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Thursday, 3 November 2011

Fly by night website SEO

All of us website designers are used to online companies promising great things and within a year disappearing into the fiber-optic abyss. What is worrying is the increasing amount of phone calls from clients I have designed and built websites for reporting spam, cold calling and pressure from many unknown SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) companies out there.

I've been working professionally for businesses as a website designer for over 10 years and don't get me wrong, SEO is a genuine entity and necessity these days, but it's the approach and execution by many companies and individuals that concerns me. At York Creative we try to work long term to help websites achieve a decent search ranking, but in many ways the SEO buzz word is becoming increasingly damaging to the website design industry. The idea of paying a company a few hundred pounds to let them give your site a quick boost on Google to me seems counter productive in the long term, especially when the budget spent on this equates to bad website content. They're targeting the weak and worried, which is many of us at the moment - and a lot of us are falling for it.

I watched a great movie documentary called Page One: Inside the New York Times last night which highlighted how the newspaper industry is struggling due to digital and online alternatives for news. Papers aren't selling and journalists are losing their jobs. One of the many concerns in the film is that if professional print journalism can't be sustained the quality of the news will deteriorate. Many argue this is a good thing, we can read news online, but well written news has to have reliable sources and resources. With less paid journalists out there the sources of well researched and balanced news will become less reliable. Our online news has to come from a good source to start with. Gone will be the foreign correspondents on the front line of war-torn countries and instead we'll all watch YouTube or be reading blogs where we are unsure of the accuracy of the content or even if the story is at all real? Newspapers may not always be completely subjective, but worse is only being left with a social news that is completely opinion based and bias through emotion, location or monetary gain. We already have a mass social news on the internet but we still need the balance of professional journalists who have been trained and have a professional insight. The challenge is to move to a digital market without compromising quality of news or even many of it's original sources. Website news is a large ripple in a vast ocean, like Chinese whispers. News is instant, but then so are the problems of those articles not being checked or fully researched before publishing.

The website design industry faces a similar struggle. DIY websites and low-budget SEO with false promises could mean further bad content online.
Filling a website with keywords, nonsensical terms and hundreds of links may give more hits initially, but in the long-term this content will materialise to simply putting your potential customers off and making your website look like some sort of scam (something Google will also frown upon). With this approach you won't last long.

I have also head of many companies offering customers a guaranteed first page Google ranking by charging say £500, the company then spends £300 on Google adwords advertising and pockets the £200 as easy money, this means Google ads are doing all the work for them and once the money runs out the website drops back to its original position - the client could have spent the full £500 budget on the ads and have retained the position for much longer. This kind of offer pitched at customers over the phone sounds great. "I can guarantee you're on page one of Google for just £500, think of the money you'll make back from that within the month in extra business and enquiries!"

Us website designers need to warn about the dangers of these scammers and start informing our clients and website maintenance/management customers that we can easily too add them a budget for Google advertising without the high charges and commissions, or show them how to do it themselves - this is far more effective than paying seperate SEO companies for fly by night success. Our clients need to know that Google algorithms are constantly monitoring your site so good SEO is about looking forward and ever developing a website to continue to help it climb, keeping the content clean, fresh and relevant to retain it's search position. Many businesses are tempted to jump ship every few months to try a new online service but their own website designer can do the things these companies offer at a fraction of the price. Good online marketing campaigns are team effort and relies on good content from the business and good publication from the web designer.

Remember, often if it sounds too good to be true, it is! Those businesses working the hardest with their website designer will benefit the most. My advice is stay in constant contact, ask your website designer questions about your site and also generate ideas with your website designer on how best to market the site throughout the year. You'll be amazed at the improvement in search ranking.

York Creative Website Design offer ongoing SEO services, website design, hosting and more from the City Centre of York. For more information or help with your website please visit: www.yorkcreative.co.uk

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