Why Does A Business Need A Website?
I remember meeting a prospect and one of the first questions I asked was, “why do you need a website?” His answer was, “I just need one because everyone else has one.” To the shady web developer this is like blood to a shark.
Why the question seems elementary, fundamentally it’s how a lot of businesses treat web development at least on an intuitive level. It’s just another item to check off their list. It also explains why so many businesses hire inadequate services. After all, if all websites are equal, then choosing the most economical and non-intrusive option is best.
I think certain misunderstandings about the Internet also perpetuate this knee jerk reaction to web development. Consider Search Engine Optimization. Many businesses think that popping on the top page of Google will just happen in time. I’ve even talked to some businesses that think this happens instantly once their site goes live (one was about a 20MM organization!).
SEO, or the process of getting to the top page of Google and other search engines, is much more complex. It’s a dance with search engines to build authority for your website. It’s meaningful content presented correctly, meta tag optimization, community engagement, linking, site infrastructure optimization, image optimization, and arguably hundreds of additional factors fine tuned over time. If authority is established, search engines will reward those efforts. SEO is also complex in there is not a magic recipe of “one size fits all”.
An SEO strategy requires competitive research, keyword analysis, and sometimes even using paid advertising to determine the most viable keywords by gauging the activity within test campaigns. In the end, there are thousands, if not millions of sites competing for that elusive top page where you want to be listed. Some try to cheat, some use unethical practices, and some work hard and play by the rules. In the end, not even the experts can guarantee top page positioning.
The ugly truth about how much work is involved to gain visibility on the web is oddly also why inadequate SEO services thrive. The true professional will not guarantee top page placement, but he is usually the guy that is most likely to deliver such a feat. The professional doesn’t offer a guarantee and charges more, while on the other hand, a questionable service provider is cheaper and offers a guarantee. Superficially, it’s a no-brainer – realistically, you’ve bought nothing more than a sales pitch from a web used car salesman. But again, those web Sirens are sooo tempting. Thoughts of “it just costs a little” and “it’s worth a shot” are the bait on which these less-than-reputable services depend upon. Yes, I will keep hammering this fact.
I remember talking to a CEO of a leading trailer manufacturing business in the US. He offered me a large contract if I could guarantee him the top three positions at Google for a set of given search phrases. I could have accepted it and made some excuse to string along the cash flow for as long as possible. Instead, I refused to give him a guarantee. I accepted a much lower rate and ultimately delivered top page placement, but never the top three positions. Ethically, I simply couldn’t guarantee the top page. Eventually we lost the contract because the client wasn’t happy to be “just on the top page of a nationwide campaign”. He eventually ended the agreement and last I saw, this website was again buried deep within search engine results.
I’ve had cases where a site gets indexed and immediately is on the first page and others that take over a year. I remember on one occasion, we acquired a new client outside of Nashville, TN. He owned a small franchise and had the goal of “getting on the top page”. They hired two other people in the past to try and meet their goals with no success. They felt their most recent contractor even hurt their efforts. This was not uncommon, but in most cases this was due to some basic mistakes, so I wasn’t too worried.
I ran through the basics: A competitive analysis, site evaluation, keyword research, and felt we could help. It was a local campaign and we’ve done many of these over time with a great success level, however things quickly went downhill. The techniques our research indicated would help were having no effect. It seemed no matter what we tried, Google was wrestling this business website into mediocrity. So we started over and within a few months, he saw them on the top page of Google.
From all indicators this site should have seen some advancement, but it turned out the previous SEO contractors had damaged the reputation of their website to such an extent that Google had penalized it to be buried in their search engine results, and rightfully so. At that point, we literally started over with a new campaign with another domain and an entirely new site. We reached success, but it cost us considerably more effort than some larger campaigns.
Google is in the business of providing the most relevant results for any given search. Their product is diminished when poor websites show on the top page of Google. They have a refined secret sauce, called an algorithm, designed to weed out the cheaters and the poorly constructed sites, so they can keep their position as a global powerhouse in the search market. In other words, they want you to succeed if you have a solid product or service to offer, but the only way you can demonstrate this to Google and other search engines is to follow the rules. I suppose in ways, the true SEO expert is more a mediator between your business and search engines.
But let’s say you are not interested in Internet Marketing. You just want a simple website to use with your offline advertising (which no serious business thinks of a website in this way anymore, but it’s good for discussion purposes). Without professional training and an understanding in marketing and design, businesses easily fall into this snare. The business thinks their website is great while they are hemorrhaging customers without even knowing it.
So getting back to the concept of a beachhead, you need to explicitly understand your goals and pursue them with intent. Make no assumptions that your website will automatically do anything without a deliberate effort, because it won’t.
The guide on the following pages is one of the most critical steps for your business on the web. Take your time and give each question heavy consideration.