What Your Webmaster Won't Tell You

By Carl Weiss

If you have a website, then you know your webmaster has the power of life or death over it.  You probably also know that he or she speaks in tongues, where terms like “Link Equity,” “SERPS,” and “Meta Tags,” have a meaning all their own.  In today’s blog, I will part the curtain and allow you to take a look at what the wizard of the web knows that you don’t.  I will also endeavor to show you what you need to know if you want your web presence to be more than a billboard in the desert. 

Who’s On First?

The term “Webmaster” is somewhat nebulous, since the creation, optimization and control of your website can actually take anywhere from 1 to 3 individuals. 
Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

1.      Web Designer – There are two flavors of web designer.  The first and best is an online marketer who understands that the look of your website needs to take a backseat to the functionality of your website.  A marketing-centric web designer starts by determining what it is you wish your site to accomplish (generate leads, generate calls, or sell directly from the site).  Then he or she will build the vehicle that is designed to generate the desired result. 

The second type of designer is more or less a glorified graphic artist who is mostly interested in the look of the site.  This type of designer will show you graphically intense designs that are beautiful, that most often don’t generate results.  (If you see a lot of rotating images and morphing graphics, this indicates the use of either Java (which the search engines hate) or Flash (which the search engines hate even more than Java).

2.      Search Engine Optimizer – It helps if your web designer understands the ins and outs of SEO.  If not, then you will be forced to hire an optimizer to help you sell your site to the search engines.  This will entail having a conversation with a person that will spout all kinds of arcane jargon in order to describe what it is they need to do to make your website search engine friendly.  (This is another reason to hire a designer that is ready, willing and able to take care of this during the design phase.)

Courtesy commons.wikimedia.org
Unless you want to bring your techno babble/English dictionary with you when you meet with your SEO pro, I suggest you find a firm that can explain in plain English what it is they are going to do for you and how often they intend on doing it.  For the most part you should only need to optimize your on-page assets once.  Anyone who tries to sell your ongoing SEO services other than link building is wasting your money.

3.      Website Hosting and Updating – There are a number of “Webmasters” that only provide hosting and updating of your website.  If this is the case you need to be cognizant of the fact that should you need to make a change to your website, you will first need to go through your web designer who will then need to motivate your webmaster to grant him or her access to make the desired change.  You may also be required to pay both of these individuals to make said change.  Obviously the best solution is to hire an individual or firm who can do all this at once instead of by committee.

Webmasters are a throwback to a time when it required a skilled IT professional to manage the server that contained your website.  This is no longer the case since nearly all servers are now cloud based.  This makes it doubly galling when you submit a change order to a webmaster and he or she sits on a job for days that literally takes a couple of minutes to accomplish. 

What’s on Second?

Once your website is up and running, you next need to register it with search engines and directories. 
image courtesy of flickr.com
You can either do this manually or you can hire a firm to do this for you.  Again, there are professionals who will offer to perform this time consuming service.  The devil, however, is in the details.  That the task needs to be accomplished is obvious.  If you don’t register with search engines and directories your website will never get found.  The trick is to 

get your site or sites registered with as many search engines and directories as possible without breaking the bank.  (Working the Web to Win offers a search engine push package that will register a site on 100 directories for $300.)

Once your site(s) registered on scads of search engines and directories the traffic will start rolling in, right?  WRONG. Even a perfectly optimized site registered on 100 high quality search engines and directories will not prove sufficient to generate significant traffic all by itself.  Why?  That’s because the game of generating search engine position has gotten a lot more complicated in the past few years.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com
Prior to 2005, all you needed to do to generate high ranking on the search engines was create an optimized website and register your site with the search engines.  The search engines would then send their spiders to analyze your site and determine its rank. That’s literally all there was to it.  Today on-page SEO only accounts for 25% of ranking criteria, the other 75% is comprised of off-site assets, such as blogs, social networks, videos, images and podcasts.  More crucially, not only do you need to create, publish and distribute this online content, you have to do so consistently.  Simply having a Facebook or Twitter feed on your site isn’t enough.  You also need to grow and engage your following.  The same is true of your blogs, videos and podcasts. 

