As construction marketers implement next-generation websites that feature enhanced functions, many companies have not yet taken advantage of even the most basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. In most industries, SEO can be critical to achieving improved search results for websites—thereby increasing website traffic, and quite possibly sales and market share.
SEO relates to website programming, design and development as a foundation to increase or optimize search engine results that include your industry’s keywords. As more and more business is conducted through the internet, how can construction marketers leverage this important medium? An SEO foundation should include such optimization techniques as:
- Meta-tag coding
- Alt-tag coding
- Title-tag coding
- URL structure
- URL Redirects
- Fix SEO Errors
- Site Maps and Text Links
- Link Building
- Keyword content or “landing” pages
- Blogs and Social Media
Though invisible to the user, meta-tag coding uses html coding for keywords and descriptions of the page’s contents, thus enabling the search engine to correctly index the web page’s contents. Meta-tag coding is possibly the most fundamental SEO technique, yet critical to most search results.
Alt-tags are the file names, image captions or descriptions for images contained on your website. These are useful when search engines index or “spider” your website. The engines automatically turn off images and read only text. However, the engine does read image file names. Therefore, instead of image filenames such as “DCP0003.jpg,” images should be re-named “KEYWORD.jpg,” to increase search results.
Title-tags are the descriptive words at the top of the browser window that, more often than not, only list the company name or website address. Like meta-tags and alt-tags, title-tags should be simple and keyword heavy, and no more than 120 characters (only 66 will display in Google results) .
Perhaps the most neglected SEO task is URL structure. When linking to website sub-pages that are often served via databases, the URL that appears on the “http” line often includes obscure database code with multiple backslashes. To eliminate this search engine hurdle, ideal URL structures use the base domain name, along with simple keywords or keyword phrases in place of this coding, and eliminate excessive backslashes.
An often neglected SEO technique is setting-up URL redirects, or more specifically, a 301 permanent redirect for your website. Search engines will index both the www.domainname.com and domainname.com versions of your website. This scenario creates what is known as duplicate content, thus diluting the search authority of both. Also called a canonical redirect, the 301 permanent redirect is vital to proper search engine optimization and improved rankings. A simple way to test whether your website has a 301 redirect in place is to type “yourdomain.com” into your browser address bar then hit “Enter”. If the URL does not automatically change to “www.yourdomain.com”, then the redirect is NOT in place to resolve canonical issues and, therefore, is not optimized for the search engines.
Fix SEO Errors
The more errors you have on your site, the more you are penalized by search engines. The 404 error, which means ‘Page not Found’ more often than not results from a broken link on your website. Sometimes, these are easy to find when you happen to be browsing through your site. On the other hand, once your website is built out with thousands of pages it can be difficult to pin-point which links are broken. Various tools are available for you to check this, such as SEOmoz and the broken link checker.
Another SEO best practice are Site Maps. Typically a secondary navigation text link placed in the footer of the web page, and linking to a sub-page with a simple outline of website content and sub-links. In the same location, redundant text navigation links for all primary navigation should be placed. Site Maps and Text Links allow search engines to index all of your website contents and sub-links to determine search rankings. XML Site Maps should be submitted to key search engines including Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Because many search engines rank websites based on how many hits a link receives, link directories and related industry links increase search rankings. Dedicating a sub-page or pages to industry links and establishing reciprocating links to websites for industry publications, associations, trade shows and related information websites will improve search rankings, and drive traffic to your website. Bookmarks are similar to links, and new sites should offer Bookmark links like Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon.
Before posting your company’s enhanced website on the worldwide web, be sure your website content includes keywords that correspond to the meta-tags for those pages, or even dedicated landing pages or sub-pages for your site’s top keywords. As referenced previously, these pages should use keywords in URLs, title-tags and meta-tags to ensure the best search results.
Blogs and Social Media
Now more than ever, Blogs and Social Media are a major determinant of Search Engine Results. Best practice search optimization requires that your website link to your blog and social profiles. Ideally the blog is a primary navigation link, and a sub-domain of the site (ex. www.sitename.com/blog). An active blog will build indexed pages quickly (which search engines love). Icons and links for key social media profiles including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn should be placed prominently on all web pages. Share or Bookmark icons/links can reside nearby.
With a Search Engine Optimized website, organic search results will fluorish. Now you can undertake Pay-Per-Click media buys or Directory Submissions (another media buy). Without an optimized site, both of these media programs would be futile in increasing search results and traffic. Implementing these functions with an optimized site will achieve substantial increases in both rankings and site traffic. Measure your progress with the statistics provided by your hosting service, or install Google analytics tracking code. Search engine optimization should be a top priority!