The greatest difficulty I have is explaining to clients the “Whole Site Concept” that Google currently is looking for. It’s hard for an established business that has been on the Internet for over 10 years to understand this shift. In the old days (some may say better days), one just needed to put up a basic site and create as many product/category pages as possible to be successful. Each time someone put on a new product page, they would see it appear in the search engines. It might not be on page one, but they could at least find it. Then in the last few years, many site owners began to see that pattern disappear. Yes, there was more competition coming in from low-end “keyword domains,” but Google has been going after those for years (I felt the last update really put a hurting to them).
However, that isn’t the whole reason that such product pages stopped appearing. The reason was that the site owners, complacent in the old style of doing things, did not adapt. Meanwhile, other newer sites saw the writing on the wall (or at least wanted to create a new and more modern-looking site), and almost by accident created the “whole site” Google was looking for.
What does this whole site consist of? Well let’s review.
1. CMS – Many old sites are built in old style code languages that were successful when browsers were weak and people still dialed into “the Web.” Those days are over. Right now, people are coming onto the Web at lightning speed, and Google doesn’t need to accommodate the slow pokes anymore. In fact, if your site is trapped in an old language or old format, you’re sending a huge signal to Google that you don’t understand what they want. If you are on the Internet, it’s time to upgrade to a new format. One way to upgrade is to use a content management system (CMS) for your website.
2. Blog – Yes, there are sites that still don’t have blogs attached to them. This is a pretty quick indicator to Google that your mindset is stuck somewhere 10 years ago (chances are your old programming also couldn’t handle blog software). If you did have a blog, it may have been housed, not on your website, but on a free offsite platform. This practice is as outdated as a boom box with a cassette player. Not having a blog on your site is a good way to scream to Google, “I haven’t upgraded my site since I built it in 2003 – but please don’t notice!
3. Social Media – If you haven’t accepted social media, the train has left the station and you aren’t on it. If a site is lacking social media buttons (or at least links to your social media networks), Google sees your site as out-dated, at least in thought and action. Establishing and maintaining your social media is a signal to Google that you care about your clients, want to provide them more information, build relationships, and have someone dedicated to maintaining these entities. This practice can also indicate that you are a bigger business than you actually are.
4. Clean Code – So you built your site long ago and named some of your links with a .htm extension and others with a .html. Perhaps other links were trapped in directories. Now a site with all of these structures is looked at as unkempt (like a house with a bunch of dirty socks lying around). Although the user might not notice how disorganized the site is in this way, Google certainly will.
5. Authority Tags – So your site looks legitimate to users, but what authorities are saying so? Do you have a trust seal for secure transactions? Do you have a BBB logo showing your commitment to service? What about a help icon? These things help Google know that your site is secure for its users. Including these trust indicators also helps with conversion of website users.
6. No Keyword Stuffing – Let’s be honest; old sites put keywords everywhere on the site hoping it would improve rankings. Google now looks down on this practice. If your site is old, it may have some of this “residue” left on it. Google notices it even if you’ve forgotten about it.
All of the above are factors that, as an SEO company, we encourage but cannot control. We cannot force site owners to upgrade programming, get a blog, engage in social media, clean up code, add authority buttons, or remove random keyword stuffing. What we do is suggest all of these things…strongly.
Your site should indicate to Google (and other search engines) that it provides a positive user experience. The above factors are indicators to Google that your site is “whole,” as it wants it to be in 2012. If your site was “whole” in the past but is now lagging in rankings, these could be factors affecting the change. I would love to discuss with you further on how we can help improve your site.