If you own a small business you’ve definitely read or heard about Search Engine Optimization. The way most marketing “professionals” talk about it, it seems almost magical. But I’m here to tell you that’s a lie. Yes SEO is important, but it’s not magic and there are no quick fixes. You have to be consistent and deliberate in everything you do.

SEO “Professionals”

Years ago I worked in a company where it was decided that SEO was something we needed. The problem was that no one really knew what it was, just that we needed to improve it to get more sales. Someone went out and signed an agreement with one of the best rated SEO agencies (which also came with one of the highest price tags). What they did was provide us with a list of alt text suggestions for each page of our website. That’s it. From then on all they’d do was send us a report on how great our pages were ranking, but in our own analytics we didn’t see any boost in sales and we couldn’t even see this boost in organic traffic that they were boasting about. We fired that company but they had a cancellation clause which ensured they had a big payout.

SEO Bandit

“Guaranteed top 3 ranking!”

I’ve heard many similar stories, whether it be a consultant or a company, and the problem is that no one really knows what SEO is and these “professionals” take advantage (no matter how reputable they may seem). So what is it? It’s optimizing your web assets so that they rank highly in search engines for certain keywords and it’s done to increase organic traffic.

Short and Long Tail Keywords

Let’s say we’re a company that sell toy cars in Ottawa and our name is Sweet Rides Inc. Then we’d definitely need to rank highly for anything that includes our product or company name so that people who are specifically looking for us, will find us ex: Sweet Rides Inc.

Beyond that we’d also like to rank highly for the general description of our product or service, ex: “Toy Cars”. It would be great to rank highly for Short Tail keywords like these but we have to be realistic. Many companies, groups and individuals have an interest in something that pertains to this vague term, therefore you end up competing for those top 3-5 spots with hundreds or thousands of others. That’s when long tail keywords come into play. The more words you add, the least likely it is to be searched but you’ll also have a lot less competition.

Ex:

  • Best toy car store ottawa
  • Mustang model 1997
  • Car models rideau street
  • 5 rarest toy car models

As you can see, these are all words that someone who doesn’t know about your company would use to search, which is how we increase organic traffic to your site. That “5 rarest toy car models“ article you wrote never mentioned your store but people looking for this found it on your site, where they can purchase all 5 of these models and more.

SEO Factors

There are tons of factors that go into how search engine algorithm’s find and rank your content and it’s always changing. To give you an idea of what needs to be done here’s a great table from Search Engine Land:

seo-table


As you can see, there’s a lot more than just alt-text that goes into SEO. Companies who try to sell you SEO services but aren’t also managing your website can do very little. As I said earlier, you have to be consistent and deliberate in what you’re doing all the time, whether it be compressing an image, adding alt-text, making your website mobile friendly and secure or producing great content.

Content Marketing

No doubt you’ve also heard tons about content marketing (like that table above). Putting out great content consistently and strategically (i.e. targeting long tail keywords that pertain to your business) can do wonders for search engine ranking but again here’s where a lot of so-called “professionals” will oversell and under-perform. Another tool for getting you to believe they’re doing better than they actually are is metrics and the jargon that goes along with it. I’ve seen it a million times with ad agencies and consultants, boasting about clicks, click throughs, views etc… Usually they’ll pick whichever stat that looks good and keep you focused on it, telling you that you’re above the industry average. A metric in isolation is completely useless and actually more of a detriment as it will lead you in the wrong direction vs random chance. You need to looks at several Key Performance Indicators and make sure to have clearly defined goals for each in relation to each other. I’ve also seen content writers posting links of articles from other sites and masquerading that as content. All that’s doing is sending your current customers elsewhere. Another one is when all they do is talk about their company in their blogs. The average customer won’t care about that and you won’t be found by prospects who don’t know you. Most of the content that’s worth doing involves acquiring new customers, and by doing that you’re actually making content that current customers will enjoy.

Summing it Up

If you want to be effective in SEO you’ll have to devise a strategy and stick to it in all your activities. Don’t give anyone money unless you know what they plan on doing and have measurable goals that you can hold them to. Remember, it’s not magic.