1. Regularly Publish High-Quality Content
Customers and regular readers of our articles alike will know that we are always telling them to publish original, high-quality content on a regular basis. This should be your number one priority for 2015 - here's why:
- The more pages of unique, quality content your website contains, as long as they are all related to your website's general subject area, the higher the chances of ranking in a reasonable position for any of the keywords that are important to you.
- If you regularly publish information that is useful to your website visitors, they will come back to your website. If you manage to turn even 2% of new visitors into repeat visitors, you will soon have a lot of visitors to your website. The more visitors you have and the more regularly they visit, the higher your chances of turning them into customers, or retaining their custom.
- Google has noticed an increasing trend towards queries that involve "natural language" instead of specific keywords (a practice called "Semantic Search"). Starting with their Hummingbird Algorithm Update, Google aims to interpret the intent of the search term and the context of the website it is ranking when returning search results. Regularly publishing high-quality "natural language" content, such as articles or blog entries, that is related to your website's general subject area will make sure that Google knows as much as possible about the context of keywords used on your website.
- Simply publishing lots of content is no longer enough. Updates to Google's algorithm that can better discern high-quality content from poor-quality content (the "Panda" update) have been rolling out since February 2011, with the result being that websites that just churned out content with the hope of ranking highly (often called "content farms") have seen their search engine rankings plummet or disappear completely.
- Another update to Google's algorithm that has been rolling out since April 2012 is designed to remove any benefit in rankings that websites might have gained by taking part in artificial link generation (the "Penguin" update). With Google's attitude to artificial links made clear, and links to your website still being one of the most important ways in which Google ranks your website, it is of vital importance that you give visitors to your website a reason to link their website to yours - and this can be achieved by offering great content.
2. Review Your Search Engine Optimization Efforts
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is nearly always the most important and one of the most cost-effective of all the marketing methods available to you. But SEO is an ever-changing art, not least because the search engines are constantly updating their algorithms. It is therefore important that you occasionally perform an audit of your SEO activities:
- "Schema Mark-up" is a kind of structured data that comprises a few lines of HTML code that can be added to web pages, with the purpose of providing search engines with additional information about the content of your web pages. An example of this provided by Schema.org imagines a scenario where your web page is titled "Avatar". However, this does not give any information about whether this refers to the movie, a profile picture, or something else entirely. Schema mark-up allows you to add special tags to your web pages to help search engines categorize and add context to your website's content. Adding schema mark-up to your website is particularly important and potentially most beneficial if it contains any kind of content that can be categorized (such as image galleries, reviews, blog entries, articles, videos or discussions), or any kind of data relating to events or "things" (such as albums, books, movies, recipes or locations).
- According to a recent study by SEOClarity, 19.3% of people, on average, click on the first search result, with 11.4% clicking on the second result, and only 2.2% clicking on the tenth result. If you imagine how few people will click on the fifteenth or thirtieth result, it should be apparent how important a change of a few ranking positions could be to your business. It is therefore worth investigating if your website is positioned near the top of the second page of search results for any of the searches that are important to you. It is often possible to move from eleventh or twelfth position to ninth or tenth position with only a few minor changes to your web pages.
- As we've already touched on, Google has become more capable of punishing websites that have artificial links to them, but at the same time the number of links to your website is still one of the most important ways in which Google ranks your website. It is therefore important to periodically perform an audit of all the links to your website. This will allow you to identify any potentially damaging links (which you can instruct Google to ignore or "disavow"), identify the ways in which incoming links can be improved (for example what text does the website use to link to yours) and identify what websites link to your competitors (and which potentially might be willing to link to yours).
3. Cater To Multiple Devices
According to a 2013 study by Smart Insights, more than 20% of all website visitors to large ecommerce websites use a tablet or smartphone to access the internet. If your website is not designed to cater to all sizes of device, your online activities will be harmed in the following ways:
- Websites designed only for PCs or laptops are less usable on tablet-sized devices and almost unusable on smartphone-sized devices. This poor user experience will translate into poor engagement and poor sales.
- Google's algorithms are now able to tell if a website performs poorly on mobile devices, and there are rumors that it might have already started taking this into account when ranking search results for smartphone users. To compound matters, a recent study by seoClarity has indicated that websites that rank first on mobile devices receive 27.7% of clicks, with only 9.2% of people clicking on the second result, and 3.9% clicking on the third result. Therefore, if you want to receive any clicks from Google users on mobile devices, a key step is to make sure your website is optimized for all devices.
- When Google returns it's search results on mobile devices, in most territories it now displays the warning "Uses Flash. May not work on your device." if a website contains Flash. This is because many mobile devices don't support Flash, and without it the website in question may fail to live up to a user's expectations. There were never many good reasons to use Flash on websites, and all elements requiring Flash can now be replaced with mobile-friendly HTML5 code.
4. Have a Strong Social Presence
There are multiple conflicting reports about the effectiveness of marketing on social networking websites, but there are indisputable benefits from using social networks as part of your marketing strategy, and doing so doesn't even require a great deal of time or resources:
- Links to your website from other websites are one of the most important ways in which Google and other search engines decide how important your website is, and therefore how highly it should rank for any particular search term. Setting up a profile on each of the major networks will provide you with the chance to create links to your website - even if you don't have the time or resources for anything more than setting up a basic profile.
- Activities such as users "Liking" pages on your website on Facebook, "Tweeting" links to pages on your website on Twitter, and sharing them via Google+ benefit from the fact that users are, in effect, recommending these pages to their friends. Major social networks all provide tools that you can integrate into your website's content to make it easy for people to interact. For example, when a Twitter user visits your website and enjoys one of your blog posts, they should be able to simply press a button to "Tweet" that content to all of their followers. Not only will your content then be personally recommended to friends or followers of the person sharing your content, but a link to your website is also added to the profile of the person sharing your content, further enhancing your SEO efforts.
- Most visitors to your website will have a strong preference as to how they would like to communicate with you. When it comes to being kept up-to-date with your news or new products, some visitors will prefer to sign-up to your email newsletter, others will subscribe to your website's RSS feeds, and others would prefer to find out via the social network of their choice. It's therefore important that, as a minimum, you post the same news and updates that go into your newsletter to the major social networks, even if you don't have the time for anything else, and that you advertise this fact on your website.