This is the next post in my series on how website owners can improve their search engine optimization. My last article provided an overview of topics which I’ll be addressing over my next several articles. I’m writing this series due to the fact that website optimization is something that business owners realize they need to do. Unfortunately, they are often unsure as to what “optimization” actually means or how to go about it. To make matters worse, such business owners regularly get calls and emails from people offering to “get them to the top of Google.” This is why I’m going to be using this article to explain what is, and what isn’t, SEO. Working with a legitimate company can help you to look like this:
While working with one of the many companies which claim to offer services, but actually provide no value, can result in you looking like this:
I’m assuming you’d rather look like the former than the latter. So, with that said, let’s take a look at a) why “SEO” has become such a buzzword, b) what search engine optimization is, c) what it is not. This should help to give you a framework to go off of when you are selecting a company to assist you. If you need assistance with website development or search engine marketing, then contact us today. We work with companies throughout the United States.
Why search engine optimization has become a buzzword in recent years
The benefits of doing well in search results are obvious to a business of any size. If a potential customer does a search for “xyz,” and your website ranks highly, then you get a potential sale out of that person clicking on the link to your website. This, combined with the fact that most “traditional” advertising is no longer effective, has resulted in businesses recognizing that they need to reach customers through search results. While businesses recognize this need, most aren’t sure how to go about it. The fact that businesses have a need that they aren’t sure how to fill, has resulted in an entire industry of “SEO agencies” claiming to meet that need. These agencies push their services on businesses by throwing out lots of fancy buzzwords but, to be frank, they aren’t providing value to your business. They count on you buying their services because they throw “SEO” around as their main buzzword. A legitimate company should be able to explain their approach, and why it can get results, without relying on vague buzzwords. This is why, when we assist a customer, we explain what legitimate search engine optimization is and we explain how we work to achieve it in a way that doesn’t rely on incomprehensible babble.
Understanding what legitimate SEO is
Search engine optimization is a straightforward process. It involves both the content of your website as well as how your site is constructed (both on the front end and back end). I’m going to use this part of the article to break down what SEO is by explaining it from a search engine’s perspective. I’ll also look at how your website’s content and construction impact search results. Finally, I’ll look at how backlinks impact your performance in search.
Understanding SEO requires you to think from the perspective of a search engine
Understanding how to make your site perform better in search requires an understanding of what it is that search engines are looking for in the first place. Imagine for a moment that you own Google, Bing, or some other search engine. All you’re going to care about is giving people relevant and useable search results. Why do I say this? Well, if I go to your search engine and enter a query, and you give me results which are irrelevant to that query, then you’re going to lose me as a user. This means that I’m never going to come back to your search engine which means I’m never going to have the potential of clicking on your ads. This is why the only thing that search engines care about is providing people with results that are relevant and useable. That really is it. So, if you’re providing relevant information (through the content on your website) and are providing a good user experience (through the build of your website) then you’re doing what the search engines want.
Your website’s content and user experience are an important part of Search Engine Optimization
The content within a web page needs to be relevant to a search query or else, for obvious reasons, Google has no reason to return the page for that query. The first part of providing relevant information is providing content that actually provides value to the person performing the search. Say, for example, that someone is going through a child custody dispute and they perform a search for [name of city] child custody lawyer. Now suppose that there are five law firm websites which all say “I’m the best lawyer, call me!” Each of those five websites are essentially providing the same information. This means that Google has no reason to return one above any of the others. Now suppose that a sixth website has a page devoted to child custody disputes. That page explains how the law works in such matters, the process involved in such matters, and provides specifics as to how the lawyer who owns the website will help. That is likely the type of information that the person, who performed the search, is looking for. Google, therefore, will be more likely to return that page in search results.
The second aspect of improving your search presence is to provide a good user experience. This is not as subjective as it sounds. Google’s webmaster guidelines keep web developers up to date as to what the search engine looks for in a website’s user experience. The user experience is important for the same reason that content is important. If you own a search engine, and I perform a query, then I’m going to stop using your service if you only offer me websites which are frustrating to use. So, by ensuring that your website is built using Google’s best practices in mind, you can provide the user experience which search engines wish to offer.
Legitimate search engine optimization involves ensuring that you are providing relevant content and a good user experience. While these steps may sound straightforward, it is important to consider what constitutes “quality content” and a “good experience.” Our services involve careful analysis of web analytics to ensure that we are helping you to provide content that is relevant to your users. We also ensure that your website is built with Google’s best practices in mind. This approach is obtaining results for our clients.
How backlinks matter to search results
One of many things that Google looks at is whether other websites have links which lead to yours. There is a good reason for this. If Bob is linking to Joe’s page then, in theory, he is doing so because he thinks that Joe is providing quality content which people should read. The amount and quality of links will impact a site’s search performance. It is crucial however to understand that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. A correct content strategy will lead to links organically. This is what Google wants. Trying to get links in a non-organic fashion will only get you in trouble with the search engines (this is discussed below). When discussing your web presence with anyone, it is important to remember that they should only be mentioning links in the context of generating content which people will link to organically.
What legitimate search engine optimization is not
It’s important to understand that most of the people calling businesses and offering “to get them to the top of Google” are not discussing legitimate search engine optimization services. As explained above, legitimate SEO revolves around the content on your website as well as the build of the site. Most of the people offering to help you in search, however, will not be offering to generate content and do not involve themselves in the build or maintenance of your site. Instead, if they are doing anything, they are likely engaging in activities which a) will not help your site in search or b) will actually hurt your search performance. Let’s look at what these activities are.
Many so-called SEO agencies spend time engaging in efforts to get others to place links on their website which will click through to your site. This is only going to get you in trouble with the search engines. Google’s policy on link schemes is clear. Engaging in this type of behavior may quite possibly result in Google dropping your site in search results, if not removing it altogether. If anyone ever mentions building links to your site, and the discussion involves anything other than generating content which people will link to, then they are only going to get you in trouble with the search engines.
One of the ways that these companies try to get links to your website is through what they will refer to as article marketing (or some other similar name). This will involve them writing an article that has little meaningful content and contains links to your website. They will then email everyone they can find asking that they place the article on their site. Google cracked down on this practice many years ago. This is just one of several videos they put out on the topic:
You may also hear these companies say other things that they will do that will help your site in search. Again, these activities typically won’t revolve around the build of your site or its content – which are what Google cares about.
When you are looking for a company that is going to help you in search, then they should be focusing on the content of your website as well as its construction. We utilize analytics to ensure that we are generating content for our clients that is relevant to their customers. Given the results we have achieved on behalf of our clients, it is the approach we’ll continue to follow.