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Happy end of October everyone! Yes, it’s almost time for that holiday, Halloween. With that particular holiday comes the ever-popular, trick or treat metaphor.

So, how is your website doing this Halloween?

Got Trick?

What I will call a trick/weak website, is one where it’s not ranking where you need to be and often for fairly predictable reasons.  It is not “solid.”  What do we mean by solid?  We mean when you search for it, there are no traces of the company any OTHER place besides that website.  No links from reputable places, local organizations, no Facebook business page, no twitter account, no other references, etc. Usually very few incoming links period. It’s usually lacking in reviews on any sites – except maybe some directly on the site itself – which may or may NOT be a little suspect.  It usually is not going to rank that broadly or well.

Your bad content

Content can often be thin – like 100 or 200 words. Something that we have to chuckle about and I’ve mentioned here before… If you’ve had a “web designer” or “web developer” do your site and not someone with an eye on SEO, review your content.  We’ve got websites before that have been straight lifted from OTHER websites.  Sometimes this is NOT a complete death sentence. We did do one site for a franchise in which the doctor insisted that content should be pulled directly from the parent site. We did add in some unique content, but it was composed of at least 80% straight copy from the parent site.  It miraculously seems to stay at the top of the SERPs. We’ll come back to this below.

Your bad links

You usually WILL need links to rank. Unless you happen to be in a town of less than 10 competitors for your key phrases, then you probably WILL need to have links pointing to your site to help you rank up higher and on the front page.  Basing it solely on the number of incoming links is a mistake to watch out for though too.   Not all links are created the same.  We’ve seen MANY sites LOADED with incoming links – that struggle to rank in the top 1000.

Where your links originate matters!

If you are the proud owner of a auto repair shop, where WILL you get links?  We are talking about links that are pointing TO your site – not pointing out.  While having some general outgoing links to other sites can show affiliations or to help “frame” your business, they generally will do nothing to increase domain authority or trust as far as the search engines see it.  We want INCOMING links!  So, on your “trick” site,  you have your best buddy’s gym linking to you; you have a link from your local bar, and then top that off with a link from a guy hawking the latest MLM diet fad product that you met at a mixer in Chicago when you were on some sort of weekend shindig  – you’re setting a whole DIFFERENT type of profile.  This kind of profile has NOTHING to do with vehicles and is NOT going to be the best bet to rank you well.

Due to some of these links, you may even find your site getting in hot water with Google and in extreme cases, deindexed.

“Deindexed? what is this ‘deindexed’ of which you speak?” Deindexing most often occurs where there is an egregious flaunting of the rules as they have been laid forth by the supreme masters of the universe, Google.  If you’re a local service business and you seem to have accumulated about 100K backlinks in a month in a town of 1000 – how DOES something like that even HAPPEN?? It’s just outside the realm of believably occurring naturally – and that’s where the problem lies.  See more at “Exceptions to the rules” below…

And now, let’s look at the Treat side of things…

Got Treat?

The treat site – what really DOES comprise a strong site?

Pages should be carrying at least 500 unique words on each page.  Recent studies DO indicate the more the merrier.  Top ranking sites across many searches were reviewed and 1500 words of unique content is NOT a bad thing.  MOST of the top ranking sites were content rich and had given the search engines something to work with – like 1500 words of awesome content. Or at least passable content. SOMETHING that Google can get into!

The Time on Site Angle

As well, having some nice “time on site” boosting things like images, videos, and polls is also a step in the right direction.  Did we mention that embedding videos from your OWN YouTube channel is a plus?  Right off the bat, if you upload them to your own channel, you are creating a footprint for Google to review.  If you have branded images and not just some raw stock photos, you’re adding more and more to that profile.

You may have a nifty poll on your site about something related. Your poll may be even to get more information about a relevant topic that may help you focus your site content better <lightbulb ON>.  Getting a customer to spend a few seconds on a poll will not only increase time on site, which is a plus to Google, but also more actively engages the customer in your site. The more engagement they have, they more likely it is they will end up buying a product or service from you they have in your site.

Your Overall Profile – as Google sees

Have you built out your Twitter account?  You don’t need to be a tweet monster, but you should have an account there and use it with SOME occasion at least.  Ditto on the Facebook business page.  Do you have a link from Yelp?  Do you have your Google MyBusiness page claimed and setup? How about Bing?

Why do you need all of these things?

“I’ve got a website, isn’t that ALL I NEED???”  On a real basic level, yes, that is the basic piece that you need, but…  All of these things are helping to create a profile for the search engines that indicate yes, you ARE here to stay. These little nuances indicate that you are legitimate. Google can trust that your business is real and not some fly-by-night website only. Sort of like “putting down roots” when you move to a new town. If you don’t engage with the new neighbors, you keep your old phone number from out of state, spend all of your time talking about “home” (the last place you lived), etc, you are sending signals that you’re not really a new resident, but may be more of a visitor or traveler passing through for a spell.  Search engines are far more inclined to smile on sites with a verified and documented footprint.

Put down your roots!

Things like multiple credible backlinks referring to your site. Trade organizations, area Chambers of Commerce, Better Business Bureua links, Yelp listings, etc. are all fine indications that you and your business are here to stay.

If you’re setting up your own site, did you think about where you can list your site? Business affiliation sites like professional trade groups are a great way to show and really set in stone what your site is all about. Google does understand relationships.

Where SHOULD a good site get links?

Let’s go back to our auto repair shop example.  IF you have links from a bunch of OTHER auto shops coming into your site and you link OUT to a few similar sites, it would only stand to reason that the site IS vehicle-oriented.  The auto links in though COULD be not just repair shops, but vehicle dealerships, used car lots, body shops, towing places, car parts stores, engine repair shops, transmission shops, etc.  IF it is vehicle oriented, it will fit.

Exceptions to the Rule

If you’ve floated around this world very long, you likely understand that there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule. When it comes to the Google ranking algorithms, there are always going to be sites that do exactly what we do NOT expect.

Ranking great with mostly copied content from another website as mentioned above – We predicted it would fail miserably and were up in arms.  It went to #1 and has stayed there now for about 3 years.

The website that has almost no real content – just ridiculous numbers of the keywords over and over again. Against all logic, the site seems to stick at the top of the heap for target keywords.  Our content follows Google “write for the reader, not the bots” suggestions and is maybe 1.5% up to 4% for local sites. Anything with a 15%+ keyword density, in almost all other cases, usually gets slapped down with a Panda penalty.  This site completely flaunts the rules and does a “nanny, nanny, boo, boo” at you from the top of the SERPs.  How CAN this be??

The oddball little site for a little company in the middle of nowhere that has 100,000 backlinks – and ranks well. If it was a cat video on the page, we could understand it, but… The links are even coming in from horrible, horrible places like pharma and gambling sites – heck we think some of those actually are PHARMA GAMBLING sites – “I’ll raise you two Vicodin and an oxycodone…” – and yet it ranks well. HOW??

Google algorithms are just that – mathematical models based on lots of data. If your site falls too far outside the norms, bad things can happen. Some of these things do just completely amaze us. What we have outlined above in the Trick or treat scenarios are general, best practices recommendations. That doesn’t mean that exceptions, like those above, don’t exist.