opinion

SEO Can Hurt Your Business

Joe D

Search engine optimization can be a double-edged sword. If people can't find your website in the search engines, you might as well just give up and go home. However, if you spend more time developing the SEO of your website and neglect the elements and functions that make a good website great, you might as well just throw in the towel again, because you aren't going to win any sales there either…

Businesses spend a lot of time and money investing in website development and SEO. Finding the proper - and professional - balance between these two essential aspects of online e-commerce is the key to your success. You need to make certain that your website is properly optimized for visibility in the search engines, but you also need to make sure that your website makes a solid first impression and can sell.

Designing a Good Website

Think about your own experiences when you have visited various business sites. What elements are important and what elements are essential? We have all visited websites that neglected to add a "Contact Us" link on the home page. We have all visited websites where the navigation just isn't clear or doesn't make sense. And I think we have all been to a website that just didn't have enough information available to help us decide whether or not to make a purchase. You want your customers to be turned on - not turned off…

Oddly enough, website owners have spent tons of money investing in the development of a website only to find out later that it doesn't sell. Before you can do anything you need to make sure that your site is effective. Set goals for your website. Decide whether you want to inform, entertain, educate, sell or generate leads, and then build a site that will help you achieve those goals. Add opportunities for visitors to complete actions, such as registering to receive an e-mail newsletter, downloading some type of content, clicking to give feedback or adding an item to a wish list. All of these activities are indicators of the buyer's interest.

Designing for SEO

A website that is poorly designed, or designed using out-dated methods and code compliance can alienate the search engines. So even if you think you've dotted all your Is and crossed all your Ts, you might be missing something strategically important. Make sure your website does not contain any elements that would undermine all of your sales and SEO efforts. Some elements are so offensive to the engines that they could wreck your rankings and render your site invisible.

Flash is one of those things that can negatively impact the visibility, usability and SEO of your website. As we’ve discussed in other posts, Flash is on its way out - going the way of the dinosaur. Most tablet PCs don't even support it. Frames is another out-dated type of Web design that should have been "gone" a long time ago, but some developers insist on continuing to use it. It is annoying for the user and the search engines just don't like it.

Dynamically generated content once sounded like a good idea, but the data is basically hidden from the search engines. What's the point of having all that great content there if you aren't getting credit for it?  On the other side of the spectrum, a website that is 99% images and 1% poorly written text won't win you any awards or top rankings either. The engines can't read the text if it is included in a graphical image. Make sure you use actual text mixed in with your images to give a balanced and clear depiction of your business and what it has to offer.

Finally, another big mistake is to have hundreds of outbound links posted throughout your site. While you may be trying to offer more information or support to your site's visitors, Google will most likely see all these links and think you are running a link farm. Link farms - in case you didn't know - don't rank well with Google ;-)

Before You Start...

Don't even invest a penny - or a minute of your time - on SEO until you have a website that is user-friendly, current and has the ability to achieve your business goals. Once you have all of that taken care of you can begin to implement your SEO development. Even if your SEO works like magic and you start getting hundreds or thousands of new visitors to your site each day, it won't mean a thing if your site is ineffective and you can't sell a thing.

Design smart and you'll see positive results from your efforts!

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