We work with a lot of clients that start out building their own website on any number of “do it yourself” platforms like Weebly, Wix, GoDaddy, Square and more. And every once in a while, we support this and help improve these websites – usually because of budgetary concerns. Because of this, we feel it’s important to help others understand best practices for how to build a website from scratch on one of these DIY platforms. Our intention is to save you money, time, and frustration.
NOTE: We absolutely feel the best possible investment you can make in the growth of your business is a stand-alone website. You’re facing an uphill battle if you try to go it alone. There are many reasons for this, that we’ll include at the bottom of this article. But we do want to help if you choose the DIY model.
#1 Content – The One Word Answer to “How to Build a Website From Scratch?”
If you aren’t willing to write content when you build your website…at least 3000 words of it to start and more over time…then you’re wasting your time. Your website will not be found in organic keyword searches unless you point ads to it or have very little competition. Content is the #1 essential ingredient in being found. There’s an expert recipe for creating awesome searchable content. But you can get by just starting with 300 words about each of your services or products, 300 words about you and your team, 300 words about frequently asked questions, and 300 words about anything else important to your customers. Try to write 10 pages.
If you can afford it, hire an expert to look at the content through the lens of a search engine. Maybe even have this expert (hint: us) map out the keywords you should write around. If your eyes started crossing just now, then just write. The only point here is that there are ways to make the content better and give each page a better chance of being found.
Adding more content over time is the key to building your website to become a marketing tool for you. Stagnant websites don’t get as much love, period. Think of your website as a honeycomb. Every page adds a cell to the comb and every cell attracts more bees. Buzz. Buzz.
#2 SEO Tools
Every one of the DIY builders has optional tools for creating metadata. Use these tools to the best of your ability (or hire us to help). The most useful reason is because you can craft your SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). These are the little snippets that show up in searches. Like this one:
A SERP has a title, a URL and a description.
The DIY builders most often will let you craft these SERPS. Again, there is an expert recipe for this, but the best thing to do if you are going it alone is to try to attract a click. Use action words. Highlight the best of what they’ll learn if they click.
Almost every single DIY website we’ve seen has too many images that take up too much space, are too large, and don’t fit well with the text. Because you aren’t a graphic designer, the chances of you having the same issue are pretty good. So. Follow my father’s advice: KISS. Keep. It. Simple. Sweetie.
One photo per page. Try not to have it be a ginormous photo. Try really hard to make sure it isn’t pixelated. Try to have the content come FIRST, before the photo, so that the search engines will get to the content before running into an image.
Why Don’t We Want You to Follow Our Three Steps for How to Build a Website From Scratch?
I like the bee reference from before, so let’s continue with that. No matter what you do, using a DIY builder means that you will be part of a hive – a very, very, very, very big hive. And so when a search engine finds you, they’ve had to enter that hive and there are a lot of distractions. Even if you have your own URL pointing to your section of honey – there are still obstacles and it’s really noisy, so a search engine won’t stay too long. They prefer websites that have their own piece of property.
Also, you don’t own a DIY website but more, you’re renting it. You own the content, which is another reason to invest in that because you can take it with you when you’re ready.
Last, you won’t be able to easily change the way it looks once you’ve chosen a template so it’s harder for the website to grow with you. Whereas websites we create for you are modular and can morph and change and grow over time. Plus, there are tons of other options for search optimization, functionality, and beautiful design.
The biggest issue is always cost. Keep in mind that we offer payment plans and also think about the investment against a bigger picture. Your website is the single biggest and best marketing tool you can have for the ongoing growth of your business. Somewhere around 90% of people look at a business online before buying from them. That’s almost everyone. Mic drop. 🙂
No one wants to invest a great deal of effort in writing content for their website only to find out that they’ve made huge mistakes in helping search engines find it. In our work developing websites and helping our clients to improve the optimization of each piece of content on their site, we’ve found there are many common mistakes when business owners try to write their own meta descriptions. In this article, we’ve outlined some of the most common meta description mistakes made and not only how to avoid them but how to publish content Google will want to show off.
What is a Meta Description?
When you search something on Google, the first page shows you the most relevant content to your search. One of the things that contribute to the popularity and relevance of one web page over another is the light grey description below the title and web address, known as the meta description. This text can be a direct quote from the page it references but ideally, the description is a carefully constructed sentence strategically formatted to get the best search results and most clicks.
There’s no law that dictates what you can and can’t put in this area. If you want to write, “this is my page, click here click here, CLICK HERE”, you absolutely can. But we guarantee that won’t convince Google to rank you higher when compared to your competitor’s pages. If you want Google to take you seriously, you’ll want to strategically formulate your description.
One of the first things to consider when writing your meta description is the length. There is a limit to the number of characters that your description can contain before Google cuts it off. If you Google anything, you’ll see that half the time, a given description clearly isn’t finished, but Google finished it with an ellipsis.
Whatever the synopsis of your page says, it should be anywhere between 120-158 characters, which if you’re geeky like us, maxes out at 920 pixels.
