We sometimes get asked if we will do "a bit of SEO" for websites that look like they were put together by the owner’s youngest pimply offspring in 1995 and hardly touched since.
Firstly, Design, typically these websites have the seasoned delights of: bad looking and pixelated images riddled with artefacts, unprofessional fonts, coloured fonts, hopeless navigation, unbalanced elements, empty pages, broken links, cheesy clichés, boring, nasty, broken, slow, confusing, etc, etc.
Secondly, Content Quality, although bad design and poor quality content are unrelated; if your website has too little written content, or poor quality, or unoriginal (plagiarised), or duplicate, inadequately linked to, nothing fresh in the last few years, or just not very useful - why would your website deserve to rank high in search? If you want to impress the search engines you need to start improving the written content on your site as well as the design, and stop neglecting it.
Thirdly, Coding, if your website is badly coded as well as badly designed; it has to be totally replaced. We'll back it up and use the existing written content as a starting point - but there is no way we are going to try to improve the search ranking of the existing monstrosity. You'll need a brand-new website; design and code.
What I try to get across is that no amount of SEO in the form of 'onsite SEO', 'natural backlink building', or 'social media engagement' is going to alter the fact that the website looks cheap, neglected and unprofessional.
Should we subsequently and miraculously get the 'visually unaltered website' to page one in Google for their chosen keywords - the bounce rate would be quite high. The increased flow of visitors flocking via searches to the monstrosity of a website would feel nauseous within seconds.
There's no point in having loads of new visitors to your website if those visitors don't take positive action because they don't trust, value or like your website.
So before you think about trying to get your website to the holy grail number one position in Google search for your chosen search phrases, ask yourself honestly - does it deserve it?
When you acknowledge the answer is no - then dust off your cheque book - pay for a complete overhaul of your website - then we can discuss SEO and integrate it at the same time.
The First Rule of SEO - Deserve to be Liked by Search Engines - Content and Presentation before Promotion.
Should you decide to ignore The First Rule of SEO and alternatively be duped by one of the numerous and annoying "SEO Link Building Service Company" spam emails doing the rounds with every business in the world these days, and engage an Indian or Malaysian SEO ex-spurt to spam the internet with thousands of useless or incredibly weak backlinks to your own website - then remember - your website still looks cheap.
Most of these backlinks will be completely useless and low quality spammy web directories, some may be useless "no_follow" blog comments. The chances are none will make a difference and you take the risk that some will actually worsen your website's search positioning - because they violate Google's guidelines.
Have a look at Google's Quality Guidelines before making any assumptions about SEO based on what a friend told you or what the spam SEO emails suggest.
A violation of their guidelines can result in a ranking penalty or complete removal from their search databases. If the "SEO backlink building service" sets up backlinks that Google deem to be paid for, your site will most likely get a large ranking penalty - which are very tricky, time-consuming and therefore expensive to remove, if at all.
Let your website acquire backlinks naturally, because you have a great website with great content, that other website owners think is worthy of linking to.