2009 has come and gone, and the year promised and delivered to a lot of smart business website owners that utilized the best online wisdom to their fullest advantage. While 2009 was favorable and money spinning to business websites that cleverly integrated all the features that the internet offered by way of technology and tricks, a few still remained unhappy and dejected that their websites did not reek in the traffic or the money to justify their investment in online marketing.
Most losers out there in the internet marketing arena will complain about the inefficiency of the system and often blame their in-house SEO staff or the SEO company that they outsourced their online marketing strategies to, for the debacle. The fact remains that there is nothing wrong with the system or with their employees. The reason for the non-performance of their websites is due solely to the fact that they overlooked most aspects that make for a successful website. While visibility is singularly the most important factor behind driving traffic to websites, tracking rankings, facts, figures, engaging social media, and fast and user-friendly websites are all vital as well–not just to increase visibility, but also to turn that visibility to conversions and to sustain the visibility, long term.
If you are one of the have-nots of 2009 and want to turn 2010 into a highly successful year for your online business, here are 5 things that you can do to turn around your website to lure more traffic, make more conversions and business, and also make 2010 a year you’ll never forget.
1. Make your website error free and more search-friendly by registering with Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, and Microsoft Webmaster Center
Everyone knows that in order to gain maximum visibility and thereby more traffic and revenue, your website has to be as friendly as possible to search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. While everyone knows that fact to be true, most people that complain of below par traffic do not take advantage of the free tools the search companies themselves offer for you to determine whether your website is acknowledged by the search engines as friendly and useful to them and the people that use them. In order to see for yourself whether your website is actually being indexed by the search engines as relevant and useful to a particular search, you need to have something that can tell you whether your website and the pages in it are being seen by the search engines and indexed by them, so your target customers can get to your website through an organic search.
Google offers the Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo offers the Yahoo Site Explorer, and Microsoft/Bing offers the Microsoft/Bing Webmaster Center to website owners to check if their website and its pages are error free and also helps in tracking changes made to the pages. The best thing about these tools is that they are free, and all you need to do is create a free account and submit your website to the relevant search engines. For example, with Google Webmaster Tools, you can submit your site to know where your pages stand, in relation to Google organic searches, and how many pages in your website have been indexed by Google. You can find out whether Google crawls your website often and if Google encountered any problems while crawling your site. Upload site maps to find out whether your website is user friendly and whether Google can crawl through your pages easily. You can also make your website geo-specific by targeting customers based on geographical preferences. Google Webmaster Tools also help you determine specific content keywords that are affecting your rankings and also help you know the number of incoming and outgoing links to and from your website. Yahoo Site Explorer and Microsoft Webmaster Center pretty much helps you with the same things that the Google Webmaster Tools does with a few extras here and there. For example, Bing offers you a facility to view scores for each of your website pages. Since it’s important for a successful website to be friendly towards all the search engines out there, it’s vital that you invest time to set up all the three tools on your website. The result: you’ll not only be tuning up and monetizing your website, you’ll be actually seeing your website climb up the rankings by actively stimulating its climb up the search ladder. And when you are not required to invest anything except your time to make your website more search-friendly, error-free, and visible, ignoring these free tools can be the most costly mistake you’ll ever make in 2010.
2. Run Analytics on Your Website
Just having a well-designed website and sitting back and letting some SEO company do the job for you will not work. If the SEO company knows how to maintain and keep track of the changes in your website, and if it knows by heart how well-tuned your website is in regards to organic searches, then there’s nothing to worry about. But the fact remains, without a valid analysis done on your website, you’ll never know where you are going wrong and what your strong points are, and a SEO campaign without effective analytical tools is doomed to fail from day one.
So, invest your time in a free analytical tool such as Google Analytics, or you can invest some money in a Web Statistics tool such as Omniture Site Catalyst to keep abreast of your SEO campaigns. Successful SEO companies know the importance of tools such as these, and if you are lucky to have such a company do your SEO, then you don’t have to read the rest of this article because there’s nothing here that the best SEO companies don’t know.
By using Google Analytics, you can actually see your actual visitors by time frame, geographical location, and source. You’ll be able to see where your visitors are coming from within specified time frames, see their numbers, and also determine whether they arrive there through search engines or if they were linked to your website from some other website. You’ll also be able to see the bounce rates of your website. You’ll be able to keep track of the time the visitors spend on your website, find out the pages they stayed longer, and determine the pages that had the highest bounce rates thereby helping you to improve the content on those pages to make your visitors stay longer. By this, you’ll be able to figure out ways to improve your exit pages (pages that bounced your visitors off) and help you to tune up the website to prolong visitor interest. Google Analytics also helps you to gather information of your visitors’ browser details, their internet connection speeds, and whether they have their Java Script support turned on or off. With this, you’ll be able to tweak your content better to attract your target customers by helping you look at your own website from a customer/visitor perspective. The most important advantage Google Analytics offers is the ability to tune up and optimize your keywords based on inputs on data, such as keywords most used by your target audience to reach your website, and find out the pages that are performing well and tweak the weak ones to perform as well as your better pages.
