SEO: it’s true, those three innocent letters have us mousing over the Delete button as soon as they appear in our inbox. And yet, at the same time, we find ourselves wondering if maybe we are missing out on something important that will earn us more business through our websites.
Like candy in the outstretched hand of a stranger, we want what search engine optimisation promises: the sweet reward of getting our websites to perform better with the search engines, but we are also wary of those unsolicited emails constantly offering us SEO.
It is good to be suspicious. There are thousands of operators out there using SEO to make money out of people, but that doesn’t mean Search Engine Optimisation is the bad guy.
Search Engine Optimisation is a widely practised, legitimate method in enhancing the performance of a website with the search engines. Increasing your site’s ability to be found by your target market is worthy of some investment. How it is done and who you give your money to is another matter.
So how do you differentiate between a genuine offer of help with your search engine optimisation and the Stranger Danger types looking to exploit you?
It all comes down to questions and answers.
When you are presented with what an SEO service entails, firstly watch out for unrealistic and unqualified promises of outcomes:
Instant results in Google rankings: For one thing, Google will not immediately find and rank your website. Also with over 200 ranking factors to consider, improvements in search engine rankings are subject to many variables, a lot of them accumulative over a long period of time.
#1 in Google searches: Again this is a big ask and not even the best SEO expert can guarantee a number one ranking. The real question you should ask when given this promise is ‘for what?’ Search Engines rank pages using search terms. What words or phrases are they promising you will rank for?
Links to raise the status of your site: Whilst inbound and outbound links are important factors in your site’s rankings, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about building links.
This brings us to the next area to look at: the methodology. When choosing a service provider in SEO it is crucial you ask them how they intend to achieve good results for your website.
Page rankings: Knowing how a provider aims to improve your page rankings is a good idea. It gives you an idea of where your money is going and what techniques they will employ to achieve this. If you don’t get a satisfactory response, or they try to fob you off with technical jargon, be diligent. You have every right to keep asking for an explanation of what something means until you understand it.
Link building: As mentioned above, there is a right way and a wrong way to gain links to and from your website. Ask how this is to be done. If the answer involves mass link building through Link Schemes or anything that alludes to quantity over quality, then stay away. Instead, you want your provider to be using a long-term link building strategy that involves a gradual and more natural growth in links to your website from relevant sites.
Metadata: Metadata is what shows up as the title and description in your Search Engine Page Results (SERP). Your SERP listing content is not just for the search engines, in fact it is more about clinching the deal for searchers when deciding if they should click through to your website when you appear in their search results. A good page ranking is meaningless if nobody likes the description enough to navigate to your website. How your SEO provider uses metadata is therefore crucial to your visitor numbers.
Content: Use of SEO in content is also important, but again it must be balanced and relevant. Google has improved its algorithm to weed out key word heavy sites with low quality content. If the methods employed are all about volume of keywords and not about providing relevant information for the consumer, then this will not work for providing sustainable search engine results.
Good SEO is targeted to your customer base. Google’s mission is to ensure people get quality search engine results that are relevant to them, based on the search terms they enter. This is where the questions being asked need to come from the SEO provider. If they don’t ask the right questions, how do they know who to target in your SEO strategy? Questions they should be asking you include:
- What is the purpose of your website?
- What are your core products and services?
- What is your target market(s)?
- What are potential customers likely to search for when they are looking for what you offer?
- What are the key points of difference for your business compared to your competitors?
These types of questions will tell you that the SEO provider understands the need to attune their SEO strategy to focus on your business, refining the choice of key search terms so they are relevant to your target market. This will improve the chances of bringing more quality traffic to your website, not just more volume of traffic.
A good SEO provider will also understand that, more than anything else, SEO is about the overall experience for a searcher, and that experience starts the moment they enter a search query. The better their experience with you — from your SERP listing, to the quality and relevancy of the content on your site, to the ease with which they can move through your site – the better your SEO will be too.