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June 19, 2009

The Common Misconceptions of Owning a Website and why Sponsored Links are Good

There is a common misconception that a website automatically catapults a business to global stardom. This could be true – with a lot of time and money spent on it – but in isolation, a website is next to useless. No doubt all you SEO experts out there will think I’m teaching grandma to suck eggs but there are literally thousands of people starting out who just don’t realise what it takes.

The truth is, a website on its own is akin to opening a new shop at the bottom of a dark, gated alleyway – with no signage or advertising. Passers-by will do exactly that, pass by, never knowing what wonderful products you are selling. Without the brightly lit signs, local press, opening launches, special offer flyers and other advertising, nobody will ever know your shop is there!

It’s the same with a website, unless people know it’s there, they will never visit it.

So what does it take to get noticed?

Well, for a start, you should register your URL as early as you possibly can. Put up a page stating “website under construction”. Google rates websites, amongst other criteria, for how long they have been up and running. A new website will take many months before Google’s bots will start giving your site any credence.

Next, when you build your site you need to ensure it is built to be optimised for search engine spiders. There is a lot of information out there about how to do this but unless you are a web developer my advice would be to find a reputable company to do it for you. You get what you pay for. In my experience, a cheap website will end up costing you more in the long run. Better to employ a company with a proven track record than to to spend months messing around with a sub-standard site.

Then you will need to be constantly updating your site with fresh content so the spiders know you are a live business and so that your readers or customers have something to keep them coming back .

Establish links to your website from other sites that are high page-ranked. There are a number of ways to do this.

  1. You can email the webmaster and offer to provide reciprocal links or manually enter your website details into the many thousands of directories or you can purchase software to part-automate the process. Again, this process takes a lot of time and effort and tests the greatest of patience.
  2. Write articles and post them to the big article directories. If readers like your article they can publish them as content on their site, which then provides a link to your site.
  3. Participate in forums, using your expertise, use blogs and social networking sites to get your url out there as much as possible.

Okay so all this takes time. What about getting business in the meantime?

Well this is where we come to sponsored links. Sponsored links can give you the immediate exposure that you need. This is where you and your competitors essentially bid to be seen on the right hand side of Google’s Results Page. I read all sorts of articles about the pros and cons of using this facility and I get the feeling that the overall message is a negative one, that somehow paying to be at the top of the listings is cheating. Well I don’t subscribe to this. The organic listings have created a situation that is very similar to the rise of the supermarkets and decline of the greengrocer and butcher and fishmonger. It is hard to compete with their buying power.

This is not so different. To get a good flow of visitors on your site you need to be on the first page of Google for your chosen keywords. To be on the first page is not easy, as I said before it takes a lot of time, effort and money to get there and stay there. Most small businesses, particularly those who are just starting out, don’t have the time, money or know how to do this. But they may well be offering a really good service, product or whatever. It isn’t cheating; it is just a way of getting noticed by your target audience while you gradually develop your SEO skills.

Michael Jillions is a Director at Mill House Data Solutions Ltd, specialists in the design of professional grade, bespoke database applications.\