One of the questions we get asked all the time is ‘what could we do to make our website better’? In many cases the answer is fairly simple as so many sites have been built with little or no thought for the end user, so simple navigations missing or quick links to the content you really want people to read are easy to put right. In some cases we look at ecommerce shops that are impossible to navigate or expect you to remember the third letter in your second
child’s middle name. Sound familiar?
The good news is that help is at hand from Google who have provided this helpful checklist on their blog. Take a look at their suggestions for a better website and see if anything here rings true for you?
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
Now, great though this checklist is there are inherent limitations in this approach. Firstly it rather precludes innovation in that if you think you’ve found a new way of doing something or presenting it then there will be a reluctance to go down that route as Google may not like it and rank it. Indeed we looked at a beautifully built site recently whose approach was entirely visual and relied on end users seeing the effects to and it simply didn’t appear in the search engine results for the main keywords as it was built in flash.
Secondly, if you are a local builder who specialises in building walls then there’s only so much you can say about this. How can you differentiate your wall building services from someone else who builds walls? The pages you write on the subject are hardly likely to be the ‘recognised authority’ on the subject and so you are never going to rank that highly. In fact so many small businesses fall into this trap that they are almost forever doomed to languish below page one.
In fact this particular circumstance probably describes well the second bullet point on Google’s list in that most local service websites are ‘shallow’ in their content and do nothing to add to the general knowledge on the internet.
And thereby hangs the rub. Google’s position seems to be that it wants websites to add to the sum of human knowledge rather than be ‘me too’ impersonators, but in the real world that can never happen. If you have three local builders who all do the same thing how can they differentiate themselves? And indeed why should they have to just to please Google’s algorithm? In reality these people will rely heavily on their good reputation to get work but it will be essential that they are found by people searching locally for them. Currently if you search for a local tradesperson the front page is crammed with aggregators who simply don’t add any value to the search process; they’re just better at optimisation and have deeper pockets. All the traditional offline directories do this, as so many of the newer online ones and as they continue to proliferate then more and more local businesses are being turned off.
Whilst Google struggles with its interminable battle to bring the world a set of perfect search results they are in danger of letting the big prize slip from their grasp as more and more businesses revert to traditional offline methods to build their businesses.