About a month ago, Google quietly released Hummingbird – a change to the Google search algorithm. Unlike the Panda and Penguin Updates (which only tweaked the existing structure), Hummingbird represents a change to the entire structure of Google’s search engine. The last big change was back in 2010 with the Caffeine release and that was primarily for “a new web indexing system” according to Google’s blog, and was not a variation in the way the search itself performs. Hummingbird IS. Continue reading
My mother sent me a Groupon email this morning. The attached note said “Angela, I thought you would be interested in seeing this.” That’s all it said. The attached Groupon was for a six-page designer website with content and a month of hosting (a $395 value) for $99. It was offered by a company that will remain unnamed.
Visiting that website however was interesting (I know, I know, but working in websites as many years as I have, I couldn’t resist — besides, I had to send my mother SOME type of response, right?)
So the “designers” here create your website and host it with a “complementary” month of uninterrupted service… according to the ad. I go to look at the “website features” and their “portfolio” to discover that there are 25 templates to choose from. Basically they are selling a template site with a month of hosting and calling that a value of 400 bucks. Hmmmmm. Then it gets better…
As a web content writer, and someone who tries to stay abreast of the nuances of organic SEO and content marketing — not to mention the recent changes in Google — I found it amusing that this company (which claims to offer SEO Optimization services) would say the following about this so-called product: “While pre-filled content is generically written to work for most businesses, owners can modify the context to their liking.” Can you say “template site with content identical to every OTHER template site they manage to pawn off on people?” I can.
Oh, and after the first month, they will charge you a standard service fee of $19.95 per month for hosting. Oh, and you have to bring your own domain name for them to activate the site.
Crunching the Numbers
So, let me get this “deal” straight… they want $99 up front, plus you to bring your own domain name (let’s call that $10 more… unless you go with one of those wretched domain resellers that charges upwards of $30 per year for a simple .com) and you will need to come up with your own content (because we all know how Google blocks sites with duplicate content – and that “pre-filled content…generically written to work for most businesses” is a total lie.) Then they want to charge you twenty MORE bucks a month for hosting. So the total bill for a year of website with their “deal” costs you $330.
Comparing the Options
Cheaper Themes: Better CMS (Content Management System): Compare that to buying a premium theme for WordPress (great ones can be had for $0-$100). Sure, some cost more — but if we take the median on that and call it $50 you can find pretty much anything you want or need).
It’s also worth noting that the default theme for WordPress is so flexible and customizable that it’s phenomenal. I’ve used some really nice FREE themes (although you have to be careful with those). Oh, and the premium themes (some of them) are already optimized and have fantastically clean code for better SEO.
Bottom line: WordPress can cost whatever will fit into your budget… from nothing to pricy and you get to choose.
No Limitations: With an open-source WordPress based theme, you aren’t limited to six pages… you aren’t limited to anything. I’ve got over ten years worth of blogs and information here on WickedBlog and not ONCE has anything tried to limit me. I also use WordPress on livingsmall.com and for my business site, WickedWriter.com.
WordPress… it’s what’s for business.
Add, change, morph, go a new direction… whatever you want… WordPress and the array of available (and FREE) plugins will let you do it.
Better SEO By Design: Did I mention that Google just LOVES WordPress? (I have no idea what kind of code the “deal” from Groupon offers, since I can’t see the backend, I’m assuming the worst because (in my experience) offers like this have code that looks like it went through a blender… and Google hates messy code.)
Tried, Tested and True Hosting: And if you use my host (and the one I recommend to all my clients) your monthly hosting fee with a GREAT record for uptime and staying abreast of security issues and redundancy backups (backups are free and automatic with them too, btw), it’s going to cost you $6.95 per month – and that INCLUDES your domain name — for a total of $83.40 a year.
If you want to save even more, they offer discounts for referrals so you can link to them, (like I just did above) to get a discount when anyone you refer signs up. I’ve been with them for years and would recommend them (and do) to anyone who asks me. Sometimes I get a referral, most of the time I just get a happy client. Yes, they are that good.
Buyer Beware (and Informed): Any company that promises uninterrupted hosting is as trustworthy as an SEO “expert” that promises to get you on page one of Google. How trustworthy is that? Zero. Not. None. Nada.
You see, no one can promise that. My host is good and 99.8% on average uptime is amazing, but I know enough to understand that even with backups, RAID systems, nearly instantaneous re-routing, and superb techs on staff… there is no such thing as a 100% guarantee.
I also know that anyone promising page one of Google is either: 1.) a liar or 2.) using practices that may get you on page one briefly, before getting your domain blocked permanently. Either way, you and your business are the losers and they walk away smiling, whistling, and pocketing your money, while they look for their next victim….er… I mean “client.”
If you want to get a website up and going, get one that will benefit your business, not hurt it. If you want a personal website, create one that will grow with you — not limit you to a few pages. If you need a website, you have something to say… you should SAY it, not allow “generic” content to enter the picture at all.
If you want great content, but don’t have time to write it yourself, hire me (or another reputable web content writer who knows how to craft content that will woo Google and create qualified organic traffic to your site.)
And even if you don’t use my host, find one that will not hold your site hostage and charge WAY too much to do so.
I hate to see people get “taken in” like this, so I had a little rant. Sometimes that urge just overwhelms me. The rant ends now and you may return to your happy day.
While putting the polishing touches on my brand new website, I played with the cool wordcloud tool over at Wordle.net. If you want a “search engine” view of your website, with a little more organization and a lot more visual appeal, go make a wordle of your own.
I was asked (by colleague and nature writer JJ Murphy) this weekend if a blog chain was good for marketing. She asked me several questions:
1. What is the marketing value, if any in a blog chain?
2. Does it make sense to reply back to a comment on your site?
3. Is there a marketing advantage to guest blogging?
4. Does any of this help in search engine ranking?
It’s been awhile since I’ve really “dug in” where SEO is concerned. Basically, I’ve been working under the assumption (a fairly good one, IMHO and in my humble experience online) that if you build good content, organize it well and use common sense when titling your articles, posts and web pages — that the readers will come.
For my own sites, and my client sites, it’s worked like a charm.
To be fair, I have spent a great deal of time studying SEO in the past and still try to keep abreast of any big changes. But mostly, I’ve determined that avoiding the “tricks” and the “blackhat” methods — and relying on offering a site of useful information and making it easy to find and access that information is the best long-term SEO approach. (I do keep an eye on well-crafted metas and always have an eye on local search.) Continue reading