Can we talk about Search Engine Optimization? Marketers know that the web is a critical channel for B2B, be it selling more commercial building products and materials, but it’s not enough to just create and post content. You have to think about how the search engines are viewing your content, and how to best present that content so that it can be found. That’s the cornerstone of effective digital marketing for building materials manufacturers.
If you’re new to SEO, I have some bad news. There isn’t one single thing marketers need to fix in order to rank well on Google or Bing. While writing content that is relevant to your target market(s), useful, and actionable by the reader, that alone won’t get you there.
Similarly, while I advocate for getting backlinks to your optimized and targeted pages from relevant websites, that alone won’t get you there.
It is going to take a comprehensive strategy to get your site to rank well, at least for the target market you’re trying to reach.
That targeting is important – you shouldn’t be trying to rank well for everybody who uses Google. Rather, your goal should be to rank well with those you are really trying to reach with your digital marketing efforts: Your buyers.
But here’s the rub: Content alone, no matter how great it is, won’t make your site zoom to the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Your website needs to have a solid structure, it needs to be responsive to mobile devices, and it should be as fast and nimble as you can make it without sacrificing necessary functions.
Since the vast majority of websites that use a Content Management System (CMS) are using WordPress, this article will use WordPress as a focal point. This doesn’t mean that those who are using something different, like Joomla or Drupal, shouldn’t stick around. These concepts apply to those, too. Same with you (God bless ya) hand coders. The nomenclature may vary a bit from one CMS to the next, but otherwise, this should help you, too.
I’m going to start with the structure of a well-formed web page. This process should be completed for each page or post you want to rank well. A big selling point of using a CMS is that you can make some of these changes in the admin dashboard, and they will be applied globally. Alas, some will require that you make adjustments to each page, but the effort is definitely worth it.
On-Page SEO Best Practices
There are three things which should be on each one of your pages – at least the ones you want to rank. Each of these sends a signal to Google which helps it to understand what your page is all about.
Each page should have a unique <title> tag in the header. Don’t blow this by using a title like <Title>Home Page – XYZ Company</title>. Instead, use this to say what’s interesting ABOUT the page. If yours is a building product website, you might want to use something like this on the home page: <title>Commercial Building Products for Architects, Engineers, and Contractors | XYZ Company.</title>
You’ll notice there is no reference to the home page, and I put XYZ Company at the end. The first 60 characters are what will show up as the blue text at the top of a Google search result. Anything after that will get truncated at the 60th character.
While you’re trying to tell Google what your page is about, you’re also trying to tell the person searching why they should click on your result. Don’t sacrifice that by placing your company name at the beginning of the title. Seriously. If you must have your company name in the title, place it at the end.
Header Tags – this isn’t MS Word or Google Docs
In HTML there are what is known as header tags. They are <H1>, <H2>, <H3>, <H4>, etcetera. Don’t make the mistake of assuming these are just for formatting text like in a Word Document – they do much more than just that.
The <H1> tag serves a very important role in terms of SEO. Google looks at that tag as it does the <title> tag – it sends a powerful signal Google about what the page is about.
You may have noticed that I am referring to the <H1> tag in the singular. This is because the <H1> tag should be used once and only once per page. If you have multiple <H1> tags on a page, you’re sending mixed signals to Google. Use the other header tags for those subheadings.
I suggest being consistent. Use the same header tag – I use <H2> and <H3> – for your subheaders across the pages of the site. You can have multiples of these on a page, but do try to be consistent with their usage.
The third thing Google expects to see is relevant content. All of the above tags only work as you’ll want if the content is related to the tags. A mismatch will hurt you more than it will help you.
Other tags you should use, include a page description meta tag, which goes in the header. While not much of a ranking factor, this tag will deliver the text under the blue title in the SERP. In other words, your customers will see this if they find you on Google.
The best practice here is to write a unique description that stands on its own. You have 160 characters to work with, as that’s how much will show up in the SERP. Don’t worry about hitting 160 exactly, but do make sure that the first 160 covers the essentials. If you don’t create a description tag, Google will pull from your content, which may not really tell the searcher what the page is truly about.
Beyond that, learn about how open graph (og:) tags can help social channels display your shared content more accurately. Since social shares are also a signal to Google, use these to your advantage.
Implement a Responsive Design for Mobile
Some people mistakenly believe that responsive design means that the page responds to user input without freezing. While that’s a noble goal, what I mean here is a page that is optimized to render well on a mobile device like a tablet or a smartphone.
Have you ever used your phone to look at a website that renders identically to the desktop version? Unless you really enjoy pinching and zooming to read tiny text or get a thrill out of trying to tap a dropdown menu item on a phone, you probably didn’t like the experience.
Like it or not, we are now a mobile-first world. When most people are triggered by a need, a desire, a recommendation, or similar, they are not running home to use the computer. They are pulling out their phones and searching for a solution or information.
Google knows this, and so they deem mobile to be more important than desktops. If you don’t deliver a site that renders well on mobile, your rankings will definitely suffer. This is true even if the vast majority of your site’s traffic is being viewed on a traditional desktop. Google is looking to cater to their users – and for search in general, that means prioritizing mobile indexing.
The good news is that many themes for WordPress have this functionality built into them. For those that don’t, there are plugins that can also do the trick. It’s up to you to determine if the mobile version is on-brand or not. If not, be sure to use appropriate styles to adjust, ideally in linked Cascading Style Sheets.
There’s so much more to SEO than this. Next time I will look at some of the backend elements that can help or hurt your Google rankings.