The lyrics from a self-congratulatory beer ad the late Alan Bond financed to sell Swan Premium beer 25 years ago went like this . . .
They said you’d never make it, but you finally came through . . . this Swan’s made for you.
The modern approach to owning and running a website is very similar to financing a self-congratulatory ad and it appeals to the same kind of vanities.
Let me explain . . .
I have a number of clients doing well in search. In a previous life, some were tied to SEO companies by 2yr contracts, paying hundreds – sometimes thousands of dollars per month to maintain position for a Google search term. “Number One Perth Gardener,” “Number One Perth Web Design,” “Number One Chihuahua Breeder Melbourne.”
It’s great being number one – but it bears no relation to sales. It really just has to do with . . . “being number one.”
What’s wrong with being #1?
If your market is saturated, your product or service seasonal or your website content if full of marketing solution banter being number one is meaningless. Sure, people will click through to your site a bit more, but will they like what they see? Will they bother staying for more than a blink? Your website bounce rate will show this fact (bounce rate is how quickly people enter a page and then exit to another site – 100% means they took a look and then bailed) . Bounce rate is a great way to check site pages to see which ones need functioning up, or re-writing.
To make matters worse, Google keeps moving the goalposts – so if you are number one today, it’s just as likely that you’ll be number 101 tomorrow. Google has recently decided to obfuscate incoming search terms for websites (that’s “keyword phrases” to you and me) and that’s sure to put an end to endless keyword stuffing achieved by so-called SEO experts.
Personally, I understand why. People have been gaming Google’s system for too long.
Imagine watching a Formula One race where instead of earning a place on the grid, drivers pay for pole position.
That’s what SEO is. Period. It’s paying for a high place in search engine result pages (SERPS) place without earning the right to be there by having an awesome website. Google now seems to understand it that way and has recently decided it wants websites in high positions to earn the favour. It’s probably why they are hiding your incoming keyword stats in Google Analytics.
What does that mean?
Build your website the right way. The only person who can do that is YOU. An SEO monkey will never add an authentic feel to a website.
Being number one without actually converting all those juicy visitors to buyers is . . . well, frankly, nuts – and expensive. Wouldn’t you rather be Number 21 and be selling stuff like hotcakes?
Is your website authentic?
I put authentic in italics there for the website owners who just don’t get it. Check out any site in your industry that’ comes up number one when you do a Google search. Go on. All your enemies. Click their Google sponsored links if you’re so inclined. That’s right. Make them pay for being number one.
Take a look at the site.
Read the contents.
Was the content outsourced to an SEO company? It’s not difficult to tell. There’ll be a lot of guff about how great that product is at solving some age old industry problem. Nothing you haven’t already heard a million times on TV. The brand will also work diligently alongside other brands to create a solution for a seamless fit – or a unifying experience. Yawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwn.
Analysis of a Google #1 site
Here’s text from a typical #1 search engine result for “lawn mowing perth” :
Trained to National Standards and fully insured, you can have complete confidence with every service Lawn Mowing Perth provide. Lawn Mowing Perth will strive to provide, an express response, reliability with flexibility and a professional, friendly lawn mowing service.
At [company name] Lawn Mowing Perth fully insured, police cleared and properly trained in our appropriate fields so you only get the best cut at the best price. We service all areas throughout Western Australia and the whole of Australia!
Only half of that actually made sense. “Appropriate fields,” huh? Some poor SEO was having a slack day.
And to finish :
Major locations: Lawn Mowing Brisbane Lawn Mowing Sydney Lawn Mowing Melbourne Lawn Mowing Adelaide Lawn Mowing Perth
Really? Major locations include Lawn Mowing Sydney? Ahem. I don’t think I know that place.
Right now they are number one for (can you guess?). Bravo. Lawn Mowing Perth! I estimate their “bounce rate” to be, oh I don’t know, 100%? There is nothing on the home page for human beings. The number of people who actually read more than 2 words of poorly written content will most certainly bail without further investigation. Six months ago, this site would be a client’s dream. Not anymore. Because this company is “number one”, they have been seen by many and lost reputation in less than 4 seconds. And, because they are “number one” that poor reputation will spread quickly. All for a (measly?) $2,000 per month! One year later and $24,000 down, this company has shoved itself into the royal spotlight wearing nothing but a stinky cod piece.
Wearing Ayrton Senna’s helmet ain’t the same as being the man.
SEO companies often just don’t write text. They also create in-bound links. If you have enough low-quality (Google’s words) in-bound links pointing to a domain, that domain is stuffed – even if you rebuild your site from the ground up. Google now deems your domain name to be spam. Cool, huh?
Companies with spammy content won’t get banned today, though. Google will do this in time. They are presently using humans and now with 1 billion websites, banning every spammy site (like Mr Lawnmower Perth) will take time. But don’t take my word for it. Read Google.
