4 Steps to optimize a website — a Denver solar case study
This is an inside look into my process for optimizing a pre-existing website. This will cover lots of the aspects of the SEO I’ve done, but not all of it…These steps are often my first round of optimization on a site. Once I do these four vital SEO steps, I move on to content SEO and more link-building.
1. Re-write the site’s code
Matzen Electic & Solar‘s web developer created a custom template for their website. The template used tables and images instead of CSS and image replacement methods. Check out the original template and the current site. Not much difference visually, but look at the code itself.
If you inherit a code structure that’s not great, you’re going to want to make sure to re-create the template using SEO-friendly code techniques. Here’s what I did for Matzen:
- Made the logo <H1> on the home page and a <P> on other pages. Before, it was an image without an ALT tag.
- Reformatted the title tag to be structured properly: page name first, site name second.
Before: Matzen Electric & Solar » Home
After: Denver Residential Solar Installation – Matzen Electric & Solar
- Converted the navigation from a bunch of images without ALT tags to text links that also improves accessibility for blind users.
2. Give search engines the right information
For any website, it’s important to let search engines know what pages exist on the site. Standard best practices apply here:
- Create a robots.txt file
- Create a sitemap.xml file
- Make sure that there are no “loose” pages that shouldn’t be indexed. If there are, disallow them on the robots.txt file, and then redirect them using an .htaccess file.
- Submit the sitemaps using Google Webmaster Tools & Yahoo! Site Explorer
These two steps alone took the site from being out of the top 100 to in the top 10 for some of their target phrases (Denver Solar Electricity and Denver Solar Installation). But not high enough by any means. Let’s get back to it!
3. Create profiles on high-value websites
If your company isn’t showing up for local searches, it’s probably because your Google Local listing isn’t optimized for their keywords. I took care of that, and made sure their visibility improved by having profiles created on the major websites.
- Google Local
- Yahoo! Local
- GetSatisfaction – Create a company profile as well as a targeted product or service. In this case, I added a service they provide, which is solar installation. Note the SEO-friendly url: http://getsatisfaction.com/denver-solar/products/denver-solar_installation
Profile creation tips
- Make sure you’re writing these profiles from your clients’ accounts — not from your own account! You are simply helping your clients create these profiles, not claiming them as your own. I strongly recommend you provide your clients with a full list of logins & passwords upon creating profiles.
- Only leave comments that are true and that are from your own actual accounts — if this means you have to work the English language a bit, then work it…but do not create false testimonials. That’s no way to build trust in a brand. Have you ever used your clients services? If not, then do you want to? Why do you want to? Write about that.
- Use every option available, because you never know what users will search for. Add as much information as you can, including videos and images, so that you’re giving the search engines as much content as they want to work with. More information (especially pictures that show up in mapped listing results) could also result in higher click-through rates.
- Yahoo! gives you a “Brands” option. Matzen Solar installs many different solar panel brands, so I made sure to list them.
- Google Local offers “Additional Details” options. You can write whatever you want to there. Keep it on topic, but make sure to cover any keywords or phrases that you hadn’t covered before.
- Use the Address 2 field — I’ve been using the Address 2 field to add a c/o (Care Of) listing that is keyword rich, but also user-friendly. Something like “Widgets Inc., 123 Widgets Road, c/o the Best Widgets Company, Denver, CO”. This gets you more keywords, provides a nice little tagline, and is appropriate for the address field. If you do something inappropriate, chances are you’ll get punished for it.
4. Build more links
Find relevant websites and link to everything you’ve built. Link to all the profiles, link to the pages of the website, link everywhere — but make sure you link responsibly. Too much of the same link = search engines thinking you’re spam.
Do these 4 SEO items well, and you’re off to a good start
These SEO steps should get you ranked locally — even if you don’t touch your site’s content.
Be patient, young padawon. It takes 15-30 days for Google to update with your changes. It takes anywhere from 2 days to 4 months for some of these profiles to go live. Just know this: after doing these steps, you’ll be better off than you were before.