SEO and the ability of a website to ‘be found’ by Google is ever-changing. Unfortunately design schools seldom teach the intricacies of search marketing – Which is why most small business websites today are ranked low by Google and will never get to Page One.
Too many website designers still cling to the ‘old rules’ and unaware of the major changes Google instituted in mid 2010 which sent even SEO ‘experts’ into a spin. Claims that “the small guys have been snuffed out” (news article).
Good Looks Don’t Help You Get Found Online
Business owners can only look at the visual appearance of their site, believing that a ‘nice looking’ website will automatically be found online. However to Google, the site ‘look’ and appearance is totally irrelevant. There’s plenty of examples of where a competitor running an inexpensive, plain website, but expertly SEO optimised and with a strong message obtains much more traffic!
Looks and branding are important for credibility, but it doesn’t help a website get found.
The standard SEO ‘strategy’ for most designers is to just drop in a few metatag ‘keywords’ and descriptions into the header of the website. Although everyone I know does this, it simply doesn’t work now and since 2002 meta keywords have been ignored by Google. (reference here). Similarly those who encourage loading up a domain with lots of irrelevant, poor quality backlinks that can get you banned by Google.
Dirty Little Secrets of Search / Bad Web Designers
Our favourite Auzzie SEO colleague Jim Stewart (above) summed up many of the business and web design problems around search marketing and Google in a very frank video podcast on 15th Feb.
Poorly optimised websites certainly are an issue today – Especially annoying when those sites that have cost business owners many thousands of dollars. All emphasis on looks and branding with almost none on ‘being found’. And the problem is ten times worse here in NZ than Australia, which has many times the number of SEO specialists per population. (Our investment in Adwords/online advertising is minuscule, as is the number of SEO jobs. Here’s the numbers for Australia and New Zealand.)
Like Jim, we can either rebuild an existing website to be more ‘Google-friendly’ or can work with willing web designers who are open to change.
Google is helping too with numerous free tools and a real emphasis on small businesses – Especially small retailers and trades people. The new Google Maps listings, along with targeted AdWords technology works amazingly well, generating lots of business leads for millions of companies worldwide. Tie this in with expert SEO for the business website and a Page One listing is guaranteed.
Why Change? Why is this occurring?
Well, Google is changing things to make the search experience better and more relevant for the user. This means it’s not just about ‘optimising the website’ itself (which is seldom done correctly, as Jim pointed out), but equally about building up a company’s online profile and reputation across relevant third party websites, directories and customer reviews.
According to word coming out of Google, the number of customer ‘likes’ or positive consumer recommendations a company has online (especially directories and social media sites), will soon have more influence to getting to Page One, than the number of traditional ‘backlinks’ a website has. We already see this occurring in the restaurant sector with those having the best online reviews getting more business.
It makes sense for Google to do this, since it means that the websites it serves up at the top of the page will be better and more trustworthy – Give a better product or service, based upon consumer feedback.