Increasing your Web Presence - 6 Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself
“How’s my site doing?”
This is a question I hear a lot. Let me answer your question with a question…or six. The effectiveness of your website shouldn’t be answered in one sentence. There is a whole lot of factors that go into dissecting the power of your business on the internet, and all of them should be considered when answering the question above.
The problem is most people don’t know where to start. The purpose of this list is to give you a better idea of how well your website is performing on the internet, and to allow you to see the full potential of your business on the web. So go through and answer each of these questions, use the resources provided to guide you, and find out once and for all “how your site’s doing.”
1. Is my business listed in local listings?
This is one of the most important aspects of your web presence beyond your website itself. Along with social media, many of your customers find businesses through local listings. And whether or not they’re finding you or your competitors depends on the power of your listings.
Check to see if you’re business is on major local listings such as Google+ Local (formerly Google Places), Yahoo! Local, Bing Local, YellowPages.com, and Yelp. If you can’t find your business, neither can your potential customers. If you are listed, make sure that you have the right information in your profile. This includes the correct contact information, company description and other information that each local listing asks. You want to make sure that if someone is looking locally for your business, you can be found and that searchers can find what they’re looking for through your local listing, and not your competitor’s. After all, 35% of ALL searches are “local” (DM News).
2. How does my site show up in the search engines?
If people are searching for products or services you provide, the first thing they will see in the search engine is a link to one of your websites pages, followed by a snippet of text from that page. In order to optimize the number of visitors your website receives through search engines, we must make sure that this link and text are both inviting and informative.
To check the titles and snippets of your site, search site:yourdomain.com in either Google, Yahoo, or Bing. This will display the listing of files indexed through each of these search engines. Also, click the “Repeat the search with the omitted results included” link at the bottom, if there is one. This will often display indexed pages on your website that have errors. By scanning through the results, you can gain a better idea as to how your website shows up in the search engines.
3. Does my website have a goal?
Having at least one goal for your website gives your online presence a purpose. It allows for you to use your site to its full potential by having a set finishing point for the visitors to your site. Whether your goal is filling out a contact form, a free estimate form, an ecommerce transaction, or even a subscription to your newsletter, you can put purpose to your website and truly use your website as a marketing tool to either collect the information of potential leads, or to make direct business with visitors.
Check to see if your website has a visible goal. Your goal should be highlighted nearly everywhere, it should be easy for your visitors to see. Make sure it is working properly. If it is a web form, make sure you can fill it out, submit it, and verify that the form submission is being sent to the appropriate sales people. If it is an ecommerce transaction, make sure the check out process is simple and user friendly. The goal of your website, like any other goal, allows you to measure the success of your efforts – in this case, the success of your online marketing.
4. How does my site look in other browsers?
A majority of people have a preferred browser that they surf the web with. Browsers like Internet Explorer (IE), Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, among many others, follow a set of standards when displaying webpages. The standards may be different with each browser, so webpages may not appear the same in Firefox as they do in Internet Explorer. Furthermore, webpages may not appear the same in different versions of the same browser, or even the same browser on different computers (ie. Mac vs. PC). Internet Explorer is notably bad with this issue, and although usage of IE has declined to 18.1% (Down nearly 6% since last year, source: w3schools), it still remains a very common browser and your company image could be impaired if your website isn't displaying as it should in the many browsers on the web.
Quickly check browser compatibility by visiting Browsershots, a simple and free service that allows you to view your company's URL in many different browsers on the same page through screenshots. Check to see that all of your website's important info is being displayed correctly. This includes your header, navigation, body content, contact info, and anything else that you wouldn't want people to miss.
5. Does my site have a 301 redirect?
A what? Don't worry, it's not as confusing as it sounds. A 301 redirect, in the most simple terms, is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. So let's say your website's URL is www.abcwidget.com and you wanted to change it to www.xyzwidget.com, you would set up a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. Now, whenever someone typed in www.abcwidget.com, they would automatically be sent to www.xyzwidget.com. 301 redirects are sort of like a "change of address form" you would get at the post office. If you move, you want any mail being sent to your old address to be forwarded to your new one.
So how does this apply to you if you haven't ever changed URLs? Many people don't realize it, but http://www.abcwidget.com and http://abcwidget.com are considered two entirely different URLs to the search engines. If you don't have a 301 redirect set up to direct traffic from the non-www URL to the www URL, you are splitting the link popularity of your website, which is a very important part of ranking highly in the search engines. In order to get the link juice you deserve, you need to make sure search engines see both URLs as the same.
Checking to see if you have a 301 redirect is easy. Many people don't know that they are being redirected from one site to another unless they are watching the URL change in their browser's address bar. For example, if you type in cnn.com, you will notice that it changes to www.cnn.com before the page loads on the screen. This is CNN's 301 redirect. You can do this simple test for your own website to determine if your site has a 301 redirect, a very crucial factor in increasing your web presence.
6. Is tracking set up on my website?
In order for you to understand the success of your website, you, or your webmaster, need to be able to view the interactions visitors have with your website. You most likely gather information from your clients or leads the moment they make contact with your business, why wouldn't you do the same for your online business? You should be tracking and analyzing many key statistics of your website such as the number of visitors, percentage of visitors who immediately leave (bounce rate), visitor sources, pages viewed, average visit time, among many, many others. Tracking your website's statistics will give you an idea of where your website needs improvement. Website tracking tools such as Google Analytics, Clicky, and Yahoo! Web Analytics, among others, make this easy for you and allow you to boost your website to its full potential.
If you aren't sure whether or not you have tracking set up on your website, ask your webmaster. If it is set up, ask them to allow you access so that you will be able to view your own statistics. Many will set you up with some level of access, although not always administrative access. Either way, having the ability to view your website's statistics allows you to track the effectiveness of your online business.
Having the ability to determine how your website is doing is just as important as understanding how many of the other functions of your business are doing. Now more than ever, your website is one of the most important aspects of your business, and making sure that people are finding you instead of your competitors is imperative to your online business. By asking and testing the questions above, you can gain an idea of how well your site is doing online using some of the most important factors in determining the power of your web presence, and potentially increase your presence significantly.