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We focus on keywords and working within Google’s webmaster guidelines. Both clients and web designers need to stick to writing websites for humans and not attempt to manipulate rankings.Adrian
What makes a good website? Part 2
In this post we are continuing with our multi part article on what makes a good website. Here we discuss the important elements which will work together in maximising the sites possibility of achieving pole position in search engines.
This article primarily focuses on a service based business.
What makes a good website?
Focus on the keyword
Continuing from our previous article, in our example we have established fire extinguishers as being the main foot-in-the-door, or possibly the product to market most likely to attract customers to the companies’ other range of services, we need to add weight to this to achieve the desired results.
Some people may argue with a reasonable point that a good website should focus equally on all elements of the business. This is a reasonable point, but in a competitive industry where other websites are doing exactly that, there can be only one website at the top. An established competitor already at the top will be a tough website to beat, and although this is possible, could take longer and cost more money in doing so.
At this point, it’s a good idea to start doing some research online into what people are looking for relating to your business. Also, with our keyword choice being fire extinguishers, before we go ahead and generate copy for the website relating to this, we need to have an idea what the popularity of this keyword is. If no one is searching for this term, then there is really no point in optimising a website for it as it will no doubt yield very little traffic. On the other extreme, if the keyword is highly competitive, then we will be facing a huge challenge in attracting traffic to our site as other websites will no doubt feature higher than ours and will be receiving the clicks.
Although we have said that Fire Extinguishers is our foot-in-the-door, at this stage we still need to keep an open mind.
So we need to incorporate all our services as keywords in our research. You will need to play around with the potential search terms, add a bit of geography e.g. “fire extinguishers Northampton”, “fire extinguisher servicing”, “fire safety training midlands”, and so on. Analyse the results and build up a spreadsheet including the search terms, and the statistics for each. You’ll soon get an idea as to where you should be steering your focus, and begin to build the content accordingly.
A bit about Google and webspam
Google, as with all search engines are continually updating their algorithms. Take Google for instance, being one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, it did this by being a good search engine. Its popularity is down to the fact that when people want to search for something, they are confident that they can get what they are searching for using Google and the results will be on topic.
As a result of this success, Google is able to monetise their site by offering premium listings, which in turn generate them a lot of revenue. So the free element of Google, i.e. the organic listings are important for them to keep the search engine popular by delivering good quality results.
The search algorithms are designed to do exactly that. Deliver good quality results. Their indexing algorithm looks at a website and decides if it worthy of a higher ranking than another similar website. It used to be based on something they call Page Rank (PR – named after Google co-founder Larry Page and nothing to do with a web ‘page’). This was a score from 0 to 9 and is no longer worth explaining as it’s irrelevant. Back in the early days when the search engine industry was in its infancy, there were many ways to manipulate these lesser complex algorithms by adopting techniques known now as Black Hat Techniques. Today, if you were to use any of these techniques you would no doubt be penalised for doing so, your website would either appear at the bottom of the search results; page 2000 for example, or your website would be struck off completely and you wouldn’t show up at all.
Check out this video clip from Matt Cutts, once head of Google’s webspam team, but still quite a knowledgeable bloke regarding search engines and avoiding black hat techniques.
Web designers used to abuse these algorithms by techniques such as keyword stuffing. You’d take a search term, in our example ‘fire extinguisher servicing’ and stuff this term so many times into a website that Google would think it’s clearly all about ‘fire extinguisher servicing’ and therefore put the website at the top of the search results. Now, this may not have looked pretty to the user of the website, seeing ‘fire extinguisher servicing’ several hundred times on one page, so the web developers used to make the text the same colour as the background so it didn’t look like the keyword was being abused at all. They also used to stuff the keywords into the footers, and even off the page by way of a text indent trick.
Using this technique, small businesses, e.g. one-man-band home businesses used to be able to appear higher than their competitors many of which at the time were the largest companies in the world with huge advertising budgets, and the internet was then known as a level playing field. Anyone could compete with equal exposure to potential customers no matter how big their advertising budgets.
This changed, and Google along with many other search engines updated their algorithms to start to penalise websites for adopting these practices. Their algorithms became able to detect CSS tricks – hiding text or indenting it off the page, and then would rank the site accordingly. Overnight, websites with high search engine visibility or positioning would disappear.
The algorithm was developed to look at the frequency of keyword usage compared to the overall amount of website text on each page. The exact keyword usage required to assess a keywords relevancy in a document was something like 2-4%, which seems quite low, but when you read a document that uses the primary keyword within these percentages, the document does read quite naturally about the particular keyword, or topic.
“Although we know that somewhere between 2-4% keyword density is required, it’s important to write the copy naturally, and then look at the statistics”
This is very important, in the continuation of algorithm development, search engines are able to detect authentic articles as opposed to search engine manipulation techniques. Less reputable website designers focus always on fudging the algorithms, trying to second guess what they are actually ranking a site for, and although they have some success at the time, any small algorithm update soon penalises their site and they are then back to second guessing again.
As a website designer, developer and tea maker, with the latter mentioned skill creates time to read the web guidelines and familiarise yourself with any updates. It’s always a good idea to adopt best practices and stick within the guidelines because search engines will thank you for it and ultimately award your site with a higher PageRank (PR).
Building Content – A cautionary word about waffle
Not everyone is as passionate about your product or service as maybe you are. Although they may be on the internet looking for someone like you to fulfil a business need, it’s more likely to be because they have to rather than want to. The last thing they want to be doing is reading war and peace about what is you do and how passionate you are about fire extinguishers and so on. It’s not that exciting for them.
Also, another annoyance is business speak. We’ve all heard it and most of us dislike it. You wouldn’t meet up with your friends down the local pub and start spouting about “The need to reach out, touch base, shift a paradigm, leverage a best practice, assemble a SWAT team” or talk about your fellow drinkers “Core Competencies”. Some people who I’ve met actually do talk like this whilst drinking beer, I usually think to myself “he’s a knob” and turn my focus toward someone else.
Keep it simple and friendly. After all, people buy from people. Steer clear from the notion that each page on your website needs to be at least 300 words and no more than 500 words, if it actually only takes 100 words to get your point across in an engaging way, then stick to 100 words. When you are offering your services, people want to buy off the person who actually speaks common sense in a jargon free way. As soon as they start nodding and smiling, you know you have won their trust. If you know you can do the job, say you can do the job in a convincing way without overdoing it. The same concept applies to a website. Leave them wanting more.
And on that note, hopefully I have left you wanting more?, so in the next article we continue with the websites structure, and how we arrange the content, design and so on.