Invisible Websites

One of my current projects is a review site for a niche market – event companies in South Africa. It’s a tiny market in global terms, but there are a couple of hundred companies working in the industry. When business confidence starts to drop, the big corporates tend to spend more on advertising and events like product launches (at least they should be…)

I’ve been surveying websites in this niche for my review site. So far, I’ve tested 28 of the sites on my list, favoring the larger companies and the ones I’m most familiar with.

I was struck by how generally awful they are from a marketing perspective. Splash pages and Flash-based navigation are more common than one would expect. Most of the sites are inwardly focused – “So-and-So Productions has been in operation since 1996, when Algernon So-and-So came up with the vision to create the most fabulous production company in the world” – rather than focusing on what the potential client wants. Only a couple have a newsletter of any kind; I found exactly one site with a blog (on, so really not much use for search engine ranking).

Checking the search engine optimization with one of the tools I use (the Domain Tools SEO Score tool) shows 7 sites out of 28 with an SEO score better than 80%, and 8 sites out of 28 with a score of 0% – usually because there’s no text on the home page, because it’s Flash-based.

In South Africa, due to parastatal inefficiencies, Internet access has always been expensive and slow. Only about 11% of the population has Internet access – that’s about 5 million people. Because of this, small businesses don’t take the Internet seriously. The fact that these businesses don’t get many customers from the Internet means that their websites can be ‘vanity sites’ or brochure sites, just the same as all the others.

Still, there’s no excuse for having a website which is, to all intents and purposes, invisible to the search engines. I blame the web designers. Even if the client insists on a site with nothing but crossfading pictures, you can still add at least a meta description and a keyword-optimized page title.

Here’s my favorite “invisible to the search engines” site (to think I worked there 25 years ago… )

To be fair, this site is first on Google for the company name. That doesn’t help if your potential clients have never heard of you…

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This entry was posted in General and tagged business confidence, corporates, marketing, niche market, search engine optimization, search engines, SEO, small businesses, South Africa, web designers. Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Invisible Websites

  1. John from Maryland Real Estate says:

    I am also constantly amazed by how it seems most large companies just don’t seem to get the Internet, always stuffing their site with Flash etc.

    Johns last blog post..Baltimore Real Estate

  2. Alex from Black and White says:

    Ah the infamous invisible websites. I don’t understand how some companies get away with this. Or rather, how CEO’s let their webmasters get away with this. Makes you wonder how much business and money they’re losing.

    In fairness, Google is trying hard to index and crawl flash pages now-a-days, but its far from a good solution. It’s worth having a standard HTML website for search engines to crawl and index, to go along with your flash page.

    Alexs last blog post..Mother nature

  3. peter from Peter Answers says:

    I recently looked into an established niche and saw this same sort of thing – all sorts of crap. So many of these companies get fat dumb and happy and don’t realize they could be doing so much more.

    peters last blog post..Introducing BustedTees

  4. Lisapeary says:

    Google is trying hard to index and crawl flash pages now-a-days, but its far from a good solution. It’s worth having a standard HTML website for search engines to crawl and index.

    Lisapearys last blog post..Protector Of The Stone—Granite Stone That Is

  5. Jenna says:

    I agree with John…why is it that people feel they have to use flash all of the time? I’d take HTML any day over Flash..

  6. Mira from Contemporary Dining Chairs says:

    Google spiders do a great job of crawling the net. I had a website go to pr4 in three months from existence.

  7. I have ever done this job well but not well paid. The client really dumb..:((

    Homebiz profits onlines last blog post..Homebiz Profits Through Online Business

  8. Dan from Acne Treatment says:

    I took several web design courses at school, none of them emphasizing meta tags or anything remotely related to SEO. It took a couple months of portfolio not being indexed for me to realize what SEO was, or why it’s important to a website.

  9. Susan from New Wordpress Themes says:

    I love domain tools – I’ve used it many times when calculating SEO scores.

    Susans last blog post..It’s a Boy

  10. SEO vs PPC says:

    Another interesting SEO evaluation tool is below – the SEO Challenge where you can put two websites head-to-head to see which one is better optimized:

  11. aaron from discount glasses says:

    This is really a pretty common problem. I’ve done some web design in the past, and in my experience, the client guides these decisions. All I can do is make suggestions as to why things are a bad idea. In the end, someone is writing me a check that keeps a roof over my head. If they want animated moving flags, an unskippable splash page, and no text than by golly that’s what they’ll get.

    aarons last blog post..Buying Discount Glasses Online

  12. Nice. Be careful to test everything Google says before certifying it as “truth”.

    Davids last blog post..ifbyphone Raises $4.6 Million in New Round of Venture Capital Funding

  13. Jerry from Web Design Conferences says:

    Having a flash based homepage is a great way to kill your ranking in the search engines.

  14. Chris from Joyce Meyer Books says:

    I believe it still pays to have that niche market in South Africa because of the little competition, so when the internet access will improve in the future, by then you would have already established your name.


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  16. Chris Biber from Ottawa apartments says:

    I think the site looks good, it’s easy on the eyes, it’s nice and clean and easy to navigate.
    cool very cool…..nice post.

  17. ken from cheap website hosting says:

    I am suprised how many people do not realize thier is nothing for search engines to pick up with splash. The fact people make more and more of the sites and wonder why they do so bad in search engines suprises me. One other thing is if site is slow to load people will leave so leave videos and splash on pages they can go to not main page.

  18. aditya from Web design sunshine coast says:

    If you have a business website than it should rank in the good position in the search engine.It help you lot.

  19. I’ve had to explain to so many clients that having a number one ranking for your business name is pretty much worth nothing because if a customer already knows your name….they’ll either drive to you or look you up in the phone book or whitepages dot com or something.

  20. ken from cheap website hosting says:

    I agree with you why make any website and not try to get it listed the best you can in search engines. You never know who will see it and what kind of business you could pick up if it is listed.

  21. pawan from management Institute indore says:

    I think everybody should have the do follow plugin installed.Thanks for the post and the information. It is really hard to find the right plug-in. I tried the “you comment, I follow” one but I did not realize that there were additional settings to make it work correctly (i.e. nofollow)

  22. Hi, I am agree with you but invisible content of a website is the way to do cloaking which is not an ethical process in point of view of Google.

  23. Wow, only 5% have reliable internet access? That would definitely make it difficult for small start-ups to get off the ground. Interesting article, thanks for sharing.

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    Its akin to the long arm of the law, Google will get to you ultimately, you, with your invisible websites.

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    Thank You For The Great Info

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  36. Too many people put up their site and expect it to rank with no effort. Unless you’ve got virtually no competition you really need to focus your energy here.

  37. A constant vigil is required to fillip the website to a position of viewership on the net.

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  40. I dont think invisible websites are approved by the mandarins at Google.

  41. Thanks very much for sharing.

  42. Are such sites search engine-compliant?

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