Monday, February 4, 2013

Search Engine Optimization For Beginners

Telephone rings:
“Hello, this is Jason Tweed.”
 “Hi, Jason.  Do you do that SEO stuff?  I bought a Twitter and a Facebook, but they don’t make any money.  So I decided I would get some of that SEO.  Do you have SEO and how much is it?”
Unfortunately this conversation, while exaggerated, is not wildly so.  I’m amazed at the number of people who have forked out good money to have some web company set them up with a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account.  I've had clients who have spent thousands of dollars and expected instant results.

Two problems: 
  1. Businesses don’t always know what they need, or how to use it after they get it.
  2. Lots of companies are happy to take their money.
Your web developer needs to craft tools to generate business, and furthermore, be certain that your company knows how to use them.

The Myth of SEO

There is a myth.  The myth says “Create a website and the Gods of Google will deliver wheelbarrows full of cash to your door.”   Unfortunately almost everyone who creates their first website is sorely disappointed.

The truth however is much better.  With quality Search Engine Optimization focused on the long term, and with careful planning, your website will bring deliveries of cash and the cash will arrive in dump trucks instead of wheelbarrows. 

Everybody says they do SEO.  Every web developer from pro to hack says they do SEO.  It’s popular and a catch phrase we all use to sell our services.  Admittedly, we even put SEO as part of our service package.

Truth be told, if a company doesn't do SEO, they aren't a real developer.  Quality websites are designed with search engines in mind.  A good web development company helps you craft content around the idea of getting good search engine results.  Bad web companies simply take whatever you give them, and stick it on a website.

If you aren't getting traffic from search engines, it’s not that this magic fairy dust called SEO isn't installed, it’s because your content isn't written for people searching.  If you’re getting zero traffic, your content is just out of touch with the needs of your audience.

With that said, there are definitely things you can do to improve your SEO.  You can do these on your own, or you can hire a team like ours to help. 

The Truth About SEO

Content is King! – Having good quality content and LOTS of it is the fastest way to get the attention of search engines.  Long term your website should consist of hundreds of pages rather than handfuls.  It’s hard to create that much content all at once, but that’s OK.  That leads us to our next truth.

Fresh Content is Better. – Search engines favor fresh content.  If two websites have similar content and similar quantity of content, the most recent content wins.  With that said, search engines like sites with a certain amount of history.  Inevitably the number one search results for most Google topics are sites that have been around, but are updated extremely frequently.  Blogging and newsletter archives are a great way to add content and keep it fresh.

Keywords are Key. – Often companies want to brand their keywords and slogans.  Unfortunately, catchy phrases and trademarks don’t always work for web searchers.  Years ago the term “teleseminar“was just trickling into the business world.  One of my clients was a leader in this new training technique.  Unfortunately, using the term created almost no search traffic.  By changing “teleseminar” to “telephone seminar” search engine traffic jumped by 600%.  Today those phrases are used interchangeably, but I’d still recommend using both rather than trying to brand one of them.  It’s not about whether you rank high for the words that you think are important.  It’s about ranking high in the keywords and phrases actual customers use to find your product or service. 

Avoid Tricks! – Every year there’s a new bag of tricks used by “black hat” SEO experts.  They use to hide keywords with invisible text.  Then they would bury keywords in Meta tags.  For a year it was back linking and link farming.  Two things are true.  All these techniques work, until they quit.  There are bands of geeky web people who sell their services trying to use artificial techniques to manipulate search engines.  There’s another band of geeky people that work hard for the search engines trying to eliminate these tricks.  In the tug of war, the best place to be is on the outside.  It’s the only way to be sure you won’t end up covered in mud.  If you use tricks to be first on Google, your website will eventually tumble.  Furthermore, if the offense is too egregious, Google will actually penalize you.  You may have to pay someone to undo what you paid someone to do last year.  Your best bet is to create good quality content and pay attention to results.

Give Up! – In reality, there are some keywords that are simply too volatile to depend on search engines.  This is improving with local search, but if you’re looking for an attorney to file a workers’ compensation suit, the potential results are astronomical.  For these attorneys Search Engine Optimization could be difficult and expensive.  If you are in one of the niche areas that competition is fierce, consider buying links.  A good pay-per-click campaign can deliver exactly the right number of leads for your budget.  Even good SEO will have your leads coming in waves.  A good Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign can help keep your ship upright.

Good SEO Takes Time.

First, you have to create the content.  Second, you have to analyze the results to make sure the traffic you are drawing is the traffic your business needs.  Third, your must keep up with the trends for maximum results.

This can be daunting for most business owners.  When we offer SEO services, it’s not a one time collection of tricks to fool Google.  SEO services should be an ongoing system constantly trying to improve the results.

Build great websites and your customers will come to you with dump trucks full of cash.
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