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May 22, 2016

Search Engine Optimization; Ethical and Unethical Web Statistics.

By Mike Hampson, owner, Helicopter Links

(San Diego, California, USA): Most businesses want to see lots of traffic to their website. But how does a company get legitimate traffic? There are ethical ways to get web traffic and there are unethical ways to get web traffic. When people use Google and type in search terms to find websites and an internet user visits some of the the first web sites to appear in a Google Search Results List, this is usually due to good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of each website and is usually the most ethical way to get web traffic. While Search Engine Optimization is a complex and has changing requirements each year, due to new technology by Google (and other search engines), I hope to provide some basic information about SEO Best Practices standards which should be followed every year (in my opinion). Also, I think it's important to include ethical about your own web statistics.

There are multiple ways to have your website search engine optimized. One of the best ways to start, is have a good web professional working on your website, with a writer and graphic designer. A website professional is not, I repeat NOT - A PROFESSIONAL WRITER. While website professionals can work with graphics, a website professional is not, I repeat, NOT - A GRAPHIC DESIGNER.

If you don't know the definition of a graphic designer, it's a person who can take images, graphics, fonts, text (from a professional writer) and manipulate all of these to make a web graphic, ad, poster, book cover, flyer, business card (or anything in print or digital to read) and the information easy to read and understand for their intended audience.

As opposed to an illustrator who is someone who can draw by hand or by using programs such as Illustrator and Photoshop, to create an original piece of artwork or graphic. Some graphic designers are illustrators. Some are not. Most graphic designers can create simple background illustrations for projects but might not be able to create intricate and jaw-dropping artistic illustrations.

As in all professions, you can find graphic designers with excellent skills and you can certainly find mediocre graphic designers. The same is true for any profession, including web designers, writers and even business owners!

A half-decent web professional should be able to read this article without being too confused by the terminology. If a web professional is reading this article, I hope they will learn something from this article and I also hope I'll get an email with recommendations with tips to add to this article.

However, if you are an administrative assistant and asked to make graphics, or to build and/or maintain a website, then I recommend you get a new job - or put your foot down and tell your boss to go take a hike. Tell your boss if he wants to send you to school and pay you the salary of a web designer, then so be it. Otherwise, tell your boss that he/she needs to hire a web designer.

Of course, writing articles and the reality of the job market are two different things. I've seen many job titles requiring a web professional to know how to program in multiple languages, be a professional writer/editor, be a graphic designer, be an illustrator, to have a thorough knowledge of Google Analytics and to have even more skills. Yet, is there any company that actually pays a salary that actually compensates the employee for a plethora of technical skills? Is there anyone smart enough to be highly proficient in all these things? Maybe. But maybe not that many.

If you are a boss and you have an administrative assistant working on your business website, you are really hurting your own company and being unfair to your administrative assistant - all at the same time. Imagine if a boss asks an administrative assistant to do the job of a graphic designer. (That is, to make any printed graphic that multiple people will be reading, including printed paper office signs, to graphics for social media or the web.) No one bats an eye.

However, if a business owners asks their administrative assistant to repair a helicopter engine, who is not a licensed aircraft mechanic, this would be extremely unethical and illegal. People would think, "Why is this crazy boss asking an administrative assistant to work on a helicopter engine?" The same is true when a boss asks an administrative assistant to do the work of a graphic designer and/or to work on the company website. To work on a website, you need the help of a web professional and to correctly add content to your website, you need the help of a professional writer. However, this type of thing happens many times with small businesses. It's an unethical business practice for a boss to ask employees to take on a job task that they are not professionally trained for, even though it's not illegal.

The sign of a good website is that the content is well written (grammatically correct and with correct spelling), it explains the purpose of the company, explains it's products and services, has real word questions and answers, has a history of the company and has easy to find contact information.

