I got a call at the start of last week: A start-up business specialising in alternative health that wanted to get on the first page of Google for his chosen key term and the area. Not the 2nd page, you understand or the 3rd: The 1st! I gave him my suggestions and fair to say he probably had other appealing offers as I not heard since.
The problem is, everyone seems to have a portrayal of what SEO entails. In my experience over the years, a first page ranking (even a #1 ranking) has symbolised everything, from wealth and success to simply being able to rub a competitor’s nose in it at the next business breakfast meeting. It’s a great thought isn’t it to do nothing and still rest assured that your SEO ranking is bringing all the work in for you? But surely not so if it means getting in someone who can game the system.
Last year Google, fed up of the minority that constantly game the system (and succeed) came up with two major updates. Wikipedia briefly explains each update:
Google Panda “The change aimed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites” or “thin sites”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results.”
Google Penguin “The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now declared black-hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, deliberate creation of duplicate content, and others.”
Every other week if Google weren’t running a Panda update, they were running a Penguin update. If they weren’t running either, they were running both! And after every update, the SEO forums that I regularly visit were chock full of confused web owners, both asking why, and asking what they should be doing next. I’d like to say they have stopped but the last Panda update was as recent as last month.
Forbes article last week With SEO Linking Strategies, Gaming the System is So Last Decade pretty much said it all: SEO has changed. There is no longer a mythical magic bullet that gets you to the top of Google: SEO nowadays is just another form of marketing.
Sadly, “SEO specialists” are still sending emails out to any web master promising top rankings, which to anyone who is desperate to get to the top is damn appealing. The reality is that they can’t promise a thing. But when you find that out , a few months have passed, their story has changed and your bank balance is considerably lighter. In most cases, the SEO is offshore so it’s hardly going to be a case of knocking on their door and demanding a refund!
If a website is that desperate to be on Google’s first page then CPC and Google Maps are the way to go. But how can you get to the top of Google’s normal (organic) rankings the genuine way?
Long tail key phrases: You can focus on say Acupuncture in Braintree or alternative health centres in Essex, but have you even considered the more niche keyphrases? This is where you need to analyse your business. For example, why are people likely to use your product or service? Do they need help giving up smoking or are they battling depression the natural way? Not everyone searches for the solution, a lot of visitors research the problem first. These keyphrases may not have the highest volume of search but they have a higher conversion rate.
Content: You may have heard the phrase “content is king”. It is. And it doesn’t stop at merely talking about the benefits of your business: If, say you have a men’s clothes shop. The average man isn’t a keen shopper, so any advice would benefit your market would work. For example, tips for dressing for an interview or for how to dress for a first date. This shows your knowledge off, which is great for potential customers and in turn the search engines love related content and will certainly recognise that you are a trusted resource and not just playing the system.
Inbound Links: If your content is unique and useful, then other resources will give you inbound linkage which search engines will love even more. Also as touched on by the the Forbes’ article: professional approvals, testimonials or case studies should also be considered. Only use directory links & reciprocal links if they are likely to benefit your website. For example if you’re a plumber then trusted trade websites would serve as good piece of mind to your clientele.
Social networking – There are a wide range of these: Twitter, Linkedin (B2B) Facebook (B2C), are great platforms for getting in touch with like-minded businesses or the general public. I will elaborate on this in a later article but a fixed amount of time per day and a good deal of social etiquette and social networking can pay dividends.
Constant analysis and recording success: Analysis software is available on every website hosting account, but if you have the know-how, get Google Analytics in place and monitor it either every month or after a main campaign. This keeps you informed of what is clearly working for you and where you may need to make changes.
Its no quick fix solution, but with these disciplines combined then over time your website should progress and then you will feel in a position the join the majority of us who file false promise emails into their rightful place: the Deleted Items folder.
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