We’ve provided some information about what you should look for, watch out for, and be sure to avoid, as well as some tips to help you along the way.
- Strategies where companies do not actually modify your web site
- Hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of duplicate doorway pages
- Multiple duplicate domains with the same content
- Hidden text, hidden links, and other ‘spammy’ tactics
- Paying too much for pay-per-click (PPC)
- Mistaking ‘hits’ for visitors and visitors for unique visitors
- Not seeing the in-depth results of your efforts
- Relinquishing too much control of your assets
- Not maintaining regular backups of your assets
- Utilizing too many bells and whistles
If someone tells you they can get you many web site visitors, but will do so without actually modifying your web site, then you should be very wary. Why? Because it is simply not possible to build a successful and legitimate campaign without putting in a lot of effort, effort that requires modifying your actual web site.
Normally, companies who send traffic to web sites without modifying them are building duplicate domains, doorway pages, or something similar, and often sending very unqualified traffic. Remember, the traffic to your website is not important. What’s important is that the traffic is legitimate, qualified, and focused, and that you are actually providing the information these visitors searched for.
While we strongly encourage a strategy that includes hundreds of web pages, we feel even more strongly that recycling duplicate content in the form of doorway pages is one of the worst things you can do. Why? Because most won’t even make it past the search engines’ duplicate content filters, but more importantly, widespread use of this tactic may get you banned.
What are duplicate doorway pages? In essence, they are simply hundreds or even thousands of copies of the same page with just a few items changed — essentially the key phrases — that do not in any way, shape, or form help your web site visitors.
On many occasions we have run into this, and it’s not good. Companies, especially those who do not modify your existing web site, simply duplicate the web site and host it elsewhere under new domains. So, for example, if your web site is abc-plasticsurgery-123.com, they will copy all of the existing content and create new domains like def-plasitcsurgery-456.com and ghi-plasticsurgery-789.com.
At best, it will likely not make it through the search engines’ duplicate content filters. At worst, if the search engines notice these trends – or your competitors do and let the search engines know – you could wind up being dropped, and short-term future efforts will be made much more difficult.
Sometimes these tactics are actually funny, and you may have noticed them before. We certainly have! A web page that looks fairly normal until you scroll down and see hundreds of key words written in the same color as the background of the page. Or tiny, invisible images that link to many other pages, yet serve no purpose to the visitors.
Many search engine optimization specialists who advocate legitimate practices – practices that aren’t clearly forbidden by the likes of Google – have a mantra: if what you are doing serves a purpose for both the search engines and your visitors, it’s good and legitimate, and if done properly, will bring success. Conversely, if what you’re doing has no purpose for your visitors and is only meant to sneak into the search engines, it should not be done, and will likely get caught and cause you more problems in the end.
Advertising on Overture, Google, or another search engine? Utilizing PPC to bid against competitors for the top positions? Someone else running your campaign for you? Well look into it! Many firms will charge as much as double the rate being charged by the search engines themselves, all for just managing your campaign. So if Google’s number three position costs $1.40 per click, the firm is actually charging you $2.80. If 1,000 people click the ad, you’re paying $2,800 instead of $1,400. Or, in other words, you’re receiving only half of the visitors you could be for the same rate.
That’s capitalism, right? Well, we don’t agree, especially when it’s not made clear that there is a charge for managing the campaign. Plus, the efforts undertaken to create and manage the campaign can be vastly different. Some people simply spend 15 minutes writing an advertisement and then only select one or two top key words to target. In our opinion, that amount of effort is not worth what you may be paying for it. Some companies, though, do actually put forth the effort, utilize multiple advertisements, target multiple key phrases, and modify their efforts accordingly, and in these cases, it may be a legitimate fee.
One thing is certain: you should look into it yourself and see exactly what is going on, because the reality is, you could be managing your own campaign with little time expenditure on your part and enjoying much better rates.
Surgeon’s Advisor, by the way, will create and manage a PPC campaign for free for its clients. We simply cannot substantiate additional costs… it truly doesn’t take that much time, especially when you know what you’re doing.
We haven’t heard of anyone actually lying to their clients about their web site traffic, but are ware of much confusion about this issue. As such, we think you should understand the difference between the two. Especially since so many people don’t.
A hit represents each time any element from your web site is transferred across the Internet. It means almost nothing because a single web page could have 20, 50, or more elements. Images, spacer .gifs (1 pixel x 1 pixel transparent images used to enable more a precise layout), flash movies, pages themselves, and more are considered elements or hits. As such, you could have one visitor who browses only a few pages but generates hundreds of hits.
A visit is just that, a visit to your web site. It can actually represent a visitor (as in a real, live person), and usually does, but it can also represent a search engine spider, crawler, or even yourself when you visit the web site. There is a fundamental difference between a visit/visitor and a unique visit/visitor.
