Why You Don't Rank on Search Engines

  |  October 20, 2008   |  Comments

The two main reasons your site doesn't rank well on the search engines.

There are two main reasons your site doesn't rank well on the search engines:

Your business model is flawed or ill-conceived. And your Web site is garbage.

The ranking problem is just as simple as that in so many cases. It's not about the code or crawling or server issues. Fact is, you're probably not being honest with yourself and hoping some technical miracle can help.

I frequently find myself in the awkward situation of trying to keep my client happy while having to tell her that her baby is ugly and unpopular.

I spent last week in New Orleans at the WebmasterWorld conference, I discovered something very strange going on. Not only is black hat SEO (define) alive and well, it's actually producing some pretty good business models.

It's easy to believe the average spammer is some back-bedroom coder pummelling search engines with worthless pages in a brute-force effort to rank on a given term. However, I found myself discussing the dark side of the industry with one very smart guy in particular. He now controls an entire business sector online. Search engines may not approve of the type of tactics we discussed, but, fundamentally, the business model he strategically developed is as slick as it gets online.

So it's quite astonishing when I discuss genuine reasons a client's pages aren't ranking, and she just doesn't get the fact the answer is not in the code. It's in the business model and the way she promotes herself online.

I ask clients to be very honest about whether they believe they have a business concern online or just a Web site. If we discover they truly have a genuine business that can differentiate itself, we look at the Web site.

This process hurts a lot of the time. The most important aspect of ranking at search engines is about getting good, solid links around your Web pages. You can only achieve that if your content is strong enough to induce it.

Ask yourself, "Why would anyone want to link to my site?" Be brutal. Write down as many reasons as you can about why other sites should link to you. If you can't convince yourself another site would want to link to you, you seriously need to question what your value proposition is and how your site promotes it (or not, as the case may be).

There's a lot of clever technical stuff you can do to Web pages to make crawling and indexing them easier. But it's fruitless if you can't convince yourself that anyone would want to link to them.

The other important part of link building relies heavily on whether other site owners know you exist in the first place. This seems like a chicken-or-the-egg thing when applied to search marketing. There's a method to get around this: advertising.

Since about 1999, I've been buying text ads in newsletters in just about every niche vertical you can imagine. Not only have those ads generated much needed awareness and traffic, those that are archived online still provide excellent, mature link equity.

Having said that, although buying text ads in hundreds of newsletters and e-zines isn't usually that expensive, there's not much point it if your baby really is ugly and unpopular.

Mike is off this week. Today's column ran earlier on ClickZ.

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Mike Grehan

Mike Grehan is Publisher of Search Engine Watch and ClickZ and Producer of the SES international conference series. He is the current president of global trade association SEMPO, having been elected to the board of directors in 2010.

Formerly, Mike worked as a search marketing consultant with a number of international agencies, handling such global clients as SAP and Motorola. Recognized as a leading search marketing expert, Mike came online in 1995 and is author of numerous books and white papers on the subject. He is currently in the process of writing his new book "From Search To Social: Marketing To The Connected Consumer" to be published by Wiley in 2013.

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