The Zen of SEO
December 20th, 2011
We left off last time with five of the top ten SEO tips (from our perspective) and the following five complete our list.
6. Be The Change
We are all now in the throes of the social media scene. If anything could be considered “web 2.0” (a funny term that gets tossed about, while no one can agree what it means), Social Media’s pervasive integration throughout the internet would be it. It is the defining change that shifted the internet from a static, encyclopedia style resource, to a dynamic, interactive discussion of knowledge and ideas. It changed the way information is created and received. Facebook, the world’s most widely used website, has no content. Every piece of information on the website is “user submitted”, or in other words, created by the very people using the website! This shift of interactivity a landmark change that has fundamentally shifted how we use the internet.
So what does this have to do with SEO? The core principle behind Social Media is that of sharing, and optimization algorithms value the very same thing. The more useful a website’s content is to a user, the more likely they are to share it across social networking sites. The more the site is shared, the more it is seen and visited. The more it is seen and visited (especially when the link itself is coming from a social media site), the more “kudos” it gets from search engines. The logic behind this process is that if a site is being shared a lot, it must be useful in terms of the content. If it’s considered highly useful, then (as we discussed in Part One), it is trusted more.
And how does one get “shared?” Be the person you’d share, too. Be an expert. Write something funny. Write something progressive. Make something beautiful. Run a promotion. Give something away. Provide a service. Be of service. In essence, do what you would do anytime you wanted to genuinely get noticed for something!
7. It’s All Connected
One of the primary ways information is shared through Social Networking is through “links.” Having a site that has a lot of “inbound links” means there is a higher likelihood that your site will receive traffic, and that it will appear connected, useful, informative. The Search Bots eventually pick these backlinks up and give points for having a website that is useful enough to be linked to a lot. However, contrary to what you may have heard, a link is only really useful if it’s from a trusted site and is related to the content of your site.
There are companies that sell backlinks for people to purchase, where they will have thousands of websites begin linking to your site. There are also sites that claim to do this for you for free. This seems tempting, but can end up actually hurting your rank because this kind of tactic is considered “blackhat SEO.” The reason is easy to see; it’s an attempt to side-step the fundamental principle behind SEO: to provide quality content that users want to read.
The strategy behind a successful link-building campaign is one of care and time, where you seek the best directories and websites to submit your site to and request a backlink. It’s not quick and it’s not always free, but it can pay off because it means your site is genuinely considered relevant and ultimately trusted.
8. Look Within
They say knowledge is power. Knowing what kind of traffic your website is getting, and what to do about it, is critical to an SEO strategy. Enter Analytics. Running Analytics on your site (typically through Google) is the primary tool in knowing who is visiting your site and what they do when they get there. Are users finding your site and then immediately leaving? You’ll see this kind of behavior get recorded. How long do users stay on the site before leaving? What is the highest viewed page? What about the page that most users first land on? How many people even visit the site in the first place? Analytics will tell you every single nuance of activity that occurs on your website.
Probably the most important aspect Analytics will also tell you is what users actually searched to find your site. This can lead to understand the principle of “long tail searches” which are unique searches that individuals type in that don’t qualify as a “term”, but which demonstrate how the site performs for real world searches done by people; searches that are difficult if not impossible to predict. They also indicate terms it may be useful to target in the future. Long tail searches can be more of a traffic driver to your site than all the keyword terms you initially targeted, put together!
However, reading and understanding Analytics can be as daunting as the first day of a Statistics class. Even if you understand the basics of the reports, learning how to compile the data into action steps is a whole other ballgame. If you ‘re not sure what your Google Analytics account is showing you, find someone experienced who can decipher the trends.
9. Ground Yourself
Naturally, if you’ve decided to establish a web presence, you want your website to be found. The web, however, is one of the fastest moving, and least understood, consumer technologies. There are many components that comprise what we know as “the internet” and SEO could be one of the least understood fields overall. The best way to approach SEO is to be realistic in your goals. Let’s face it, almost all of us want to rank on the first page for the searches people do in regards to our field/niche, and while nothing is impossible, without a lot of time or resources to put towards your goal it is likely highly improbable. So ground yourself by starting small and working your way up gradually.
It’s important to remember that, SEO is an ongoing service. While there can be one-time “SEO tune-ups” that can help, SEO tactics need to evolve every so often in an attempt to stay current with the never-ending evolution of the internet. SEO maintenance can be monthly, quarterly or even yearly, depending on your goals. The key here is to find an advisor who is on the pulse of the industry, whom you trust and who is able to work within your budget to gradually meet your SEO goals.
10. Patience is a Virtue
In the conclusion to The Zen of SEO – Part 1 we said we would reveal “the biggest SEO secret of them all.” This is it, the paradox of everything we discussed, SEO takes a while to begin to work for you so be patient! This can seem counter-intuitive; “the internet is the fastest moving technology mankind has ever seen…yet SEO requires patience?”
As confusing as it may seem – it’s true – a solid SEO strategy can take 3-6 months to begin to take effect and 6 months to a year to actually begin rooting in and establishing the website in search engines to where you begin to rank and get substantial traffic. There are many reasons for this, but most notably is saturation and competition. There are innumerable websites that are all competing in one way or another with each other, which means there is a lot of ground to cover by the search engines themselves. In addition, there are sites that have been around for a lot longer which are, in essence, “grandfathered” in as they have been ranking highly for a while (though the landscape can change quickly, such as with the recent Panda update by Google).
Some businesses begin an SEO strategy and when they don’t see results within 3 months, they switch strategies. Eventually, this can end up being an even larger hindrance since the initial changes didn’t get the proper time to take effect, before they were changed yet again. This is why it’s so important to find someone you trust, since ideally you will be working with them over the long term.
Ultimately, when you approach your SEO strategy, understand that it’s very much like planting a garden. After all the initial investment of time and money, you won’t see the results for a while and for a little bit you might wonder if anything will germinate, nevertheless produce fruitful results. Then, just when you think you won’t get anything at all, you see a tiny green sprout make an appearance. With further tending and many months of upkeep, you eventually walk out to see a lush garden, brimming with the fruits of your labor. And even then, you know that your work has just begun.