Ask the SEO expert: Your website is more than a validation tool

Company websites are ubiquitous. (If you don’t believe me, try running a client-service business without one.) However, not all websites are created equal.

As part of a client project, I recently examined the websites of several of the client’s principal competitors and their content. I must say, I found the results somewhat surprising. It was clear that for some of these companies the website was an obligatory exercise, and they weren’t doing themselves many favors with what they were offering.

The crimes were varied but noticeable. In some cases content was misidentified or linked to the wrong item; in other cases it just wasn’t relevant to the target audience. Such neglect reinforces the notion that these companies only see a web presence as a sort of necessary evil, not a valuable tool to communicate the company’s identity and better serve prospective and existing clients. Even the companies with better websites—aesthetically pleasing, with high-quality content—were updating that content very infrequently, leading to an appearance of staleness.

These companies are not only missing a significant opportunity to distinguish themselves in the marketplace but, on occasion, rather than enhancing their brands might be tarnishing them. Increasingly, your website is the face of your organization, and if that face is marred by poor design, a lack of quality content, outdated information, broken links, or nonintuitive features, it’s not likely to make a good first impression.

That is, if you even get a chance to make a first impression. While a thoughtful and diligent approach to your website could help draw prospects to your business, allowing your site to stagnate could penalize you from a search engine optimization (SEO) standpoint, preventing potential prospects from ever finding you online.

I spoke with our favorite SEO expert, Rod Holmes of Chicago Style SEO, about what companies should do to attract a target audience to their website. He said it’s actually quite simple: regularly update your content.

“There’s definitely part of the (Google news feed) algorithm having to do with freshness,” Holmes said. Beyond the news feed, though, it’s generally believed that regular updating of content is something Google’s algorithm views favorably in a basic search. And “regular updating” doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds, according to Holmes.

Depending on the site and the nature of the business, “regular” updates needn’t be daily. In fact, Holmes’ said his company updates its blog once or twice a month, “and we’re still ranked very, very well for a lot of competitive key words…so frequency is probably relative, and it may not be as often as you think. But having new content on your site is a good thing.”

There are also techniques that can help maximize the impact of those occasional, but regular, updates. Linking new blog posts to older ones is one such tactic, Holmes said. “One of the things that we encourage people to do is write content that they can internally link to older blog posts,” he said. “If you’re linking back to that six-month-old blog post, Google sees that link, follows it back to that older post and says ‘Ah, that old post is still relevant.'”

The takeaway: It’s essential to remember that creating a website is just the first step to realizing its value as a tool to promote your company and expertise. Failure to put thought and effort into your website is at best a missed opportunity. Worse, it can send a message to your audience—your clients and prospects—that you just don’t care.

Rodd Zolkos

Rodd is an editorial director at Leff Communications. Prior to joining Leff, Rodd spent more than 35 years as a working journalist, including time with daily newspapers, community journalism, and the business press. Follow Rodd on Twitter @RoddZolkos.

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