Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Importance of Meta Tags

Over the past couple of years, the use of meta tags have become widely debated, with many abandoning them because they don’t have a measurable affect in search engine placement. While this is true, meta tags don’t factor into how the search engines will rank your site, they still have an extremely useful function and if you aren’t using them to their full potential, you’re seriously hampering the effectiveness of your website. Meta tags control the information that’s listed about your site on the search engine results pages (SERPs) and it’s crucial to optimize it to generate traffic and conversions. Following are examinations of the most useful meta tags and how they can boost your business’s reputation.

Title Tags

Title tags define what your business is about, so you definitely don’t want to leave it blank. If you do, Google will create one for you and do you really want a third party defining your company for you? Of course not, so don’t overlook this crucial step. When choosing a title, make the most of the ~60 characters that are available to you by listing your organization’s name and a descriptive tag line. You will want to create a different title tag for each individual page within your website by acting as though you are placing an ad for each particular page. Take some time to come up with copy that will entice users to click through by thinking of what would lead you to be interested. This process sounds very time consuming, but it only takes a few seconds if you do them as you create the pages.

Description Tags

These tags generate the description that shows up underneath your website’s title on the SERPs. Again, while Google has acknowledged they don’t use this information for ranking purposes, it’s still very important to include it. This is your chance to list more in-depth information about your company and to represent your brand so people will be interested in learning more. Don’t merely repeat what you put in your title tag; instead, enhance your title, be as descriptive as possible and don’t waste this precious real estate with quotes, dashes or other non-alphanumeric characters. If you don’t create a description tag yourself, a random snippet of text will be chosen from your site by the search engine and it may not always make sense or be relevant.

When you take time to optimize your meta tags, you are signaling to those who come across your website that you’re a business that wants to be taken seriously and cares about its customers. While it’s desirable to be ranked well in the search engines, you need to keep in mind it’s actual human visitors, not search engine spiders, who will be buying your product!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

SEO and Usability — What’s More Important?

We’ve all heard the old question, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” When it comes to creating a successful website, it’s easy to get bogged down by a similar issue; specifically, is it more important to create an amazing-looking website that dazzles visitors and is easy to navigate or is implementing SEO the most valuable use of time? If you want your website to be a success, it’s necessary to find the ideal balance between these two very different elements so your site is findable and engages visitors and converts them to buyers (or, whatever else it is you’re trying to accomplish with your website).

Another old adage comes to mind surrounding the SEO vs. usability debate: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” In other words, you could have the greatest website in the world, but if no one is able to find it, it may as well not exist. Therefore, it is very important to optimize your site with the use of keywords, links and quality content so it can be easily found when someone performs a search.

While there’s no denying the importance of getting your site to rank at the top of search results, it’s essential to make sure once users find your site, they will want to stay there. Having a well-structured, easy-to-navigate site is crucial in being able to convert visitors into consumers of your brand or product. Now that you have people in the forest to hear the tree fall, so to speak, you have to make sure your website will make them want to stick around.

Even though it can be a delicate balancing act to get SEO and usability to work well together, by following a few tips, you will get started down the right path. For one thing, these two components of your site should be weighed equally from the very beginning of the creation of your website. At the outset, if your SEO and design teams are considered equally important and work well together, you will be saving yourself from a lot of problems down the road. Also, at certain times, SEO will need to take top priority over usability and vice versa, so the ability to recognize this fact and make adjustments as time goes by will be key to your continued success. It takes careful planning to please both your human visitors and search engine spiders and with some experimentation, you will be able to accomplish this goal!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Are You Doing Anything to Build a Good Online Reputation?

When was the last time you Googled your name to see what others were saying about you online? If you haven’t done this in a while, it is a must to determine what others have to say about you or your business. Being aware of your reputation and then taking proactive steps to cultivate it is essential to your success. Even if you find that nothing has been said, this indicates you have a lack of reputation, which is not a good thing. Make 2011 the year you take control of your reputation and take active steps to ensure that when people Google you, only the positives emerge.

Actively Engage in Social Media

This point has been pounded into the ground but it really is that important. You must be proactive and set up a Twitter, Facebook and other profiles, for if you don’t, in time, others will and it most likely will not be complimentary. You really don’t want your Internet presence to be hijacked by someone who, for one reason or another, may harbor a grudge against your company. So, if you have yet to do so, the first step to take is to create social media accounts so you can control the message that’s being communicated online about your company.

Monitor What is Being Said and Respond Thoughtfully

Now that you have entered into the social arena online, it is crucial to actively listen to what is being said and, before responding to any criticism or complaints, to take plenty of time to research what happened and why. You should put twice as much effort into reading and analyzing what is being said as you do into responding to it. By taking ample time to simple “listen” to everything that’s being said, you will be able to determine the underlying issues surrounding a particular problem and come up with a solution that will bode well for the long term.

Analyze Your Weaknesses and Formulate a Plan of Action

Perhaps you have discovered a huge mistake your business recently made (it happens!) and before news gets out about your error, you need to address it online. Don’t ever try to hide anything, for your customers will find out one way or another and it is best if it is from you. By acknowledging your weakness and being upfront, you are establishing yourself as an honest and accountable enterprise that truly cares about its clientele and is willing to admit to its shortcomings. This openness and honesty is key in your being able to build a good reputation and although it may be a bit difficult, it is worth the payoff.

The key takeaway here is you must invest time and effort into building a reputation built on honesty, transparency and accountability. The masses can either sing your praises or they can destroy your brand—it is up to turn the tide in your favor. Your willingness to face customer complaints head-on and not letting stubbornness or pride lead you to make rash decisions are your biggest assets in ensuring your reputation is as good as it can be.