We recently inherited a website put together by a novice freelance web designer. And like most novice web designers, the website was done without much thought to visuals or search engine optimization: two major elements of any website.
That's because inexpensive web designers can only design and build the most basic websites. The problem is, a basic website is rarely what a company needs. They need a customer-focused, SEO-friendly website, neither of which the freelancer managed to put together.
Most people running prosperous businesses, aren't experts in web design. So the company, Mid/West Fresh, like many businesses, didn't know what questions to ask a web designer to determine if they knew what he was doing.
Unfortunately, the web designer didn't even know himself what questions to ask when it came to building a customer-focused, SEO-friendly website.
Turned out, one of the biggest problems with the original Mid/West Fresh website, was a classic novice move by the original designer. They forgot to set up the Mid/West Fresh website to be searchable by Google and other search engines. That little oversight would have doomed the website never to turn up in Google search results for Mid/West Fresh’s key search terms. (Not that there were any search terms in the original website, anyway. Another major oversight.)
Unless someone searched for Mid/West Fresh by name, no one would have found the website.
Searching for a company by name isn't what SEO is about.
SEO is about helping people find you by what you do.
If your prospects remembered your name, you wouldn’t need SEO! Because any website has it's own company name in it dozens of times, and no other website has that, searching for a company by name assures it will come up in a Google search.
But what if your company isn't top of mind, like Nike or Apple? Then you need to be found when people search by the products or services you sell. In Mid/West Fresh's case, the product or service they offer is "Columbus produce distributors". (In our case, it's "Columbus Oh web design.")
"It goes without saying" (so to say)...
Asking a web designer if your website will be searchable by Google just isn't something anyone would think to ask. It’s one of those things, as they say, “goes without saying!” Unfortunately, no one at Mid/West Fresh asked, so it went unnoticed. Until we took over the website. Which is when we saw the previous web designer just forgot to "click a radio button" that allows search engines to index the website.
Like many successful business owners, the folks at Mid/West Fresh Produce Distributors are experts in their industry, and not web design. And like many business owners, they just didn't know what questions to ask a web designer to determine how to go about selecting the right person.
But, really, hardly ANY company knows what questions to ask a web designer. Unless you’re a web design firm. THEN you know what questions to ask.
So as a Columbus Oh website design company, we try to help people know the questions to ask. How? We put together a list of questions to ask web designers to help people make better decisions when it came to picking a Columbus web design firm.
What we did to make the Mid/West Fresh website look better.
Made the homepage customer-focused.
When we took over the website, the first thing we did was change main image. It went from a plain photo of their warehouse (a photo that wasn't really relevant to their customers):
... to this (one that was visually interesting, and focused on what Mid/West Fresh did for their customers):
Instead of just showing a warehouse that meant nothing to their prospects, we showed what benefits Mid/West Fresh brought to the table. By showing a series of vegetables with personality, and tied them in with what’s in it for their clients, it turned a boring homepage into an visually memorable, customer-focused message.
Here are the other two images in the homepage slide show: (These were original images taken specifically for Mid/West Fresh for a series of postcards we did for them a few years ago.)
What we did to make the Mid/West Fresh website perform better.
We researched the keywords their prospects use when searching for Mid/West's products.
This is something you NEVER guess at. Because if you guess wrong, it’d be the same as not doing any SEO.
How do you know the keywords people use to search for what Mid/West Fresh does? Google tells you! All you have to do is know where to look. We searched Google’s Keyword Tool for keywords that related to their business. It's an interesting process, because it’s a peek into the way people think when they search for certain products and services.
Then we placed the most used keywords in the website’s Page Title. Page Titles are the first thing Google looks at on a website, so it is critical to get it right. Google’s algorithms read up to 70 characters and spaces. Because of that, the Page Title needs to be concise, and relate to the content on the page.
Each Page Title for each page in the website needs to be unique, and relevant to the content on that page. This is the Page Title for their homepage:
We also added keywords in their headlines, one of the keywords being “food distributors."
Then there’s the images.
Because site speed is a ranking algorithm for Google, the images need to be small file sizes. What were originally image sizes of 285 KB, we made 93 KB. Preparing images for the web is critical to make a website load quickly.
We’ve all Googled something, then clicked the Images link. But unless your images are named with keywords in them, they’ll never relate to your website in a search. So we renamed the images using keywords.
In the example below, the name of an image went from “Midwest-Fresh-About-Banner 3.56.04 PM” (something totally meaningless) to “About-exterior-of-food-distributors-produce-distributors-building1024x322,” (something search engines can relate to).
Then there's the Alternative Text fields.
When we inherited the website, there was no content in the “Alternative Text” fields. Now there are.
Also known as “Alt Text” fields, this is the description you place in this field to help sight-impaired individuals. You might not have sight-impaired audiences, but you never know... you might, so you don't want to ignore them If there are sight-impaired folks looking at your website, they likely have software on their websites that reads the description in the “Alt Text” fields out loud.
Having Alt Text fields filled out also brings your website up to the World Wide Web Consortium standards: the governing body of making the web universally-accessible. For more information than you probably want to know about Alt Text fields, check out our blog on the subject here.
Below is a screen shot of what an "Alt Text" field looks like.
And finally, there’s a list of technical things we do behind-the-scenes.
- Create/config. robots.txt file to allow search engines to crawl your site. Ian did appear to change the setting, so Google is now able to follow the website. However, as with most things, there is more the one steps to a process, and he appeared to have done only the first of those steps.
- Create/config. sitemap.xml to submit to search engines (to help them index, and search, your website faster)
- Test site on multiple devices e.g., laptops, tablets, phones, Apple & Droid devices, and fix any issue we find.
- Test site on various browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc., and fix any issues found as well.
- We have seen your website has not been submitted to Google/Bing webmaster tools, so we will do that (We would need your Gmail/Google Account login access to do this).
- There is no Google Analytics set up on your website, we will do this as well (We would need your Gmail/Google Account login access to do this).
- Make sure all plugins are updated and working properly. This is the only way to help assure your website cannot be easily hacked.
- Test the site using Google Speed test to make sure the site is loading fast enough by Google's standards. If the site is slow on desktop and/or mobile devices, make the necessary changes to earn a passing grade.
- Check and see if there are any add-ons or plugins that can be or should be disabled to increase website speed and productivity.
And now, they show up on page one for their main search term.
If you search for their main keyword phrase "Columbus food distributor," you'll see (in the screen shot below) Mid/West Fresh shows up high in Google's search results.
While all the things we've outlined above might seem like small things, they all add up to building a website that is considerably more SEO-friendly, than if they weren’t built into your website.
And by bringing your website up to today’s web standards, while making it relate to your customers better, we can help you get to page one of a Google search. And once your website gets there, your customers will find your site and reach out to you.
Then, when you start getting calls from prospects who turn into customers, you'll truly understand the benefits of a customer-focused, SEO-friendly website.