To put it simply, you will get to know the exact advantages, disadvantages, numbers, figures, facts and the strengths of your website in relation to the traffic it generates. You can also coordinate Google Analytics with Google AdSense and Google AdWords, and what you’ll arrive at is a well rounded SEO strategy that can only help you with monetizing your website better. Google Analytics is free, so you won’t have to put in anything except time to make it work for you.
Omniture’s Site Catalyst is an analytical tool that can help you the same way as Google Analytics with a few extras thrown in. Site Catalyst offers real time data, external data imports, and creation of custom variables, paths and funnels. Though these can be done with the help of Google Analytics also, it would require an experienced analyst to tweak Google Analytics to deliver the same features. Irrespective of whether you use the free Google Analytics or the paid Omniture Site catalyst, you will definitely have to run an analytics tool if you want your website to rake in the revenues by bringing in more ‘good’ traffic.
3. Start a Twitter Account
If you think that making your website tuned to increase its visibility in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) is enough to monetize your website traffic, then you are ignoring a significant 30% of the search engine market. 2009 has revealed that social media is one area you can’t ignore if you want to increase traffic and monetize it and also to build company reputation and brand image. If you are not playing in social media, you are losing out to your competitors that have had the better sense to utilize the benefits of social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, Digg and some others and also micro blogging sites such as Twitter. The last one, for example, holds tremendous possibilities for increasing good traffic to your website. Every single day, around ten thousand people join Twitter, which means that every single day you have more target customers that are becoming Twitter followers. Although Twitter adopts a ‘no follow’ policy in link rules and also advises Google and Yahoo to ignore links, most people will follow links to pages that they think will give them the information or product they are looking for. Ask.com does not follow the “no follow” policy of Twitter, and it has already captured 2.5% of the search market. Although this figure might pale in comparison to that of Google, it is still a huge volume that you cannot afford to ignore. Additionally, Twitter helps you to do off-site promotion for your website, and if you can provide fellow Twitters with useful information all the time, you’ll not only be bringing in more traffic through the short links you provide, you’ll be enhancing your brand image online as well. This way, Twitter can also help with the Alexa rankings by bringing in more visitors to your website. What Twitter does is that it helps you provide a constant stream of communication with your potential customers, peers, and even your competitors. Done smartly and ethically, Twitter can be ‘The’ social media platform you were looking for to build brand image, enhance company reputation, and increase/monetize traffic.
4. Start a Facebook Fanpage
Another social media site that you cannot ignore is Facebook if you want to get the maximum leverage out of all the available tools on the internet to increase your website’s ‘good’ visibility. There are over 300 million users of Facebook and over 350,000 applications on Facebook, which means that there is a buzz on Facebook all the time. Tap into this Buzz or create one by starting a Facebook fan page for your website. A Facebook fan page is the best way to interact with your clients and to expand your socio-business network. Although Facebook is login based, which prevents search engine indexing, some pages are not behind login curtains, so they are visible to search engines and can be indexed by them. Since you can place links on your fan page, the chances of traffic through those links are high. Your socio-business network will constantly keep growing, and you can keep in touch with all your business contacts and potential customers by updating them all the time. Use the update feature to keep your potential customers informed about new products/services. A Facebook fan page can be very viral as new entrants are announced through news feeds and most of all; a Facebook fan page is easy to set up and absolutely free.
5. Speed Up Your Website
Luring your potential customers and increasing your website’s inbound traffic is only half the job done towards monetizing your website. If you don’t retain customer/visitor interest, your pages are going to bounce off visitors regularly. There is no way you can rake in the profits if you aren’t able to hold customer/visitor attention for a prolonged period. One of the main culprits in high bounce rates is the slow speed of your website. Your website has to be user friendly as much as it is search friendly. If your pages take a long time to load, most often than not, your visitors are going to look for products/information/services from the faster websites of your competitors. Optimizing your website for search traffic does not only mean placing good content on it, but you should also be able to deliver the content to your visitor before he or she loses interest. One way of speeding up your website is to use a free tool like Google’s Page Speed. Page Speed is a free Firefox add on, which you can use to evaluate your website and find ways to optimize it by improving its load speed. Page Speed performs a set of tests on a site’s web server configuration and front end codes and generates scores for each page based on which improvements can be made to speed up the site. Using Page Speed will definitely speed up your site and make visitors linger longer thereby increasing the chance of conversions for your website. There is another great tool, which promises to increase the load speeds of website pages, called Memcached. Whether you are running Google’s Page Speed or Memcached on your website, you are only going to make your visitors happy when they visit your website and browse through your pages, and soon you’ll get to see more conversions from the traffic that comes to your website. Great content works, no doubt, but try to make the content workable by speeding up your website instead of wasting your visitors’ time with slow loading pages.
If you missed out on being a smart business website owner in 2009, there’s no better time than 2010 to start employing smart tactics to add bite to your SEO. When there are tools available for free, why not make use of them to improve the performance of your website and make your SEO really work for you? It’s great to be on the top of the rankings in the SERPs, but the ranking alone will not monetize your website. Be the smart website owner in 2010 and make your business website do what it is supposed to do, which is deliver more profits for you!