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Pssst. Does your website make the grade?

Posted by Malcolm Iliff, on 30th October 2014

Does your website rank 10/10?

Having a website’s one thing. Having one that's working for you is another. Your Google PageRank – or page ranking - is the one clear sign of how good your website is. You get marks out of 10. A bit like your school report, the effort you put into your website content and technical structure determines your results.

So how does your website rank? You can check right now at http://checkpagerank.net/check-page-rank.php. Don’t forget to come back.

How did you score? Disappointed? Does it feel like you’ve been working hard on your site, but that doesn’t reflect in your score. If it makes you feel any better, it’s pretty hard to get full marks. Even apple.com only scores 9/10.

What does this score tell you? Well, it gives you a clear indication of how easy it is to find your website. And it’s your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) that determines how easy it is for visitors to find your site. SEO is the art of refining the content and structure of your site to increase your site’s exposure through search engines. But there’s no single solution for improving SEO. It depends on many factors, which we detail below.

Your website analytics can provide many more statistics, such as how many people visit your site, for how long and whether they generate a lead or a sale. That’s fine. But if they can’t find you in the first place, there won’t be many statistics for you to rank yourself against.

If Google’s PageRank is telling you to try harder, how can you improve your score?

Improve your PageRank by focusing on these 3 pillars of success

The success of your website depends on 3 pillars:

  • It can be found
  • It shares interesting content
  • It generates a positive response

If your website fails in one area, it affects the others. Relevant content increases your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), making your site easier to find. Good content demonstrates expertise and builds trust. So it’s more likely that visitors respond to your Calls To Action (assuming you have them).

But there are concrete actions you can take to strengthen these 3 pillars and prevent your website from failing.

How does your website score in these 5 categories?

We use five simple categories to make an objective assessment of how good a website is:

  1. Visibility
  2. Design and ease of use
  3. Technical
  4. Content
  5. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

If your score is high in all 5 categories, your website already satisfies the 3 pillars of success. And that’s likely to reflect in a higher PageRank. We don’t like to make empty promises, and it’s not just about getting a higher PageRank. But if you find yourself falling short, address the gaps below, and you’ll see an improvement in your page ranking. Even if the increase is marginal, you will know that you’ve put all the right building blocks in place for your website to better meet your business goal, whether that’s lead generation or sales.

Review our 5 categories below to assess how your websites measure up against the 3 pillars of success. There are 20 questions in total.

Category 1: Visibility

Q1. Is your website easy to find?

Websites must have good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to be found easily. You can improve your ranking by improving your site’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) from both a content and technical perspective (which you’ll learn more about below), and by having more high-ranking incoming links.

Jargon buster: What is an Incoming Link?

An incoming link (sometimes referred to as an inbound link or a backlink) is a link from another website (an ‘external’ site) that brings the visitor to your site. Depending on how the incoming link has been set up, it may transfer them directly to your home page or to another page within your site.

You can also increase your site’s SEO by including meta titles, descriptions and keywords in the definition of your website pages. This technical aspect underpins the structure of your website. This means that when your site and its pages appear in search results, they can read your carefully crafted descriptions rather than the default first few sentences a page. In turn, your pages are likely to be more helpful to prospective visitors and will attract them to your website rather than another.

Category 2: Design and ease of use

The following 10 questions reflect key elements of the design or usability of your site. They’re not the only elements you ever need to know about, but we think they’re fundamental.

Q2. Is your site easy to navigate, with a clean design?

As a minimum, your site design and layout should reflect the professional standards that your business aspires to. This means that visitors can easily find their way around your site, and are not distracted by complex menus or options. Visitors also instinctively find sites with a contemporary look-and-feel more easy to use. If your design is looking a little tired, you can opt for a re-skin. Re-skinning is simply about changing the way your website is presented. What lies beneath remains the same, but the presentation layer is simply updated to keep your website looking attractive, and current.

Q3. Do you include keywords on your Home page?

Your Home page is where you explain the products and services you offer your clients. This text should be rich in key words, that is, the words that visitors would search for when looking for a business like yours in Google. Your web copy should include the terms that your customers frequently use to refer to your type of business.

Q4. Do you use real photos?

Try to avoid the use of ‘stock’ photos. Because they are so prevalent, they tend to look somewhat ‘cheesy’ and cliché. Real clients and real members of your team are a much better proposition. Be sure to ask your clients first if they mind you sharing photos of them.

Q5. Is your site responsive?

