If you disable images in your browser, does your website disappear?
I'm serious. Open up your web browser's options or settings and disable image display. Now go to your website: has it visually disappeared? Can you still see a sales message? How about your call-to-action or your site's navigation?
This is exactly how the search engines "see" your website; so if your entire design, text included, relies upon graphic images, then a blank screen of empty frames and place holders is all that the search engine has to go on when indexing your site. Search engines cannot read images, so how will people find your website if search engines can't read it?
I know this article is about SEO, so why am I talking about design? SEO has matured, in the past 10 years, to develop into a combination of several processes designed to work well together to serve up a carefully planned marketing strategy.
Your design is the platform on which your usability, functionality and optimization efforts entirely rely upon. When you get your design right, then these three key aspects naturally fall into place.
Many of you are, in fact, extremely talented with Photoshop; and kudos to you for that. But the whole idea here as an adult business is to draw attention and focus to your site's content — that is what you want folks to buy access to — not to your design.
The bottom line is that it's about converting people into customers. It's impractical for you to have designs that visually over-power and/or overwhelm your content. Instead, your design should support and feature your content — ideally in a way that makes your content visually "pop."
Please don't take me wrong; I've seen some visually stunning website designs. Unfortunately for most of them, the navigation and calls-to-action are visually buried and drowned-out by the loudness of the design.
Your site design should also not be so visually clustered that people have to "figure out" how to use it. Navigation and calls to action should be simple to find, straightforward and easy to accomplish. That is, of course, assuming you'd like to have paying customers.
Remember: Build your design correctly using basic w3c.org web standards and ensure that your code is valid and that your text is actually text and not a graphic image of text. Do this and you are halfway to good rankings.
Beyond design, the other common SEO mistakes that influence the success or failure of an SEO campaign are:
Putting all the focus on the homepage
When you pile everything you offer on to the homepage you are creating confusion for both visitors to your site and the search engines.
You should sort your content or affiliate offers into appropriate groups or categories and create a focused landing page for each set. This allows your visitors to focus on just what they're looking for, instead of having to dig through your site to find it.
Your internal pages are just as important as your homepage, so don't forget that a large percentage of your visitors could (and should) actually enter your website through an internal page and not the homepage. Don't forget to have site navigation in place so that the visitor won't get lost if they didn't happen to get to your site via your homepage.
Remember: Your homepage should indicate a general sense or basic outline of what people will find at your site. From there on out, each web page needs its own specific page title, description and keyword phrase meta-tags, appropriate to that page's content and described accurately.
Using the same meta-tags on all of the pages
The description tag, when written appropriately, is the snippet of text displayed with your link on the search results pages. The quality of your text snippet has a direct impact on the chances of your link being clicked. Because of this, it's important your descriptions accurately describe each specific page.
According to Google, you should "Use site-level descriptions on the main home page or other aggregation pages, and consider using page-level descriptions everywhere else. You should obviously prioritize parts of your site if you don't have time to create a description for every single page; at the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your homepage and popular pages."
Remember: Be sure your design meets accessibility standards, which boils down to the fine details of correct markup and labeling of page elements (if a machine browser reader can clearly decipher your pages then you can be assured search engines can too). Do both of these and you are now 75 percent of the way to good rankings
Wasting time to rank well for really obscure keyword phrases
So you rank number one for "porn widgets for horny midgets" — but does anyone actually search for that? You can rank number one for thousands of obscure keyword combinations, but if no one is searching for any of these terms, then you have wasted your time and effort optimizing for them.
Instead, use one of the tools on the market that can give you a clear idea of how many people are searching for the various key phrase combinations relevant to your niche. Focus on those that can actually bring you quality targeted traffic rather than the unusual or obscure ones that no one ever searches for except you when you check your rankings.
Aside from these common mistakes make sure to steer clear of bad practices and attempts to fool the search engines, for example: using hidden text, keyword stuffing and spammy linking strategies.
SEO is an ongoing process. Just because you make into a high ranking position on targeted phrases does not mean you will automatically stay in those ranks. Search engines pay close attention to bounce rates and so should you. If your bounce rate is high your ranks will drop.
If a large percentage of your visitors are landing on and leaving from the same page, especially in a fast time frame, then you have problems to fix. Typically the problem is not living up to the click promise from the search result page. This happens when your page titles and Meta descriptions are not accurate, so visitors don't actually find what they're looking for and instantly click the back button.
A few other factors that can keep you on your SEO toes are new campaigns by your competitors; changes in search engine algorithms and a having poor selection of targeted key phrases from the start.
When you add new products or see new trends occur, you will want to adjust your approach to make the best of all situations. Don't forget to plug in a good website traffic analytics program to monitor your successes and locate any weak areas you can improve on. I recommend Google Analytics for this.
Do all these things and you are 90 percent of the way to good search engine placement.
Remember: The final 10 percent you need to plug in to the equation is in knowing how people are looking for your content; what phrases they're using at the search engines to find you, then targeting your pages appropriately. This is the icing on the cake and if you do this well then you can be confident that your site will rank well for your intended audience.
If you are building a new website or redesigning an existing one keep these tips front and center in your planning for the best possible presence at the search engines. Of course there are many other adjustments you can make both on and off site to further improve the whole overall visitor experience and increase conversions and I will help you to sort out those choices in the next article. Until then, as William Butler Yeats said, "Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people."