It's an unfortunate fact: No matter how good your search engine optimization company or in-house talent is, brand new Web sites have a more difficult time achieving search engine success for competitive phrases than their older counterparts, particularly on Google.
However, the worst thing that a new site owner can possibly do is presume that they are "too late to the game" and decide not to pursue this marketing channel at all. A good search engine optimization company should be able to effectively work with a new Web site; setting the foundation for a remarkable success story while still achieving steadily increasing short-term benefit.
There are many reasons why new Web sites face an uphill battle. What follows are only a few of the major stumbling blocks.
The Google Sandbox
There is much debate as to what exactly the Google Sandbox is, and even debate as to whether it actually exists. However, recent patent filings on behalf of Google would seem to confirm that one of the factors that Google will take into consideration when deciding how Web sites should rank is the age of the domain name.
More than one search engine optimization company has noted that there seems to be a penalty assessed to new Web sites, especially those that seem to gain too many inbound links, too fast. This is all conjecture, but this would make sense.
Inbound links factor largely in Google rankings, and therefore many sites that were already popular in Google began selling links from their sites based upon that popularity (a practice that goes against Google's terms of service). However, text-link buying is very hard to police.
The Sandbox makes sense in this scenario, because Google seems to be saying "we may not be able to stop people from buying text links, but they are going to pay a pretty penny for them before we'll give them any ranking boost because of them."
This is more conjecture, of course, but it is a popular theory in numerous search engine optimization forums.
Lack of Links
Unfortunately, in this case a new Web site is faced with the opposite problem. Links to new Web sites are called into question, but without incoming links a new Web site has a slim chance of performing well on Google. This Catch-22 is obviously a sore spot for many owners of new Web sites.
For many years, a common search engine optimization company strategy was to set up numerous new Web sites all for one company, each geared toward targeting a different search term. This was largely because search engines used to place a much higher importance on the homepage of a Web site rather than interior pages.
Over time, search engines caught on to this trick, and as a result new domains are now looked at more skeptically. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that while it is relatively easy and inexpensive to set up a new Web site that targets a certain term, a Web site that has been around for much longer and has a breadth of content has much more to lose and is less likely to attempt to "game the system."
Does this mean that you shouldn't hire a search engine optimization company to work on your new Web site? Not at all. In fact, it is in the very beginning of your Web site planning that a long-term strategy should be put into motion—a strategy that still offers positive results in the short term.
Before You Build
It is important to get your search engine optimization company involved as early as possible, before you build your new Web site.
Not only are there many technical issues that you should be aware of before you begin design (such as linking architecture, types of text to use, and balancing your SEO efforts with your brand), but there are also strategies that can be set in motion at the outset that will counteract some of the stumbling blocks listed above.
If you involve your search engine optimization company after you have built your new Web site, much of the work you have done will likely need to be redone with a long-term strategy in mind.
Targeting Appropriate Phrases
A good search engine optimization company will tell you that targeting highly competitive phrases with a brand new Web site can be an exercise in futility. However, this does not mean that you cannot achieve initial success on search engines.
The trick is to target less-competitive phrases at the outset, and begin tackling the more competitive phrases later.
For instance, let's assume that your company makes custom widgets, and that "custom widgets" is a very competitive search phrase. A search engine optimization company working on your new site might recommend that you instead target less competitive variations of the term, such as "custom-made widgets" or "custom widget manufacturing."
Since these terms are less competitive, you will be more likely to obtain high rankings for them with your new Web site. You can thus enjoy highly targeted traffic in the beginning of your campaign and eventually target more competitive and popular phrases as your site gains traction, quality inbound links, and a reputation for usefulness.
Make Your Site a Resource
A quality search engine optimization company will encourage you to turn your new site into an industry resource. You can do this by providing educational content about your industry in the form of articles, whitepapers, and other forms of non-biased content.
There are many benefits to this approach, a primary one being that such content attracts inbound links without any effort on your behalf. In addition, such a resource area builds your credibility in the eyes of your potential customers and serves to educate them in all stages of the buying cycle, so that when they are ready to make a purchase, you will likely be first in mind.
While making your new site a useful resource is a great way to attract inbound links, this does not mean that you shouldn't also be seeking them out. Your search engine optimization company should get your site included in many general directories (such as the Yahoo directory and Business.com)—and, even more importantly, in directories that are specific to your industry.
These links help to boost your search engine rankings over time and are also a quality source of targeted traffic.
Keep Your Content Fresh
A search engine spider will revisit your site frequently if your content continues to increase and evolve frequently. A site that has been optimized for three years with no changes to its content will usually not fare as well as a site that has consistently updated content. It's as if the search engine is saying, "Well, this old stuff still looks good, but it certainly isn't the newest stuff out there about this topic."
This so-called "freshness factor" can have a large impact on rankings, particularly with new Web sites.
* * *
Although it may seem that achieving search engine success with a brand new Web site can be a daunting prospect, it needn't be if done properly. Hiring a skilled search engine optimization company is a good first step.
There's little use in lamenting the difficulty before you, or feeling that you have already fallen too far behind to begin. As an old Chinese proverb reminds us, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today."