SEO? I hardly knew ye
19th October 2012
SEO & Marketing

SEO? I hardly knew ye

Popularly these days, many businesses have been vying for the prestigious pole position on the first page of Google. Being a directory where hundreds of millions of searches are made daily, it is an obvious way to get loads and loads of traffic into  your website. This process of garnering traffic through a search engine – such as Google – is simply known as SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation.

You may say to this, “What the hell? I already knew this!” but I am here to tell you today that this is where common knowledge ends. Once someone starts delving into the complex algorithms that makes Google tick as an engine, eyes glaze over and the work is handed to the so-called (and oft self-proclaimed) “SEO Experts”. SEO itself has evolved as a facet of computing quite quickly, and as such it would make sense to hire a professional to do the job – one who could keep up with the ever changing trends.

However, as unfortunate as it is fortunate, SEO itself is an unknowable capacity. How is that, you say? Let me start from the beginning.

The Early Days

Back in the 90s, when the internet was in its infancy, and personal computers were something either a millionaire or a nerd owned, Google had its humble beginnings. In the humble year of 1998, Yahoo was the search engine used by all, and what that did (and this is important) was it went onto a website, people would visually evaluate it and give it a ranking based on how relevant it actually was. It was a subjective thing; if someone thought your website did the job it was supposed to, was popular and informative, it ranked well. This process was rather arduous in itself.

That’s where Google came in. They became popular because websites would magically appear on their search engine, and it would be much more accurately indicative of the website’s quality in the rankings. There was little work involved in scouring the internet for Google. It did this by evaluating two things: Key words, and incoming links. This made it rather easy for people to manipulate the system by linking with various child sites, friend’s sites and so on. Websites with the biggest physical networks won out.

“Not if I can help it!”

Google, since, has caught on. Their PageRank software has evolved and evolved countless times. As a result, more complex interactions come into play with well ranking websites. Keywords and links still have their effects, but they must be relevant. Those same links have to come from external sources; the engine knows when you are pulling a link from the same server, or trying to flood the market unnecessarily. Further, the spiders that ‘index’ a website into Google know how to read content. They can take the quality of what is said and evaluate it, looking especially for gimmicky attempts at flooding content with keywords. Google is smart. It can’t be tricked anymore, not for long, and even these SEO Experts that take quite large sums of money to do their job know very well that they are offering a service, not a guarantee.

Well, what then?

If you went and cut off your SEO service right now, your page would drop. You may come to the depressing realisation that all the SEO guy was doing was really just trying to find ways to hold up the site’s ranking through smoke and mirrors (mostly). There is work involved, but it is not quality work in relevance to your business.

It may be overwhelming to feel that, “if even the SEO guys don’t know fully what they are doing, what chance do I stand?” But rest assured that even though they are the technical computer experts, and they understand the way Google ranks pages, you have more knowledge and power in understanding how to sustain your ranking.

You yourself know your business, your audience and your desire to push it online. It was all of your blood, sweat and tears that went into establishing that business, and the online world should be no different. It may be overwhelming and confusing to consider, but there are a few tips you can hold to account in order to make your own success (and a more qualitative success at that) within an online presence:

1. Keep social, the internet is a social place

The internet is not a big alien entity that frolics freely under its own rules, it’s just a big tool for communication; like a phone or a hearing-trumpet. Understanding that places like Facebook, Twitter and Linked In are all free forums for social interactions within a potentially unlimited audience is your key to social success. These places are like a party. At a party you would chat, share stories, socialise, but oftentimes people will ask what you do, and you have an opportunity to sell. Engage your audiences in a social environment by interesting them; not many people can be sold online immediately, and connecting with your audience first is a guaranteed way for traffic and online success.

2. Be informative and personal

Professionalism on the internet is loose to say the least. Rather than a faceless corporate entity of unimaginable wealth and multinational girth, people on the internet want to see other people. As with above, connecting personally with your audience is an essential part of online communication. Sell yourselves with the business; it accounts for the fact that sensory details such as body language and smell are disabled, if someone can attach a face and a personality to what they are reading, they are more likely to be attracted to further visiting your website. Maintaining your blog regularly is a perfect way to do this.

3. Network

There has never been, and never will, be a more powerful force than word of mouth in human history. Like you would go around selling a product or service, refer people to your website. Build a reputation, and have your online presence an extension of yourself. If someone asks something, don’t oversell, instead say, “Oh right, my product is great for that, but check out my website for more details.” It’s essentially a salesman that works 24/7, and it is not forceful, nor intrusive; people are able to – in their free time – peruse and are more comfortable in finding out more about your business if they don’t feel obliged. Pique interest and use your website as a centralised source of detailed information. A little reputation can go a long way.

4. Get to know the internet

In todays world, computers are everywhere. Just like it would be considered unwise buying an used car without taking it for a drive, it may be best in getting a website to understand what it is and how it ticks. This means that in terms of SEO, getting to know a few free tools is a good way to  get yourself up in the rankings. Things like Google Analytics or Keywords can help you narrow down how to approach your audience online.

5. Build a reputation

Whether or not you refer or even work on your website regularly, if people are interested, they are much more likely these days to check for you online. A good reputation, a large network of associates, and a large base of customers that value you is a top notch way of getting people to check you out online, which equals more traffic. More traffic equals better ranking.

6. Don’t be afraid of the unknown

Despite all my urging that the internet isn’t that hard a place to get around, it can be overwhelming for some. So it stands to reason that understanding can quell the fear that is associated with this unknown, so tackling it head on is – as always – best. If you are unsure, feel free to ask your web developer. I know that we’d certainly give you a little advice if you needed it. Even your family are sources, with the younger generation spending so much of their time online, they are bound to know a thing or two. Ask questions, learn the ins and outs of how to run a website, and as a result, instead of paying for SEO experts, you will be yourself giving more qualitative content and results for the search engines to find.

And after all that…

It’s easy for me to say “do it all yourself, and you’ll do it best,” but understanding the internet, and how to build an online presence is not an easy thing. Not everyone can write with charisma, not everyone can understand fully how to use a WYSIWYG editor, and not everyone knows how to use facebook or twitter. That’s why, at the end of the day we get help. Hire a professional copywriter to give your content a spruce. Hire a graphic designer to make some banners, tackle what you can’t get a hang of with others who can do that you can’t.

After all, that’s why people do  hire SEO experts; they don’t have time to be doing any of it, but I can assure you, as a gentleman and a scholar; put in those hard yards yourself, and it is definitely worth it.