Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Your Website Is For People, Not Google

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I had a really good conversation this week with a potential client. He's put a power of work into his website, added lots of great content etc, and as a result he's achieved some great search engine rankings. People are finding his business on Google, result! But there's a problem.

Before I explain the problem, if anyone's confused by the concept of lots of great content resulting in good rankings I'll spell it out.

Google, The Great Problem Solver

Most people use Google to find the answer to a question or the solution to a problem. In fact, some might argue that Google isn't a search engine at all, it's an answer engine. If you think about how you use Google I imagine this makes perfect sense.

Interestingly, Google itself doesn't actually provide the answers, it simply provides links to web pages that probably do. I say probably because as we all know the search results are very much still a work in progress. Sometimes you solve your conundrum on the first click, but often it takes ages.

Google and the other search engines are constantly tweaking and improving the way their software tries to help people but we're still a long way off perfection.

So, when someone carries out a search in Google this is what happens:

Google's software analyses the search term and generates a set of results it thinks the person will find useful. It then orders the results based on a set of factors including relevance and authority. Finally it squirts the results back to the person's laptop or phone so they can click the links, visit the pages and solve their problem.

If someone searches using a term such as "what is the purpose of a blog" they are almost certainly trying to educate themselves about the art and science of blogging. They are not, yet, looking for someone to write blogs for them.

So a company who provide blog writing services would need content that explains what blogging is all about if they wanted to rank for that search term. Their selling content, the pages that offer blogging services, will not be enough.

Again, if someone searches for "best small electric car" they are probably looking for reviews and reports, not a page on Nissan's site that claims the Leaf to be the best.

Most Businesses Don't Get It

The problem is most businesses miss this very simple truth and instead of concentrating on creating content that answers the questions their customers are asking, they write self promotional content that reads like an advert, because that's all it is, an advert.

In simple terms business owners who take the time to understand the problems their customers need to solve and create content that provides answers prosper in the search engine results pages and that's exactly what our potential client has done.

But he's missed another vital ingredient, he's making the people who find him, as a result of his great search rankings, work far too hard.

Don't Make People Who Find You Work Hard

Despite potential customers finding our SEO whizz's business when carrying out a Google search, he's kind of forgotten that those customers are people and their needs are very different to that of a search engine algorithm. Let me explain.

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I often have conversations where people say things such as "does Google like this?" or "does Google like that?" or "we are doing XY and Z for Google". That's fine, it's definitely worth making sure that your website is search engine friendly. But not if it means your website becomes difficult to use, not if you finish up with something cluttered and confusing.

Effectively, visitors to his website are being confronted by a wall of information, text based information. He's making the visitors to his website work far too hard to try and establish whether or not he can provide what they're looking for. He's making them think, and as Steve Krug made clear in his seminal book, Don't Make Me Think, that's never a good thing.

There's A Better Way

A well thought out web strategy will make sure your website serves several important functions.

  1. It will get found by your ideal customers via search engines and social media.
  2. It will genuinely help your ideal customers so they start to trust you.
  3. It will persuade your ideal customers to contact you.

It's what's commonly known as Inbound Marketing and the Attract / Engage / Convert methodology. Instead of using the traditional approach of shouting from the rooftops "buy stuff from us" you create honey pots of valuable and useful information that your potential customers find and enjoy.

But, unfortunately, far too many businesses get lost in the technical aspects of this endeavour and instead of focusing on what their customers want, they create web sites for Google, not their customers.

It's Not All Bad News

Now, having said what our man has got wrong, I'll quickly point out that his problem is reasonably quick and easy to fix. With some unpicking it will be possible to turn his search engine rankings and resulting traffic into solid enquiries, nice.

Not so if the problem was reversed, and by that I mean if his website was visually pleasing and easy to navigate but lacked any useful content. Let me explain.

Look And Feel Is The Easy Bit

I have nothing but admiration for the guys in our team who design the fantastic websites we create. The way their brain works, their imagination and their ability to know what resonates and what doesn't from a visual perspective is awesome.

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However, and I know this is a tad controversial, if you engage with any credible agency you're almost guaranteed to get a great looking website that people will love using. Yes, you read that right, all decent agencies produce great looking websites, it's pretty much guaranteed unless you're really unlucky. Put another way, although we create fantastic websites, on that front we are nothing special.

So if you've got a website that's got great search rankings and traffic but poor conversions, the job of turning things round is straightforward. If you've got a great looking website with poor search engine rankings and very little traffic it's a different situation that's going to take a power of work to sort out.

Play The Game And Start Now

The problem with securing great search rankings is it can feel like a bit of a game. A game of churning out content, a game where you say the same thing over and over in a subtly different way. Up to a point that's kind of right.

But the thing is, a lot of businesses refuse to play the game and stick to the Mad Man formula of creating websites that state how great they are, generally followed by an invitation to buy something. They are the sites that tend not to dominate the search results pages, the sites missing all the potential business to be had if only they took the time to create the right strategy.

When we start a web project we take the time to understand what, in a perfect world, will be happening 12 months down the line. It usually doesn't take long to tease out the requirement for the website to generate leads, even if this wasn't originally top of the client's list. In fact, what this conversation often uncovers is that some business people think the act of creating an aesthetically pleasing site is itself enough to improve search rankings. It isn't.

Budgets For Improving Google Rankings

To finish off I'll say a few words about budgets. But rather than talking about money I'll talk about time.

The starting point for creating a website that gets both gets found and generates leads is the creation of a strategy. Without that you'll just be fumbling around randomly doing stuff and hoping for the best. I'd allow 3 or 4 days to research and create your strategy.

With a strategy in place you will then move onto the execution phase. If you currently generate few enquiries via your website and you're in a reasonably competitive niche then there's likely to be a significant body of work to get through and throwing 4 or 5 days a month at the work would be a minimum.

If you're in a competitive niche, make that a full time occupation for a team of people but in essence, the more resource you assign to the work, the quicker you'll see results.

Ignoring the use of Google Ads, if currently you're not getting much traffic from search it's likely going to take months to see it start to ramp up, no matter what you do. It's a long game and you'll need to take account of how effective your work is being and adapt as you go. It's not something you can "fix", it's a process of continuous improvement and as such needs a continuous effort and budget.

It's Worth The Investment

Creating a website that both Google and your customers love can transform your business. Those who make the investment and nail it can reap rich rewards, and solid earned rankings really are the gift that keeps on giving.

If you'd like to discover what opportunities your business is missing and more importantly how to change that, book a chat.

More in this category: SEO and Design, SEO Basics, Lead Generation

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