I have a love/hate relationship with SEO. I probably spend about half of every day researching strategies from around the Web and analyzing my own data to adjust company strategies. I spend the rest of that day either consulting, or actually getting in the trenches and hammering out some physical Web elements to boost internal efforts. It’s invigorating trying to solve the puzzle, but the inconsistencies and what I call “Search Engine Mood Swings” are infuriating at a level only a married man can relate to. Everyone has their own opinions. Everyone has their own strategies. Everyone has their own “Company Secrets”… sort of.
Lesson number 1 for all of the SEO experts out there: There are no secrets. If you think you came up with something new… you didn’t. There are only different combinations of the same old actions we’ve been reading about for years. If you did, by chance, discover something groundbreaking, congratulations! It won’t last. People like you and me are in the business of figuring out the search engine algorithms, and positioning ourselves appropriately for the highest return in our placement on those search engines. If you make an adjustment and skyrocket past my site, I’m going to sit down, open up your site, and dissect you. Once I figure out what you did, I’m going to do it. Then the guy down the street will do the same to me. And, then we’re all back at square one again.
Another thing people have to remember: The search engines are not here to help your business make money. They are businesses themselves. They are concerned with providing users with the most relevant results, not the most gamed results. Relevance in Search = Traffic; Traffic = Impressions; Impressions = Ad Sales; Ad Sales = $$$. That’s where the reality of gaming comes in. Search engines LOVE when you game them, as long as you do it on their terms. No search engine will argue with you if you ask to pay them top dollar to be placed at the top of their searches. The problem comes when you try to game them without buying in. They punish you, or worse, they punish all of us with drastic algorithm changes.
The only way to win is to actually have what you say you have. If you’re trying to be the top resource in something, be that top resource. Have the original content. Have an easy to navigate website. Have your information categorized intelligently. Have an interface that promotes return usage. Build a site for the user. Above all else, make an investment in yourself and your site. This stuff takes time.
TIME. Oh man, does everyone in this business hate that word. But it’s true, sustained organic ranking takes a lot of effort over time. It’s like going through a lengthy and grueling initiation. You have to prove yourself. “THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER!?”
The only advice I can give you when it comes to time in regards to SEO, is ‘don’t give up.’ Keep your efforts up and consistent. You will be rewarded eventually. Also, try to think of more inventive ways to tell your boss, “We just need more time.” They really, really hate that answer. You’ll get that whole “We don’t have time… We need immediate results… Time is money… Yadda, Yadda, Yadda,” speech.
Here’s how I figure it based on my own research: SEO is about 60 percent relative and original content, 10 percent site architecture, and 30 percent sustained effort over time.
10 percent architecture… WHAT??!! I know… probably not the smartest thing for a Web Director to say, but think about it folks. Look at your own competition. I bet your site is being beaten by some god awful website that hasn’t been updated since 1992, or a site where you couldn’t figure out the navigation even if you had a map, or better yet… a pdf. Hell, you may be getting schooled by all three, multiple times.
There’s a lot out there about SEO. Books, Blogs, Expos, Shows, Websites, etc. It’s an ever evolving part of online business and it will always be a constant battle. We want to figure out the search engines so we don’t have to buy into them, and they don’t want to be figured out because they want our money. It’s that cut and dry.
Do your research, make an investment, be vigilant, get a helmet, and try to smile.
Written by Scott Bouchard, Web Director of TMCnet