by Michael Duff, Founder
I think we can agree that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the Holy Grail of Internet activities currently. I probably get asked a couple times a week by clients wanting to boost their Google ranking, and I suppose it’s the product of our times, but each client seems to be looking for that one quick solution = cheap and fast. And I feel like what I imagine a Physical Trainer feels like when a client asks them how to lose weight but doesn’t want to exercise and still wants to eat a bowl of ice cream every night. There’s no pill that will do it. It takes some work.
What does this have to do with Google? Well, there are LOTS of companies who do SEO, and even a few that do it very well. But in defense of those companies who, in good faith, work their collective fingers to the bone trying to kick your website up in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), many times they’re fighting a losing battle. It’s time to put down the ice cream.
The reason SEO won’t help you is because your website is bad.
There. I said it. I didn’t want to, but I had to. Obviously, not every website is bad – or at least not THAT bad. However, if you’ve hired an SEO company, or tried SEO yourself with little or no results after at least 3-4 months, it’s probably time to take a look at the site itself.
There are many reasons why SEO may not be biting. In no particular order of importance, it could be because:
- your site was created entirely or mostly in Flash.
- your site is designed poorly making it difficult for visitors to use.
- your site hasn’t been redesigned in the last 2-3 years.
- you’re not updating your site content much – or at all.
- you don’t have very much content on your site.
- you don’t use SEO friendly titles, descriptions or tags.
- your site don’t have a sitemap.xml file on your server.
- your site is not in Flash but is just coded poorly.
- you’re using Wix or another site where you do not have your own domain name.
Let’s look at each of these briefly.
Your site is all or mostly created in Flash
We are actually fans of Flash and think it still has its place in certain applications, but overall the reality is that if your site is built in Flash most Search Engines just won’t be able to “crawl” it. Crawling is what the Google, Bing, Yahoo and other Search Engine’s “robots” will do by just going from site to site looking for information: pages, content, structure, new content, etc. And Flash just looks like an image to these robots. The fact that Flash will never (according to the late Steve Jobs) work on ANY Apple device, it limits the effectiveness of this platform on Mobile devices (which is in the neighborhood of 40% of all web traffic now!). If your site is mainly displayed in a web browser in Flash you’re actually shooting your SEO self in the foot.
Your site is designed poorly making it difficult for visitors to use
This is the hardest one to get a client to see and sometimes you can’t get them to see it. Fair enough. Design can be subjective, BUT… If you are looking at your Google Analytics (you DO have Analytics on your site, don’t you?) and you have a very high “Bounce Rate” chances are your design can use some sprucing up. Average Bounce rates vary based on Industry but it reflects the percentage of people who leave your site without going to another page. Unless you have everything on your Home page, the higher this number, the worse your site is doing. This point also leads into the next point.
Your site hasn’t been redesigned in the last 2-3 years
The old rule of thumb used to be you should redesign your site every 18-24 months. It’s generally a bit longer now with site designs still being relevant for up to 3 years, but a technical shift happened about 2 years ago that made a redesign much more important. Duffweb.com has been on the forefront of this and we don’t build any sites that aren’t now, and this technical shift is called Responsive. This means the site displays differently depending on what device you’re viewing it on. THere is a lot more information on that in a previous post that you can see here.
You’re not updating your site much – or at all.
As painful as it may seem (I myself have been guilty of this) you MUST constantly add new content to your site. Think of it like going to your local shopping mall and none of the stores change their window displays and the inventory is the same – time after time. You’d stop going there, right? Well, the Search Engine “bots” will still go there, but they’ll report back with the equivalent of a digital yawn and your SERP placement will suffer. It’s best to keep a consistent flow (at least once a week is best).
You don’t have very much content on your site.
Search Engines love content. They especially love new content. Refer to my Shopping mall analogy earlier. But if you only have a few photos and few lines of text on your site, there’s not much to “Index”. Indexing is what all of that Search Engine robot data collection is called. The Search Engines survive on being able to deliver quality answers to the search queries being input. If your competitor has lots of content and your site has little, Google’s going to go to your competitor. Think of it like 2 of your neighbors are both “Math” guys and your child needs help with Algebra. They’ve both offered to help but you only know much about neighbor #1: he teaches math at a local community college. That’s great. But what you don’t know is that neighbor #2 – who doesn’t say very much – won a Nobel Prize for Algebraic formulas and gives speeches to Governments on how to teach Math to their children. You’re going to ask neighbor #1, even though #2 is way more qualified and only because you know more about #1.
Don’t let your site be neighbor #2! More content is always better. If you’re not a good writer (or too busy, or hate writing, etc., etc.) hire a copywriter. We know a bunch of god ones if you need a recommendation.
You don’t use SEO friendly titles, descriptions or tags.
There are TONS of articles on how to do this, but with WordPress (the platform we build most of our Non-E-Commerce sites on) there are plugins on how to make this super easy. I won’t go into details on what to do, but having a good plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast or the All In One SEO plugin.
Your site don’t have a sitemap.xml file on your server.
This is a file nobody actually ever sees. This is a “robots” only thing. There are good WordPress plugins that do this automatically as well. We recommend ’em. It saves you from having to manually update it every time the site changes. If you’re not using WordPress, you can contact us for some good tutorials on how to do it for your platform.
Your site is not in Flash but is just coded poorly.
This is a tough one. I’m not quick to throw my fellow web devs under a bus as I think we all want to do a good job, but as in most disciplines, some coders are just better than others at their craft. It certainly helps when developers are coding in their native language – or at least one they speak fluently. Websites are coded in English, in case you were wondering. If you’re having trouble understanding your web guy but hired them because they’re cheap, expect problems on this point.
Part of SERP is speed. Search Engines don’t want to deliver slow sites to people’s searches -it makes them look like the friend who set you up on that nightmare blind date. And they will penalize your site if it’s slow or poorly coded – in their eyes it’s like you’re trying to make them look bad.
My personal preferences to check this aspect of your site are browser plugins/addons called “Y-Slow”, made by Yahoo, and a site called GTMetrix (which also gives you your Y-Slow score). There are others too but these are a good start. Fortunately they also give you the reasons why and how you can help handle these issues so your site won’t get penalized for poor code standards.
As many of these improvement suggestions as you can do, you should do.
You’re using Wix or another site where you do not have your own domain name.
I get it. Free is hard to complain about. Unless of course you’ve tried to build one yourself, but free has its drawbacks; namely time. Your site will have a URL like: yoursite.wix.com. Great for them, not so good for you. If you are serious about having a website for your business the only company you should be promoting is your own.
I hope this post has been helpful. The next entry will be about correctly & consistently branding your Social Media properties (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.).
Let us know if you need help with your site!