You’ve built a website and you’re sure it checks all the boxes: it looks great, is chock full of relevant information, and it’s easy to navigate. Then comes the big question for any website owner or content marketer: how to entice those clever little search robots to present it to would-be site visitors when they search for a term related to your content?
It comes down to something we all know and love called “search engine optimization” (SEO), a set of techniques to help a site appear higher in the list of results returned when search terms are entered into a search engine. That matters because we all want our websites to rank on that first page of search results.
SEO is challenging because Google and other search engines constantly tweak and refine their search algorithms, so you likewise have to constantly be enhancing and reinventing your SEO practices. Here are a few ways you can get ahead of the curve right now.
Although Google algorithms are always changing, there is one thing you can do to ensure that your website is more likely to rank on the front page of search engine results: have your target keywords in your domain name.
Where there was once scarcity in creative digital branding choices, there are now hundreds of new domain extensions. These options include ‘dot-agency’ (.agency), ‘dot-media’ (.media) and ‘dot-digital’ (.digital), to name a few. But these new options also bring some new concerns, with many marketers wondering if using one of these new domain extensions will help or hurt their SEO.
In a recent FAQ post, Google addressed some of these concerns. The upshot: “New domain name endings are not treated any differently than traditional domain name endings like .com or .org,” according to Google. In fact, Google has well-established procedures for a smooth migration to your new name. While there may be a transition period as you move from one domain to another, Google’s robots will rapidly find you and “your new domain name is expected to work just like your old domain name.”
Of course, if you pick a domain name containing your primary search terms describing your business, it’s more likely that people will find you online. Choosing a “not-com” domain for your business is a great way to add a highly relevant keyword to your domain without adding length– for example, including ‘dot-photography’ (.photography), ‘dot-florist’ (.florist), ‘dot-legal’ (.legal), or ‘dot-marketing’ (.marketing) in your URL.
Anu Menon and Suyog Mody knew that if they launched their coffee subscription company on Driftaway.com, nobody would know what their business was all about. They snapped up the ‘dot-coffee’ (.coffee) domain as soon as it became available so that they could build out www.driftaway.coffee—a domain name that let the entrepreneurial couple use their perfect business name, one that is super creative to the left of the dot, and uses their most important keyword and business descriptor to the right of the dot.
A lot of business owners think that once their website is finished, they can sit back and let the world dive right in. However, Ron Betta learned that he had to keep his site content fresh in order to continue attracting new clients to his Orlando-area personal training, group fitness, and yoga studio.
“Admittedly, understanding how to boost my website in search rankings hasn’t been my strongest suit,” Betta said. “But that is changing FAST. One of the hallmarks of entrepreneurship is learning by doing. So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve taught myself how to use my website to grow my business. And grow it has.”
In 2015, Betta opened the doors to Art of Fitness, and in 18 months he more than doubled the size of the business. “While referrals remain our strongest source of clients, we’ve seen a tripling of clients from internet searches in the past three months. At this rate, the internet search clients will easily surpass the walk-ins.”
Betta attributes a lot of this immediate success to his determination, quality customer service and content; and also, by using his website creatively for regular blogging three times per month and using social media and word of mouth outreach to promote the business online.
“In the beginning, our website wasn’t ranked. We were newbies in the web universe, after all. Today, however, we are on the first page in many searches when you type in keywords such as ‘Orlando personal trainers’ and ‘Doctor Phillips personal trainers.’ (‘Dr. Phillips’ is the name of the area in Orlando where my business resides.)”
As of spring 2015, Google began to factor “mobile-friendliness” into how well a site will rank in its search engine. That’s primarily due to the fact that search queries from mobile devices far outnumber those from desktops.
So how do you ensure that you are mobile-friendly? As with desktop website visitors, your mobile readers expect a quick load speed–three seconds or less. They also expect easy page navigation and the most relevant information–like contact information or click to call phone numbers, to be front and center on mobile. In other words, think about what your visitor is likely searching for from a mobile device and serve that up first. And lastly, be sure to test your website with Google’s Mobile-Friendly test.
Chris Cowherd is the chief technology officer for Donuts Inc. He began his career in the domain industry with eNom, where he was charged with building and supervising teams responsible for protocol, network, and security development. With the advent of the new gTLD program, Chris moved his team to registry backend development to create the Donuts platform. Chris holds four United States technology patents.