Any content written for search engines is spam. It’s not push spam (which is what we are used to) it’s pulled spam. The spammer uses Google search engine to auto-write invites to your spam party. The lawn mowing site and all sites linked to it (and probably from it) are going to be banned. For only $2,000 per month.
In short, SEO content is written for search engines, not people and it’s a real turn off when you read it.
Does your website generate trust?
Outsourcing your content is old-school thinking and will never lead to conversion (turning readers into buyers). Why not? Because people aren’t stupid. It’s inauthentic. It’s rot. It stinks and nobody buys stinky stuff.
From the SEO Company’s perspective:
I’m an SEO company. My customer wants to be number one. I’ll write text for the search engines.
From the SEO Client’s perspective (that’s you):
I want to be number one on the web (and in my life). And I’m prepared to pay for it.
From your potential client’s perspective:
What’s all this about Perth and lawn mowing – are these guys idiots? I don’t trust them.
Hopefully Google’s decision to obfuscate keyword search results will result in a more honest web. Hopefully they see content like this as gold and rate it accordingly. ;)
Your customer is wiser than you think
Have you ever been to a sales talk? Everyone sitting in chairs facing a stage where some guy (usually a guy but not always) strides the boards like an evangelist in Church. I don’t know about you but most of these things are yawn fests. I only really came for the free book.
But then the guy stops his sales pitch. He tells you a little story about his daughter and his dog racing each other at the park. As he speaks, his eyes light up. You can see that he loves his daughter and he is very proud of her.
You are mesmerised. Only for a second.
Because he then slips back into sales talk. Your eyes glaze over and you start thinking about lunch.
That’s the lawn mower website – except the lawnmower guy has forgotten to tell us about his daughter. He’s just shouting (and not even at you – at Google!) And it’s not even him doing the shouting. (it’s an outsourced SEO content creation expert). And his domain is about to be blacklisted. Forever. Because he used Google to spam you.
Are you getting this?
What? Hey what? Roll back a bit.
What I’m saying might be hard to hear. I’m 80% sure your website is full of rubbish. Nobody wants to read it. Your desire to be number one has turned your site into a miserable pastiche of itself. You are Uncle Scrooge sitting at his desk, all alone. Except, unlike Uncle Scrooge, you’re living a sadder dream. You’re counting visitors, not money. At least Scrooge was ripping real people off. You’re just creating a mess for yourself and Google.
The website customer
Oh, no. I was so busy trying to be number one that I forgot about my customers.
That’s right. Rather than giving thousands of dollars per month to an SEO company, why not spend a little of that on, say . . . converting potential customers into buyers? Sound crazy?
It’s not that hard to do. It’s also pretty obvious stuff which has to do with care and attention.
This is the red pill. You need to hear this.
Just bouncing off the top of my head, here are some ideas that are more likely to convert your number one seeking surfer into an actual buyer. Most of this will be obvious and I’m sure you can add a number of genuine ideas of your own to the list.
Here’s the list of things that you want;
- I want to be number one, not just on the web, but in my real life.
Here’s a list of things your customers want;
- A photo gallery on your website of customers using your product.
- Close-ups of your product instead of pop-ups which are only 10% bigger than the image they just clicked on.
- A product slideshow.
- A competition with a chance to get your product for free.
- A photo of you and your staff on your about us page (customers want to see who they are buying from)
- Information about your availability (provide booking / appointment times and tie your website data in with your office system).
Instead of having a basic your name and email we’ll get back to you in 48hrs contact form, have a bit more fun. Be cheeky. Give people a list of funny pull-down menus rather than letting them make their own writing decisions. Be cheesy. A bit of cheese goes a long way.
- A newsletter sign-up (they’re not ready to buy right now but might be in the future).
It’s your job to make customers lives more exciting. It’s your duty if you have a website. It’s what I’m trying to do right now.
Notice how nowhere in that list was the intention to be number one in a Google search? That already seems like a yesterday idea doesn’t it?
Being number one is not the same as servicing your customer, following up on leads or trying to understand the problems your industry experiences from the customer’s point of view. You need to look after people better. Putting rich, honest and very real information on your website is only going to generate trust. And (ironically for some it seems) it’s TRUST that will lead to a sale.
Who do you care about more?
You (being number one on Google)?
Your customer (being in business)
I’ll let you have a short think about that . . . I’m having a log mac.
Author: Edwin James Lynch
Edwin wrote his first (Harrier Jump-jet) computer program in 1982. Today he builds websites and guides companies through best practice, future-proof web development. He lectured 15yrs+ at Curtin University where (in 2007) he was voted 5th best tutor out of 2,500+ Open University Australia tutor / lecturers.