Search Engine Optimization and the people who profess to be “experts” at it, still suffer from a sketchy reputation. There have been years and years now of controversy and debate, a fire that is constantly fueled by hyperbole, jargon, ludicrous claims and unfair accusations. Many would have you believe that it is such a complex and intricate art that mere mortals can’t be expected to understand what it is and how it works. Others maintain that all “SEOers” are charlatans and opportunists.
But in 2013, here is the truth about SEO.
SEO is not lipstick on a pig
It’s not a secret sauce you can apply to a website and magically make that website hit the top 10 in Google’s organic results. In fact, it’s not something you tack on or layer over an existing website that will transform it into an “SEO’d” website, whatever that means. No amount of “SEOing” can help a weak website; a poorly designed website; or a website with little original content. It’s not a substitute for excellent fresh, original content, responsive design or a good user experience.
If it sounds too good to be true…
Sure, there are tons of tactics out there that people may try to sell you that promise to make websites rank higher in organic search results. Some of them are convoluted and tricksy. And they work for a while. But what inevitably happens is that the search engines have kept pace with the “black hatters” and they quickly neutralize their effectiveness. Often, those sites get penalized and banished into obscurity once the curtain gets pulled back and the wizard is exposed.
There’s no overnight success
Bo Bennett said “Anyone who wants to sell you overnight success or wealth is not interested in your success; they are interested in your money.” This is definitely true in the world of SEO. To get a website to rank well in the organic search results takes work and it takes time. If your business is unique or you are the only business of your type in a specific geographic location, you can achieve great results with SEO very quickly. But the “tactics” you would use to do that are the same solid principles that every website needs to use. It’s just logical that when you have less competition, you’ll see results faster. The truth is, organic success is slow. You must. Be. Patient.
Google isn’t in business to help your business
The organic results in search engines exist for the benefit of the user, not the businesses who want to be in the top 10. You can pay to be in the Sponsored Results, and you probably should be spending some money there for instant visibility. But you can’t pay to show up in the organic results. Google has entire teams of people whose job it is to manually examine websites and eliminate spam from the organic results. And their algorithm is tweaked constantly to automatically filter out what they consider to be “low quality” results. Their number one stated goal is “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” What this means for you is that if you want your website to rank highly in the organic search results, you need to play by the rules and follow Google’s guidelines.
It all boils down to this
Build a website for your target audience. If that’s your goal, then the side benefits are that it will also attract links, generate leads and promote your business. But put your audience first. Become familiar with what “best practices” are for building websites and for promoting your website. What used to be “SEO tactics” are really just the basic building blocks for a good website:
- great content (fresh, original, written for your audience)
- great design (user-friendly, mobile-friendly, clean code, fast loading)
- responsible optimization (non-spammy SEO basics: URLs, titles, headlines, images, meta, links, etc.)
- organic link building (no link schemes, paid linking, spammy linking)
If you outsource your website design, make sure the people building, updating or “SEOing” your website are saying the same kinds of things you’ve read here. If they start talking about buying links, buying non-original content, building a Flash site, removing content because you have “too much and people won’t read all that”, building multiple duplicate sites, or getting you instant results, think twice before spending your money with them.