by Pete Prestipino
Posted on 06.14.2013
Summer has arrived, but it’s not a time to relax. In fact, it should be quite the contrary when it comes to your digital efforts.
Now is the perfect time to start all the projects that you didn’t have the opportunity to begin during the rest of the year. Here are a few general Web improvement ideas that will prove valuable to your ‘Net endeavors when site traffic picks up after the summer heat subsides.
Build a Link Prospect & Influencer List: There’s no replacement for traditional website-based links as means to improve search engine traffic, but it’s not always easy to acquire them in the quantity (or quality) that your brand deserves. The one mistake that most digital brands make is not spending a sufficient amount of time finding the right potential link prospects and investing in those relationships to ensure that someday they will pay off – and big – in the form of links.
Take the summer months to identify websites that you believe would be beneficial to acquire a link from, noting how they currently link to other sites, and what you might need to do to earn one – be it contributing a guest post or just emailing the site owner. Go it alone and start by exploring LinkedIn, or check out one or two of the most popular SEO software solutions, which are equipped with features for this exact purpose.
Getting new links is the fastest path to improved discoverability, but sometimes it’s necessary to clean up the link profile your site already has. The best way to do that (at least when it comes to Google), of course, is using the link disavow tool in Webmaster Tools. A quick side note: It seems that the best strategy when optimizing your link profile with the disavow tool is to block the entire site instead of individual links on pages.
Internet professionals might also want to consider if they are being associated with the right search terms and phrases. If there’s doubt, the summer presents a perfect time to make over your keyword strategy.
Simplify Share-ability: Social media is playing an increasingly important role in discoverability on the ‘Net these days (subscribers will have access to an informative article on this topic in our August issue, so make sure you’re subscribed to Website Magazine).
Search engines have been quite open about their use of citations as ranking factors on search results. A great deal of effort (from listening and creative content development) is required to receive a citation (be it a like, a retweet or a +1) but those social affirmations don’t just happen on the networks themselves; often, they occur on the website and that presents an opportunity to help your brand increase awareness among key audiences.
Many websites, however, seem to do the absolute minimum when it comes to profiling their social sharing features – relegating these now common website elements to sidebars or worse, to footers. These less-than-ideal placements put these valuable features virtually out of sight of visitors who could potentially share and grant a social citation. Take the summer months to audit your website’s social sharing efforts, focusing on the prominence and ease-of-use of the social sharing elements.
Of course, sharing starts with you, so don’t miss Website Magazine’s Big List of Personal Branding Solutions.
REDUCE SUPPORT COSTS
Add a Knowledge Base: It’s not uncommon for Web workers and Internet pros to get lost in the day-day of their digital work managing customers and, of course, all the back-and-forth digital communication that comes with it.
Customers need support – and they always will – but the savviest Internet professionals are actually turning off the business phone and shutting down their support-ticket systems in favor of offering users knowledge bases to help them help themselves in issue resolution. The approach could be a mash-up of a traditional frequently-asked question section with a weblog, and perhaps even some official tutorial videos or a forum. If Internet pros have these solutions in place, they’re more than half way there! All it takes is some forethought and planning about what issues users have, and how they will go about finding them on your digital property.
Knowledge bases are an excellent project for the summer, but if you’re not yet a believer that it’s time to give up your help desk software just yet, check out WM’s 2013 Help Desk Comparison chart.
Develop Acquisition Focused “Special” Content: Authority is a word that has been used with greater regularity over the years, but little has emerged about how search engines or social media sites actually define it, much less how you can go about acquiring it. It doesn’t need to be that complicated though. Authority is essentially a quality that indicates that you (or your brand) is an accepted, and more importantly respected, source of information. Authorities are typically extraordinary people (or companies) meaning that in order to become one, you need to be pretty special. For the most part, the way that happens today is to add value. Write a thought-provoking book/ebook or make a series of exceptional (informative or entertaining) videos. The point is that in order to be an authority, you not only have to do something bigger, but also better. Authority is another topic that Website Magazine will delve into in our upcoming September issue. (Did we mention you should subscribe to Website Magazine?)
Launch a Referral/Partner Program: Taking the time to write the next amazing, thought-provoking work isn’t for everyone – fortunately, there are some shortcuts. If you make great products (be they information or tangible goods) and you and your customers believe in them, another way to gain authority, or at least some additional awareness, is to launch a referral or partner program to help those loyal users spread the word. Explore solutions like Ambassador, InviteBox or Refer.ly, which offer trackable refer-a-friend functionality. Other options include gamification providers (e.g. Bunchball, Badgeville, etc.) to incentivize use, or even traditional affiliate networks to start rewarding brand loyalty.
Redesign Everything: Design is a fluid, ever-changing and essential component of your Web success. It’s a real challenge to redesign with users (and their future expectations) in mind. This means you’ll need some time to think it through to ensure you make the right decisions. Fortunately for Website Magazine readers, our Design & Development channel routinely features a roundup of interesting articles, such as the recent ‘9 Rules of Portfolio Site Creation’, that can serve as terrific inspiration for your summer design projects. For example, you might want to give your 404 pages a worthy makeover, retool your menu designs, create some modal windows or better yet, optimize what’s behind the UI.
The summer is a perfect time to reimagine your Web property, so don’t waste any more time; why not get started today?