We sometimes get asked to Search Optimise a website that looks like it was put together by the owner’s youngest offspring many years ago and hardly touched since.
Firstly, design. Typically, these websites have poor images that are blurred, inappropriate, wrong size and wrong place. They have no design consistency and unbalanced layouts. The fonts are unprofessional, non-contemporary or multi-coloured. The navigation is hopeless and has empty pages and broken links.
Secondly, content. If a website's text is badly written with cheesy clichés, is uninspiring, minimal, unoriginal (plagiarised), unfocused, has duplication issues, inadequately linked to, nothing fresh in the last few years, or just not very useful; generally a bit boring or confusing, then why would your website deserve to rank high in search? If you want to impress the search engines (and indeed, potential customers) you need well written, unique and engaging content.
Thirdly, code. 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.
No amount of Search Engine Optimisation is going to alter the fact that the website looks cheap, neglected and unprofessional.
Should we subsequently and miraculously manage to get the 'visually unaltered website' on to page 1 in Google Search 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; and leave without taking action.
There's no point in gaining loads more new visitors to a poorly created 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 1 position in Google Search for your relevant search phrases, ask yourself honestly - does it deserve it?
If the honest answer is no, then dust off your cheque book and pay for a complete overhaul of your website; a new design, rewritten content, and adhering to SEO principals.
The First Rule of SEO - Deserve to be Liked by Search Engines - Design and Content before Promotion.
Should you decide to ignore The First Rule of SEO and alternatively engage the services of one of the numerous (and annoying) 'SEO Link Building Service Companies' (found via a spam emails doing the rounds with every business in the world), who then spams 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 pointless "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.