It’s hard enough getting found in Google without having to struggle against complete stuff-ups by your web developer.
Ever wondered if web design might be part of your organic ranking woes? We constantly find ourselves fixing sites that treat Google with complete contempt. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are web developers…. Well, they were before I wrote this article anyway. Here are some problems I have seen in the last week.
The “One Size Fits All” Option
If you are a real estate agent that belongs to a large group or a franchisee that got a website as part of the deal, you are most likely already saddled with a useless website as far as Google is concerned. These sites are quite often “cookie cut” versions of the main site with names and phone numbers changed for all the franchisees.
Very cheap to produce and completely useless, these sorts of sites proliferate the web. Sure it may look great with the right branding, etc., but it will not generate new business for you. You may as well have spent the money on a poster for your office.
The main reason these sites are useless is that they all look the same to Google. Google sees 30 identical sites so it will decide not to rank any of them because it looks like you are trying to trick Google and the big G certainly does not want repetitive results in front of its users. How quickly would you stop using Google if it kept displaying a bunch of repetitive results?
If you are a franchisee and want a real website, find a real developer and stay away from these production line clowns. Spend the extra cash; it will be worth it in the long run.
Your website is about generating new business. It should be a revenue generator, not a cost centre.
Multiple domains mean multiple opportunities to rank. Right?
Wrong. Multiple domains all pointed at the one website means you have a web developer that does not care about Google. Google will run away quicker than you can say “maintenance contract”.
Web developers and hosting companies have been notorious for this over the years. They encourage you to buy up domains and then they go and point them all at the same website. They are getting you to buy the bullets for the gun they are using to shoot you with. Please stop buying their ammo.
For the record, only one domain name is relevant to Google. However when you have many domains pointed at the same site Google once again sees multiple sites. This is what is known as duplicate content, same as above. Even www.domain.com.au and domain.com.au are technically different sites, exactly the same house at two different addresses.
Here is what you need to tell your developer or hosting company. Do a “permanent 301 redirect” on all domains to one domain. Then slap them with a fish (optional).
The Clever Code Culprits
Is your web developer the precious type? Are they very proud of their code?
Their code may suck.
It is quite easy for a bot to get lost in a website for ages because the site has been designed without spiders or bots in mind. Google is unlikely to treat these sites as serious ranking contenders because if it gets lost in your site, it assumes its users will as well. This is, of course, not always the case. Just because the bot gets stuck doesn’t mean a human will. However no one has bothered to tell the Googlebot this.
We developed our own bot to crawl sites we suspect of having these problems. Sometimes the bot will see hundreds of empty pages on your site because it gets stuck in a loop on your search page or keeps spidering “add a comment” links on every page of your blog.
Google wants to keep its users happy, so it is unlikely to send someone to a site that looks like it is full of empty pages.
Remember it is a marketing exercise
Most web developers claim they do Search Engine Optimisation or Search Marketing and some do quite well. The problem is they think they should be able to do it. If you were going to pay for a large billboard somewhere, who would you get to design your ad and help target the right demographic? The blokes that do the installation of the billboard or the marketing people?
A search marketing campaign requires savvy marketers and exceptional tech skills to implement. It is relatively easy, as shown by the examples above, to incur Google’s indifference, let alone wrath, towards your site.
Jim Stewart has been working in the internet industry since the early 90s and is MD of Stew Art Media Pty Ltd, a Melbourne-based search marketing company. He was the internet commentator on ABC 774 for five years and has appeared on A Current Affair and The Panel.