SEO is by far one of the top concerns for most of my clients, and many questions I get revolve around it.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is trying to get your site to come up first when a search is made using keywords. Yeah bing.com is pretty big, but essentially this comes down to pleasing Google.
It’s such a broad term these days, that there’s a lot of confusion surrounding it. I want to clarify some of that here.
1. SEO is not “a few things you do, to get to the top”
SEO takes a lot of ongoing work, mostly a lot of writing, some strategy, and good development. If we really want to get to the heart of the matter, it really boils down to how much high quality, creditable traffic you have naturally coming to your site. This indicates “buzz” and popularity around your site to a search engine and, thus, it ranks you high(er).
In order to generate that traffic and “buzz”, you need to constantly produce a lot of highly quality content; the kind of content that people share amongst each other, causing them to click on the link to come to your site. Once they’re on your site, the search engines want users to use your site (i.e. clicking around / interactivity) and stay on your site for a long time (what’s called a low “bounce rate”).
Understanding all that, now you’ll appreciate this cute anecdote: We were once wrapping up a project with a client, and the client sent us a final to-do task list. The list contained things like, “(1) Centre the About Us thumbnail, (2) Add phone number under Contact Us, (3) Change hover colours to green…etc..” That’s all normal stuff. What was amusing about it is that the last request was “(10) Make us #1 on Google when people do a search”. (In other words, the client assumed it was just a few simple adjustments.)
SEO, then, is not a few quick tweaks or rigging of your site, it constitutes an entire approach as to how you build and maintain your site.
2. Even if optimizers claim they do, ultimately nobody knows the exact secret to getting to the top of results
…except Google software engineers that is, because they work on it daily.
Google uses what’s called an algorithm to determine site rankings. This determines all sorts of factors. Google releases videos and documentation to help us adhere to those best standards, but ultimately nobody really knows the precise formula or cocktail needed to hit the top ranking. You can think of it kind of like the Big Mac sauce. Sure, we all know that it’s basically thousand island sauce, but we don’t know the exact quantities and balance of the ingredients. Same goes for colas. There are lots out there, and many have that “cola” taste, but Coke and Pepsi have distinct tastes. That’s their secret formula. Google’s algorithm is its secret formula.
Because of all this, you have to keep in mind that SEO is not precise math. It’s general, natural things you do to your site to ensure it will fare decently on keyword searches. You also have to keep in mind that Google is a third party company. Whether your site becomes #1 on a search or not is ultimately outside of your developer’s and/or your own control.
3. When we talk about “ranking #1”, it’s in relation to niche keywords, not general keywords
What you’re “ranking #1” for, really depends on your type of business and niche market. In fact, you have to be realistic in your expectations.
If you own a pet store that specializes in bird supplies in Burnaby, British Columbia, that means that you’ll want to target specific keywords, usually revolving around what your clients are looking for, like “cockatiel millet burnaby” or “feather clipping services burnaby”. Actually, nowadays thanks to mobile devices and increased GPS, we don’t need to have the location in the keyword phrase as much. Google knows exactly where most of us are when we do a search anyway. (Yikes!)
In any case, if you’re hoping to get to the top of the general key word phrase “pet shop”, you’re being unrealistic. If you’re having trouble figuring out just what your niche keyword phrases are for your business, that might be a red flag that your business is not specialized enough. If that’s the case, no website or stellar SEO strategy is going to fix that problem. You might need to take a more fundamental step back and reevaluate your entire business plan.
SEO is definitely an important thing to consider, but make sure you know the nature of it, and the goals you need to achieve in relation to your site.