Thursday, 16 August 2012

Basics Basics Basics

My Website's Not Performing - Help!

Is that a familiar cry for help?  Something you are used to hearing?

I very often get clients who approach me with the above statement.  They all have very different websites of different ages and different types. Almost without exception they are suffering from the same problem, they went "live" too soon.

Over the many years that I have been doing SEO audits for websites I found this common issue time and time again. I can understand why businesses make this simple error. They want to get their website online ASAP.

Often a new and exciting project like getting your company's first website creates a very real buzz.  Sadly this buzz is more often than not a short-lived buzz.

Plan your website

Plan your content
If you are a business wanting a website.  Plan it first!

I include the silly graphic because often business owners look at me with a blank expression.

It is of course, fine to approach an agency without a plan. Be aware that if you do,  you are going to end up paying a lot more money for them to come up with the plan for you.

You know your business.  So, you should potentially have an idea about who your target audience is.  You also know what you want to sell or tell people about.

You should be able to make a rough plan of what your website will need to look like.  Of course this plan can be tweaked in collaboration with your web agency, but try to formulate a basic plan.

Putting a plan together isn't just about the structure of the website,
It's also about the content.

Content is King, content is King, Content is King.

Content is King
Can I be any clearer? There is an old saying in the web industry "Content is King".  Many many websites ignore this mantra. Ignore it at your peril.

If you don't build decent content for your website, then in today's web, you are likely to face a long and winding road before you get so much as a sniff of success.

Plan your content.
  • What is going on the site?
  • Why is it going on the site?
  • Does it need to be there?
  • What purpose does it serve?
  • Does it meet a basic standard?

Everything you put on your site should be useful to your users. With perhaps the exception of legally required pages such as your Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. If content doesn't help users in some way, it probably doesn't need to be there at all.

Basic Content Rules.

1) 300 words minimum for all articles.
2) Every product should have its own UNIQUE description where possible.
2) Do not fall back on the manufacturers descriptions

300 words per article

Three hundred words?  I know that's going to put a lot of people off  writing content already.
Most people don't want to write 300 words for their homepage, let alone articles.

Well people, It's a simple as this.  It's YOUR website.  If you aren't prepared to put in the work to make it rank, then don't expect decent results anytime soon.

By writing a decent amount of relevant copy you are giving your website a fighting chance. Start now, Once you have written one article, you'll feel better about writing the next one.

Unique Product Descriptions

In the past I have practically had to fight with clients to write proper product descriptions.  Time and time again I was seeing e-commerce catalogues with zero copy on product pages. when I queried the clients about this, I was met with indifference and complacency.  The standard response was,
"Well, people have found the site so they'll find the product"  or 
"I simply don't have time to write product descriptions".

If you are a business owner and this sound's like you, let me spell it out for you.  Your competitors CAN and most probably WILL find the time to write product descriptions, if it means beating your company to a bigger market share. Start caring about your business. He who dares, wins.

Avoid Manufacturer Descriptions

Often, businesses want to improve their product descriptions and even make a start.  However, the scale of the task in front of them can be daunting and they fall back to what they mistakenly believe is the easy option.  They add manufacturer descriptions.

A couple of years ago you could reasonably get away with this.  You could find tens of sites selling the same products, with exactly the same product descriptions, word for word.  Today, this tactic just wont work well.  Google frowns upon duplicate content.  So, if you set up a site that sells the same products as every other Joe in your field, write your own product descriptions. If you take the "easy option" more than likely , you'll be rewarded with a penalty from Google.

Basics  - Get the code right

Validate your Code
Chances are you won't be building the site yourself. Your agency will be designing the and building the website. However, any good web agency will have some form of checklist of tasks that must be addressed before a site goes live.

Crucial to getting in Google's good books is good code.  Good code is akin to making your website physically healthy.

If you have a good framework, your site is more likely to be healthy and perform better in the search rankings for longer.

Check your Code is Valid
HTML Validation Service

Check your CSS is Valid
Stylesheet Validation

If  your website generates errors when validated contact your agency for an explanation.
Sometimes a few errors are almost unavoidable and not too detrimental to your site.  Lot's of errors will be bad for your site in the long run.

Many business owners will say that they don't know anything about code.  That's a poor excuse.  Remember this is your website. I say again "your website", get involved.  If you just leave everything to your agency without having any knowledge of the processes they go through to build your site, then how can you hold them accountable if things go wrong?

A good agency will be getting you involved and explaining the processes as they go along. A good web design agency will actively seek your input, or at least notify you of their intentions.

These are what I consider  to be the very basics of Website planning.  I haven't even gotten to Images, Links SEO,  or Social Media yet.

What have I missed?

What do you tell your clients when you encounter similar issues?  Let me know by leaving a comment.  Or Phil Gregory - G++ or follow @SEOZero1 on twitter


  1. Great post Phil, if the optimisation is natural, the content is relevant and the promotion is thoughtful, businesses can get great results.

  2. Good overview of the basics Phil and a nice first post for your blog.

    I personally don't give much weight to valid code being a major factor in your websites rankings. I think the problem is that I've seen web design agencies time and again use this myth in order to score major redesign work running into thousands. They convince the client this is of huge importance when of course it isn't.

    Keep up the good work man!

  3. Thanks for your replies guys. Graeme is right with his overview I think. Being thoughtful about the whole process is always going to pay dividends.

    @stokedseo I certainly used to be in the same school as thought with you. It used to be a major hassle for eme to even be bothered to sort out valid code. When i was building websites in freelance mode, it would often create a conflict. Certain functions customers asked for would make it really difficult to make the site have valid code.

    Now I look at a website and see that if you don't have a solid foundation, and you keep building on top of that shaky base, pretty soon the whole thing is gonna come crumbling down on your head.

    It Isn't always possible to get a site completely error free but the fewer errors you have the less issues your users will have in the long run. Happy users link to sites.


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