I recently took an eager co-worker of mine, Matt, to the airfield to ride along with me while I conducted training to acquire my pilot’s license. For those that haven’t had the opportunity to do so, flying a plane is complicated. It takes years to learn what all of the controls in the cockpit do, and just as long to learn all the rules and how to read the instruments correctly so that you and your passengers get where you want to go safely. After landing and stowing the plane, I realized how similar flying and the world of website design and SEO really are.
Before you take off, you’ll want to know what the weather is like, which runways are active, and any flying restrictions in the area in which you wish to travel. Likewise, in the SEO world you’ll want to spend time gathering information on your target demographic in order to design a website that works for them before you build it. For example, if your target demographic is senior citizens, you will want to make a website with larger fonts and simpler navigation, as that group tends to be less tech savvy.
Additionally, you’ll need to find out what your audience is searching for by doing some keyword research. Google’s AdWords Keyword Research Tool is free and well-suited for the job. In addition to all of that research, you’ll have to keep current with what the best SEO practices are to know how to employ these keywords on your site. Things change over time, so what worked last month might actually hurt you this month.
Before you even start your aircraft, you need do a thorough examination of the plane and all of its components to make sure nothing is broken and everything is working as it should. Altimeter setting? Check. Radios? Check. Flaps? Check. This isn’t much different than using a checklist to go over your website before a launch. Before you go live with your new site, you’ll need to make sure all of the links and navigation options go where they should, and that all of your content has been proofread and laid out properly. Do all of your images have the proper alt text? Has your meta been formatted correctly? Are your contact forms and other interfaces sending information to the correct places? Remember, getting people to visit your site is only part of the battle — the rest is getting them to complete a conversion by filling out a form or visiting certain pages you’ve set up.
Clear for Takeoff
Once you’ve run through your checklist and made sure everything is set just the way you need it to be, you can ask the control tower for takeoff clearance. For a web developer, this might mean checking with the client to see if the site lives up to their expectations and design ideas. OK, so the client likes it? Clear for takeoff… Wind 117 @10… Mixture…Rich. Throttle…Full.
Now, just because you’re in the air doesn’t mean you’re done. There’s still plenty of work to do. You should always be listening to communications from other pilots and controllers and making a note of the environment. This is just like working in web development, where you need to be in communication with your clients about their intentions as well as ever-changing styles and trends. Whenever the wind and weather changes, you’ll need to adjust your content strategy to account for competition, changes in the industry and of course, changes to the way search engines operate. Failure to be be attentive to any or all of these things can blow you off course.
Read Your Instruments
How do you know when you’re off course? Hopefully if you’ve gathered all your information, applied it correctly, and made all the necessary adjustments, you should be lined up perfectly with the runway. If you’ve read all of your instruments correctly, then they should indicate that you’ve made all the right decisions to reach your goal.
In this analogy, Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools can be considered your “instruments.” They tell you if what you are doing is working and how well. Check them regularly to see if your pages are ranking the way you want them too, and if they are driving traffic to the right place as well as from the right places. You can also use Webmaster Tools to check for crawl errors and other problems that Google may find with your website.
Bringing your aircraft in for a 3 point landing is what every pilot aims to do, and by following checklists and using time tested strategies and guidelines you can do the same for your clients! Frequency change approved, so long!