My view of SEO

More & more clients are asking for SEO services & what can be done with SEO… or what is SEO? I believe that everybody should be able to improve their own website SEO (search engine optimisation), by adopting good copy-writing & using social media.

And it is far more effective when a business owner makes an effort to improve their own website content, because they should know what their best selling points are. If you can concisely describe what you are offering, it is the job of a search engine to list you appropriately.

Search Engine Optimization can be very simple – just use a bit of common sense, identify your most important keywords & follow the basic webmaster guidelines given by Google. Always write original content, be descriptive & concise. Read the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

What do I know?

SEO & Marketing are subjects that can only be learned through experience, after monitoring websites & campaigns over long periods of time. Nothing is better than first-hand experience, and making a few SEO mistakes along the way is a good thing – if you can learn from them that is! So, with experience in building websites since 1998, I can say I have learned the hard way how to improve my SEO. Not saying it’s perfect! But, as with anything, you need to keep learning & improving.

In my experience, it is useless to try to second guess what the search engine algorithms are… you just need to be honest & give your visitors what they are looking for. It takes a little bit of effort & a bit of creative writing to concisely describe your products or services, but the initial effort will definitely pay off.

Check out the competition

Firstly, you should search Google using the keywords you are going for & take note of the top 5 results. It obviously depends upon your business & your competition whether you have a realistic chance of being in the top 5 results. If, for example, you wanted to get into the top 5 for the search term car insurance – competing with the big insurance companies – clearly this will be a highly competitive area.

But if your business is locally based, with a more unique service, you have a very good chance of being highly ranked. No special SEO techniques are required in most cases – it is the job of a search engine to rank a website accordingly. So, if you follow the basic guidelines & provide concise copy, you should be listed in an appropriate place – depending upon your competition.

SEO Expert are you?

Unfortunately, because SEO is a fairly techy subject with many grey areas, it is very easy for anybody to call themselves an SEO Expert. And because many business owners do not understand the jargon, they are easily impressed by technical phrases.

Nobody really knows how search engine algorithms work (except the top dogs at Google / Bing etc.). But after years of studying many different websites, and applying a sensible approach, anybody can get to the top with a bit of hard work.

Those annoying SEO companies

When I started out as a freelance designer I was bombarded with phone calls & emails from SEO companies… telling me how they would get me onto page 1 of all major search engines. I’m certain it’s the same for most businesses. One day I took one of these companies on, just to see if they were worth it. At the time I was working on a photo retouching website and didn’t have time to promote it, so I gave an SEO company a go to see how they work. They claimed that they could get my site into the top 5 results for my chosen keywords, such as photo restoration or photo retouching – at a cost of around £1000.

After a few phone calls, they started moving the goalposts – trying to persuade me to settle for more vague keywords like photo enhancement or image enhancement. I wasn’t happy with this, as it was not what I was promised, so I didn’t pay them. They threatened to take legal action but I stood my ground – I was happy to go to court if they wanted to go down that route, as I could prove that they had changed the details of our contract.

They eventually accepted that I was correct & we went our separate ways. But I’m sure that many other businesses have fallen for their diluting tactics, & have maybe been bullied into paying for a secondary service. I did however learn quite a lot from our various conversations – about SEO techniques & Google AdWords campaigns. So it was quite a good exercise in the end.

I decided to write about my experiences on my blog, naming & shaming the SEO company – and after around 6 months they paid me to remove my post because it was damaging to their reputation. This is the power of blogging. But, as they have paid me to withhold their name, I will not name the specific company in question… but most SEO companies are pretty much the same, so give them a wide berth if you can. If they cold-call you, just hang up – it’s a lot easier!

Using Social Media

Obviously using social media platforms to promote your web pages will help, because if someone shares a link to your website on Facebook or Twitter for example, it is one more avenue for Google’s spiders to crawl down. The more links to your website, the more prominence Google will give you. But always seek genuine links (not sneakily gained links).

I try to keep my social media posts interesting – to people in the design field, at least – but never controversial. Even if nobody reads your post, you know Google will see it sometime & associate your post with your website. It’s all about keeping a regular presence on social media platforms… so Google thinks you are current & popular.

Aim for a good User Experience

Most people think that cramming their website with keywords & links will improve their SEO, which can often work very well. But you should think about the bigger picture. What is the use of having a number one spot on Google if your website is ugly, confusing & annoying? Most visitors will hit the back button within 10 seconds.

You should always aim to please your visitors, giving them an enjoyable experience – while also giving them the exact information they were looking for. And it is getting more & more important to improve your website speed… search engines will give preference to a website that loads quickly. And this involves everything from optimised images to carefull selection of scripts, all of which add to the loading time.

Blogging & other resources

A lot of my clients also ask what blogging is & what benefits does it give you? Well… this article is an example of a blog post, written about a certain subject just to get a few SEO brownie points really! A well written article is usually appreciated by search engines & is given prominence in search results – especially if the article is informative & useful.

Some useful reads…

Moz (SEO Moz) – Beginners Guides etc.

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