Angela Booth We Web content writers lead quiet lives peering at a computer monitor and tapping a keyboard. I even eat lunch at the keyboard, because it means that I can do some relaxing Web surfing without feeling guilty. So drama was the last thing I expected on a cold winter’s day when I bit into my peanut butter, raisin, and celery sandwich, and grabbed the ringing phone with my other hand. A woman I didn’t know sobbed into my ear: «My boss says our Web site’s a disaster. We’re not getting any visitors at all…. and I’m going to be fired.» I tried to tell her that it couldn’t be that bad, and even if it was, we’d fix it, but it took ten minutes for her to calm down enough to tell me what the URL (Web address) was.
When I looked at the site, I had a pretty good idea why her boss was mad. It was a real estate site. Very nice. Tasteful — elegant even. But clicking around the site, I could see that while artistically the site was fine, as a commercial Web site, it had big challenges. No wonder the site wasn’t getting any traffic. The site was almost invisible to the search engines. At a guess, the site would be lucky to get five visitors a day, unless the real estate company bought traffic via Pay Per Click or other advertising. Unfortunately, it turns out that they’d already spent too much on the site. Unless the sobbing lady got the site to do what had been promised by the developers — get at least a thousand visitors a day and FAST — her job was history. Here’s what I found on the site: A Flash intro to the site Flash animation was popular several years ago, but its popularity died when site owners realized that most Flash is just annoying. When someone comes to your site, they want information, and they want it right away. Big images on every page The images looked lovely, gorgeous homes, but only a few words of text. From a search engine standpoint, there was nothing to index on the pages. Almost no text Again, with very little text, there was nothing for search engines to index, and therefore no chance that the site would get traffic from the site search engines. NO «real estate»-related keywords The site was called (not the real name, this name is fictitious) «Thomas Fedeck Green and Smythe Incorporated». This name was on every page. I’m sure that the name was well known to the real estate buyers in the company’s home city, but it meant nothing to most Web surfers, and worse — there was nothing connecting «Thomas Fedeck Green and Smythe Incorporated» with the keywords «real estate». Worse yet, someone had decided to create images of each property’s listing so that a very fancy font could be used. Again, nothing for the Web search engines to index.
Flash movies Every listing on the site was accompanied by a Flash movie of the property, with an agent showing off the features of each property. My recommendation: get some text onto each and every page «The site’s fine,» I assured my caller, whose sobs had calmed down. «You just need material for the Web search engines to index. The engines aren’t psychic. They don’t know what your site is about. You have to tell them in words. Get some words onto the site — words about real estate, and you’ll get traffic in no time.» The happy ending: a rapid uptick in traffic I developed a Web content plan for the site, and within a few weeks the site got an excellent uptick in traffic. The traffic’s been steadily growing. My caller wasn’t fired. When I heard from her just a few days ago, she’d been made a partner. A happy ending all around — and a site that was made visible at last.