September 14, 2009

There is No Such thing as a Website

One of the major misconceptions of the modern web is that websites still exist. Websites are institutions on the web, often depicted as an organizational scheme, never too seldom used to show the content of a domain with the name “sitemap”.

As modern web users we all know that this stopped being the case a couple of years back. Still however, we use these kind of images to depict our websites. Why? Well, my guess is, that it is easy and pedagogical within an institution to display its web “face” in the same fashion as the oranisational schemes people are used too. Fair enough. But with regards to SEO, this view of a website can be very hassardous.

Google as the startpage
Since Google decided to take over the web, it has become more and more important for oranizations to become visible on the search engine result pages. Simply enough this is due to the fact that people search, and they like to search. People like to compare and given the 10 options of a search engine result page, they are satisfied that they are given enough options to choose. Now, most people choose one of the first three choices in a search result, but they still find this as being a choice in front of the other nine that was out there to grab.

Google has for many become the real start page of the entire web. They do not go to a website to start their exploration or search endeavors. They go to Google. Then they click what ever link Google presents to them. Naturally, and as you probably allready know. Most of those links presented to you in the search result do not lead to the “start page” of websites. It leads to web pages.

Start page, site section and a webpage
This is why some people (I think actually the designers started this chat) argue that every page on your website needs to be treated as a “start page” and not only the page that pops up when you type in your domain name.

You can in many cases, if you work well with your keywords, on-site optimization, internal link structure and inbound link baits, make specific pages rank for specific keywords. Thus, when you think of your website on the modern web, and with SEO ambitions at heart, please start thinking in terms of themes and topics.

When I say that each page should work as a start page, I do not mean it should be a start page for the entire website. (Remember, the only page of your site that should include all the links to all your important pages is the sitemap.) I mean that every page should belong to a theme and should therefore be presented as a start page of that theme. Given the topic of that specific web page, it decides what kind of content you open up in your theme on this “theme start page”.

Example of a theme start page
A theme start page only displays the topic of that specific page – ie, the webpage content minus all the navigation. Then the theme start page takes into account that there is related information within the same theme on the domain.

Cause you want to show Google and your users that you have more on the topic. Imagine a user lands on a page, searching for “apple pie”. The user might be searching for a picture of apple pie, a recepie, or just some kind of story about apple pie. By using theme start pages, you can easily satisfy the needs of the user.

As far as Google is concerned, you show that you know a lot about this topic apple pie. Enough to be an authority. Perhaps you have a link to “other delicious pies” giving Google and the users a chance to have a look at what else you have on your website. BAH… I am really expressing myself horribly.

The Modern view of a website
Basically, what I want to make sure is that you view each and every page of your website as a sub-section to the Google start page. Thus you connect related webpages on your site so that the user can find his or her way no matter where they came from.

Thus every pages becomes a start page, a site section and a webpage in itself. If you don’t have the relevant information on your website, then link to another website that has the information. That way you put your website in the same neigborhood as good articles within the same theme. Sometimes it is even better to connect your webpage to a webpage within another domain. Especially if you are a newbie on the block and need some big friends around to keep you protected.

Concluding remarks
Your website is not your organization on the web, it is a number of webpages grouped and linked together in the context of a domain. Each and every webpage you have has to compete with all webpages about the same thing on the web. Offcourse it helps to have good genes (good domain) just as in real life, but you really need to understand that in the end we are all alone if we do not connect to others. (hmm… I’m sure you get the point by now… I will try to explain this better in another post if you don’t.)

4 Comments
  • Annie, September 14, 2009 Reply

    "Perhaps you have a link to “other delicious pies” giving Google and the users a chance to have a look at what else you have on your website. BAH… I am really expressing myself horribly." -- was this during lunch time when you wrote this? :) I think you should try and draw out that example. Can you maybe list out an example of a site that follows this? I'm having a little trouble trying visualize!

  • Jesper Åström, September 14, 2009 Reply

    @Annie - yes, I should really explain this further, and I will. I am not saying that you shouldn't link between your sections or themes. Or perhaps I am. haha... What I want people to do is to stop thinking of their website as an entity.

    Each published page on a website is a window to the outside world. If you publish unique content all over your website, making each page as unique as possible, with relevant content for that specific page all over you website, then you will get rewarded for it.

    Google rewards unique content as well as penailzes duplicate content. If you are linked with relevant webpages on your own and other websites you are rewarded.

    Many organizations link to what they believe to be the "most important pages" on their website from all over the website. I strongly oppose this measure as it has no relevance to the user OR to Google.

    I will write more about how I would like to see companies link their pages together with others and with other pages on their domain.

    But sure thing. I should probably try to work more on the visualization. I was just pissed off yesterday and needed to get this out of my system :) Thnx for commenting on my blog, please do so again! Especially comments like this one that actually push me to think :) Thank you Annie!

  • Team Creatives, October 1, 2009 Reply

    Your assertion is very much true. With the amount of crosslinking between sites today, it is highly unlikely that you will see a site that stands alone. Thus, web designers such take this into account to make sites which accomodate crosslinking well.


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