It’s a question we hear all the time. And while it’s quite a complex question with many variables, the answer is generally quite simple:

Yes.

There’s no denying the benefit of optimising your website to be more easily found via search engines, AKA: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The fact is, most people have adopted search engines as a way of finding information. The Yellow Pages are a thing of the past. Google alone has 40,000 searches per second, 3.5 billion per day, 1.2 trillion per year… We’ve even coined the phrase ‘Googling’ for searching things online!

Ensuring search engines recognise your website as valuable for specific search queries (the essence of SEO), and therefore helping you connect with this enormous online marketplace, is unquestionable beneficial for any business.

Yet… you’re not convinced…

Somewhat understandably, when it comes to designating a percentage of your budget to SEO services, many businesses are weary or unwilling. The three letters, “S.E.O” can come with a degree of untrusting, negative connotation – and whilst that slightly hurts our feelings… to be fair, we sort of understand why!

Reasons for SEO Mistrust

We’ve broken down the cause of common SEO mistrust to two major contributing factors:

  • Few people fully understand the enormous spectrum of what a quality, modern SEO service provides
  • SEO has a unique background, that doesn’t necessarily invoke honesty and trust

Let’s start with the latter…

The Dark History of SEO

Not long after Tim Berner-Lee launched the world’s first website in 1991, major search engines like Yahoo (1994) and Google (1997) set about making the act of finding specific information easier by sorting search results primarily based on keywords recognized in website content. This led to the first signs of an industry for SEO, where marketers started to recognize the power of ranking well in these increasingly popular search engines.

Traditionally, this was achieved by practices such as shameless keyword stuffing, excessive tagging, spammy backlinks and back-end technical tweaks. For example, having a website that stated something like “Welcome to Tim’s shoe shop in Melbourne, we have the best shoes in Melbourne if you’re looking for shoes in Melbourne come to our Melbourne shoe shop,” – might help you rank high for the phrase “shoes in Melbourne”!

Since then, in-tune with their official motto – “Don’t Do Evil,” Google has led the way in creating complex and intelligent algorithms designed to ethically regulate search results, weeding out these old-fashioned, dishonest practices that we now refer to as “black-hat SEO.” Unfortunately, as these original black-hat practices were quite successful at the time – putting SEO on the map in a sense, many people still associate SEO with this sort of unethical trickery. This reputation gives SEO a bad-rap, and is not an accurate depiction of the modern, “white-hat” SEO practices we use today.

Which brings us to the second point…

What SEO Has Become

vectorWell, SEO has come along way from its humble, somewhat dodgy beginnings. So much so, that the thought of trying to explain the broad spectrum of elements in this blog post is quite daunting. Nevertheless, its important to attempt to explain SEO practice and purpose, as a lack of understanding is often what aids to this common mistrust.

To help, think about what Google’s purpose is as a business… to connect searchers with the best possible websites to satisfy their queries. In order to do so effectively, they’ve created unbelievably intelligent algorithms that scan the World Wide Web and rank websites quality based on a whole number ranking factors, such as:

Content: concerning keywords, relevant terms, synonyms, word count, readability, etc.…

Technical: concerning things like site speed, domain strength, no page loading errors, and descriptions on photos so Google knows what they are…

User Experience: concerning click through rate, bounce rate, time spent on site, responsive page design, and sitemaps for navigation….

Backlinks: concerning the number of links, the authority of links, the age of links to your site…

Social: concerning Google+ rating, Facebook presence, Twitter impact, likes, shares, comments, ratings…

To try and make sense of all the rankings factors (of which there are 200+) in this post would be counterproductive, and a prime example of over-your-head technical jargon often associated with the negative perception of SEO. Instead, I’ll use just one of these elements as an example of how modern SEO has shifted its approach and mentality from the old-school “black hat” days…

For example – from a content perspective:

Where old practices may have included excessive keyword stuffing – now Google recognizes appropriate keyword density, and penalizes these black-hat practices, focusing more and more on recognizing synonyms and relevant terms, which promotes actual informative, relevant content, not repetitive copy.

To draw from our previous example regarding “Tim’s Shoe Shop” in Melbourne – Google is smart enough to understand relevant terms like sandals, boots, runners, etc.… all relate to shoes, so you don’t have to jam specific keywords in, and thus you benefit from producing informative, useful content about your products and business.

