These days, most businesses that rely heavily on organic search know that they cannot afford to be without a well-crafted search engine optimisation (SEO) campaign. But too many misunderstand SEO, regarding a campaign as a once off, fire-and-forget affair. And they are disappointed when it fails to deliver early, sustained returns on their investment. This article unravels some of the mythology of SEO, and gives some insights in to how SEO can really work for you.
SEO is always a work in progress
There are several reasons for this; the search algorithm used by Google regularly changes, the market place changes, and your competitors are not standing still – they’re after much the same prize as you are.
Search engines have become the default resource for customers finding services and goods over a vast range of business sectors. Being visible – on the first page – of a Google search is an important advantage for a business. But achieving that visibility doesn’t happen overnight.
Google’s purpose is to maximise the reward people get from using it. The more effectively it can connect its users with the information, goods or services they were looking for, the more transactions are likely to ensue, and the happier it is. And it will continue modifying its search criteria in pursuit of that “happiness”.
In the early days of the internet, Google’s algorithm was relatively easy to fathom. Online businesses gamed the system, leading to poor rewards for users. Google responded with measures to counter keyword “stuffing” and reward good, relevant content. So these days, while we don’t know the precise details of the Google algorithm, we do know enough to remind CEOs that SEO is very rarely an overnight “coup”, and to make some clear recommendations to those anxious that their SEO investment may not be having the expected results.
Planning an SEO campaign is also, as we shall see, a great opportunity for you, your marketing people and indeed your business as a whole, to focus on why you do what you do, why you are special, and where you can improve.
1. SEO is a work in progress
If you want instant traffic to your website, invest in PPC. If you want to engage in SEO then it’s incredibly important to understand that it is an ongoing strategy and that results can take time. This is due to the fact that influencing Google needs to be natural and gradual, it takes time for Google to understand your website and rank it accordingly. “It won’t happen over night, but it will happen” – Rachel Hunter 1991. The best campaigns are those that are planned well and are continually optimised. Data is recorded and analysed, and the results fed back into the campaign, enabling them, over time, to build ranking.
2. Link building
It’s not all about your site, important though that is. Getting links to your site from other trusted websites in your field will promote your own. Google treats them as votes and rewards you with promotion, whilst penalising those website that have bad links. Your web developer will advise you on the link-building element in your SEO campaign.
3.Remember paid search
while it’s true that Pay Per Click is a different creature from organic SEO, they both rely on search traffic. Quite apart from paid search being a good way to get results more quickly than organic search, it’s also great for experimenting with different techniques to determine where to direct the bulk of your online marketing budget.
4. SEO is a business development tool
It’s not all about ranking, because a large part of an SEO expert’s task is to research the online buying habits of searchers, and relate them to the use of search terms, the data they produce can be used to study competitors, detect trends and guide investment decisions. A good SEO campaign is constantly “learning” about the behaviour of your customers – knowledge you can use to steer your business down the most profitable paths and away from paths where the conditions are unfavourable.
Just catching clicks is not going to get you there. You have to attract the right visitors, the ones that turn into customers. Good SEO experts have marketing backgrounds, which enable them to enrich your traffic, attracting more customers and fewer click-pasts.
6. Know your business
Like any other marketing exercise, SEO demands a thorough understanding of your customers’ needs, prior experiences, aspirations and anxieties. Ifyou don’t have a clear idea of what’s so special about your business, why should anyone else? Your web developer will help you here with intelligent research, but there’s no substitute for a business that knows its strengths and its rivals’ weaknesses. SEO should be integrated with all other elements of your marketing plan.
Be good at your business! No amount of SEO or any other marketing action can compensate for a poor product or service. Your SEO campaign is a great opportunity to ask yourself what your purpose in business is, what’s special about you, and where you can and need to improve.
8. Content is King!
We may not know the precise details of the Google search algorithm, but we do know it rewards relevant, professional and engaging content. Pictures and videos need to be of high quality, and text needs to be well-written and captivating. Briefing your web developer’s copy writer is another good opportunity to reflect on the way you serve your market.
When they reach your site, it must provide visitors with the most expeditious path towards the product they need, and to a slick and intuitive way to buy it. That means having a superbly-designed site that offers all the right functions and visual cues, within an overall graphical design that conveys the essence of the business, inspiring confidence and trust. It also means having a code-light site – Google penalises bloated code and long load times.
10. SEO tools don’t replace an SEO expert
Sure, some SEO tools are really helpful, although you still need to understand the in’s and outs to use them successfully. These tools are used to make the job easier, not automate the job. A professionally researched and implemented SEO campaign is the only way, particularly as SEO becomes more and more complex.