages. Also, make sure to claim your local listing on Google Places!

If you are short on time and cannot invest the time submitting your business in all local listings, then you should consider using paying somebody to do that for you. Yext offers a promising service that makes managing local listings easy and time-saving.

Here is a list with several local listing websites.

Article directories

There are countless of article directories where you can submit your blog’s content. However, these directories are only good for creating some additional backlinks to your site. They are overstuffed with articles so that you hardly get any traffic from them.

Here is a list with the most popular article directories on the web.

Customer reviews

Online reviews have a huge impact on consumer purchases, both online and in-store. Many people trust reviews from friends or even from strangers a lot and base their purchase decision on them.

For example, if I plan to buy electronics, I always check customer reviews and reviews from objective websites to see which product is the best for me.

Leverage your social circle to give you positive reviews and encourage your customers to do the same. Offer them something in return for a review, otherwise they might refuse to invest their precious time for that.

Important websites where you should have a decent number of reviews are Yelp, Tripadvisor, Foursquare and Google Places among others.

Video marketing

As the second biggest search engine, Youtube can be a great traffic source. You do not need high-end equipment to record a decent video. Viewers care more about the content.

A lot of small companies created their own Youtube channel (which is very easy to set up) and upload videos, such as tutorials and how-to videos. For example, fashion designer selling their own clothes online could use Youtube to upload sewing tutorial videos.

As with other search engines, Youtube has many ranking factors. Take these into account when you upload your videos.

“In-video”-factors:

  • Video title
  • Description
  • Video tags
  • Video transcription

“Off-video”-factors:

  • Views
  • Duration viewers watched the video
  • Comments
  • Social shares
  • Backlinks
  • Youtube channel authority

A good Youtube channel might drive a lot of traffic to your website and well optimized videos can rank well on search engines and increase your reach.

Pay per click (PPC) marketing

PPC marketing is a great way to get in front of your target audience while they are searching for terms related to your business. If you are willing to pay a certain amount per click, you can rank high in the advertising field in SERPs and significantly increase your traffic.

Using Google AdWords, Google’s online software to create and manage advertising campaigns, you have great targeting options so that your ads only display when you want them to. Especially Google’s update for AdWords earlier this year, which introduced “Enhanced Campaigns”, offers SMBs an easier way to manage ad campaigns with great new features.

Recently, we published a beginner’s guide to pay per click marketing, which you should check out. It teaches you all the necessary basics you need to get started with PPC marketing.

Some more inbound marketing in the next part

In the next part I continue talking about location based marketing, blogging and email marketing. Click here to get to it!

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