  • One needs to remember that your business website is your online brochure and for some companies, it is their online store. If you can quote prices and/or sell products through your website, you are doing better than many businesses.
  • Having a complete and up-to-date website is critical to good Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Content, content, content. Good content means that your visitors (those inside, new or outside of your industry) can visit your website and get an overview of your company and understand the purpose of your company, understand each product and service and knows how to purchase these services, find the location of the company and know how to contact the company.
  • Having a website where it's difficult to understand the purpose of your company and your products/services, is a disservice to all your visitors and hurts your company because you are not providing enough information for potential buyers.
  • Remember, people have lots of options to purchase products. Take for example, Amazon. If you sell products and Amazon sells the same products for a lower price, it would probably be helpful to have to a very informative website detailing each product and explain why it's better to purchase products from your company versus buying on Amazon. You might have excellent customer service by phone, guarantees, support, expertise, etc. - to help people to decide to purchase the product from your company and not from Amazon. The competition with Amazon is so difficult, many small and large businesses have already gone under.
  • With the Amazon example, you might state your guarantees, customer service, and repair support that you provide and then you might even say that this is something that Amazon simply can't provide.
  • I'm seeing a trend in small and large corporations to reduce the amount information about their company. Web designers are making websites for businesses without an "About Us", "Contact Us" and "FAQ" (Frequently Asked Questions) pages. I am now seeing product and/or service web pages for many companies which now have very little information. If a company feels that having minimal information on their website is appropriate to sell their goods and services, then why have a website?
  • Important to have basic web pages include: "Industries Served" web page (if this applies to your company), product and/or services web pages, an "About" page (which actually explains what the company is about), a "Contact" page with full address, phone numbers and email addresses, Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) page, press release/blog section, media section (including logos and photos that the media can use when writing articles about your company), key personnel (if this is necessary), a shopping cart (if your company sells a product) and a history of your company.
  • FAQ pages. The best FAQ pages are questions suggested by people who actually field the phone calls for the company. Are your FAQ questions actual questions from customers and potential customers? Or are the FAQ questions just made up? What payment methods do you accept? Do you take cashier's checks and money orders? Paypal? What does it take to set up an account? Do you ship worldwide? A FAQ page which is updated throughout the year, based on actual questions which customers and potential customers have asked over the phone, is a FAQ web page that is very useful to the internet visitor.
  • A website which was made by a high school student, then is never updated again for years, is not good for your company and will hurt your Search Engine Optimization.
  • Never have "under construction" pages on any website. This is something which people did in the 1990s and at time, we thought that was cute. Not any more.
  • Submitting your websites to major search engines. DMOZ apparently is no longer an active website.
  • And last but not least, is your website a responsive web design? That means, does your website resize itself so it fits nicely on a cell, iPad, laptop or desktop screen size? And is it easy to read and use all sized screens? Google wants all websites to be responsive and they will reward you with higher search engine optimization. However, I still haven't figured out how to make Helicopter Links a responsive website. So, I do think there are exceptions to the rule where your site simply won't work on all devices. Here is "Responsive Web Design" on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsive_web_design

Good ways to ethically increase traffic to your website. Have your website search engine optimized. (Remember to go over your website at least once or twice a year and make sure everything is up-to-date. Including correct spelling and grammar and check to make sure all links work.)

From your social media pages, post links to your web pages. Explain why a particular web page is important, or just state that this page is for product XYZ, or a "Have you seen our company history web page?" type question.

Write blog articles and always include links from each blog article back to your website. If a magazine or newspaper writes an article about your company, ask them to put a link at the end of the article back to your website. You can have suppliers or industry organizations post links from their website to your website and/or have them post links from their Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, to get more traffic to your website.

Buying advertising space on Helicopter Links and/or helicopter magazine websites which link back to your website. However, advertising on Helicopter Links is for one full year. Unlike magazines, where you can take out ads for one or more issues and links will only be online for the amount of months you pay for.

The unethical way to get traffic to your website is 1) Post a link from your website to an article (which you have not written) and that link goes to another website with the actual article. 2) Post the article on a Facebook or Twitter post but link it back to your website. 3) Then this will give your website a higher visitor rate.

However, this is A) Trailer trash web design and B) Trailer trash social media practices because C) You are falsely increasing your website's incoming visitor rate and D) You are forcing your users to click on two links instead of one, to read the article.

Another way is to make several websites which are either related or not related to your main business web page and then place many links from your other websites to your main website. You can also lie about your visitor rate to your customers.

Or if you are not using Google Analytics and simply using your hosting company's web statistics, there is a very good chance your web statistics are completely wrong. For example, I used to use my hosting company's web statistics program to see how many people were visiting Helicopter Links. This was from 2002 to about 2009 (before Helicopter Link was a business). At one point around 2005 and 2006, I thought I had around 100,000 visitors per year. This was wrong, wrong, wrong. Because at that point, I was using the free web statistics program by my web hosting company and their web statistics for Helicopter Links were way out of whack. Then I learned about Google Analytics, which has been said to be the gold standard of web statistics, and added Google Analytics to Helicopter Links in 2009, is when I had accurate incoming visitor rates.

Some companies have multiple websites for the same part of their business. If you have a multiple websites which say the same thing but have different URL addresses, I question the ethics of those people.

Websites that ask you if you really want to leave is horrible web design. The reason why companies might ask you this is they want to increase the amount of time people visit their website to make their web statistic better. Of course, if you are buying something on a website or filling out a form, and the website asks if you really want to leave their website, this is a legitimate request from a website.

In summary, this article is quite long but actually does not cover all items that can be suggested for a good websites. However, I hope the length of this article gives some indication at the importance of hiring a well educate full-time web professional for every company.

-End article.

If you have any questions for us, please feel free to give us a call +1 (858) 413-7074 or email us at staff@helicopterlinks.com and let's discuss how Helicopter Links can help you advertise to buyers in the buying process.

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