Picture a group of explorers decked out in safari gear: packs on their backs, hats à la Crocodile Hunter, each with a dozen vaccines coursing through their veins. The humid air hangs heavy as the expedition party heads deep into the extensive wilderness of the Amazon rainforest. Their task? To locate one particular palm tree amidst the vast, dense acres of identical-looking trees.
This is the everyday life of a search engine.
Consider that “one particular palm tree” the equivalent of a company’s one-page website, one URL hidden among millions, one tree out of an entire rainforest. All the botanists and cartographers and topologists in the world wouldn’t be able to find that tree without it having some distinct, identifying markers, and the chances that a search engine will reliably find a one-page website without SEO are equally abysmal.
At the most fundamental level, companies build websites so that users can find them – and that’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. By using SEO best practices, a one-page website becomes significantly easier for a search engine to locate, allowing the site to appear more frequently in response to web searches, driving traffic to the website that would otherwise go elsewhere.
Web developers who can apply the benefits of SEO to a one-page website will know a range of SEO best practices: paginating a homepage into distinct sections, optimizing anchor links to navigate within the page, placing keywords properly on the site, maintaining content freshness over time, and so on. All of these practices combined will produce a clear set of directions, leading Google, or Yahoo, or whichever search engine a user prefers, directly to a company’s one-page website.
Of course, search engine optimization comes with its challenges. To discourage websites from cheating their way into a higher page ranking, Googlebots perform site inspections, checking webpages against their code of conduct. These programs scan for a range of SEO violations, including cluttering a site with keywords, cloaking pages from the search engine, repeating identical content under two different URLs, and even posting content that’s considered too “thin” or “shallow” (sounds subjective, but there is, in fact, an algorithm for that). For each of these discovered offenses Google employs punitive measures, doling out negative points that adversely affect a website’s ranking among search engines, making it harder and harder to find.
Understandably, this system can make companies skittish at the thought of maintaining a one-page website after a certain amount of time. When a company first builds its website, optimization is not the primary concern – content and design and cost and time outstrip SEO by far, and one-page websites are a comfortable solution. But as a business grows and stabilizes, the tendency may lean towards developing the company website more fully, and the question becomes: Should the company move to a multi-page structure, or simply restructure the existing one-page website with SEO additions?
There is no catch-all answer to this query, but there are many reasons not to abandon the original one-page website. SEO can be implemented for either sort of website, through multi-page websites may risk more SEO violations simply based on the quantity of pages available and the likelihood of content duplication. When budget or time is a complicating factor, one-page websites are more cost-effective and can be optimized quickly, without demanding the complicated, from-scratch creation of a multi-page website. And perhaps most importantly, business type must be taken into account. Certain companies are well-suited to the one-page format, and should not be swayed from it simply because multi-page websites are more standard.
Young companies and startups can benefit enormously from one-page websites, inexpensively placing their businesses on the market’s digital radar and consolidating information on the company’s progress. For brick-and-mortar businesses whose primary mode of engagement is not web-based, a one-page website offers the read-only format that delivers to consumers the quick information they need – say, the store’s opening hours, location, contact information. Smaller, consumer-facing businesses such as law and accounting firms, or contracting companies, often depend heavily on traffic flow, and having a search engine optimized website is an extremely efficient method of driving more consumers towards a one-page website.
To toss out a well-conceived one-page website may not be in a company’s best interests, and SEO changes are both effective and simple to make. It isn’t worthwhile for a business to send Google or its customers wandering through the depths of the Amazon with only an inscrutable map in hand and a vague sense of where the “X” should be. Convenience is the name of the game, and just as an online presence is non-negotiable, it’s critical to present one’s website in the most accessible fashion possible. Having SEO for a one-page website is like offering a set of annotated maps, a native guide, and Indiana Jones (minus the hazard) to the consumers searching for your company.
A successful business should have an elegant, green palm tree of a website that users can spot from miles away, and SEO plays an indispensable part in directing consumer attention in the proper direction. Before overhauling the one-page system that’s already in place, a company should consider the benefits of simply optimizing their site, and weigh that against the pros and cons of building a multi-page website from the ground up.
If the one-page structure suits your business, your budget, your design, then grab the SEO and run with it. It won’t hurt your users to miss the forest for the tree.