Marketing your website is usually important and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is often a priority. Whether you want a new website designed or your current site optimised effective SEO can make a big difference to the value you get from your website investment. But you hear so many tales of bad experiences with SEO and so many companies pestering you regularly offering Search Engine Optimisation of one sort or another – how do you tell who you can trust?
I get people phoning up to say they can help me with my SEO – they haven’t even bothered to find out what I do never mind reviewed my website. Then there are others who phone saying they are from some marketing company ringing on “behalf of Google” – which is clearly being economical with the truth. If Google are phoning they will say so – seo companies are not asked by Google to ring you nor are they representing Google, nor do they have any special relationship with Google, nor are they approved by Google.
Here are a few things to consider when thinking about getting involved with an SEO specialist:
1. Realistic Expectations:
- What are your own expectations?
- Is the SEO specialist setting realistic expectations of what they can and can’t do?
- Are they promising top ranking?
Just think about this for a minute – if they can get you top rankings that easily what is to stop all your competitors having top ranking and clearly everyone cannot be at the top can they.
2. Proven Track Record:
- Can they show you realistic examples of their successes? Are they representative of your requirements?
- Can they show you good rankings for competitive search phrases?
- Can they show you customers where they have made a difference to their bottom line?
3. What are they going to actually do?
Search Engine Optimisation is a greatly over used and abused term that seems to cover all sorts of mysterious activities which most website owners just don’t understand and are not sure bring any real benefit. So to try to explain some basics:
SEO in effect usually boils down to 2 things:
- ONSITE = Optimising the content and code on a website for the relevant keywords and phrases people are searching for. Think of it this way: search engines want to give searchers the best sites they can that match what they are search for. Therefore the best way to get good rankings, that last, from the search engines is to provide plenty of the good content. So firstly consider what people are searching for and then target those search engine keyword phrases with the content on your website.
- OFFSITE = Online marketing – so everything else that can be done away from your website to try to send people to your website. Technically this means creating links to your website in as many places as possible eg on other websites, blogs, directories, social media and so on. This is where most activity under the heading of SEO takes place which is a bit odd really as it doesn’t involve your website!
In principle the search engines see links to a website as “votes” for a sites popularity and reward them with a higher search ranking. BUT as you can imagine, this drives SEO specialists to artificially create links to websites that they don’t deserve. So the search engines (Google especially) are now getting very particular about which links add value to a website and which ones drag a website down the rankings. The aim of the search engine is to provide genuinely the best results for a search. So they are trying hard to sift the genuine “votes” for a website from the trash. The guiding principle remains that genuine online promotion is good, artificial activities just aimed at manipulating search rankings may be ineffective or at worst harmful.
You will most probably get emails from SEO companies claiming to have reviewed your website and found it does not rank well for the relevant keywords. These people will probably not have even looked at your website – they are just mass speculative fishing emails to see who “bites”. So if you do decide to employ a SEO services company do make sure you know what you are paying for and that it makes sense as genuine promotion of your website. Done properly offsite SEO can involve a lot of work over a long period of time. Beware of cheap options – there are lots of them – make sure you understand what is actually being done for you and it is proper marketing rather than artificial just to try to manipulate the search engines.
4. Where does Social Media fit into SEO?
Much is spoken of Social Media and its importance in Search Engine Marketing. So we are talking about Blogs, Forums, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Initially these mostly fell into the social arena but they have now transferred into the business arena as well and they should not be ignored. They provide
- more exposure
- additional links
for your business web site so they can be very helpful in improving your search rankings (and Google has now said you should use Blogs etc to promote your website). So many marketing people are rightly pushing the use of these tools to market web sites. AND the really big advantage is you can do it yourself.
Just a few words on Blogs – Blogs are Diary or date based web publishing tools. (Or looked at another way – a website Content Management System (CMS) designed to publish your daily musings.) If that is what you want they are great tools. If however what you really want is to add new content to your website regularly in a logical fashion then you might want a suitable CMS such as WordPress, attached to your website.
Just a few words on Forums – Forums are for online discussions. They are often used to provide online support for software etc and can grow into great resources but they require a lot of on-going time and effort to support. You can’t expect to set one up and expect a community to just appear and make it work for you.
5. Is Google Adwords SEO?
Google Adwords are nothing to do with search engine optimisation but are often spoken of as if they are (and often are what you are really paying for as opposed to real SEO). They are small adverts you pay google for by paying each time someone clicks on your advert. The cost is usually in the range of a few pence to a few pounds per click – its a bit like an auction in that the greater the competition the greater the cost to stay near the top. The adverts – or sponsored links – appear at the top and to the right of the normal search results listings.
Google Adwords ( or others like Facebook Ads) is a good way of getting fast results (in terms of getting your site seen) and getting exposure you could not otherwise get as the competition for normal SEO is just too strong to expect to get good rankings. But it is like all adverts in that you get the exposure as long as you keep paying so it can be a money pit if not managed properly – so make sure you spend the time understanding your campaign and monitoring progress.
Google has other tools like Google Maps (Local Business Listing), Google Base that you might be useful when considering search optimisation.
If you are shopping for Search Engine Optimisation I strongly advise you to make sure you understand what you are actually getting for your money. Just leaving it to the SEO specialist leaves you very vunerable. There are lots of things that can be called SEO, some techniques are more useful than others and some are dubious.
If you understand what is going on you are better prepared to ensure you get good value for your money and you can probably do some of it yourself especially if you embrace Social Media!
We aim to be friendly and informative, providing all the support and guidance you need to steer you clearly and effectively through the web design process and ensure that you end up with a great website.
If you need help with your website please feel free to give me a ring. Regards
Michael Spencer, Web Designer and WordPress Specialist.
firstname.lastname@example.org – 01263 722058
Epsilis Website Designers – Mundesley, Norwich, Norfolk and Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire