HOW TO BUILD A WEBSITE IN 2018
THE ENVIRONMENT: BETTER. FASTER. CHEAPER.
Basic services for websites and digital marketing are a better value than ever before. Sites are more powerful, easier to deploy, more DIY-ish, integrate business process and operations, plus are cheaper to create. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other whiz-bang innovations will lower the costs of ad optimization and put advanced capabilities within reach of even non-technical users.
AND, HIGHER EXPECTATIONS
It is also true that, as of 2017, there are 1.8 Billion websites in the world. Not too long ago, search engines seemed like the hippy mom who would nourish your boisterous teenage self, no matter how lazy you were. Things have changed. Today, your website (and all of us) work for Google, which is becoming a full-fledged Tiger Mom.
Tiger Mom’s love is conditional and comes with expectations. Namely, keeping or improving your search rank means embarking on disciplined efforts to create value for searchers. Google and the other engines want you to be an active publisher of high quality content, which means the days of set-it-and-forget-it digital marketing are over. Tiger Mom also wants you to go all-in on the semantic web.
Google’s sustainable competitive advantage delivers the most relevant search results to 40,000 web queries per second. Providing a high-quality / low risk customer experience at scale is one of the ways it protects searchers. This is vital to a revenue model that sells ads, retail goods, web and other services.
Everything matters. The first position of Google’s search results gets about 33% of all organic search clicks. The second gets about 15%. The third gets 9% and the whole first page gets 75% of all organic search traffic. Frequently, customers for whom I have just built a new website want to know how long before they’re on the first page of search. That used to be possible. Now, anyone who says they can give new sites first page rankings quickly or easily is lying to you.
Top page rank is probably the most competitive thing in the world. Google doesn’t want new sites to rise fast because scams tried to game a fast rise it in the past. New websites won’t even be fully crawled for three months, much less top ranked. If you’re E-Commerce or make any health claims, expect the rise to be slower still. Even if I have built-in everything Google wants, Tiger Mom always wants more.
The old normal was that search engines rewarded basic things. With 1.8 Billion websites, multiple good search results are out there. It follows that engines would begin to reward things that are harder-to-do. Pushing greater expectations back onto website owners is how search separates the men from the boys.
HOW TO RISE
When I estimate website costs, if I include all the things websites actually need to rise the bid looks too expensive and I don’t get the project. Consequently, few developers bid this way, but more damagingly leave the impression they have created sites that are end-to-end optimized. I disclose everything customers will and won’t get, but I’m more the exception than the rule. After your basic website is up that meets the requirements for 2018 and you’re creating valuable content, here is how to rise:
PLAY THE LONG GAME
It is now incumbent on websites to create enough value that search sends people to your useful, high-value content. With 1.8 Billion websites and 200+ elements of Google’s algorithmic ranking, there is no single easy path. Do what you can do consistently.
Anyone who makes claims to growth hacking or undetectable Black Hat rank jumping or gaming anything should come with the warning that these methods could get you put into Google jail for a very long time. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. That said, there may be opportunities to leapfrog over legacy competitors. Putting real energy into the content of your pages and telling the web exactly who you are, what you do, what you sell and to whom these results will be relevant.
This could earn you “Position Zero” in search, which is another name for a “rich snippet”. It is the search result that appears inside a templated box, positioned above ads and other search results. This is, of course, not guaranteed. Snippets usually come from already ranked sites. But, you create the conditions for it by using Structured Data SEO (from www.Schema.org). The latest from Google hints that Structured Data is now a ranking factor. Even if you don’t get the box, this advanced SEO is a valued quality marker. And, around December 15th or 2017, sites not using Structured Data got demoted in normal search.