We’ll start with SEO. In case you’re not a regular follower of the constantly changing world of SEO (and I don’t know why you would be), the days of using tricks and hacks to get your site found on Google and other search engines are over.
Keyword placement isn’t enough and you can’t even get comprehensive data for them without paying an arm and a leg anyway. Having exact match domain names with your keywords in them doesn’t matter like it used to. Playing around with trying to buy backlinks can get you seriously Google slapped and buying premium domain names will cost you a couple of house payments thanks to the “investors” who bought them up. These hoarders have been sitting on huge collections of domains waiting for the internet to fill up so they can sell them for a small fortune. No Kids, it’s definitely not about tricks anymore.
It’s All About Content
Content is the name of the game now. To be honest, it always was. It just took some time for Google to develop sufficient technology to plug the holes in the system. Remember that their goal is and always has been a quality user experience. As far as they’re concerned, they’ve succeeded when someone like you or me goes to Google, types in a few search terms and finds exactly the kind of top quality information that we were looking for. This leaves us with a positive feeling towards Google and we come back over and over again.
This is why it is in Google’s best interest to put the content first in every regard. Nothing frustrates people more than finding poorly written sites full of junky offers and ads, because they “tipped and tricked” their way onto page one. This is why the world’s largest search engine has consistently released updates that render these shortcuts ineffective.
Now that we’ve established that content is the key to online success, let’s look at why you’re getting your head handed to you in cyberspace. The first culprits are professional web designers. I know that may sound weird coming from someone who builds and manages websites, but it’s true. And I don’t mind telling you about it, because I intentionally don’t run my business this way. Before we continue, let me say that not all web designers are bad. However there is a particular breed that you should avoid at all costs. These are what I call “production” web designers or “site mills”. Their business model centers around building as many sites as possible as quickly as possible.
They sell you on the idea that you need a shiny new site, crank it out, give you the login and bill you for every phone call and meeting as often as possible. They know that a certain percentage of their clientele will leave them every year, so they simply adjust their sales goals to overcome their attrition. Web designers who succeed in the long run are ones who, not only build sites, but also stand by you and help you get the most out of them. Just like your accountant needs to know more than addition and subtraction, your “web guy” needs to understand how that slick new site fits into your business plan and helps you grow the only thing that matters – the bottom line.
They also know that most of their clients won’t work their sites the way they should, because they can’t. Clients are business owners – not content creators. Oh sure, there’s always a salesperson or an account rep a phone call away who will work your site for some outrageous fee, but even then they often don’t give your site the attention it truly needs. Think about it, building your site and simply leaving you to fend for yourself is like handing you a bazooka and saying, “There you go, Kid. The battle’s over that way.” I believe that web design is just one part of a much larger process.
Your web designer should genuinely care about the success of your business just the way Google genuinely cares about the experience of its users. With great websites come great responsibilities, and if your designer isn’t prepared to show the same loyalty and dedication to your business that you do, find a different designer! Web designers who succeed in the long run are ones who, not only build sites, but also stand by you and help you get the most out of them. Just like your accountant needs to know more than addition and subtraction, your “web guy” needs to understand how that slick new site fits into your business plan and helps you grow the only thing that matters – the bottom line.
The second culprit is skewed analytics. Once you’ve invested thousands of your hard-earned dollars into the latest and greatest site your designer has to offer, you want to know how it’s performing. So, you request regular analytics reports. This is when your designer cherry picks the numbers that make him look good from the voluminous options Google Analytics provides, and serves up one of two things:
1) A report with so many numbers, graphs, and charts that you can’t make heads or tails of it or
2) A carefully selected sliver of the analytical picture with just enough data to tell you something, but certainly not everything. If you want to see your designer sweat, ask him for the username and login to your Google Analytics account so you can check it whenever you want. Then ask when he would like to schedule the regular meeting where you go over the data together and he explains what it all means.
Even if you remove the designer from the equation and you’re getting your analytics directly from Google, how do you know which ones are most important (because I assure you, not all the numbers are of equal value)? Unless you are going to spend large amounts of time reading up on web changing trends and interpreting the sea of data that’s available to you, you’re going to have a hard time determining the success of your investment.
I know how it is. I own a business too. Most weeks you’re lucky to handle all the emergency issues, let alone the myriad of items gathering cobwebs on all of your undone “to do” lists. Trust me, you don’t have time to fool around with deciphering traffic stats.
When you pick your car up from the mechanic, you expect him to explain all the charges on the bill and tell you what he did and why before you cut the check. You have every right to expect that same accountability from your web designer. I believe that clients should have access to their analytics and I fully expect to meet regularly with them to explain what they mean. If I’m doing my job, the numbers will only help convince you that I’m giving my best effort and getting significant results.
The third culprit is SEO. I’ve mentioned in other articles how web designers like to treat SEO as the voodoo that only they can do. Honestly, it cracks me up when they speak with an intentional vagary that makes it seem like they’re “using The Force” on your behalf. Just like with analytics there are two main reasons for this:
1) Your designer knows enough to be dangerous, but not enough to get you found, and figures that as long as he know a little more than you, he can keep the check coming in and
2) Your designer knows what he’s doing, but he believes it necessary to keep you in the dark do that you are dependent on him and therefore keep the checks coming.
The truth is that SEO is a complicated collection of factors that can be even more baffling than analytics. However, I believe that the more my clients know about SEO the more they will appreciate the fact that I work hard to take care of each and every one of those factors.
Like analytics, SEO is one of those things that most business owners don’t have the time or desire to do. Very few of you are likely to head out to the old garage and drop the transmission out of your car in an effort to fix it yourself. You’re fine with basic tune ups, oil changes, headlights, turn signals, and the like. But a transmission is one serious undertaking. That’s why you pay an expert.
The two reasons I gave in the previous paragraph describe a web designer with a shallow and immature understanding of business. I want to you to know all the details. That way, when you write the check and see results, you feel like you go your money’s worth. And, if I did my job well, you also have more money at the end of the day.
What They Do That You Don’t
Aside from the culprits that keep you in the dark about the workings of the web, there are the things that your competitors do that you don’t. If you constantly find yourself ranking behind your competition, there’s more than shifty web designers to blame. When it’s all said and done the lion’s share of the blame for you lackluster web presence lands on you. You see, there is a simple formula for success here and it looks like this:
Quantity of Content + Quality of Content x Consistency of Publishing = Internet Marketing Success
That’s it. That’s what your competitor knows that you don’t. If they are regularly outranking you on the web, they are creating a large quantity of quality content and publishing it consistently. By the same token, if you are creating a large quantity of quality content and publishing consistently, then they must be creating a larger quantity of higher quality content and publishing it consistentlier. I know this because it’s the only strategy that works reliably and yields long-term, positive, measurable results.
This is how sites like Copyblogger, Smart Passive Income, QuickSprout, and others have built lists containing hundreds of thousands of subscribers. See, we’re back to Google again. Give people a whole bunch of great value all the time and they’ll have a positive user experience. If they have a positive user experience, they’ll come back for another one and another one and one after that.
Speaking of which, Part 2 to this post comes out Wednesday. Be sure to check it out, because I’m going to give you a detailed plan for success in your first year of blogging. Has your competition been killing you online? Leave any questions in the comments and I’ll be glad to answer them.