Originally printed in The Appleton Post Crescent, March 2, 2014.

While having an online presence is critical for any business, it’s malpractice to think that you can simply set it and forget it. Just as your body needs routine check-ups and regular preventive activities (remember exercise?), it’s also important that your company’s website is regularly being looked after and nourished in order to flourish.

One of the best ways to ensure this is by developing an SEO strategy. While SEO traditionally stands for “search engine optimization,” some SEO professionals feel that the acronym should really mean “simply excellent online.” That’s because the things that mattered most for SEO when your website was first built have likely changed. Both on-site and off-site factors play a part in getting your site to rank high in search engines and then actually getting clicked on by your most desirable targets.

So how can you make sure your business is “simply excellent online”? Today, developing and distributing high-quality, relevant content is crucial to online success. Here are some tips to help make sure your website is healthy:

1) Ensure your online foundation is strong. Conduct an online audit, or better yet, hire an expert to check your various on-site and off-site components. While high-quality content is more important than ever for SEO, a solid architecture is still essential for a website. An audit should diagnose whether your site is optimal for site visitors and visible to search engines, as well as prescribe ways to improve your online visibility and effectiveness.

2) Address mobile visitors. A strong foundation now also means being equipped to deliver your stellar content to the increasing number of web visitors using mobile devices, and that means having a responsive website. Responsive web design allows for a website to adjust for ideal viewing across devices (i.e. desktop, tablet or mobile). If you don’t have one now, make sure to plan for one with your next redesign.

3) Develop a content marketing strategy. As mentioned, creating and sharing quality content is imperative, and it’s important to do so regularly and consistently. A strategy will help you set goals, plan topics and aid in follow through. The valuable information you create should not only be pushed out through your website or attached blog, but also shared via your social media platforms. Recent updates to search engine algorithms (notably Google) indicate that social signals, like sharing, may indirectly impact search rankings. If you don’t have business profiles set up on Facebook, Twitter, etc., create them now. Don’t forget about Google+, and while you’re there, make sure you’ve claimed your Google Places for Business page.

4) Build backlinks. While Google has made changes in recent years that penalize bad links, having authoritative, industry-related websites link to appropriate content on your site is still important. Relevant links help drive quality visitors to your website, and are therefore seen as indicators of your site’s influence on that topic to search engines. Make sure to avoid links from unknown sites and link networks.

5) Determine objectives. Benchmark stats. Track results. Make improvements. Repeat. There’s no easier marketing tactic to track ROI than online. But in order to do this, you need to know your objectives. What actions taken on your website are most effective for lead generation or are most profitable? Next, set benchmarks. Look at your site’s current statistics and make goals to improve. When tracking results, a key metric has recently changed – keywords. Last fall, Google made a switch to 100 percent secure search, meaning the keywords people use to get to your site organically now show up as “not provided” in Google Analytics. Following the lead of SEO professionals, try measuring results by monitoring traffic, conversations, etc. on a page level. Just be careful of analysis paralysis. You can then make improvements to your SEO strategy and repeat the process.

When it comes to the web, there’s a lot to know and a lot that is constantly evolving, so it’s often a wise investment to let interactive experts do what they do best, so you can continue doing what you do best. That way your business can truly be “simply excellent online.”

Annie Mares is an account manager at Coalesce Marketing. She can be reached at 920-380-4444 or annie@coalescemarketing.com