You made a website. Now what?
Congratulations, you’ve just finished building your new website. It’s beautiful, and I bet you’re excited. Now, how do you get people to visit it?
There are lots of resources about driving traffic to your website with ads and social media. This isn’t one of them. Instead, I’m going to cover the basics of SEO (“search engine optimization”), analytics, and a/b testing.
Why? Because these elements, which are often overlooked, will allow you to improve the way your website works for customers, potential customers, and search engines. By taking the steps outlined here, you can make sure your website is effective as well as attractive.
SEO basics for your new website
In the past, SEO meant using a variety of tactics to tell search engines what your website is all about. Over the years, many of these tactics have become outdated or unnecessary because Google and other search engines have gotten really good at determining what information or product your website is offering. There are a few less-than-obvious steps you can take, however, to give search engines more clues and increase the chances that potential customers will find you with a quick search. Here’s a quick list of things to check.
- Make sure you have a robots.txt file. This is a text file that lives in your root directory. For example, the robot.txt file for the Azlo website is https://www.azlo.com/robots.txt. This file acts as a welcome mat for search engines crawling your website. It tells them what they are (and are not) allowed to crawl. Many websites have very basic robots.txt files, but they can get quite complex. How can this file improve SEO? You can use it to make sure that search engines are focusing their crawling efforts on your most important and relevant pages within your site. Most website building platforms will create this file automatically for you. If not, it’s easy to create.
- Check your XML sitemap. While the robots.txt file tells bots what to avoid, the XML sitemap tells bots about the pages on your site. It also ranks them in terms of importance. You can view Azlo’s sitemap here: https://www.azlo.com/sitemap.xml. Again, most website builders will create this automatically for you. If not, you can easily create one with a plug-in or text editor.
- Study your homepage title and H1 tags. All the words on your website are important, but some are much more important than others. Your homepage title and H1 tags will affect your search engine ranking and the number of clicks you get. (H1, by the way, simply stands for “heading one” and it defines the most important type of heading on your site.) In the early days of SEO, website owners would fill these elements with all the keywords they wanted to rank for and that worked. Google is much smarter now, and using too many keywords can actually hurt your SEO. To create effective titles and H1 tags, think about your target audience. What is the key thing you want them to know about your product or service?
- Get HTTPS. Most website URLs begin with the letters “HTTP” or “HTTPS” Your website’s URL should have the latter. HTTPS indicates added security, which sends a signal of higher quality to search engines. It also helps potential customers feel safe using your site, which is important if you need to ask them to share any personal information like their email or credit card number (for e-commerce sites). Luckily, there are many free tools you can use to secure your site.
- Standardize your NAP. This tip only applies to businesses that want to serve their local community, but if you fall into that category it will really help you dominate local SEO. NAP stands for name, address, and phone number, and what you need to do is ensure that anytime you list this information anywhere on the internet (website, social media, directories, you name it) you’re listing it EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. Could your address be described as “floor 2” or “suite #200”? Choose one format and use it everywhere. This consistency will help build up your list of local citations for your business, which will improve your local SEO.
- Check your site speed. Both search engines and visitors hate slow websites. Think of the last time you landed on a website that took forever to load—did you get frustrated at the 5 second mark and go somewhere else? Make sure that doesn’t happen to your prospective customers by checking your site speed. There are lots of free tools that you can use. I like GTmetrix. If you learn that your site is too slow, the tool you use should highlight any high-priority problems. Focus on fixing these first to get the most bang for your buck. In some cases, it can be as easy as decreasing the file sizes of your images.
If this quick-start guide makes you want to learn more about SEO, I recommend Moz’s SEO Guide. SEO is a complex topic, which is why some people make an entire career out of it, but taking just the basic steps outlined here can make a big difference.
Setting up analytics
Now that you have a website, you want to know how it’s working. That’s where analytics come in. Analytics can help you learn more about your visitors and their experience on your website. You might not have many visitors yet, but setting up analytics early is much better than waiting and potentially losing valuable insights.
There are many useful tools out there. For this post, I’m going to concentrate on the ones that are absolutely necessary. Make sure you get these in place, and remember you can always add more later.
- Google Search Console: This tool was formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, and it’s a must for any website. If you create an account and verify that you own your site, you’ll get access to what keyword phrases your site is currently ranking for. You’ll also be able to see any issues Google is hitting when crawling your site, and you can submit your XML sitemap directly to Google. Bing also makes a similar free tool, and while Google owns the search market, Bing Webmaster Tools is actually very useful as well.
- Google Analytics: There are countless resources out there about setting up Google Analytics, so I’ll spare you the details. Just make sure you do set it up. You will want to track where visitors are coming from, and what they’re doing on your site. You can also set up specific actions (such as signing up for a newsletter or making an online purchase) as ‘conversions’ for tracking purposes. This will allow you to see what pages are working hardest to drive these actions. You can also use Google Analytics to get demographic data on your visitors.
- Google Tag Manager: You might want to add specific tools and services to your site, like other analytic services or advertising tools. If you do, each tool you add to your site will require adding a bit of script, which can get difficult. This is where Google Tag Manager comes in—install the Google Tag Manager container code to your site, and then you can pick from any of the built-in integrations or add custom HTML for unsupported integrations. Check out Distilled’s guide on getting started with Google Tag Manager for more info.
- Facebook Pixel: This is a piece of code that you can include in your website. Even if you’re not planning on investing in Facebook Ads, adding the Facebook pixel to your site will give you access to useful and free analytics on visitors to your site. The major difference between Google’s demographic data and Facebook’s is Google takes a guess at demographics by looking at online activity whereas Facebook uses online activity and information from Facebook profiles in their demographic data.
Testing basics for your new website
Once you start driving traffic to your new website and gathering analytics, you’ll want to start testing out different elements to drive more conversions. For example, you might want to test a different headline, a different page or menu layout, or different images.
One of the most common types of testing is referred to as a/b testing. This means showing part of your audience one version of your webpage, and part of your audience a different version—and then analyzing the results. This will allow you to see what taglines resonate with your audience, or what specific steps the average customer will want to take when deciding whether or not to buy your product. It can also give you important insights into the usability of your site.
To run these tests, you’ll need some sort of testing tool. If you already have Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager installed, it’s really easy to add another free Google product, Google Optimize, that can help you run tests. You can find a great guide on getting started here, from ConversionXL.
Growing your online presence
As you can see, building a website is just the first step. The process of acquiring customers and growing an online community isn’t something you ever “finish.” Getting the foundation in place is important, but it’s like building a garden bed. Once you have it in place, you have to plant the seeds, study their growth, measure your success, and learn from the process—before doing it all over again.
Hi there! This post exists to offer you (hopefully) useful information but it cannot take the place of personalized professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert if you have questions about your business. Also, Azlo doesn’t endorse any third-party sites that are linked here.
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