The way your site is presented should adjust according to the type of device being used to view it. With more than 50% of users viewing sites on mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones, this is no longer optional. This adjustment in display is also important when you resize windows in a normal browser. The text and graphics should adjust accordingly, so the site still remains usable and navigable.

Q6. Do you include a search and/or tagging facility?

Every site should allow visitors to search for what interests them. A robust search feature typically incorporates tagging. As you add content to your site in the form of blog posts or events, you categorise your content with relevant tags. This makes the search more efficient, and you can even include a ‘tag cloud’ for quick filtering too. 

Q7. Do you have a fat footer?

Fat footers help improve usability for your visitors and include Calls to Action before visitors leave your site. Either you provide the answer to an unanswered question (What are the top products they sell?) or you prompt them to engage with you further, by following you on Twitter or viewing a video demonstration of your product, for example. Fat footers are also another way to improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) by taking visitors by the hand to visit your most popular pages.

Q8. Do you use internal links?

Google appreciates websites whose pages are related to one another using internal hyperlinks. You should embed hyperlinks in the text of your pages and connect with other pages that relate to the same or similar key words. This highlights that there is relevance and structure to your site.

Q9. Do you include Calls to Action throughout the site?

The best sites include a Call To Action on all pages of their site. Calls To Action can be displayed as buttons or links, and typically invite visitors to request more information, register for an event or demonstration, or simply to contact you.

Q10. Do you include valuable content?

What is of value to visitors varies from industry to industry. Useful resources such as whitepapers, case studies and playbooks are all highly valued. If you share information generously with your visitors, they will remain on your site for longer and return more frequently for more. By including a blog you also increase the key words included on your site and help improve your SEO further.

Q11. Do you include client testimonials?

Your website should include relevant recommendations from previous clients. This reinforces your credibility and allows you to include text that is rich in key words for SEO. 

Category 3: Technical

Presentation isn’t everything. Technical content is equally important.

Q12. Is your website well structured?

The URL (website address) structure of your site should be as simple as possible. It should be easy for a human to understand and recognise the structure. Our advice is to organise your content so that the URLs can be constructed logically.

Q13. Do you use Header tags?

The source code (HTML) of your site should make use of the different levels of HTML heading, not just the top (h1) heading. Include (h2 )and (h3) headings to communicate to search engines that these are important subjects and sub-headings. Ensure that all headings genuinely reflect the content on the rest of the page to assist with SEO.

Q14. Is it World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) compliant?

Websites that are W3C compliant are optimised to enable visually handicapped people to read them. If your site is not compliant, this can impact your visibility to Google.

Category 4: Content

Q15. Is your Home page well structured?

Your Home page should include all words that a potential visitor might enter in a search engine input form, in order to find the type of business offering the services they’re looking for. The words used by your visitors are not necessarily the same words you yourself would use to describe your business and the services you provide. 

Q16. Do you include keyword-rich content?

Does the test used throughout your site and the content you make available for download include plenty of key words.

Q17. Does your site meet EU regulations?

All websites must display certain information about the organisation to comply with current EU regulations. Please refer to our blog, for full details.

Q18. Do you include a blog or News page?

The inclusion of a blog or live News page demonstrates to Google that your site is regularly updated. This type of content can include a broad range of useful. 

Q19. Do you list your team members?

With the growth in social selling, where the emphasis is on personal relationships, it is useful to include images and mini-profiles of key members in your team. 

Q20. Do you include a list of useful resources?

A ‘resources’ page that includes useful links to other sites is beneficial.  

Category 5: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

All points referred to above impact SEO. There’s no single remedy that guarantees top Google or other search engine ranking, despite what others may claim. Good copywriting on a technically robust site, that is regularly updated, is the key to an effective site that will work for your business.

How did your website score?

Did you score 20 out of 20? Top marks, if you did!

If your score isn’t as high as you’d hoped, use our 20-5-3 rule (20 actions in 5 categories to support 3 pillars) to improve your site.

Some actions in the list are obviously easier to address than others. Or perhaps you’re not sure whether you fully meet the expected criteria. If you’d appreciate an external, objective review of your site, we’d be happy to assist. We are strict markers! But our websites always pass with flying colours.

How can we help?

If you’d like CBJ Digital Ltd to provide a no-obligation review of your site and you would like us to work with you on addressing the areas for improvement, please contact questions_answered@cbjdigital.com or visit http://www.cbjdigital.com.


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