3 clues of what your site may be missing.
I have a buddy who once had a crush on a girl friend of mine. But in all honesty, he simply did not deserve her due to some bad decisions and a rough personal history. So I found myself trying to explain to him that to be with a girl of that caliber, he had to be the kind of man she would want to be with. He had to "deserve" her.
No, this is not a lesson on relationships. However, the idea of attracting website visitors is similar. In search engine optimization, and with our websites in general, we do things with the intent of deserving a good ranking. We use a number of methods to target a specific market and we seek for quality links to link back to our sites. But do our sites really deserve it? Do our sites really deserve to rank well? Unfortunately, we live in an age of entitlement, and all too often people think they deserve things without having to do the work to merit the prize. Sometimes we make bad site decisions, or sometimes we do nothing at all, and yet how many of us still entertain an expectation that we deserve better rankings, or that people should notice us?
Think about it for a minute or two, and forget about what matters most to the Search engines. What attracts you personally to a website? A need or a want of some kind? The design? Images? Usability? Obviously a good website will satisfy the individual in some way and entices them to return. So do we really care how poorly designed a website is as long as it satisfies our needs, offers a certain level of enjoyment, or does not require much effort on our part?
I am not advocating poorly designed sites. Search engines may not care specifically about what your site looks like on the surface, but people do. And perhaps this is where my concern comes to light. If we are not careful, we can get warped into a paradigm of search engine optimization which tends to optimize solely for search engines and not for the people who use them. So I think it is fair to ask whether our SEO efforts are as much for humans as they are for search engines. Maybe we blame the search engines or maybe we blame ourselves for the tunnel vision; but either way we are not going to deserve high conversion rates or a return on investment (ROI).
It is often easier to market a site through paid links, submitted links, and advertisements than to produce a well-optimized website that naturally attracts attention. But perhaps we create a false sense of "optimized security" when we run a PPC campaign, or a link building campaign. Are we merely trying to compensate for our site’s shortcomings by using superficial antics to build up links or paying to try and woo the good rankings? Sure, you can generate a lot of links and maybe even drive a lot of traffic but if those high bounce rate statistics are any indicator, your site likely needs some work to retain your audience and entice people to keep coming back.
So what is the solution? We should remember that SEO is not a dichotomy of search engines and site design. Nor should it be. Good site design is an inseparable part of SEO. So what can you do to help your site deserve more attention?
1) Site Redesign or Facelift? Think Simple.
Does your site still look the same as it did 10 years ago? And if your site is not that old, does it look like a website from the 90s? A complete site redesign may not always be plausible for some businesses, but you should consider those things that can be done to give your site a modern digital facelift.
Making your site more "current" does not mean adding every bell and whistle known to modern Web technology. Small site upgrades done right can fit in naturally and go a long way to upgrade your online image. Just look at the DrudgeReport.com, it has had practically the same simple design for the past 10 years and it still receives droves of traffic in the millions. On the other hand, design changes done wrong can be quite noticeable, - have you ever seen someone with bad or overdone plastic surgery? Of course there are other factors that determine whether or not you receive traffic, but investing in your website design is a key part of the equation.
2) Write Great Content
Why does great content on your site make a difference? It has been shown that a majority of people respond primarily to web site looks and visuals, but great content keeps your visitors coming back for more. This might include such things as interesting articles, blogs, videos and other media. Incorporate something unique and intriguing to make your site stand out.
Equally important to the type of content on the site is the manner in which it is presented. Is your content high quality? Does it offer something of value? Is your blog article readable and easy to understand, or full of grammatical errors?
3) Establish Trust
Trust. You often hear this word a lot in regards to the online presence of websites. Establishing a good reputation requires hard work and a lot of time, and doing what is ethically necessary to make your website stand out as something exceptional and credible. With the exception of a few lucky sites, the status quo might not cut it anymore.
On another note, get active in social networking. Get to know others in the business and your industry, and use social networking tools to promote your online presence.
I fail to understand how some people who have badly designed or outdated sites will pay for SEO services, but all they want to do is build links. I suppose if that works for them then so be it, but there is more to SEO than just link building. You can put as much makeup and cologne on a stinky rotten fish as you want, and link to it from a thousand locations; but a painted rotten fish with links is still a rotten fish.
Become the site that truly deserves the good ranking. What good is being number one on Google when no one wants to stay on your site because it stinks?