It is essential for every business owner, no matter the size of your enterprise, to have some sort of web presence. While some small businesses just have a Facebook page, it’s more beneficial to actually have a new and dedicated site built to serve as your business’ home base. A .com registered in your name is ultimately more reliable than a single page owned by a social network.
Now that you’ve decided that what you need is a professional-grade website, it’s time to sit down and come up with some concepts. How do you want the site to look? What would you consider a conversion (do you sell things directly on the site or do you want people to fill out a contact form)? What do you want the site to do? As you brainstorm and look at other sites for ideas, it’s important to point out that when it comes to web design, there is often a gap between what you want and what you need.
For the purpose of SEO, you may need to cut back on some of the frills that you think look awesome on other sites but are actually doing a bit of harm with regard to search engine visibility. Here’s a good example of something you may be tempted to have but should avoid: the splash page.
A splash page is that first “welcome page” that many sites have for whatever reason. All that’s on there is a big image and a “click to enter” button. Often this page is made in Flash. If all you care about is aesthetic appeal, then okay, that’s fair. But since you’re running a business, you want the search engines to actually see your site.
Your homepage is your most crucial piece of real estate. It’s most likely the page that is going to rank highest in the search results. It is also the gateway by which both visitors and search engines will follow links to view what else your site has to offer. If your homepage URL is the splash page, you’re forfeiting the opportunity to rank for keywords and establish a solid link structure. Your homepage should have quality content and clean navigation.
These are just a few of the points you need to consider when designing a new site for your business. While launching a new site is exciting and can open up many new opportunities, it’s essential that you do things the right way to maximize the benefits.
There was an excellent piece in the Atlantic last month about the power of “dark social.” Dark social is, essentially, the links to your site that you can’t account for. That is, you don’t know where your visitors are coming from. When looking at your analytics, you have to keep in mind just how limited you are. In many instances, a majority of your sites views won’t come from a specific referrer. There is no referrer data if someone comes from a dark social source, such as instant messenger or email.
This reinforces the truism that “content is king.” Shareability, whether you can tell if your links are coming from Facebook or not, is what will improve your visibility. When you provide quality, useful content on your site, you increase your chances of someone coming along and saying, “Hey, this is cool. Let me IM this to a few people around the office.” Sure, in this day and age they would probably link to you on Facebook, too. But there are no guarantees. Just speaking personally, I share much more through dark social than I do on my Facebook because I know when only a select few people might find what I’m reading to be of interest.
We have a tendency to pore over data and trends, and we should, but don’t lose sight of the fact that it is impossible to track everything. Analytics are limited. It’s hooking readers’ interest that should always be the primary goal.
Of all the popular social media companies out there, Facebook always feels like the most troubled. It also has more users than any of its competitors, so criticism is easy to come by. Ever since it’s lackluster IPO, the company has been scrambling to come up with a way to reassure investors that they are worth the billions they were valued at. Responding to market pressures, Facebook has aggressively pushed the message that they are focusing their energy on becoming a mobile service first and foremost. As more and more users access the internet primarily through their phones, Facebook is rushing to change the way they operate in order to meet the needs of changing demographics.
They’ve restructured their staff, requiring all of their developers to have skills in mobile application development. Whereas previously the company had a small, dedicated staff that worked exclusively on mobile, now mobile is factored into every project. For example, the team which develops the Messenger service (you know, the Facebook instant messaging feature that is both really useful and often infuriating?) also has to develop for the mobile app version of Messenger at every step of the way.
The most important thing Facebook needs to tackle first is getting its mobile app working properly. If you own an iPhone, you’ve no doubt noticed the constant updates that keep coming out. As of late, they’ve all been for the better! Hopefully with time they can get the app moving fast enough that it’s always an enjoyable experience.
New York and New Jersey are still recovering from the devastation brought by Hurricane Sandy. When it’s all said and done, weeks and months will pass and the monetary cost will be astronomical, which is to say nothing of the lives lost.
I was lucky to get little more than a few strong gusts and plenty of wind where I live. Like many people, I was glued to my Twitter feed, trying to keep tabs on what was going on all along the Northeast. I had the TV on too, but that wasn’t telling the whole story. It was amazing to see Twitter come into its own as a major source of information and communication. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent out a tweet in the middle of the night October 29th saying how proud he was of Twitter at that moment. Social media companies, of course, want to present themselves as being important. But during those couple days, Twitter really was a valuable resource.
If you were on Twitter that night, you know what I mean. People who had lost power relied on their phones for updates. People were RTing locations of others in desperate need. Pictures (many taken on Instagram) were shared, showing the devastation in real time. Mayors and governors were tweeting constantly, sending out instructions and alerts. For those without power, but with a charged phone, it was their only access to the outside world. And for those who were lucky enough to be unscathed, it provided a window into just how much help would be needed.
In the aftermath of the storm, Twitter continues to be used for everything, ranging from direct communication with ConEd (seriously, check out their feed) to helping people adopt animals that were left homeless or abandoned by the storm.
When business owners hire search engine optimization companies, they do so because they want to get their website ranked higher on Google or Bing. However, obtaining the conversions you want goes beyond landing on the first page of the SERPs. People who click the link to your site then have to be compelled to buy from you. It’s at this point where we seriously need to discuss content.
No one likes to hear that the content on their site isn’t very good. It can be a difficult subject to discuss. However, SEOs have a duty to be trustworthy partners when working on a site and that includes making content suggestions. All the meta data can be pristine, but if what the user sees on the page sends up red flags (misspellings, broken links, outdated information) they will start to feel skittish and will probably move on to another site that looks more trustworthy. Remember, even in 2012 people get uncomfortable giving out their credit card information, even when security has never been better.
Business owners need to consider giving their content an overhaul as part of their SEO efforts. Content that is engaging, modern looking, and welcoming is what will convince visitors to open their wallets and become customers. Of course, a great product is important. But visitors to your site must be persuaded to believe that your site is the best place to purchase this product from. Even if you’ve written your content yourself, it might be in your best interest to have a professional copywriter look it over or rewrite it for you.
How many of you have friends that don’t use their real name on Facebook? Perhaps you do this yourself. If you’re like most people, a decent portion of your friends list has people swapping out their last names for their middle names. This all seems harmless enough, right?
Well, if you didn’t know, Facebook is rather unhappy with all of you using fake names! That’s because the less they know about their users, the more difficult it is for them to monetize their services. Social media companies have successfully leveraged Facebook to obtain sales for their clients, but Facebook itself is at a difficult crossroads when it comes to bringing in revenue.
Facebook’s goal is to be your official identity on the web. Eventually, they would like to be the main hub through which you do your banking or any other official business, including voting. However, this is impossible if people are using anything other than their real name. If the name you use on Facebook varies from the one on your credit card, this hurts Facebook’s business model. If advertisers can’t get an accurate reading on you and users like you, what good is Facebook to them?
While it’s Facebook’s official policy that you must use your legal name, it’s impossible to track, especially if your alias sounds like a real name. Currently, it is believed that 83 million Facebook users are spam accounts or duplicates made by people who want to keep certain aspects of their online lives private. It will be interesting to see in light of how poorly Facebook has done since its IPO how they’ll be able to turn things around and get the confidence from advertisers they so desperately need.