Most people who own a website, whether to host a blog or run a fully-fledged business, know that “if you build it, they will come” is completely untrue!
With the overwhelming noise polluting the internet, just having a website is not enough – it takes skill and patience to get noticed.
But the good news is… it can be done!
Regardless of your industry, the competition on the internet is fierce and shows no mercy to weak websites. Companies pay hundreds of pounds every month on paid ads and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to get their website in front of their target audience. But that is not all they focus on – with all the digital junk out there, your website and its content must be distinguishable and provide value – or it will blissfully float around the web without ever being seen or heard. It is survival of the fittest – fight to stay at the top or disappear into the abyss.
Although it all sounds quite dramatic, it’s actually quite simple – mostly.
Let’s first talk about SEO
SEO is a technical method of optimisation that helps rank your website better in search engine results. But it isn’t all about aggressively getting traffic to your website – it should be targeted traffic. For example, if your business sells socks, you want to optimise your website with keywords and phrases that highlight your products – exposing it to people potentially interested in socks. If your business sells socks, but your SEO draws in people looking for lawn mowers, you are missing the point.
SEO is a crucial part of optimising your site and its overall success in search results. But business owners and marketers have become obsessed! There’s always a new method, an update, even a hack to get better SEO results. Marketers spend hours rigging sites with phrases and tools in a desperate bid to get it to page one of search results.
Is it all worth it?
Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple yes or no – like many things in life, it’s complicated! Of course, you need SEO, and it needs to be done right, and when I say right, I mean it in both the technical and ethical sense. If your SEO is technically flawed, you will not get good results, and if it is ethically questionable (black hat SEO), then, although you are likely to get some temporary traffic, you will undoubtedly shoot yourself in the foot down the line. Google’s algorithms are pretty good and can detect unethical SEO hacking, and Google does not hesitate to penalise websites as a result.
For years, sneaky, so-called SEO gurus have used dubious techniques like keyword stuffing and hiding phrases, etc, to try to trick search engines into ranking their websites higher in search results, but what happens when people land on the website and realise that the site is not really what they were looking for or it is not to any standard that they would consider engaging with?
They leave! Simple.
What about the bounce rate?
The reality is that if people visit a website expecting relevant content, services or products and don’t find it, they will leave immediately – and this has consequences – it increases your bounce rate. It results in search engines like Google reducing your website ranking. Think of Google as a reseller – your website is the seller, and visitors are customers. Google sending customers to your site for them to be disappointed is bad for business, and Google’s clever algorithms will stop sending people to your site to avoid customer disappointment.
You might find that you are putting in hours of SEO work, and instead of getting a better search engine ranking, you are digging a deeper hole for yourself!
So, what’s the solution?
You may have come to this article hoping to find a pot of gold or a magical hack that will give you overnight success with your web presence and traffic, but the stark reality is that there is no such solution! But I can offer you sound and proven-to-work advice that could increase your ranking, reduce your bounce rate and give you a better way to engage with your audience.
You might have already guessed it – it’s all about content – content is king!
SEO is an essential tool to get your site in front of your target audience, but that’s about as far as it goes – the rest is about how good your overall site is in terms of load speed, user experience and quality and value of your content.
Where do you start?
We live in an era that thrives on content; from Netflix to Social Media, people consume content pretty much all day. If your content doesn’t have relevance or substance or isn’t particularly interesting, people will skim over it.
And don’t think just because your site is not a content-heavy site like a blog that this doesn’t apply to you – it does! Even if your primary purpose is to sell products or services from your website, people still want fast load speeds, a good and effortless experience, and they want value from your content.
If you are selling watches on your site, people are unlikely to purchase anything if they don’t find much information about your products. This is where good copy text and high-quality images kick in.
Here are a few simple steps to help you get things in order:
Review all the content on your website – every page matters. Yes, even the “Contact us” page!
Let’s start with the layout. When people land on your website, they should immediately know what it is about.
Your message should be clear!
If you have developed a brand (which you should have), your website should be in harmony with your brand. The colours, symbols, fonts should all be familiar and recognisable.
If you are using a banner in the header of your homepage, then ensure that the banner is relevant to your business – this is a great place for promotions and sales if you have an eCommerce site. Ideally, this should be designed by a professional graphic designer as first impressions count! (Apologies for the cliché.)
