You require no introduction to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). I am sure, by now, hundreds of emails offering SEO services flow into your junk folder and many self proclaimed SEO experts call you just to tell you how poorly your website is performing. Through the following article I am going to narrate the dramatic tale of the birth, shame and current state of SEO.
Google changed the way we use the internet. Information at your finger tips they say! We all love Google. Google helps us find information about virtually anything. During the late 90’s web techies didn’t care much about Google rankings. Having a website was such a cool thing and companies flashed their URL everywhere. The early 2000’s saw a steep rise in the number of websites. Consumers found it hard to keep track of all the URLs that mattered to them. Google, Msn, Yahoo and other search companies were doing a smart thing. They were indexing every website, word for word. Consumers started looking out for new options and searching for reliable sources of information. Wikipedia created a wave bigger than any tsunami did. Suddenly people were using the internet not only to find information on companies, products and to meet friends but also to assist their research, education, career, and so on. The internet became the one stop shop for everything.
Information became the most sought after commodity and Google became the retailer that provided information, fast and accurate. The ‘keep it simple’ approach gave Google the biggest market share. 90.58% in the UK (Hitwise)!
Come the mid 2000’s, Google had far too much web content indexed on their servers. Consumers were becoming impatient (Generation X). They were fed up of clicking the Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, … links to find what they were looking for. Google was quick to realise this and started putting a certain value on every website and page they had indexed.
FACT: Nobody knows the algorithm used by Google to rank websites and Google keep it their closely guarded secret.
TRUTH: Some smart people decided to benefit from the situation. Consumers were not prepared to go beyond page 1. Companies wanted to be on page 1. This demand and supply scenario created a new business model. They named it as SEO.
Having been in the web business for more than a decade, I can say that SEO is the biggest internet scam of all times. SEO is even bigger than the Nigerian bank scams! Through trial and error, web developers like myself assumed to understand Google’s ranking algorithm. Just like the excitement that scientists found when trying to split the atom, web developers were getting a kick out of playing with Google’s algorithm. We stuffed keywords into the invisible parts of the websites, created gateway pages, wrote reviews about our own sites, submitted the sites to all available engines, used special software to spam the search engines, and so on. Remember the Dot Com bubble? Web companies were making big bucks by selling SEO services. Some were lucky and got it right, while others were learning from the mistakes (at the expense of innocent customers). SEO was becoming a must do thing and web companies were successful in putting fear into the heads of potential customers.
Those were the learning years for both Google and web developers. Google finally decided to publish a set of guidelines. Click here to read Google’s guidelines. They also helped us understand how their search spiders work. Read about Google’s indexing process. SEO became a regulated trade and Google was punishing wrong doers by pulling off their websites from its index.
You will always find people who are ready to step on the wrong side of the line and make an under-the-table deal. This caused the big rift in the SEO business. The bad guys called themselves the Black Hat SEOs and I joined the good boys, the White Hat SEOs.
The White Hat SEOs understood that content was king and websites need to be coded according to the standards set by the likes of Google and W3C consortium. We develop properly written websites and stick to the rules. There is no way to work around Google’s strict guidelines. Following are the five golden rules of SEO. They are all that you need to know about SEO.
- Build the website with search engines in mind (nearly 75% of the so called web people have no clue what this means)
- Write and Design content with your audience / customer in mind (do not talk about utility bills, when your website is about furniture)
- Know who your friends are (build strategic links that will be of use to your visitors)
- Promote yourself and get as many visitors as possible (Adwords, Social Media, Twitter, Facebook, etc)
- Retain your visitors by giving them useful information (Google will fall in love with you if you manage to succeed at this stage)
The first two are the web developer/designer’s duty. You shouldn’t be paying extra for search engine friendly website code. A web company (such as Optimise Web) that has the combined expertise of technology and marketing will know how to write quality/keyword rich content. Stages 3 and 4 will be tough and time consuming. This is where you need a web company that will assure you a good return on your investment of time and money. Stage 5 will be the hardest. No top web company can promise to get this right the first time. Retention of visitors requires running various live and simulation tests. There are people who specialise in usability testing, A/B comparisons, and so on. Companies like Optimise Web have trusted and successful partners that can give you that extra edge of SEO.
If you are a small business or even a medium sized one, you might not have the time and financial resources to go beyond stage 2. There are many other ways to promote your website and get quality traffic onto your site. Think twice before you let any magician (SEO expert) tell you what you should be doing. There are many amateurs who read a few books on SEO and believe to have acquired the required skills of design, coding and marketing in one easy shot. Also please do not give away your hard earned money to web directories like Yell, Scoot, Touch Local, etc. I met someone at a tradeshow who gave £500 to Scoot and got a useless business card style website and no traffic at all while another person paid £1,600 to Yell for a premium listing and got a whole lot of spam calls and emails.
SEO is similar to traditional marketing. There are no rules nor formulas. It is all about selling and buying of HOPE (to be seen on Page 1).
Call (0131 448 0483) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) Sid Vel at Optimise Web before you make any big SEO or website decision. We love to help and charge nothing for basic consultation. We might be able to offer you a service that is worth twice the money that you are ready to spend or point you to the right people or company if we know someone else that can do a better job.