Over the years we have noticed that clients either swear by or swear at their SEO Expert and there is no middle of the road on this one. With over a decade working on the SEO side of web sites I understand and deeply appreciate the value of SEO and I am a strong advocate of competing on both sides of the search engine.
SEO and PPC advocates often do not play well with each other because they have very different fundamental beliefs. These conflicting inputs from the business manager’s advisers cause great confusion in the manager’s strategic decision process. This is because the conversation is framed as one being better than the other. SEO and PPC are not better or worse, they are simply different. The secret to success is to use the right tool for the right job at the right time. Sometimes that is SEO and sometimes it’s not.
SEO is what Google thinks, and to understand how Google thinks you have to consider Google’s personality and the source of their success. Google’s number one unquestioned top priority is to produce the best Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for the the searcher. Google knows that if they produce the best SERP the searcher will have a positive experience and they will return to use Google again and again. It is their dedication to the searcher’s experience and the Quality of the SERP that is the essence of their success.
The majority of clients we service are in very competitive markets: Plumbers, Movers, Defense Attorneys, Garage Door Repair, Dentists and Personal Injury Lawyers. Competition implies effort and effort (money) spent on SEO does not produce guaranteed results. Businesses in highly competitive markets need data to track exactly how they rank against the competition and a tool designed to respond quickly to changes in the market. SEO is not this tool and businesses in highly competitive markets should be spending their resources in Pay-per-Click advertising.
SPOILER: SEO is a great tool for less competitive markets. Avoid the lies below and continue to develop valuable content.
One thing that makes me crazy about the SEO industry is that there are a fair number of people representing themselves as SEOs that have little or no understanding of what is really going on. Like the amateur magician they have learned a few simple tricks and they go from client to client selling the fast, simple, and “guaranteed” way to the top of Google. This is not to say that there are no good SEOs, there certainly are, but for every good one that we run into there seems to be ten that are less than honorable. They falsely represent what SEO is and they propose that they have some magical skill which will instantly get you free traffic to your web site. The rule here is that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, and anyone who guarantees anything specific in search is lying.
One sure clue that the SEO is lying is when they say that they will optimize your web site or page. This statement can be a partial truth but it is never fully truthful. The majority of the organic page score is not in the page source so you cannot optimize it by changing the page. Nobody outside of a small circle inside Google knows the exact formula and in reality no one person knows the whole thing. Our guess is that 80% of the organic score comes from items not on the page. A top position in Google is earned by being an expert resource on the search query. An expert is defined not by what they say about themselves, but by what others say about them and this is the fundamental concept of the Google Search Model. This does not mean doing the basics on your page isn’t important, a good foundation is vital to the search-ability of your site. However on page search factors won’t get it done by themselves.
Another clue that your SEO is lying is the statement that they will get you to the top of Google easily, simply, and quickly. There are a thousand ways to get to the top of Google and all of them are hard work conducted over a long period of time by very smart people. One trick is to create a page and show the client that it is in fact first on Google. Unfortunately this is not difficult to do but the page will not stay there. The trick works because Google values fresh content so when it finds fresh content it moves it up in the ranking to test it. However this freshness factor wears out quickly and if people do not click on your listing and get engaged by your content you will very quickly find yourself in position 5,000. The challenge here is that the highly optimized page is often horrible copy that nobody would read.
We recently had a client that engaged an SEO to work on their site. The SEO set out to generate lots of inbound links, which normally would be a good thing except they were not concerned with the quality just the quantity. The final termination to the relationship happened when they told the client that the quality of what was on the page was not important. The client intuitively knew that poor content pointed at his site would end up hurting his professional reputation and he was absolutely correct. Like most things in life more is not better, better is better. Poor quality content will never get picked up by highly reputable sites and one link from a highly authoritative site is worth much more to your reputation online than links from poor quality sites. The risk here is that this approach might actually backfire on you. Google has a whole department dedicated to finding these tricks and fixing them. Often the way that Google “Fixes” these tricks is by removing the pages from the index. The advice we give to clients all the time is that you should only try to trick Google if believe that your SEO is smarter than Google. Google hires the best engineers on the planet who fanatically dedicated to the mission of creating the best possible SERP. So you have to ask yourself, do you really want to take that on?
Often times we find SEOs that have optimized for keywords that nobody searches for. They target what they call long tail traffic and they get great position because nobody cares. One of the great tricks is to optimize for these words so the client sees the results and the SEO walks away the hero. This is until someone shows you the data from the Google Search Console which shows how many visitors you have for that keyword.
We have many clients that are wildly successful with their organic keywords and they share a common trait. They are all people who are passionate about their business and they share that passion and expertise freely with the world. They write articles, white papers, books, speak to groups, answer questions in social media sites, and many other things. They are Evangelists for their business and the second they open their mouth or touch a keyboard you know it. These people are the resources that Google is looking for because they will provide the searcher with the most positive web experience and that is how you get to the top of Google’s organic results in the long term.
To consistently create meaningful content that is valuable to your visitor and contributes to building the best SERP. Help Google create a great SERP and they will be your best friend.