by Raya P. Morrison
At the February 25, 2020, Editors Toronto program meeting, I co-hosted a panel with Ellen Keeble on generating business online. After Ellen’s presentation on search engine marketing (read more about that in her BoldFace article), she and I provided a live critique of a few Editors Toronto members’ websites.
Some common themes came up in the critiques and audience’s questions. As many editors may be struggling with, or even unaware of, these issues, I thought I’d compile a list of the top tips to make your website easy to find and easy to navigate.
Make your website responsive
It’s not a secret to anyone that the majority of people browse the web on their mobile phones these days. That’s why it is essential for your website to be responsive. What does that mean? It means that instead of appearing the same as it would on desktop, the blocks of your website will stack under each other for easy reading and scrolling on a mobile device.
Get an SSL certificate
An SSL certificate tells search engines and potential clients that your website is not spam or a fraud. It is an extra layer of security for you as well. In fact, most search engines won’t put your website on top, or even on the first page, of a search query if your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate. Most website platforms include an SSL certificate when you purchase a plan with them. But if your URL begins with “http://” and not “https://”, contact your hosting provider for details on how to add an SSL certificate.
Add alt tags and descriptions to all of your images
Adding alt tags to images is a great way to improve visibility and also accessibility (for visually impaired) of your website. Are you a member of Editors Canada? Add the Editors Canada logo to your website with an alt tag. That way search engines will make a logical connection between you and the organization. Do you love working on magazines? Add covers of the publications you’ve worked on with alt tags describing what the publication was and what services you provided to them.
Make sure all outbound links open in a different tab
Don’t be afraid to reference other websites in your copy—they might return the favour! However, make sure that all links to other pages on your website (internal links) open in the same window while links to other websites (external links) open in a new tab. The reason for the former is that you don’t want your potential client to have a hundred tabs or windows of your website open at the same time. For the latter, you always want your user to come back to your website once they’ve checked out the link on the external page—and most people close tabs instead of clicking the back button in their browser.
Use HTML tags for headings and subheadings
Just like you would with a textbook or a report, use headings to break up chunks of your text on the page. The headings in HTML markup go from h1 (usually reserved for page titles) to h6, but the headings on most pages don’t go further than h4. Adding headings is a great way to not only make it easy for your user to follow the information on the page, but also define key phrases and subjects on your page for search engines.
Building a website is like building a house. Once you’ve learned the basics covered in this article, you can build a pretty good one, and people will be glad to stay for a while. However, just as with houses, a website requires maintenance—and sometimes bigger renos—to keep it up to date and make it look presentable. Don’t shy away from tweaking your copy or updating your images every now and then. It doesn’t mean that the previous copy was bad; it was just dated. These tweaks not only will reflect your growing expertise and customer needs, but also will signal to search engines that your website is active and up to date.
Now that you’re armed with these five website building blocks and Ellen’s recommendations on leveraging search for your website, you can start working on your online presence in confidence. Best of luck with your first build or renovations!
Raya P. Morrison is a Toronto-based editor, writer, and tarot reader. She specializes in short fiction, non-fiction, marketing, and magazines. She is the communications chair for Editors Toronto and the webmaster for the Editors Canada conference committee. She is also the editor-in-chief of the local literary journal Blood & Bourbon.
This article was copy edited by Tamara Zayachkowski.