The Invisible Website Syndrome: Is This You?
Once upon a time, you needed big advertising bucks to get your business name and your brand recognized by your potential clients. But no more. A good website allows small businesses to stand up to the big ones, gaining fame and becoming “local heroes” in their own right. But there is a catch.
Just having a website isn’t enough to allow you to compete with the big guys. You need a GOOD website, and you need good search engine rankings. Consider your own browsing habits. When you search a topic online, you’re expecting to get useful information, and you want to see it on the first page of your results.
You might click through to the second page, but the chances of you going through to page three are even smaller. Most people just try again with a new search engine query if they don’t see what they want right up there.
The result? If your search engine rankings are low, your website might as well be invisible.
But There’s Good News, Too
A good search engine is designed to give people the information they’re looking for. Much as some people balk at the thought that their browsing habits and location shape the search results they get, that information helps search engines give us the results we want.
Websites can also help search engines to find relevant results. If you want to find a plumber in Sydney, you don’t really want to know about plumbers in Abu Dhabi. You also don’t want to know about electricians. So, how do websites talk to search engines?
Here’s a simple explanation. Search engines have “crawlers” and “spiders.” It takes time for them to get to a new website, but when they do, they evaluate its content. What is the website about? Is it tied to a specific location? In short, will it give useful information to someone looking for a business like yours?
Now, the spiders and crawlers decide how to rank your website for people who enter search queries that match your business. Play your cards right, and your website draws in the punters.
SEO: Black Hat and White Hat
This brings us to the field of search engine optimization (SEO). You can make it easy for search engines to find you, rank you, and recommend your website. The algorithms search engines use are regularly updated to improve the results they can give. As a website owner, that can work in your favour, or it can work against you.
Earlier algorithms were easy to trick. All you had to do was to repeat a keyword as many times as you humanly could, and you’d get a good ranking. You could add invisible text to pages, and you could simply steal other people’s text and still get a good ranking. These techniques are called “Black Hat” SEO.
Because these cheats were abused terribly, search engines got smarter. Nowadays, they use sophisticated linguistics software, look for duplicate content, and even look at related topics that would have relevance to keywords. For example, if your website is about dogs, related words are recognized. Dog breed names, bone, dog food, kennel, pets, pet health, dog training, obedience, vet, and so on, are all relevant to the subject of dogs and can be spotted by search engines.
It all comes back to what search engines are supposed to do: give relevant and informative results.
Understanding how search engines look at your website helps you to optimize it using White Hat techniques. White Hats are the good guys. They help you find the information you need by helping search engines to spot you and single you out amongst all the competition you face.
Usability Matters Too
Search engines don’t just want you to find useful results; they also want your results to be presented in a user-friendly way. This has several implications. For example, if your pages are slow to load, that’s not user-friendly. If your website isn’t easy to use on a smartphone, that’s points off your SEO score too.
Knowing how to give search engines what they want helps your customers to find you more easily. And if this all sounds rather specialized and technical to you, the answer is “Yes, it is.” Just to make things even more fun, the criteria keep changing, just as they did for website content. Staying ahead of the curve on SEO can be a full-time job.
Overcoming the Invisible Website Syndrome
Let’s suppose you’re really happy with your website. That’s great, but does it do what its supposed to do? Most likely, you want it to attract new customers to your business, grow your sales, build your business’s image, and so on, and you don’t want to pay for search engine advertising to get that. How will you know if your website works for you in organic search?
Your website analytics will give you a lot of detail about your website, but deciphering it isn’t easy unless you already know what you’re doing. And even if you can spot the problems, for example, a high bounce rate (people who visit and leave without taking time for a closer look), you still don’t know how to fix it.
WEBO has created a simple online tool that tells you whether your website is up there with the best – or not. Just knowing that will at least tell you whether you need to put some work into improving it. Now, it’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to try fixing it yourself, or whether you’ll hire an expert to do it for you.