Captive to Google.. blog post hero image

Captive to Google..

Some random thoughts when planning our recovery from the huge ranking drop we suffered recently. When thinking about the best strategy and how to achieve this I found myself asking an even more fundamental question, why?

I seems to me we are, really because we let ourselves be, hostages of Google and it's mantra that being on the first page is everything, so is it really? Let's take a look.

Firstly, any site owner is totally at the whim of Google, and it's algorithms, at any time a change to these algorithms can send you plunging off the rankings and into "oblivion". Next Google lays strict "guidelines" as to what it looks for, and what it penalises. For example if Google considers a site to have "thin content" it may penalise it, now what exactly is "thin content"? Basically not enough words on the page. This regardless of whether the page has actually said all it needs to, and regardless of whether the images on the page say more than the actual words. This means a race to add often meaningless and repetitive content just to fill the page and create the "right" number of words.

Next, modern animation techniques and even page building is often conducted either within javascript which is then rendered on the page or by applying javascript to an element. For example a lot of split animated text effects are created by splitting words into their individual elements such as <div>6</div><div>9</div><div>D</div><div>e</div><div>s</div> etc etc. I am sure you get the picture. Now Google does not see this as a word, instead discounting this as a series of unrelated letters. The viewer however sees a nice animation which hopefully goes towards creating a favourable opinion of the site. Taking this further many sites are created almost solely in and by javascript which then renders the page, how do search engines see these, not well. Javascript is used often to create seamless page transitions, image and text effects, etc etc. Usually at odds with what Google looks for.

So as I see it today it boils down to one of two choices or a compromise.

  1. Create a site for Google, stuffed full of "rich content" looks play a secondary role, content is everything.
  2. Create a whizzy animated cutting edge technology site which hopefully will impress visitors and create the conditions for further investigation/contact whatever and run the risk of the wrath of Google.
  3. Compromise, try to please both sides of the divide which is probably what most do, and spend your time on a tightrope between displeasing Google and creating indifference in your site visitors, with the chances of course of falling off at any time.

Now some sites do benefit from 1. above, sites such as purely informative sites, e-commerce and news sites for example, masses of content, where the visitor and potential client wants information and wants it easily and quickly. To some extent escort agencies and massage parlours also fall into this category, albeit they still need to create the right "feel" and identity for their business.

However things are different for the independent, sites tend to be small "thin content" type pages with snippets of information, profile, fees etc coupled with a picture or pictures. These types of sites also need to establish a strong visual identity and stand out from their competitors, in other words ideal candidates for 2. above.

Of course blogs can help here, a regular blog allows sites to build up relevant content posted consistently.

One big plus for escort related sites is their ability to be listed on various niche directories, and to market themselves on industry related forums and message boards which can be an effective counterbalance to Googles' dominance.

So where does that leave 69Design and the advice we give to clients?

On the client side we discuss the various strategies, chasing ranking is problematic often, especially for small independent sites, and while basic recommendations such as correct title tags descriptions and structured content should be followed, there is no guarantee of success in an overcrowded market fighting for the same keywords, and no guarantee that even if you achieve 1st page ranking it can be sustained when Google decide to up end everything So, be aware of Googles preferences, don't chase ranking obsessively and look at other avenues of exposure.

For 69Design honestly I am undecided, I have never been one to follow convention, and I am tempted to say just ignore rankings and instead produce the most visually impressive site I can hopefully creating a look that potential clients will appreciate both the overall effect and skills needed to produce it, and therefore trust us with their online presence. I can make this choice because I understand the implications, is it right for everyone? Absolutely not.

Realistically I probably will aim for 3. above, with the emphasis on the visual impact but with at least a nod to Googles' "recommendations". I will probably stop checking or worrying about rankings and be more active within industry forums and message boards. Google is quite a small source of enquiries for us, the time and effort it receives though is way out of proportion to the benefits it provides and I for one am seriously  questioning why I continue to play their games.

We will see.

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