The Problem With Search Engine Optimisation
Monday, 6th August 2012
Search Engine Optimisation is of interest to very nearly everyone who has a website. If you have gone to the trouble of putting information in the most public place on our planet, you obviously want people to find it and if your website is business related you will want to get in front of potential customers.
In my experience, the biggest problem with SEO is that it isn't easy. Of couse there are people out there who will promise you will get onto the first page of results on Google in return for a envelope stuffed with cash, but if it was really that easy, Google would abandon their strategy and take the money themselves.
The real answer to the question of how you get to the number 1 spot on any quality search engine is that you need great content. Great content makes people want to share your website. When people are excited about your website, search engines get excited by your website. Even if you have great content today, it will still take time for the people and the search engines to cotton onto what you have. This is why nobody likes the real answer. This is why people want to believe you can pay a few hundred quid to get the top spot.
Let's look at the problem from some different perspectives.
Of course you want to be found, but don't get blinded by search engines. Your goal should be to increase the number of people discovering your website, not to get to the top position for a search term. There are lots of productive ways to put your website in front of people without even needing a search engine. Answering questions on an industry forum, writing articles for your website and for other websites in your industry, talking at industry events, putting your web address on your stationary, van and shop window. If you got a thousand visitors a day, and none of them came from a search engine would you care?
Focus on the goal of getting your great content in front of people. If you website doesn't really have content, add articles about stuff that is happening in your industry or write answers to frequently occuring questions that you seem to answer all the time during your job.
By forgetting about search engines and going out to get real people interested in your website, you will not only get the visits - the chances are the search engines will want to display you as a result.
There are only two motivations a search engine has to display your website when someone performs a search. The first is that you've paid to be displayed. You will have seen the sponsored results on your preferred search engine; on Google they are highlighted with a light yellow background. The only other reason a search engine has to display you is that it thinks that your website contains the information the user is looking for.
The reason Google is so successful is that they spent a very long time creating algotithms that give the user exactly what they are looking for. The results displayed are designed to be the best possible results for the search term the user has entered. If the results displayed were not the most relevant pages, the user would look elsewhere and the search engine needs that user to keep coming back because their adverts only get clicked on for a small percentage of searches.
Anyone who thinks they can game the results, or make your website appear higher up without your website actually being more relevant is setting you up for a big fall. Every technique that has been conceived to trick a search engine has resulted in an adjustment to the algorithm that makes the offending websites dissapear overnight. Old techniques such as keyword-stuffing, word-lists, invisible content and many others are now completely ineffective because Google doesn't want to display bad results.
Even if you did manage to sneak into the top 5 results despite not having the content that real people want, how long do you think they will stay on your website when they realise you don't have the information they need? You will end up with lots of visits, but they will all last about 10 seconds before the user goes back and tries the next result.
On the flip side, if you are in the top 5 because you've written the content that answers the user's question, you have potentially got yourself a customer.
Fake Search Engine Specialists
I have had a bit of sport recently with a new trend in fake search engine specialists. Someone somewhere is selling a search engine optimisation franchise, which includes a standard website template and email marketing template and lots of people are taking them up on the offer. I assume these people are responding to one of those "earn cash in your spare time" adverts and are handing over their hard-earned cash in return for an absolutely useless business. I'm sure that they dupe some people, but of course they can't magically get your website ranked better than your content would allow.
The danger here is that they are using deceitful methods to gain a temporary increase in your ranking, which may be enough to make you think they know what they are doing, but the long term effects this can have on your website could actually count against you.
There is no magic diet that will make you lose weight over-night. You have to eat less and exercise more. There is no magic method of getting your website ranked highly by search engines when you don't have the content to help their users. You have to write content and promote your website.