A unique visitor is one who is separate from others, one who is unique; so if this unique visitor browses your web site 20 times in a day, you have 20 visits, but only one unique visit. In other words, a visit represents each time a visit is made to your site while a unique visit represents each unique visit to your site, from a unique IP address.
This is extraordinarily common. Sometimes you are not provided information at all, while others, you are provided information that is setup to show only the good and ignore the bad.
You want to see all of the following for each and every web site:
- How many visitors and unique visitors you are receiving;
- Where these visitors are coming from – and we mean exactly where – the names of the web sites they arrive from;
- What search engines they are arriving from;
- What was searched in the search engines by visitors who arrive at your web sites;
- How your site is functioning, including technical details about errors, missing pages, and the like.
So how do you do this? Just say the following: ‘Show me the reports/traffic reports/analytics, etc. for the entire period, for the entire site, with no filters.’ In other words, ‘show me everything!’
The fact is, virtually all reporting software is setup to do this automatically, and most times that you see anything less it is because inferior software is being used or filters have been created to exclude certain data.
If work is being done on your behalf, but, as mentioned above, there is no modification being done to your actual website, then things get a little trickier. Our first advice is to stop doing it this way! Short of that, view the traffic reports for your existing web site(s) – where the other web sites should be sending the traffic anyway – and, view the reports for all the other web sites as well.
Why? Because this information is necessary to make sure you are doing the right things, targeting the right traffic, achieving success in the search engines, and continuing to analyze and respond so you can do better.
Besides, this information can be very helpful in other ways. What if the first time you viewed this report you found that 90% of your visitors were searching for light bulbs and arriving from a light bulb site? You wouldn’t be very happy. Well, it happens. In fact, we saw this very scenario when we took over for a client.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen this all too many times, where a surgeon does not own the assets that have been created on their behalf. Make sure you own everything. Furthermore, and something to be sure of, make sure that all items are registered in your name or the name of your practice. Again, companies who do not modify your existing web site will often create additional domains, but almost always register these domains to themselves. So, if things go wrong, or you want to end the relationship, more often than not you lose these assets. It happened very recently to one of our clients, and the worst part is that the domain was his actual name.
There is — quite simply — no legitimate reason for a company to register your assets in anyone’s name other than your own. Period. No matter what reason is provided, it is 100% not necessary.
Domain names include a number of vital elements. The registrant is the person or company that owns the name. This should always be you. Then, there are three contacts: billing, administrative, and technical. While some companies require that if you are hosting with them then they should be listed as the technical contact, you should always be listed as the administrative and/or billing contact. Then, anytime anyone tries to modify your domain information, you will have to authorize it, and if you don’t, it will not be changed. Additionally, make sure you keep the email address you utilize to register domains valid and updated, because if you don’t and you want to make changes, it can be more complicated.
With regards to the hosting itself, it always makes sense to utilize more comprehensive services, including those used by Surgeon’s Advisor. Wherever possible, we have each domain listed with a managed DNS provider. We then utilize failover to ensure that if the something is wrong with the primary web site, web server, or Internet connection, it automatically utilized the secondary web site, web server, or Internet conception. Additionally, with managed DNS you can make changes that are reflected in minutes or hours as opposed to 24 to 72 hours with regular DNS services.
This is an easy one thing to make sure you do properly, but surprisingly, one that most people do not pay enough attention to. While your provider’s backups are important, and should be done on a regular basis, you, too, as the actual owner of these assets should receive backups on a regular basis. The last thing you need is for your provider to go down, or your relationship to deteriorate, and for you to be left with nothing. The reality is that web sites are small compared to other documents. Entire web sites are often only 3, 5, or 10 MB in size.
Another thing to consider: make sure you backup and save the files utilized to create these assets. If, for instance, you or your provider utilize Adobe Photoshop to create all the images, or Macromedia Flash to create the flash, be sure to receive (and backup) the original files utilized to create these assets. That way you can avoid completely redoing everything at a later date.
Animations, sounds, blinking text, browsers that shake… it’s all so cool and visitors love it. Forget it. Nothing will ensure your lack of success more than overdoing it on your web site(s) and ultimately turning off your visitors. Do not go overboard with animations, flash, blinking anything, or sound. And especially don’t force these items on your visitors. If you think that Beethoven track will be loved by your visitors and you must have it, leave it to them to choose to listen to it if they want to. Same thing with flash presentations and animations. Don’t force it on them. And never use blinking text!
According to Creative Good, you have exactly eight seconds to capture the attention of your visitor. If your page is still loading, you’ve lost them. Furthermore, there’s a reason the top web sites on the Internet don’t use lots of flash, animation, sounds, or the like: they work and people like them. So in our opinion, it’s always best to go with something that works and has become a standard in and of itself. Leave the ‘cutting edge’ to artists and movie producers, and utilize what will increase your patient base.