Add to this the fact that the search engine spiders can not only read, but understand your website, blogs and social posts and you can see why generating ranking today is a huge undertaking.  I refer to the Internet as the elephant in the room.  Everybody knows it’s there, but nobody is prepared to talk about it.  As search engine spiders continue to evolve, you need to understand that your success online comes down to a popularity contest.  The spiders award their favors to websites that create and engage the biggest audience.  Therefore, you need to either assign the task of feeding the elephant to several staffers, or you need to outsource the task to a company that will put a team at your disposal to get the task done.  (No single human being is capable of handling all these tasks.  It takes a team.)

I Don’t Know Who’s on Third

The other three factors you need to take into consideration if you hope to prevail are geotargeting, mobile marketing and reputation management.

The Internet is no longer a World Wide Wad.  It is now not only possible, but desirable to geotarget your online assets to attract the best audience.  This is done embedding geographic information in all your online assets.  Before you go about creating or retooling a website, you first need to define who and where your best customers are located.  There is a big difference between creating a website for say a chiropractor that will have a reach of 10 miles from his or her location, to a company that needs to market to a regional or national scope.  Today geotargeting can be employed to narrow your scope to as little as an individual neighborhood.

The first thing you should do is register your business with Google Local and create a Google Map.  Since Google controls more than two thirds of all traffic in this country, the more Google friendly you become, the better your chances of success.  Even better is the fact that once created, you can embed your Google map right on your homepage.  This is another important thing to do if you hope to convert traffic into customers.  Nobody wants to search your site to find out where you are located.  Since people spend less than 2 minutes on your website, it is vital you give them everything they need to make a buying decision as quickly as possible.  Gone are the days when a web surfer would click around your site to check you out.  Today the next click you hear will be them going back to where they found you to check out somebody else.

This is also why it is vital you put your best foot forward in a hurry.  This requires video.  If your current website is composed of a bunch of stock images, what does this tell prospects about your company?  Nothing.  If you want to entice prospects to take the next step they need to know what you are all about.  Since you only have 2 minutes or less to accomplish this task, an intro video that shows who you are, what makes you special and why a prospect should take the next step is vital to your success.  It is also vital that the video be located prominently on your homepage, not buried below the fold.

Even better is a second video that shows satisfied customers extolling your virtues.  Like it or not, the biggest obstacle to converting clicks into cash is credibility.  Video testimonials are the ultimate credibility builder.  That and lots of reviews on Google will not only help you seal the deal, but it is a great way to create Google Juice.  When we shoot video testimonials for us or our clients, we routinely take the person being interviewed over to Google Maps to post a review as soon as the video is complete.  Once you get 10 reviews four red stars will also appear next to your listing which helps you separate yourself from the herd once you make it to page 1 on Google.

Getting Mobilized
Image courtesy of linkedin.com
This brings us to the last and currently most important requirement for generating traction with Google: Mobile.  Several months back, Google made it a requirement for websites to be “mobile-friendly.”  This means that if your website is not designed to reconfigure itself to tablets and smartphones, your chances of getting on page 1 are nil.  To see if your site makes the grade, simply do a search for it on any smartphone.  If the page doesn’t change shape to accommodate the platform it is definitely time you did a site makeover.  Make sure your web designer is using a dynamic language such as HTML 5.  If not, you will need to redo the redo.

What’s It All About?

Unless you have to means to hire an in-house online marketing team that has what it takes to create and distribute content to Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube on a continual basis, you need to find a firm you can trust to outsource your online destiny if you hope to make your web presence work for you.  If not, you will find yourself at more and more of a disadvantage as your competitors reap the rewards online and eat up more market share.  Because the biggest thing you need to understand online is this, “If you are not coming up on page 1 of the search engines and your competition is, does that help or hurt your business?”

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio   

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