Newfangled works with independent agencies to create lead development web platforms for their clients.

Newfangled works with independent agencies to create lead development web platforms for their clients.

Don't Put the Cart Before the Horse!

at 1:00 pm

I've been finding myself having the same conversations repeatedly in the past few months, usually prompted by a client wondering why some service they're using doesn't recognize a particular element of their site. In most cases its usually a matter of a third-party SEO-related service (like grader.com) not "seeing" their blog, H1/2/3 tags, inbound links, etc. Of course, the simple answer, as it would be with any third-party tool, is that we cannot guarantee the performance of a tool we didn't build, nor can we guarantee that what we did build will perform according to that third-party tool's standards. (This is the same kind problem we see when new browsers are released and sites build before break when viewed in them.) But I think there is a more nuanced answer to these kinds of issues that can be summarized by that old maxim, "don't put the cart before the horse." If you've just built a new site, before you worry about how your site looks to a service like grader.com, be sure to consider the following (this doesn't pertain to people with existing sites that are wanting to prepare for a rebuild process by figuring out weaknesses of your site):

1. Focus on your content: Without content, there is no point in having any third-party tool evaluate your site. Remember, content is your site. Without content on your actual site (embedded content from elsewhere doesn't count), there is nothing for a search engine to see- it's as if you have no site at all. Until you've developed a content strategy and actually implemented it for a few months, don't get too worried about using other services and/or consultants to evaluate your SEO. Also be sure to really spend some time creating valuable meta data.

2. Focus on your information architecture: This really goes hand-in-hand with content, but the structure of your site is extremely important to how users find and interact with your content. Also, information architecture decisions can affect SEO; if you have critical content that can only be reached by querying your database and retrieving results, search engines will not index that content. You'll need to build in another way to link to that content in your navigation. Otherwise, it's as if it's not even there. Sure, a third-party tool like grader.com can tell you this, but you should address issues like these long before you start "grading" your site.

3. Focus on calls to action: The primary goal for most of our clients' sites is to generate leads, or in other words, marketing (as apposed to e-commerce). But if all you've got is one, generic contact form, don't expect a ton of good results. You've got to make your calls to action clear and specific. Take a look at Mark's post about CTA's as well as my earlier post about Newfangled's CTA stats.

After doing these three things- then, and only then, focus on promoting your content via social media, evaluating your content in terms of SEO, and analyzing your web traffic statistics.

Here's a great post I saw on the topic of holding off on social media and focusing on your website first.

Comments

Chris Butler | April 23, 2009 11:10 AM
Ted,

I think you're misreading me. I'm not saying that it's as simple as 1+2+3=success. What I'm saying is that before you get too concerned about things like search engine optimization and social media marketing, you should first address basic issues of content and information architecture. Of course, doing this takes a lot of work, which is probably the missing variable in your equation.

Chris
Ted | April 20, 2009 8:52 PM
What a shame, another 1 + 2 + 3 = success post. Too bad it's not that simple. We're all just riding a wave that won't last forever. Even Google won't, and all of us who wasted all our energy doing things Google's way will regret it.
Chris Butler | April 15, 2009 10:33 PM
Jason,

Thanks for reading, and for your comment. The only thing I can say in response is that if I didn't run in to this so frequently, I probably wouldn't have written the post. I hope it was helpful.

Chris
Jason | April 15, 2009 8:06 AM
This is a good point- I'm constantly having to manage the expectations of my coworkers who seem to always expect the latest web 2.0 widget to be integrated with out site the moment they find out about it.

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