So the new approach to content can be seen to have two elements:

Technical

this still involves the use of keywords, as Google needs to understand your general topic. However rather then keyword repetition, a focus is put on targeting the most popular terms and phrases based off keyword research, and making sure you place these terms in the right places, like titles and sub-headings.

Example: You probably still want Tim’s Shoe Shop in your title… to make it clear what the website is about… and if keyword research shows the phrase ‘shoe store’ is much more commonly searched than ‘shoe shop,’ making that adjustment would be beneficial. It would also be important to include the world “Melbourne”, as search engines take in to account geographic location of the searcher.

Creative

the creative aspect focuses on producing content that is so interesting and informative that people will naturally help amplify it. This means creating content that people want to read, and share, and make reference to… as things like links and shares and views are now just as powerful as the keywords used, if not more so, in ranking the quality of the website.

Example: If you write an informative and interesting page about the traditional shoe repair techniques Tim has inherited from his Dutch ancestors, this may be shared online amongst Dutch communities, footwear forums, regular customers, or even the local paper!

Whilst a shoe shop is a fairly basic example, you can see that modern SEO is focused on optimizing webpages for the user (quality content), not specifically for the search engines (keyword stuffing)… Though a technical understanding of what search engines value is still beneficial.

Basically, search engines like Google have become so advanced and intelligent in analyzing:

  1. Content of quality,
  2. Technical component strength,
  3. User experience worth,
  4. And value of links

… that SEO is no longer trying to find ways to trick the system, but is instead focused on giving everyone what they’re after:

  1. Informative, appropriate content
  2. Fast loading webpages with no technical errors,
  3. That are easily navigated and well designed,
  4. And generate natural amplification (traffic, views, shares, links, likes and comments) online…

This not only highlights the shift on mentality of SEO practices, it also gives insight in to the massive spectrum of services that are now involved in SEO.

“After only a quarter century, SEO has evolved from the simplicity of a single-celled organism into a living, breathing, and adaptive structure used to create valuable and relevant relationships”The Evolution of SEO.

In order to create the high quality websites that users want, and search engines advanced algorithms ultimately demand, SEO services have spread over a huge spectrum, including:

  • Optimized content to successfully answer search queries
  • Interesting blogs that promote sharing and links
  • Quality web design that enhances user experience
  • Fast loading web pages with easy to navigate sitemaps
  • Strong social media presence, including Google+ account, active Facebook and other social tools like Twitter or Instagram with solid followings
  • Link building through outreaching and building relationships in relevant online communities that will amplify your content…

The list goes on and on… so you see, there is no magic SEO Button that you can push to optimize your website. SEO is not a ‘set and forget’ process, it’s more of an ongoing digital marketing campaign with the end-game of driving traffic to your website.

And to make things even more complicated!!!

… The search engine analyzing algorithms are constantly evolving and updating to take in to account new factors, as the way people use the Internet evolves.

For example:As smart phones increase the rate of mobile search queries – Google emphasizes the importance of having a mobile friendly, responsive website design as a ranking factor, and SEO services focus on adjusting accordingly to mobile rankings factors, to suit that change in user behavior.

So, Why The Uneven SEO Marketplace

A quick Google search for “SEO companies” will undoubtedly show massive discrepancies in pricing. The basic explanation for this is – many companies offer a different level of service in correlation to their position across the evolution of SEO we have just described.

Companies with a proper understanding of new-age SEO will naturally offer a larger slice out of the ever-expanding SEO pie, for a larger investment. It all comes down to the quality and effectiveness of what is being offered.

To put it in perspective, with SEO being so content driven these days – pure logic explains why SEO services priced at say, one hundred dollars a month (less than what one single piece of quality content generally costs to produce) can’t possible be encompassing many of the elements that are required to effectively tap in to the lucrative online audience.

Wrapping things up…

While you may have heard some negative things about SEO in the past – and some of them may have even been true! – It is well worth taking some time to understand how SEO has evolved; alongside search engines and the way we use the Internet.

In doing so, you’ll gain an understanding of what quality, modern SEO entails, and hopefully appreciate how this incredibly broad spectrum of services is invaluable in helping connect your website to the unfathomably large online marketplace.

For further information or enquiries on how quality, modern SEO can help your business flourish online, contact Webfirm for an honest and straightforward free consultation today!

Andrew Hocking

About Andrew Hocking

Andrew is the Social Media Manager and SEO specialist at Webfirm. Developing and delivering digital marketing strategies is his bread and butter.

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