In the internet marketing arena, search engine optimisation is the continuous process of tweaking your website so as to ensure that when your potential traffic searches for your goods or services, it’s either the highest-ranked page or among the top pages to appear in a search engine’s results pages. Optimising your website involves these basic steps.
First, your website has to be accessible by search engines’ spiders. Search engines’ spiders crawl through the internet searching for content to add to their list. If they encounter barriers when they visit your site then your content won’t be indexed. Picture your competitors being listed in a directory and your business missing in action. Scary, isn’t it.
Second, your website must be easy to navigate. Nothing puts off and encourages visitors to leave a website more than an architecture that looks like it was designed more for extra terrestrials and less for human beings. Even if you score high marks for ease of navigation, visitors have to find what they are looking for. If you sell Kenyan tea on your site but the link they click on when your site comes up on search engines takes them to an empty page, they will leave. Your pages must load quickly, though this is one area you have no control of because it will depend on your ISP. SME owners usually sign up with the cheapest ISP because of budgetary constraints, but if their speeds are slow you will have no option but to sign up with a more expensive ISP who gives you quicker speeds, especially if you are targeting foreign traffic who have little patience with slow loading pages.
Third, update your content regularly because search engines treat stale content like you would treat yesterday’s newspaper: the news has lost value, so they downgrade your site. If you attend a fair, talk about it. If you add a new product or remove an existing one, put that information. If you have researched on your industry and want to share the findings, upload that information and request your visitors to download it. If you agree/disagree with a new government policy that will affect your business, share your views and encourage your visitors comment. If you experience disappointments like power rationing that might delay product delivery, post this information. Don’t forget to use keywords in your content that relate to your industry because keywords are the guide dogs that lead potential visitors to your site. So if you operate a car hire business, put ‘car hire’ somewhere in your content. While you engage in updating content, ensure your grammar and syntax are excellent. You can get away with ‘kizungu ilikuja na meli’ if your SME does business only in Kenya, but if you want to attract foreign clients, that attitude won’t wash.
Fourth, give attention to your site the same way you do to your car. Check for broken links and if you find them, repair them. Experiment with different colours and fonts.
Fifth, search engines sometimes announce changes in the way they rank websites which can suddenly make your website lose a few positions. In such cases you may have to do a pay-per-click campaign that will restore your website to its original position.
Sixth, monitor your website for statistics such as where your visitors come from, how much time they spend on your site, what they buy the most, etc. You can use the Google Analytics tool for these analyses by implanting a special code on those website pages that you want to mine data from. This information will not only make your overall internet marketing efforts easier, but they will also allow you to know what keywords to optimise your website for.