Talkback: Don’t hide words from search engines

June 1st, 2006

by

Originally published in New Zealand Herald

Contrary to popular belief, there is more to increasing a website’s visibility in search engines than just sprinkling a handful of keywords on it.

The way a site is designed and built has a major impact on whether search engine spiders are even able to access the content.

Don’t assume that every programmer or web designer will know how to build a website that is balanced for the target market – and for the major search engines alike.

Many a website designer and developer are still stuck in the 1990s, using their old-school web design methods because that is what they are familiar with.

Unlike your GP, they do not have to upgrade their skills every year. On the surface, their websites may be glossy and picture perfect. However, under the bonnet it could be a different story.

Creating a good website is about striking a balance between visibility, accessibility, popularity, usability and measurability.

Visibility is about being foundin search-engine results and also on sites such as nzherald.co.nz.

There are three ways of being found:

  • Naturally and for free in search engine results.
  • People naturally linking to your site (perhaps by word of mouth or email).
  • Paid online advertising, including pay-per-click ads, banner ads, text link advertising and sponsorship deals.

When I started in internet marketing in 1995 I was promised I would know where every dollar was spent and where every dollar was generated online.

The internet is highly accountable and indeed this is very true — if you make use of the ability.

Measurability is key to understanding how each of your online channels is performing; that is what profitable retailers do. Marketers need to measure the number of times messages are seen, number of clicks and return on investment. A common misconception is that keeping on-brand is only about the look and feel of the site. Many websites of this type force all text into images, thus preventing search engines from accessing the words. Don’t get me wrong, I love animated sites, but creating a whole site that way is not doing the client any favours. It’s all mouth and no trousers.

Websites that do not take usability into account, saying to purchase tickets from this site you may need to install the Macromedia Flash Player, do not deserve to be in business. Marketers need to remember that offline marketing activity influences what people search for online.

If a company spends millions of dollars on television, print, radio and outdoor advertising but forgets to technically optimise its website and make branded and related non-branded words available to search engines, then it is opening itself up to competitors taking advantage of the marketplace generated online by their own advertising investment.

Website technologies have their place and, when used correctly, can help visitors and search engines alike. I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little and declare the sky is falling should you not create a well-balanced site, but you are missing out on the chance to maximise your online brand exposure if practical e-marketing is ignored.

Jacqui Jones is a search and online marketing consultant at Netconcepts, an online marketing specialist, focusing on web design, website optimisation, email marketing and e-commerce consultancy.