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30 September 2011

Searching for searchability


If your website is rating poorly in Google searches you may be tempted to respond to an unsolicited offer from a company promising to get your website to the top of the list.

Think twice before you accept. There are indeed practitioners of dark arts who can do wonders for your site's search ratings, but they are deeply unloved by Google. When Google cottons on that they have been duped, your ranking is likely to go even further down the list. You may be even be blacklisted.

Tactics that Google and the wider internet community consider unethical include the use of paid-for "link farms", hidden text and redirects that artificially inflate your site's presence on the web.

Google uses an algorithm for ranking websites. Although it never fully discloses the factors involved, it is looking for appropriate and trustworthy content and functionality. The former is determined by the amount of traffic your site generates and the extent to which other websites are linking to yours.

Building a website with content that scores highly with Google is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Because 'Googling' has become second nature for most people researching a subject or looking for a product, getting a good Google rank is essential when managing an issue or marketing a product.

Getting it right requires close co-operation between your PR adviser and a web professional. In WHAM's case, we work closely with Christine Webb of 360 Media. She is responsible for the design and functionality of the highly successful Regal Salmon website and recently helped WHAM to develop the Internet Niue site for a small ISP operating in the Pacific. Both sites have excellent Google search rankings.

Our starting point when working with a client is to look at your site from the perspective of your audiences. That's what Google is doing.  Essentials are:

  • Appropriate, useful, easy-to-read and trustworthy content
  • Helpful navigation
  • Fast loading pages
  • No technical errors
  • Action - sign-up, buy, download, compete, opinion polls etc

This gives you the launching pad for boosting your Google search results. To make it more attractive to Google, make sure your site is listed in all relevant online directories and on the sites of partner organisations including trade bodies, suppliers and customers.  You will also need to keep updating your website content so Google sees your site as active and interesting - it's vital that you commit to regular updates such as news stories.

Increasingly, you will also need to think about your social media presence and the extent to which to integrate it into your website. Many gens Y & Z prefer to communicate and get their news through social media, and they are the generations who make up the front-line reporting staff in newspapers, radio and TV. Connecting with them in the media they use makes obvious sense.

WHAM understands the importance of social media and its place in the management of issues. But when developing strategies that involve social media monitoring and interactivity we defer to Tom Reidy and his team at Catalyst90, New Zealand's leading social media consultants.

The social media have really come into their own in the last two or three years. Getting to grips with them, especially their role in creating or undermining business reputations is an increasingly specialised business.


- Trevor Walton

What do you think?

David Collie
This is good advice, as a newbie in the website world and constructing and operating my own site www.seniorhealthcare.co.nz I get inundated with offers to increase my ranking often ostensibly free. Most will do you more harm than good and what is just as bad waste a huge amount of your time. Use NZ based advice and remember content is king. Agree also as to the importance of social marketing and will look up your references. "The Wise Old Owl"

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