Just so you know, these and the following words equal 158 characters. When the last word is “stop”, you’ll know that I’ve reached the maximum possible – STOP.
It’s almost nothing! That last “stop” shows exactly what Google does to your sentence. If it’s incomplete it doesn’t matter. So write carefully and pay attention, because we all know how easy it is to ramble.
Think About Your Copy
Now that you know how much to write in your meta description, the next step is to think about content. You only have a limited amount of space, so be sure to maximize it. A common mistake we see is that the meta description author does not consider their audience.
When you have a customer or a target audience, you want to understand them. You want to know the words that they respond to and use them. If you know the language that makes your audience tick, tailor that language into a readable, clickable phrase.
You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) use big words. Don’t even write out numbers, just use the symbol. In fact, using numbers or symbols in your text catches the eye and can be very useful to convince readers to click on your page rather than someone else’s.
Think about what makes you click on a page. What are the things that convince you to choose it over another? Remember these tips when creating your copy and you should be able to craft a catchy meta description with no problem:
- Talk to your customer
- Use compelling phrases (calls to action)
- Use numbers/symbols
- Keep it simple
Don’t Try to Trick Google
Some people think they can pull one over on Google. Let’s face it, Google is smarter than all of us. Let’s not anger the A.I., shall we?
When writing your meta description, keep it similar to the content of your page. Sometimes people try to write a description that’s catchy but not really relevant to lure visitors to their site, but what they may not realize is that Google knows. Google always knows. It’s kind of like Santa in that regard. If you’re strategically honest, Google will reward you, but if you’re bad, it’ll give you coal in the form of hiding your website on page 100. So just don’t do it.
A big mistake people inadvertently make is not utilizing keywords to their full advantage. If you have a blog post or a page that serves a specific purpose, it’s guaranteed to have keywords, even if you haven’t ranked for them yet.
If you have a blog about ways to lose weight, a keyword could be “weight loss”. Try to choose specific keywords based on your existing content to strategically amp up each page’s optimization through the meta description.
Just because you can copy a meta description that you’ve already written, doesn’t mean that you should. Some people think that if one description is really good, it’ll be good for multiple pages. Not true. You’re just being lazy and not doing yourself any favors by having similar or repeated messages across pages on your website. By having variety, your pages will more likely come up in different searches, rather than all showing up at once.
In the end, there are many simple mistakes you can make when writing a meta description. The good news is that there are also simple solutions. If you pay attention to your audience, your content, and your keywords, you’ll be writing tantalizing meta descriptions in no time. For more tips and tricks on optimizing your website, visit our blog or better yet, talk to a Spyder.
Recently, our CEO, Deanna Rivera, hosted a small 2 hour marketing workshop for mother owned businesses. The focus, after polling attendees about their largest concerns, was primarily on social media tips. The day to day care of social media can be an overwhelming subject for most business owners, particularly those who are “doing it all on their own”.
Summarized below are what we feel were the most important takeaways from that conversation. UplinkSpyder may host more of these workshops in the future, so please let us know if you’re interested in attending.
1. Social Media should be used first and foremost as a branding tool for your organization.
Facebook, Instagram and the like provide a way to give potential and current customers consistent information that help to tell your story. Most people won’t buy from your business page directly and your individual posts are only seen by a small percentage of your total audience, so what you want to think most about is the overall impression your page is leaving. If someone were to scroll through all your posts and photos, what feeling would they be left with? Is that feeling consistent with your brand? A great way to influence that feeling is through strategy (see #4 below).
2. Social Media is also a directory.
When looking for you online, your social media channels will be listed along with your website, so it’s important that when people visit you, the information is current and correct and looks its best (and is consistent with your website, other social channels, business cards, and materials.) Note: It’s also important that when you put your business name in to a Google Search, that you personally visit each and every one of the listings that come up with your information and if possible, control the content listed about you.
3. The most successful companies are those that can effectively engage their audience.
This can be done with welcoming questions and comments and interacting online. One of the best ways to do this is through video. Video can especially help to differentiate you from others in your field as it does something no logo or static post can…adds in personality, warmth, and charm. Video can be used in so many ways and always attracts more attention than any other type of post or information.
4. The most important takeaway is about strategy.
If you are posting each day and not thinking about the bigger picture, you’re not only missing the opportunity to craft the impression you’re giving, you’re wasting time. Plan out a week or month of posts at a time. Sitting down once, instead of once or several times daily, and scheduling or planning posts, saves a lot of time that a busy business owner needs. You’re also less likely to forget something and you’re more likely to hit people during peak hours when your posts will make the biggest impact. If video is part of your strategy, create a month’s worth of video posts at once and schedule in when you’ll go live instead of trying to find moments within the busy week.
We discussed much more than this…differentiation between social channels, how to reuse posts, how best to use ads, and a bit about content marketing. The most important thing to remember when marketing your business is that all of these things are tools. Just like you wouldn’t use a hammer before knowing what you want the project you are making to look like…don’t use social media without goals and a vision of where you’re going and how your goals fit into a bigger strategy. Need help with any or all of that? That’s what we’re here for.
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