Speak to business and the majority of them have heard of the phrase SEO, see it as an unlimited pot of revenue generating magic and have no idea how to get there.
The SEO industry does nothing to dispel this mystique and this probably accounts for the growth in business for anyone offering SEO and related services.
But it does not need to be this way, the following guide will help you get in the right head space to see if SEO is right for you and how not to get burned.
SEO companies love people who ask to ‘be found on Google’. The generic nature of this question means whatever work is done its impossible to quantify the results and ultimately increase the revenue the SEO company charges.
Think in terms of something that can be defined and measured. So something more valid would be ‘To be in the top 10 on Google UK for the phrase web designers in London’. With this phrase we not only are thinking about what our audience wants, but this can help up to define what our landing page should be about and most importantly we have something we can measure the success of.
Most companies believe the hen that lays the golden egg is a number 1 listing on Google. While its true Google is the dominant search engine, other search engines can outperform Google on some searches and target demographics. With Google, as an example, the search results page features multiple types of information. It can contain PPC adverts, map listings, shopping results and organic website listings. Although an organic listing might be the gold standard, if it’s easier and most cost effective to appear in the other areas of the search page, then it’s something daft not to consider.
A badly created website can rank well due to the back links it has going to the site. Simply put Google places more weight on back links than any other search engine. The upshot is a thriving industry for buying and selling back links. Google considers this practice as being bad and bans websites it finds that has bought links. Google also looks at your historic back link profile as well as a gauge to how trusted the site is. This means that’s it’s harder for an established website to get banned. But it’s possible to actively grow the back links to your website, you just need to do it manually and simply makes sure the back link looks legitimate. So adding a link to your dry cleaning business on a gaming forum probably is not a good match. Good back links are hard to get and take time. For most companies to do it right simply takes too much time and if outsourcing, too expensive.
While not including search phrases on your landing pages make it very hard for the page to be found on Google, spending a lot of money on purely on-page SEO will only ever produce limit effects in a limited amount of cases. Where on-page SEO works well, is when you’re able to a) define a decent long tail, b) competing websites are either limit in number or quality and c) you have a decent back link profile already in place. On-page SEO can be effective but you need to understand the battle you are fighting.
Above everything else the hardest paradox anyone conducting SEO will comes across, is the idea that if your SEO is too successful, there is a chance that a search Engine like Google might actually ban you. This is simply down to Google actively looking for websites where techniques are being used to artificially inflate the sites natural position in search. The best defence is to simply not take short cuts… Don’t buy mass back links, look to slowly build them over time. Add content to you website that has value to your audience. In short build an empire which has value in its own right.
Some SEO services and application will have high on the feature list some form of automation. Some examples of this would be an application that lets you post links automatically to forums or social media, or software that automatically adjusts your on page content. Simply put SEO works best when you spend time looking at the explicit situation and formulate a plan to exploit it. The upshot is that decent SEO companies are expensive and if you are going to automate to save time or money, the result will be poor.
Another paradox which needs squaring is that with search engines like Google to rank your page, they look at a host of ranking signals, and it’s the combination of these which gives you your rank when you search. Most of these signals are minor, and only a few carry the most weight… Apart from inbound links, on page the most important factors are: – The title tag, URL of page, H tags and visible body copy. If you just concentrate on these factors the rest will just happen.
If you had not noticed, Google changes its algorithm regularly. Any SEO technique which works on applying a hard coded set of universal rules will fail at some point. By comparing you webpage and backlinks against the top 3 (5 or 10) webpages for you chosen phrase will mean no matter how Google changes it algorithm, you will always be looking at the sites which Google values. This technique is bullet proof and never fails. While it’s possible to apply this technique to the best performing site alone, by widening to the top 3, you help to remove the factors which are unique to any one site, which might skew your analysis.
Perhaps the worse failing of anyone who gets into SEO is to find a tool and then blindly follow its recommendations like a lemming jumping off a cliff. Take time to think about what you are being asked to do and think about it in a human way. Does the advice make sense? Does it sound too good to be true? If it causes problems, what’s the effect?
Google not only looks at your page as a single instance, but also websites which link to the content as well as other content on the same website. It also looks at things in a historic context. In other words, older content has a history, a trust factor. The upshot is the more related content on the same website, which is trusted over time, the more Google is likely to improve, not only the pages rank in search, but the site as a whole. As a minimum, think in terms of waiting at least six months to see the ‘proper’ rank.
Sounds daft right, but for SEO to work you need to start with your audience and the sorts of search phrases they will use, from there you need to form landing pages with content that matches these search terms, and finally the page needs to have a call to action. In other words if the page does not convert, what’s its purpose and why should you resource creating something that does not drive revenue.
There may be a coherent reason for creating pages that do not convert, but if you don’t have a reason and it’s just there to bulk out, then you need to ask if this is for your benefit or the SEO Company you are working with.