There are people who believe search engine optimisation (SEO) is dead. There are those that don’t. There are those who think SEO is all about keywords and are too idle or too in love with the concept to let it go and there are those who have long known that it is a little more complex than that.
There are those who wouldn’t know a Google algorithm if it stood up and kicked them in the toosh. Oh, yes, they mention it to their clients every four or five seconds, but they don’t have a clue what it is or what it does. Yes, I’m talking to you Bad SEO man (or woman) with your penguin stuffed up your shirt and list of keywords written on your arm.
Here’s the first tip for your business: BEWARE, SEO IS EASY TO BLAG.
To Blag: v. meaning to get by clever talk or lying.
For businesses trying to do the right thing and maximise their brand presence online, it is tempting to put your trust in the first SEO expert who comes along. Unfortunately, there have always been some worrying trends in the world of SEO and the people who are catching the brunt of it are SMEs who don’t quite know what they are looking at.
The Simple View of SEO
There are particular keywords that relate to your business. If you put those keywords in your web content, Google will wet its pants and throw you, with a scream of “LOOKY-SEE”, to the top of the search engine rankings.
This is largely a bunch of old tosh. If an SEO expert is telling your business that all you need is to stuff in enough keywords and your ranking will explode, then take out a gun and shoot him or her.
Want to know why? SEO is more nuanced than that. If you want to take an alternative view, SEO as we know it, or has been popularly presented, has been dying out for a while now. Take a look at this article by Parker Schultz in Marketing Weekly and you’ll begin to see what I mean.
Okay, here’s my first serious gripe of the day. I was asked to write some blogs for a site recently. The owner said he had got someone to sort out the SEO, they’d produced a report and it suggested having regular blogs.
Fine. That’s a good start, isn’t it? Blogs are good nowadays. Doesn’t everyone say so? They’re top of the marketing to do list.
Then I read the report.
It was brevity personified and not too revealing (contained a few typos as well) and included a very short list of keywords that I could have produced in a few seconds without any research. The suggestion was that the proposed blog articles should utilise these keywords. The sweeping naivety of the report got me wondering.
I read the website content that was already there. It seemed to me that whoever had written this rubbish was intent on getting that narrow set of keywords in every sentence, sometimes twice, more often than not at the expense of coherent prose. It looked like it had been written by a four year old who had been asked to practice using certain words by their teacher.
Now get this: The person who had issued the SEO report said that he expected there to be a ‘significant’ improvement in ranking within the next week or so. Not only did this make my heart sink but it also made me worry about what else this person had been up to in his capacity as an SEO expert.
The kind of SEO this person was up to has given it a bad name and hastened rumours of the demise of the industry. There is a reason why this kind of bad SEO has been consigned by more diligent marketers to the garbage bin of online faux pas. Not only does it not work, when people do visit your site they will be presented by the most appalling written content.
The result: Are you going to buy something from a site that is poorly written? Are you going to trust them with your credit or debit card details? Do I really need to answer that?
Why Businesses Opt For Bad SEO
So, why do people offer a service like this? And more importantly, why do businesses buy into it?
There are those who provide an SEO service but have never bothered to update their skills. They live in the past where keyword stuffing was a valid, if slightly unseemly, practice. There are others who know it is wrong and still do it because it is easy and people are still willing to buy.
I’ll quickly diverge here and just mention link building in an attempt not be too one dimensional. There’s no doubt that quality links to your site are a good idea. The important word here is ‘quality’. Linking is a whole industry in itself and has led to some real bad SEO spamming practices.
Take this advice. If someone offers you ‘quality’ backlinks on the cheap, run. Run as fast as you can. Check the video out at the end of this piece for more information on why and how you should be building links, especially if you are a start-up business.
Anyway, back to the point. Businesses buy into bad SEO primarily because it is cheap and, on the surface, sounds like a good idea. It’s easy to sound knowledgeable about SEO and many businesses get fooled.
But it’s also laziness on their part. You can find out the basics of SEO and then make a valued decision about what you are getting for your money. There are plenty of good articles and videos out there that are easy to understand and will give you an informed platform to start off from.
The worrying thing is that there are so many of these people still about, giving internet marketing a bad name. In the end, it comes down to a number of individuals who don’t care about the service they offer. Outsourcing to freelancers is taking off big time; it’s useful, especially for SMEs on limited budgets.
And it’s often something businesses spend too little time thinking about.
I’m not one of those who says SEO is dead. Keywords have their place but they are only a small part of a more complicated process that involves combining good content, sound site structure, and linking it all that into social media.
And it takes time and hard work to put together.
Too often cheap and bad SEO is being used to attract visitors without regard to the integrity of the content. In other words, the SEO is overbalancing the content. It should be there to complement your site, another facet of your online persona. It is not the be all and end all of online marketing.
Do something for me small business person: Before you settle on someone to do your SEO, take a look at this short video from SEO MOZ. It explains clearly the aspects of SEO that you should be looking at and nurturing and those bad SEO practices that you should be avoiding.
It may end up saving you and your burgeoning business a lot of heartache.