If You Build It They May Not Come

My first website was something I created long before I decided to become a web developer. The year was 1999…20 years ago. Those were early days of the internet. I really had no idea what I was doing, but there were not a lot of websites out there, relatively speaking, and I guess no one really knew what they were doing to a large degree.

1999 – Build It and They Will Come

My small, text-based site with no title tags and no descriptions fairly quickly started attracting attention all over the world. I don’t mean that as if the whole world knew about it, but I started getting emails from people in Germany and Australia, Canada and the U.S.A. I started corresponding with several of these early users. It was a lot of fun. I remember thinking, “Wow. People all over the world are seeing this.”

In 2002 I added an image.

In 2003, the company that purchased the domain name for me, forgot to renew it and it was quickly picked up by someone else.

Those were the early days.

2019 – Build It, But Don’t Hold Your Breath

It’s a little different now. If you don’t have some idea of what you are doing or have someone working on your site who does, it’s very likely very few people will ever find your site. There is a lot of competition out there. According to Internet Live Stats when I started my site in 1999 there were 3,177,453 websites. For 2018 they estimate 1,630,322,579.  That’s a lot of competition.

Even if you know what you’re doing, but you’re not working at it, your site can still be invisible. For example, my site, Sweet Thursday Web Development, during 2018 saw 850 users. Not quite 2 per day. Only 275 of those were from the USA where my market solidly resides. Admittedly, I was not trying to get business off the internet, but still I had a well-coded site, watched my image alt tags, had good title tags and descriptions. My market is highly competitive, so if I’m not working at it…it’s not going to happen.

I’ve started working at it now and we will see what happens.

What Do I Do?

Let’s talk about your website. There are things to do on social media: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and more. But in this blog let’s focus on the website. You should be blogging, i.e. adding content to your site, at least once a week. Maybe the most practical way to approach this is list what you should be doing when you create a page or post. Here’s a basic list:

  • Create unique, useful content for your users.
    Make them want to come back. It should be something that relates to your site and that is useful or funny or interesting, whatever it is that you are trying to accomplish on your site.
  • Format your content correctly.
    Often people don’t do this. I’ve seen lots of users using the h1, h2, h3, etc heading tags as design elements. I.e. when they need big bold text they use an h1. That’s not how you should be using these. Think of it as if you are writing a research paper. An h3 should follow an h2. An h2 should follow an h1. If you don’t have an h3 don’t ever use a h4 tag. Also, use lists correctly. If you have list of items in no particular order, use an unordered list as I’m using here. But if you are listing your top 10 movies in order, use an ordered list. Use the correct tags for quotes and addresses. These are simple things that will help your site. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a cumulative endeavor: it’s not just one thing, it’s everything together.
  • Add Image Alt Tags
    Make sure to add a description of your image in the alt tag field. Very important. It should describe the image. I.e. not just, “this is an image”, but rather, “a young boy throwing a ball for a black dog.”
  • Write a unique title. This should be different than every other title tag on your site.
    This is the title tag that search engines see. Often the title of your page will work well for this. It should be short and to the point.
  • Write a unique description.
    This a brief description of the page that search engines will see and users will see in search results. It should describe what is on the page and entice the user to want to visit your site. It’s longer than your title but still relatively short.

There are more advanced things you can do and if you are using a good Content Management System (CMS) many of those will be handled by the system. The above may not seem like a lot. But if you do those things you will be doing what many, many other website owners are not doing and most likely what a lot of your competition is not doing.

Consistency Over Time

In some respects SEO is not that hard. It just takes time and consistency. You have to be patient and you have to work at it. You never know when a blog you write might attract thousands of visitors. And it may be the blog you thought had the lowest chance of attracting anyone. That being said, there are no guarantees. It is relatively easy to optimize your site so that if someone is looking specifically for you, they will find you.

It’s far more difficult, however, when you’re trying to get people on your site who are not specifically looking for you, but for the product or service you offer. If you’re in a highly competitive market, it can be very difficult, if, however, you have a niche or a very local area you are targeting it can be a lot easier. I’ll touch on this in a future blog.


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