If you don’t have control over the technical part of your website, can you still succeed with Search Engine Optimization?
Among my sales calls this week, I had a discussion with a company who needed SEO services and felt that their current website had just gotten off track. When I began to question them about details of their site, I learn that they were using a site built using a cloud service. I agreed to do an SEO Audit of their site and set expectations with them that I wasn’t sure how far I could take this, I would do my analysis and then we could discuss.
This conversion has me asking, if I can’t optimize code, site configuration and server settings, can I really do SEO? When Cybervise first started doing SEO work, our main activity was always tweaking code in order to make good content shine. Nowadays the technical SEO baseline of a site is much higher. What do you do with a site that has speed score from Google Insights that can’t get about 50? Is it even possible for a site like this to rank well in search results? Before I say no to this project, I did a little research to find out what the general opinion is on this subject.
Is Your Business Website Effected?
When I describe a site built on a cloud service, what I am referring to is a site where you pay a monthly subscription for someone to host your website and use also use their tools to build the website. Example of sites like this would be: Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly or Jimdo. GoDaddy has a tool to do this. If you use WordPress.com, instead of hosting your own website, it would be the same thing.
These are all great tools to get your business up and running. Use them to build a website as build your business, so you learn how much website you need. Then when its time to take things to the next level of business, get a web developer and use what you have learned to create a great second generation website.
The business I was talking to this week had one of these sites. What concerns me is the best practices of Technical SEO. If you use one of these tools, as a developer, I can’t change their code. Your site is built using a template or code you rent every month. It would be like renting an apartment and deciding your want a different HVAC system. You don’t have access or permissions to make that kind of upgrade. Same with a rented website, you work with the code they give you and hopefully its enough to keep you warm through the winter.
But Does This Matter?
Maybe I am over-emphasizing the importance of Technical SEO? I went a on a search to find other experts that had strong options on this subject. What I am finding is that everyone is having trouble making this call. Here are a couple of articles that I felt were the best resources:
- Search Engine Watch – They outline a lot of different scenarios and you will likely find one that applies to your business. The conclusion does talk about how a website that has been around awhile will most likely benefit from a heavy investment in content.
- Search Engine Land – Check out their Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors. They have positioned Content issues at the top.
- SEM Rush Ranking Factors Study – They site a statistic of a 45% difference in the length of the page for a site that ranks in the top 3 and the 20th position for a keyword search. This tells me that thin content is a big factor in who makes the top spot. You will also see in their top twenty factors many references to keywords and what needs to be included in content.
But Technical SEO is still a factor…
Here is my two cents on this. I believe that you can take your optimization efforts to a point, but if the system that you used to build your website is not spidered or indexed easily by Google then how are you going to get credit for your excellent content? A couple of points I need to make:
- In 2020, Google has given us a lot of direction on what it takes to have a website worthy of great search rankings. So far this year, most of the guidelines have involved technical improvements to your website.
- Another unique aspect about SEO this year has been the hard deadlines given by Google to improve your website. Best example would be the HTTPS warnings. You need to have them done on your site by the deadline or you could be subject to penalties. If the platform you are using is prioritizing these deadlines, you may be fine. If they aren’t, then you are stuck.
Do I Optimize This Site?
Back to my potential client with the cloud site. The answer is, maybe. I hate to tell a client that the only solution from the beginning is to rebuild the site. I need to do an initial SEO audit and see if I can find evidence that proves technical issues are causing a problem. If I see this evidence, that may be our only route forward. If the client has already put a lot of resources into content and are still not getting results, again, we may be back to something technical.
In all cases, I would be upfront with the website owner and let them know what I feel they can expect and what Cybervise can do to improve the situation.