So when does the "create content" part happen?

by Tom Davis

The formula for a successful website

Dumb We AdAs I move around on the Web I occasionally run across the ad shown here. I don't know who is running the ad but I would love to explain to them their basic errors.

First, if it is 3 steps - why do I have to choose my website builder? That looks like a fourth step to me. Maybe they are counting that as Step Zero.

But that is not my main problem with the ad.

The real problem is their complete avoidance of "Content" as a step. In fact, with very few exceptions, content is the biggest and most important step of them all. It is the reason most small and medium size business sites are never ranked well in Google.

There is a saying in the old world of brick-and-mortar retailing that says: "Success depends on three things: location, location and location." I think that you could change that saying to apply to websites. "Success for a website depends on three things: content, content and content."

Another issue with this ad is that it perpetuates the idea that once a website is published, you are done. See my earlier post "A neglected website is a dying website."

The way I see it, this ad is preying on people who are unaware of how the Web really works. Luckily for them, that is just about everyone.

We all love to see a slick website design with our name on it — I think that is pretty natural. But if you are expecting search engines to care about how you site looks you will be sorely disappointed.

Content is more than just outlining your offer in bullet points. Thin, bland and untargeted writing will not get you on the first page of search results.

The websites that move into the first page of search results get there using hard work. Their owners have thought about the kinds of phrases people use to search for their offerings and create site content to fit those searches. There is no hidden trick. What they are doing is in plain sight - but if you do not understand the techniques, you will not be aware of what they are doing.

There are other factors in being ranked for search — but for most small and medium size businesses, content and a clean design are the only levers they can afford to pull. It is just that most do not know how hard they need to pull the content lever.

You have only so much money or time to allocate to your website. In business-to-business markets, if choosing a simple yet inexpensive visual design allows you to strengthen your written content — take that road. Pull the content lever as hard as you can. I am not against good visual design, it is that you need to put it into perspective.

(By the way, since no one claims the ad I used in the post, I feel there are no copyright issues. Even if someone did claim copyright, I think I am protected by the "criticism and parody" concept. And I think I did both of those quite well.)