Making sense of SEO

SEO is one of those terms that we are all aware of and that business owners know that they need to address, but for many it stays on the ‘to do list’ because people don’t actually know too much about it.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, which is basically a combination of website activities that when employed together ensures that your website is easily found by Google (and other search engines) when people are looking for the products or services that you provide.

An effective SEO strategy is based on many different actions and tweaks that you or your agency make to your website, both front and back end, on and off your site. One or two of these actions on their own may have a slight impact, but effective SEO should be about doing them all and getting them all right; and this can take time and focus. Effective SEO isn’t a quick fix; done properly it might take at least 6 months to get it right and to start to see results.

SEO isn’t difficult to do, you could find instruction videos on how to do many of the actions that you can do yourself. But it is time consuming and it is a learning process. I believe that companies should stick to what they do best; if a company owner is spending all their time working on the huge list of things needed to get their SEO right, then they aren’t focusing on their core business. SEO isn’t something you can do once and then leave alone, it’s a continual process of adjusting and evolving a website to keep up with the ever-changing Google algorithms and the data you get from customer interactions.

You may have heard of SEO based on ‘hiding’ keywords on your website (AKA ‘keyword stuffing ’), or of publishing blogs full of the same key words or phrases. These tactics may have been seen as good SEO when Google first launched, but it’s far more sophisticated now. Back in the day, many websites had text written for SEO which may have made them great for the Google bots, but very bad for any human actually trying to read the text. It’s rather short-sighted to create a website that is number one on the Google rankings, but then impossible for the person to read or navigate. Google is now far more sophisticated and user focused – i.e. it prioritises how a website actually works with real humans. My advice would always be to build a website for your users, focusing on your company’s personality and what you do and for whom, and to think of SEO as a secondary process.

As I mentioned earlier, SEO can take a while to do properly and so as often happens in all walks of life, there are SEO agencies out there who offer you the fast fixes, corner cutting and instant results. We are all impatient, so these ‘black hat ’ strategies are often well received by a customer looking for a quick fix. But like most things in life, you get back what you put in. Google isn’t stupid, if you try to trick it by cutting corners and faking it, it will find you out and then penalise your website. Google SEO penalties from algorithms such as the relatively new ‘Penguin’ update are very difficult to get rid of or recover from, so it’s not worth it in the long run if you are serious about sustainable online business growth. Beware the agency who comes in, gives you amazingly fast results and then slides off before you see a drop off in numbers and realise that you have been penalised from using black hat techniques.

Whether you invest in SEO can depend on what you need your website to do for your company. If your business model is totally focused on word of mouth, personal relationships and repeat business then it may not be worth the investment. But if you want to be found by new customers online then it’s definitely worth investing in. It’s also worth remembering that SEO isn’t just about lead generation it’s about brand building too.

So, if you decide that you would like to optimise your website, call in a specialist and be realistic. You shouldn’t see results overnight and you may never get onto the front page, but you will improve your search-ability and your web presence.

Good things come to those who (are patient, invest and) wait.