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SEO - Cleaning things upSo, most of you probably don’t know much about what goes into doing websites directly or how we go about optimizing them for search or such. Then again, if you’re showing up HERE, maybe you do. Regardless, I’ve been on the creation side of the web for over 20 years now. I’ve seen good, bad and everything in between. I have turned OUT good, bad and everything in between in that time period LOL – we all start somewhere.  We don’t turn out bad intentionally, but at different times, creativity may have run a little shy, time may have run a little shy – or a client’s BUDGET may have run a little shy. You don’t build the Taj Mahal with a doublewide budget – and we’ve seen a lot of double and even “single-wide” budget clients in the last 20 years.

That said, there are certain things that need to be done.  There are certain tenets to a good website construction – for RANKING. And what I see out of a LOT of shops – and, unfortunately, devs that are out there, is NOTHING but “pretty pictures” in the site.  It drives me absolutely crazy. A well-done site will have a nice combination of design (or at least a catchy design), good and reasonably thorough content, and a solid structure. In a well-designed site, these images will ALSO load quickly and will be appropriate to the project. We’re going to cover these topics across at least a couple of articles.

Bad Website Structure – Everywhere

I’ve got one “under the knife” now that was done by an UpWork person for one of my clients. The potential client asked me back in December if I could help him. I really didn’t have time, so he pressed on with his Upwork contractor. Who turned out a nightmarish site as far as being rankable. Looks great on the surface, but so many things were done wrong. Now we’re working on SEO for him as of last month. While we’ve made progress with them, it really is going to require some remedial work. It honestly is such a mess that I’m not sure if I’ll be able to fix it without rebuilding it elsewhere and moving content across.

We just took on another project. The guy has done great work – but as I feared, he spent his time on pretty pictures. It’s going to look GREAT – except I guarantee it won’t ever be found – unless I go back and do a whole LOT of retrofitting.  And I’m going through it and getting more and more irritable. Pretty site – it really is. But several poor choices were made. A bad choice here or there is not the end of the site, but more than a few makes ranking any website harder than it should be.  When you put pretty over SEO, you likely you will end up with a client down the road asking “WHY is this site not ranking? It’s so pretty!” Now, bearing in mind THAT is my normal role, guess who’s going to get those questions?  Yup – me.  The first thing I have to tell people?  “Pretty has NOTHING to do with your rankings. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Not. A. Single. Thing.”  People do expect to usually see some level of competence, and pretty may help in conversions, but getting them TO the site is important in all considerations.   So what does “me” have to go fix first? Poor design/development work.  I may have a month or two to get around to it, but until poor onsite work is corrected, the rankings will NOT be what they should be.

Quick things to look out for on YOUR site

Domain Names – Naming Your Site

While your domain name doesn’t need to reflect the specific business name, it does help at times. Having your domain match your company name can increase your branding presence immensely.  BUT, it does not have to.  If you happen to be “officially” something like “Zimmerman’s Old Stuff and Grandmother’s Attic Antiques”, you might just want to go with something that’s a little more pointed and direct – and a whole LOT shorter.  Maybe “ZAntiques.TLD” – which is ALSO a PMD that we discuss below.  NOBODY will ever type the OFFICIAL name in without fat-fingering it.  That’s the branded and semi-branded approach.

Full Branded – as in the above example, you can create a shorter branded name for your site like JUST “zimmermans.tld” – but that gives NO indication of what you are, what you do or any other indications as to what would be found on this site. It certainly does NOT provide any influential keywords to the domain. If you ARE well-known or have a whole lot of OTHER marketing going on where people will immediately recognize the name, then go for it.  A good example would be Lowes.com. It doesn’t provide any indication what the name is about, but when you see commercials left and right on TV, you see Jimmy Johnson’s NASCAR ride every week with a big “Lowe’s” splattered across the hood, newspaper flyers, radio ads, etc – it’s fine.

There are a couple other options – exact match domains (EMDs) and partial match domains (PMDs).  If it’s NOT an exact match domain (EMD) name, then at least get one or two target keywords IN the domain name.  In the above example, we have “antiques” in our above example – which is a highly searched keyword.  What is REALLY behind an EMD is to get the MOST searched term as your domain name. You will have a natural leg up on the competition if your domain name (and thus whole site) is shaded by a strong EMD or even PMD choice. If the most commonly searched term for antiques in Raleigh NC is “antique stores raleigh nc”, there is NOTHING stopping you from selecting the domain name “antiquestoresraleighnc.tld” as YOUR new domain name.  (NOTE – this is for example only. I didn’t run and do a check on searches for it. Dont’ base your domain choice on something non-specific to YOUR situation that you read on a blog entry…)

Location Location Location

A lot of things are going to be location specific. If I’m searching for a place to go look at antiques in the Raleigh market, I really am NOT interested in someplace selling antiques in Reno NV. To further target your market – if you are going to use any type of matching domain, then you MIGHT want to include a location – either a state, city or area.  For the fictional Zimmermans, we might go with TriangleAntiques.tld, RaleighAntiques.tld or NCAntiques.tld. OR a combination of all of the above – ZAntiquesRaleigh.com – for example.

Go for the gusto with a SERIOUS EMD

Or you can even flat out FORGET the branding and go straight for the jugular with an EMD ONLY name.  Other things that can be good are selecting keyword rich domains – like “raleighplumbingrepair.com” would have a REAL headstart on ranking for the “raleigh plumbing repair” market.  Not long ago, the exact match domains seemed to get dinged a bit.  Everyone was charging to “branded” domains. Like my company name is “Lizardwebs.”  While the word “web” is in there, web is really secondary to what we normally do. To use an exact match domain (EMD), we might go with the “RaleighSEO.TLD” or “SEO-Raleigh.TLD” or something like that.

How about the domain extension – the TLD?

Trying out “designer” TLDs – never suggested. Particularly if you don’t have a young “hip” audience. The TLDs that everyone knows and recognizes are .com, .net and .org.  Some that have been around for a few years now are being seen such as the .co domain TLD. I have had great success with .co domains – and that’s about as far as I have personally taken it.  I don’t anticipate Google dinging oddball TLDs, but people themselves WILL have a problem with it – but not the problem you think.

The site we just got in, the developer threw the idea of using a “.clinic” as the TLD for a new doctor’s site. Now initially, if it were such a good idea, wouldn’t the front page be littered with doctor’s offices with the .clinic TLD?  I can’t find any on SEVERAL searches even in very low competition areas.  Secondarily, “clinic” in my mind is more often associated with “low cost” type healthcare services – as in “low income health clinics”.  A search in the Raleigh area immediately turns up “Free Clinics Raleigh NC ” – which is NOT the focus of this particular practice.

While that is clever and all, bearing in mind the doctor’s clientele is older, they will NOT know what to do with that TLD.  “Our site? Just go to myname dot clinic” will be the instructions.  What will the person do?  They will type in “myname.clinic.com”.  This might be good a few years from now when people understand that there are other domain names besides .com, .net and .org – maybe.  A lot of users still choke on MY domain name being a .net, say NOTHING about one of the domain name TLDs that no one has really heard before… Go over to NameCheap and take a look at a BUNCH of new TLDs that I’m sure you’ve NEVER heard of before.

Sadly, even if an idea is poor, once a client gets in their mind that something is a good idea, it’s hard to change their mind.  We’ll let it go for a while and use it as a test case.  One of those cases where once you let the genie out of the bottle, you just CAN’T get it back in.

The NEXT article will cover more about what these two sites have in common and what we’ll do to get them ready for SEO love