If you build it, will they find it?

If you create a website and nobody can see it, does it really exist at all…?

You may not be a technically-minded person, you may not even LIKE tech very much, but you accept that having a website is necessary for your Company. You worked hard to overcome your fears and perhaps preconceptions about what it would take to create a site and now it’s done (and you quite like it) — where are the droves of new enquiries you thought would come flooding in? 

Can’t they see the effort you’ve put in here???

Truth is, new websites don’t even appear in Google results for up to FOUR WEEKS, and even then those who do appear may be several pages down the listings before they begin the long slog to the top of the pile. So what can you do about it?

There are several tricks, tips and myths about the dark art of Search Engine Optimisation you may have heard, but the first thing I want you to know is this: it WILL take time. Unless you pay a blank cheque to Google to instantly appear at the top (in which case you need to be sure you’re not paying to found for your company name, but that’s a whole other article), a brand new site could take weeks to appear at all — and even then its not guaranteed. On the plus side; achieving a good listing in Google will make a difference to the traffic your website sees, and traffic is the first step on the path to more enquires, more conversion and more customers.

With little or no listing though, your site just doesn’t exist in the public eye – or in their mind – and that could spell disaster for your company.

So what does it take to be visible, and is that enough to achieve your website goals?

The first step is to have specific goals in mind for your website in the first instance, as without them you simply cannot measure its success — or the return on your investment. Goals for your website could include some or all of the following:

  • Increased awareness of your company or brand in a specific geographic region
  • Your site appearing on page one of the results for one specific key phrase (you can build on this later by adding more of course, but start with an achievable goal)
  • This one is key (as this is how you’ll measure the effectiveness of those above): new customer enquiries received via the website each week.

Take five minutes to sit down with your chosen web design company before they begin any work on your new website and agree with them what you want the site to achieve and how you’ll measure this. This exercise helps you both to better understand the aims of the project and all reach a result you’re happy with. Remember to make these measurable though; “more enquiries” could mean 2 a week instead of 1 – will that be enough for you?

Then work with your deign agency to identify the best keywords and phrases you’d like the site to be found for. Contrary to some misconceptions, this is not your designer’s job as you know best which key words and phrases you hear from your clients and customers, and only you know when you’d like your site to pop up. It’s your designer / developer’s job to then code these words and phrases into your site effectively to ensure that happens.

Top Tip: ask your agency to look into the most / least popular searches on Google for your industry or profession: you may be surprised to find that what you think people are typing in to find companies like yours and what they actually are, is very different.

Side-note: See here for my article on converting visitors to customers once they HAVE found your site, as that’s the next stage to prepare for.

WAIT! You’ve already built your site and now its too late to implement any of this stuff? Nope, this can all be carried out retrospectively. Though it may require a bit of unpicking of what you already have, don’t worry if you’ve passed the “brand new site” stage – there is still hope!

Like the company we met recently who were nearing the end of their first year of trading in a very specialist field, with little (if any) competition in their local region — yet they’d received NOT ONE single enquiry through their new website in over nine months. Needless to say, the owner was feeling a little less than thrilled with the results achieved by his previous website supplier and thought perhaps there just wasn’t the call for his professional services in the area. He’d reached the point where he actually thought his business was a “non-starter”.

We looked into local searches for his service and found that people WERE looking, but his site didn’t appear at all — probably leaving them as frustrated as he was, as they couldn’t find a local expert. Having identified what this massive potential audience was searching for, we then took over the management of his site and optimised it for these key search terms and phrases, then added clear calls to action throughout the site to further encourage these newly-found website visitors to reach out to him. Yet for all this work and effort, the site itself looked the same to the human eye as we hadn’t changed the design or layout (other than a few buttons here and there) — it was all code magic behind the scenes.

The new website was launched on a Friday and we requested Google “re-index” it to refresh its opinion (for want of a better term!) as to what the website was all about. The following Monday morning we received a call from this VERY happy client to say he’d had his first ever enquiry through the website and had already spoken with the potential new client — who turned out to be a large local authority and exactly the sort of work he was looking for!

So if your website is not performing the way you would like it to, start by asking yourself what that actually looks like. Map out just a few key aims — and how you’ll measure these — and make these as much a part of the build process as choosing the colour you like! If your website arrives on the scene optimised and ready to be easily found in search results and listings, your audience may be just a click away.

About the Author: 

Fiona Allman-Treen is an expert in strategic website design and online software systems to enable sustainable growth for business owners and charities globally. An established presenter and devout believer in encouraging entrepreneurship in young people, Fiona founded Hastings-based web agency FAT promotions Ltd in 2001, creating effective websites and online solutions for a portfolio of international and blue chip clients. She also loves classic cars, red wine and plays the ukulele.

Read Fiona’s latest articles first on LinkedIn.