There is a saying, "build it and they will come," but this definitely doesn't always apply to websites. The best way to get people to your website is to make sure it's search engine optimized. It can be a tricky balancing act between writing engaging content and ensuring the Google spiders can find you. But here are a few tips to help get it right.
Choosing the right keywords means you can target people who are searching for your particular topic or area of expertise. They should be your starting point before you even start writing. First consider who you're targeting and where your potential audience is — are they mainly in one country or spread around the globe?
Once you have a list of potential keywords you can use tools such as Google AdWords Keyword tool or Wordtracker to choose the best ones to use. As well as using keywords in your copy, don't forget to slip them into title tags, meta descriptions, heading tags, alt text, internal links and more.
There's no firm rule for the optimum "keyword density", or number of times to include words in your text. Of course it will depend on the words or phrases chosen, and the length of the text. As a rough guide, make sure they're in the page title or subtitle, and two or three more times on the page.
Good keyword research is the basis of any strong SEO campaign and it will also provide excellent foundations for expanding your website later.
Target Search Engines
Google is the world's most popular search engine, and the main target for most SEO efforts. But it's not the market leader everywhere.
If you're looking for readers or customers in China, then Baidu is the most popular search engine, while Yandex dominates in Russia. The Japanese still love Yahoo! while South Koreans prefer Naver. Many of these tips will apply across all search engines. But it's worth taking time to research the nuances of the main ones when targeting specific countries.
Search engines may not be able to distinguish good writing, but human readers definitely can. Creating high-quality, well-researched content is the secret to hooking users once they've found your site, and keeping them coming back. Don't underestimate the importance of thoroughly checking spelling and grammar.
A clear, easy-to-read layout, with clever use of videos and images will help make the right impression. You'll need to have a system in place to keep your pages fresh and regularly updated. Search engines, as well as readers, prefer websites with fresh, unique content.
If you choose to translate your website for international users, don't rely on automated translation tools. They might be useful for understanding the gist of text, but they're not yet a match for human writers. It's worth paying native-speaking translators to ensure your text is fluent, readable, and error-free.
Choose the Right Domain Name
Ideally your web domain name should be short, memorable and include one or more of your keywords. However, the best ones get snapped up quickly and you might have to pay quite a bit to get hold of one of them. In this case, don't shoehorn in keywords to the detriment of your website name. Stuffing your url with keywords will make it harder to remember, less user-friendly and more prone to typing errors.
If you're considering globalizing your business, snap up those top level domain names. For example, if you use the .com address now, think about the .jp, .fr and .cn addresses too.
This is the most effective approach for SEO. But if you feel it's too expensive or time-consuming at this stage, you can create sub-directories or sub-domains as part of your main site.
Keep the Design Simple
It's best to keep the design of your website simple, well-ordered and easy to navigate. Frustrated users will often give up if they can't find the information they're looking for. Consider your color schemes carefully. Avoid bright garish backgrounds, or yellow or pink text that's hard on the eyes.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) keeps the design separate from the content of your website, which means you have greater flexibility. If you decide to localize your content later you won't need to redesign it from scratch.
Unicode UTF-8 is also a great tool as it caters for over 90 different scripts, so globalizing your content will be much easier later on if it's encoded properly from the start.
Social media is becoming an increasingly important part of SEO. The Google algorithm is taking more account of social media links now — meaning you should too. It's worth developing a strong social media presence, and making sure your content is shareable.
Add Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn buttons to your blog posts. And use all three (and more) to spread the word about your website. Of course, social media is all about building relationships, so get chatting and sharing with other users in your field.
SEO is an ongoing process and you won't get results overnight. It can take a lot of work to climb the search engine rankings – and regular effort to stay there. But the payoffs can be huge, as you can reach a growing, global readership.
Christian Arno is the founder of professional translation services provider, Lingo24. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 160 employees spanning four continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated more than 40 million words for businesses in every industry sector, including MTV and World Bank. Read more about Christian here.