So much nonsense has been written and promoted about SEO (search engine optimisation) that the ordinary business owner can be forgiven for feeling confused.
If you’re a typical New Zealand business, you probably get several email offers every week from SEO agencies around the world, offering to get your website onto page one of Google. The SEO industry is still saturated with scam artists trying to make a quick buck from unsuspecting website owners.
So, what the is the truth about SEO? Is it possible to get your website onto page one of Google in a genuine, ethical manner – and more importantly, how effective will this be at growing your sales and bottom line profits?
The best place to get the truth is from the horse’s mouth – Google
The good news is, Google is bending over backwards to help website owners understand how SEO works – and how to get a website ranked highly in Google’s search results.
It’s a shame more SEO agencies don’t follow Google’s guidelines to the letter. The reason they don’t, of course, is that it’s so tempting to look for shortcuts – easy ways to “trick” Google into giving a website a higher ranking than it really deserves.
This was the whole foundation of the SEO industry for several years until Google had a major shake-up in 2012 and several smaller shake-ups since. Even now, with Google stating loud and clear that it will penalise any website where it detects there have been attempts made to artificially inflate a website’s ranking, some SEO companies (particularly in certain countries) are still trying to find loopholes.
Google Webmaster Tools – simple SEO advice in plain language
If you want a quick and easy overview of SEO best practice, go to this page
Steps to a Google Friendly Website – Google Webmaster Tools.
I was reading it again today. It contains four main points about how to create a Google-friendly website.
1. Give visitors the information they’re looking for.
To quote directly from Google:
“Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site.
“In creating a helpful, information-rich site, write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site.”
Read this, reflect on it and absorb it!
So simple. Yet at the same time, so difficult – which is why almost everybody is still tempted to look for shortcuts. The problem is, to provide high quality content takes effort. It takes commitment and it also requires writing skill.
You are not going to get high quality content from an SEO company based in India, where English is their second language. It’s just not going to happen. You might get “content” (stuffed with “keywords”) but it won’t be high quality.
In fact, the very word “content” is misleading. I prefer the word “information” because that’s what it should be – valuable information that contributes to the Internet in a positive way – not just “content” written to fill the space and provide fodder for Google’s search bots.
2. Make sure that other sites link to yours
To quote again from Google:
“Links help our crawlers find your site and can give your site greater visibility in our search results. When returning results for a search, Google uses sophisticated text-matching techniques to display pages that are both important and relevant to each search.”
Now, here is a really significant point, which Google stresses:
“Keep in mind that our algorithms can distinguish natural links from unnatural links. Natural links to your site develop as part of the dynamic nature of the web when other sites find your content valuable and think it would be helpful for their visitors.
“Unnatural links to your site are placed there specifically to make your site look more popular to search engines. Only natural links are useful for the indexing and ranking of your site.”
3. Make your site easily accessible
Build your site with a logical link structure. Basically, put yourself in the position of a visitor and make sure it’s easy for them to find their way around to every page.
Things to avoid
Until a couple of years ago, it was common practice to “stuff” pages with keywords in all sorts of unnatural ways. This resulted in web pages that were almost laughable and certainly were not written in natural, conversational English intended for humans.
Google’s guidelines stress: “Don’t fill your page with lists of keywords.”
And the good folks at Google are also taking a clear swipe at the SEO industry when they state:
“Don’t feel obligated to purchase a search engine optimization service. Some companies claim to “guarantee” high ranking for your site in Google’s search results.
“While legitimate consulting firms can improve your site’s flow and content, others employ deceptive tactics in an attempt to fool search engines. Be careful; if your domain is affiliated with one of these deceptive services, it could be banned from our index.”
So, in conclusion…
You’ve now heard it from the horse’s mouth. Simple and straightforward. It comes down to quality content that is well written and provides genuine information for internet users.
If you don’t have the ability to write quality content yourself, or have someone on your staff who can do it, then invest in a professional writer. You need a writer who understands keywords and knows how to weave them naturally into the content to target the right audience.
That’s the truth about SEO in 2014 and beyond. To reinforce the message, here’s the link again to Google Webmaster Tools – Steps to a Google friendly site – Webmaster Tools.