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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chicken or Egg: Websites and Search Engine Ranking

For last few years I've been maintaining my wife's Real Estate website ( and her online strategy.  I am not saying I am the greatest website designer.  Although the website itself has been pretty successful thus far and has received great feedback, we have plenty of plans for the future to continue to enhance that.  I often get asked by others for my opinions about websites and find that the front and foremost thing they simply want to know is how to get up in the search engines with little or no regard for the content and visitor experience of the website itself.  The truth is that a great looking website that offers no real benefit to visitors is a lot of wasted opportunities in my opinion.  I actually put search engine ranking secondary to the creation of a website although I know many within the industry would disagree with me.

What Is SEO?

The acronym 'SEO' means Search Engine Optimization.  It basically boils down to where your website shows up in search engines (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) when people search for a topic related to you or your business.  Think of it this way, if you put your business along side of Palm Coast Parkway you will obviously gain more exposure than a business not on Palm Coast Parkway.  The question is does that exposure really mean an actual increase in business?  Many that sell 'SEO services' will obviously tell you yes it does, but I do not agree with that.  For example, I was reading an article the other day where an individual has invested heavily into great SEO for their website and gets on average of about 20,000 visitors per month.  In terms of the business that generates . . . about 1 customer per month.  20,000 visitors per month is a great result for any website, but if you are only generating 1 customer per month from that kind of traffic you can bet the website itself has a lot of opportunities.  In fact I can guarantee you that the time on the site from a visitor is minimal and return visitors is extremely low without ever looking at the statistics. To put it bluntly, the visitor experience is not good.

SEO is a result of a lot of things when it comes to a website.  A lot of which is about linking to and from other websites that are relevant to your business.  There are technicals as well that can be tweaked to enhance the exposure to a website and will take time to 'take hold'.  Designers come in to real play here with these things.

Purpose of a Website

The first thing to consider in regards to a website is the purpose, and this is the most important foundation in my opinion.  A website should be a virtual extension of your existing store or office.  It should provide visitors with a similar experience and set of services.  Think for a minute about your physical business location.  Prior to that ever opening, you probably selected a location that would get you the best possible future exposure.  But prior to ever opening the doors, you set the location up to create the best possible visitor experience and a format which would provide them the best possible set of services.  Right?  The website is therefore no different.  What I find most people doing is creating a 'great big giant business card' as Gary Keller puts it.  And if that's what you create, you'll get little or no benefit from your website for your business.

Office Divvy
Website content will obviously vary based upon the industry and the customer base.  For example, consumer product retail types of websites need to be focused on the great shopping experience and the services surrounding that.  Whereas organizational type of websites (i,.e. groups, Churches, etc.) will be focused on communications of information pertinent to members as well as a great presentation to the outside world.  Our local government organizations are great examples of being focused on the services and communication of relevant information to the community.  Take for example the Property Appraiser website (   This particular website is very easy to use to get comprehensive public property information and provides great services to the community as well as outsiders. The City of Palm Coast's website ( also provides great services and information to our community. is a great example of a local business website that does a great job of explaining the company's services and offering online services to their potential customers or inquirers.

Tell People About the Website & It's Benefits 

This is the part that most forget and why SEO is so important to them.  SEO in my opinion leaves way too much to chance.  Take control and go out and tell people about the website.  Your website should be a part of every piece of advertising, on business cards, linked back to in blog articles, linked to in online directories, link to features and sections through social networking updates, so forth and so on.  For example, a few years ago Toby Tobin advertised his local Real Estate website in a local magazine.  Not him, but the website itself and the benefits of it.  This was a great idea because you just wanted to go and check it out.  The website has been a success for Toby and he has done a great job with it. 

Don't forget to look at your website in a manner that is similar to your physical business or group.  It should enhance the services you provide.  But more importantly, the success of that website to serve it's purpose and role within your business/group shouldn't be 'left to chance' and simply SEO.  Just like you advertise your existing business . . . advertise your website!

Some Great Local Websites To Check Out

What are your thoughts?

Also, check back for the 'Going Back to School Digital' post coming soon.

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