Is SEO all Smoke and Mirrors?
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 regardless of what they say.
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?
SEO comes in 2 basic flavours:
- Tricks and hidden techniques on and off site to deceive search engines. These generally have no impact on the look, design and content of a website. They can be very effective, but are risky (in that search engines do not want to be deceived) and tend to be expensive (as you often pay monthly for the deception to continue and as soon as you stop paying the tricks are removed so your ranking disappears.)
- Is all about the content of your website and is approved by the search engines. 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 text content they are looking for. So firstly consider what people are searching for and then target those search engine keyword phrases with the copy on your website.
Then there are a few other things that often fall under the banner of Search Engine Optimisation that may add to the confusion:
1. Link building
This is a tricky so proceed with caution - basically Google's logic is
- if good quality sites are linking to your site then that is a strong recommendation for your web site
so this leads us down the path of getting links to improve our search rankings but this is not what Google wants so the logic continues
- poor quality links, or participation in link swapping schemes or buying links - ie links for the sake of links to boost search ranking are frowned upon and your site is penalised if this is what Google thinks you are doing.
So should you get links to your website? - Well currently they definitely make a difference and good links will get you higher rankings in the Search Engines. Just think about the links carefully. Swapping links with unrelated sites is no longer helpful. Think about:
- can you publish useful information on your site that others might want to link to simply because you are a good source of information
- your customers and your suppliers - will they link to you
- relevant directories
- related professional orgainsations
- can you publish useful articles on other web sites that will link back to your site
Incidently - link networks in one form or another are often used as a smoke and mirrors technique for providing so called SEO that you pay for monthly to be part of.
2. Social Media
Much is spoken of Social Media and its importance in Search Engine Marketing. So we are talking about Blogs, Forums, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Fundamentally most of these fall into the social arena rather more than into the business arena but they provide
- more exposure
- additional links
for your business web site so they can be 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 pushing the use of these tools to market web sites. You should think carefully about the appropriateness of the exposure you are getting for your business from using some of these tools and the maintenance requirements.
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 more appropriate CMS 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.
3. Google Adwords
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 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, 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!
Epsilis - Website Designers and Search Engine Optimisation Specialists
47 Farthing Drive
Letchworth Garden City
Articles on various aspect of search engine optimisation: -
Making the most of SEO using your website CMS system - Is your Website or Webshop Content Management System Search Engine Friendly? Do you know how to make the most of using it for search engine optimisation or is that something you think is being done automatically for you by the software? If you are just updating your web site and are not thinking about SEO you are missing out on opportunities to get better search rankings for your website.
Google Places - local business search - Google is moving much more to local based search results and is now blending Local Business Places (previously Maps)search results with Natural search results and the distinction is now blurred but no business should miss out on perhaps the most effective measure they can take to become visible on local searches.
Google releases updated version of their SEO starter guide - Google provides general guidance for site owners on getting the best rankings for their websites - they do not give away any of their secrets and most of what they say is not a surprise. However this new Google Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide provides a very nice guide to best practices for increasing the effectiveness of your web site with people and search engines.
Tips to Help Search Engine Ranking For New Websites - Google's algorithms are designed to prevent new websites from surging straight to the top of the engine rankings. This is commonly referred to as "sandboxing". So what can new site owners do to minimise this problem?
SEO for Ecommerce Websites and Web Shops - Search Engine Optimisation for ecommerce sites is always a challenge. It is likely that your ecommerce content management software may not be helping much and your other main problem is probably that you are selling the same products as a bunch of other online shops.
Standing out in the Crowd - Optimising website content - Everyone is interested in Search Engine Optimisation for their website these days. It is therefore becoming much harder to get sites to the top of the rankings. So how do you get your website on to page 1 of Google?
Is SEO all Smoke and Mirrors?... 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 and - how do you tell who you can trust?
Search Rankings and Google Tools - Google provides a number of useful tools to help you get better search rankings. You should know about these if you are interested in marketing your website more effectively.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Marketing (SEM) Glossary - commonly used phrases explained.
Good or Bad Search Engine Optimisation - How to tell the good from the bad SEO? Offers and promises that seem "to good to be true". The problem for most site owners is that they just do not know what are valid SEO techniques and what are not, so I will try to explain how to spot the good from the bad when you see it.
SEO and Web Page Design.... an overview of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and relevance to Web Page Design
Beginners guide to Search Engine Optimisation - If you want to know a little more about the basic techniques of ethical search engine optimisation
Link Popularity and Link Building Suggestions - Some search engines use Link Popularity as a significant ranking tool so obtaining good quality relevant links to your website can give your site a boost in the search engines