Websites are one of the MOST powerful online marketing tools; they serve as the only platform online where a business can truly tell its story. This is not an overstatement. With ever-changing algorithms that continually cut audience reach, not even social media sites can say the same. While social media is an effective way to increase website traffic and customer interactions, the foundation of a solid online marketing plan is still the website.
Modern business websites need to be optimized for the target audience and search engines, making the website planning and building process with carefully planned website SEO more crucial than ever.
Importance of Website Speed
Waiting is become incredibly unpopular in almost every aspect of life—especially online. The winding circle while waiting for an app or a website to load can be maddening; it also costs business owners valuable inquiries and, eventually sales.
The statistics back it up. According to Google, when the time for a website page to load goes from one to three seconds, the chance of an online user leaving the website increases by 32%. That number almost triples, to 90%, when page loading speed goes from one to five seconds. The number increases to 106% when loading from one to six seconds. From one to 10 seconds, the chances of a bounce are a whopping 123%.
A fast website is not a luxury anymore; it’s a requirement for every business website. The Search Engine Journal recently published shocking statistics from an Unbounce study. Almost seventy percent of consumers reported that slow page loading speed plays a role in their buying decision. Forty-six percent of online users put “waiting for a website page to load” on their mobile devices at the top of their dislike list, according to Google.
Other Website Features that Count
A fast website is only a part of a stellar online customer experience that leads to more inquiries and customer conversions. That fact is why, according to Search Engine Journal, a website’s excellent customer experience is an integral part of high rankings on Google.
With over a billion websites online, the competition for the top of search engine rankings is fierce. In addition to website speed, modern websites need to built with an optimized structure. A secure HTTPS website is now a top priority for any business looking to improve their search engine ranking. That’s just the start of the list; websites also need to be mobile-friendly (also not an option for websites any more). More than half of all searches are done on a mobile device.
For businesses keeping track, the list of website features that get a website in front of potential customers is fast website loading speed, a secure protocol, and mobile-friendly design. Also high on the list is top-quality content.
Importance of Content
Optimized content valuable to online users, both on a website and blog, increases the amount of time online users spend on a page. This makes content an important search engine ranking signal—and should make it a high priority for businesses (either produced in-house or outsourced to professionals).
Basically, content should be written and developed for online users and search engines—-and keep being written and published on a regular basis. Websites with regular and relevant content continue to be ranked higher on search engines (and subsequently, in front of more potential customers). The content should be written for the target audience (potential customers) and optimized with keywords relevant to the online viewers and business. (Note: this does not mean packed with keywords, which is actually detrimental to content performance.)
In addition to well-written content, images and video should be included on the page for an optimal customer experience. (These content marketing do’s and don’ts can also contribute to a successful content plan.) Regularly published content should be promoted regularly to increase website traffic and reach marketing goals.
Value of Off-Site Local SEO
An optimized website is only part of the search engine optimization process. Off-site search engine optimization is also a factor when trying to gain valuable rankings, especially for local brick-and-mortar businesses. There are several aspects to local SEO: an optimized Google My Business listing, complete listings on review sites and online directories, and a process for brand reputation management. (This local SEO checklist breaks the process down into manageable steps.)
The process starts with claiming a business Google My Business listing and filling it out completely (this step-by-step guide for Google My Business is helpful). In addition to Google My Business, businesses should also strategically choose and add listings to online directories and review sites that are relevant to the business. Every listing should be filled out consistently with the exact same business name and address (i.e. Street versus St., Ste. Versus Suite).
Search engines list these review sites and directories (with the specific business listing) in relevant search engine results, such as in the “restaurants near me” or “flooring stores near me” searches. For that reason, businesses should concentrate on eliciting positive reviews and using positive customer service to communicate with customers leaving negative reviews.