If your website is a blog, then the banner should give visitors a clear indication of what to expect if they scroll through the rest of your website. So, you can imagine, this must be inviting and impactful. It should be an invitation to treat!
Use high quality, relevant images – the more bespoke, the better. I really didn’t want to quote yet another cliché, “a picture paints a thousand words,” but it was so relevant that I felt I had no choice – people are visual, and high-quality images are a great way to make a good impression. Images add value to your copy text, and if done tastefully, they add value and strengthen your message.
If you have not managed to get your own high-quality photos, you can use paid and free stock photo resources such as Shutterstock (paid) and Unsplash (free). These are great resources to get some beautiful images to complement your content.
Avoid using images found on Google as they might be subject to copyright, and with how advanced copyright algorithms have become, you are likely to get a fine!
Also avoid using low-resolution images – there’s no better way to say that this is a terrible website than using pixilated photos. There is software available, including Photoshop, that can help resize images without compromising quality. But again, it might be a good idea to hire a professional!
Think carefully about your message and your copy text. Your copy text is effectively your digital salesperson, and unfortunately, many websites disengage visitors by packing their website with technical jargon that no one understands. While some sites are filled with fluff, the meaning and context are lost in monotonous paragraphs.
Your content should set you apart from your competition. Writing copy is a skill, and good copy is easily distinguishable from lousy copy. People often think that just because they have in-depth knowledge of their product or service and can string sentences together qualifies them to write compelling content – it doesn’t. Companies pay professional copyrighters to write their web content to maximise the effect on visitors.
A while back, there was an experiment where a gentleman purchased numerous items to resell on eBay – he sold them, making very little profit. He then purchased the same products but hired numerous authors to write compelling copy for the eBay ads – he managed to sell the same products at thrice the profit.
The power of story and good sales copy is limitless.
Don’t make it all about you. It’s not all about you!
When visitors come to your website, they don’t want to be bombarded with how amazing you think your company is or how you are the best in your industry, blah, blah, blah. The sad truth is that you are not the hero in your visitor’s story; they are. And they need to feel that.
Imagine if your website was a shop, and as soon as a customer walked in, they were surrounded by employees in cheesy suits chanting how amazing they are and that they are leaders of the industry (yawn). It Might come across as a little distasteful and, dare I say it, boring; I’m sure you would agree. So, what’s the difference between that scenario in the real world and someone visiting your website and being bombarded with paragraphs of text telling them how great your company and industry is? Very little! Unless they visited your site for research purposes, they probably couldn’t care less about your industry!
People usually visit a website because they are looking for a solution to “their” problem. Which means everything should be about them. Of course, you can subtly sneak in some facts of how wonderful your business is, but this cannot get in the way of what the visitor wants, and it certainly should not affect their experience.
For example, imagine visiting a site that sold metal water bottles and immediately reading that they sell the best metal bottles in the world. They won’t be beaten in their quality, and they are paving the way in the metal bottle industry, and they are the best, simply the best – you can’t get better anywhere else… buy buy buy!
Let’s compare it to something like this:
In just one year, our metal bottles reduced harmful plastic by 30%. You don’t need to wear a cape to be a superhero – be confident that by buying our 100% recycled metal water bottles, you’re helping save our planet.
The focus of the content has moved away from you to your visitor – empowering them to make a purchasing decision based on making a difference – highlighting the product: reducing plastic, 100% recycled and saving the planet.
If you can understand your visitors, then you can create content that will provide value and providing value is how you get a successful website ranking.
We have agreed that an appealing website with easy and logical navigation and optimised load speed combined with SEO, when done correctly, is essential for user experience and getting traffic to your website, but to keep people’s attention and to engage with them effectively, you must gear your content to provide value. Real, tangible value!
You need to create content that stands out from the noise in your industry. If everyone in your industry is writing the same thing, you might want to write something different to make you stand out, or you could try to give the same message but say it in a more impactful, meaningful way.
Your content should be a clever and stylistic combination of copy, images, and graphics. If you’re a content creator with excellent skills, then get started; if you’re not, then it might be a good idea to invest in hiring a professional content creator.