For years I have bitterly wagged my finger at anyone in the Internet world who rambled on about the Holy Grail power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
As a reminder, SEO is the process of managing your website’s content, HTML code, and “in bound links” with the goal to improve its ranking in the free, or “organic”, search results.
Why have I been down on Search Engine Optimization? Because over the last 13 years, I have seen too many rabid SEO pushers make wild claims about what their secret bag of tricks can do and heard too many stories about costly SEO campaigns that crashed and burned because they:
1) Used techniques that major search engines frowned upon, ultimately
penalizing the offending website OR
2) Created temporarily high rankings in the natural search returns that didn’t translate into leads.
The lack of transparency about search engine ranking methodology, the intoxicating appeal of being listed at the top of natural search results and the opportunities to game search engine rules and win (at least for a short while) combined to create a devilish Internet brew rather than a healthy web marketing meal.
Now, there have always been some basic but sound optimization practices that we use for Market Hardware customer websites. They include always using search engine friendly formats for text, listing service areas, using local phone numbers (rather than 800 numbers) where possible, and setting up title tags, meta tags, and meta descriptions (this is geeky HTML built into your website’s code).
But if a customer asked me about investing in a more substantial SEO campaign, my response for the last six years has always been, “It’s not worth it.”
Griff’s Great Awakening
Earlier this year while doing a little professional self-education on various web marketing geek sites, I started seeing mentions of a new chapter in the book of SEO. This new style of SEO didn’t involve tricking the search engines by stuffing repetitive key phrases in your site’s code. It also didn’t rely on “link farms” (networks of sites whose sole purpose is to provide a link to websites that pay for the privilege). Instead, the new SEO involves:
- A consultation to find out what specific services are critical to your business’s growth
- Careful research to determine what key word phrases potential clients in your market use to find service providers like you
- Creation of a specific, long-term and legitimate optimization plan for your business to show up high in natural search returns for those services and to entice potential customers to call you.
Old school SEO techniques, developed when the number of local searches was a tenth of what it is today, don’t take advantage of the opportunities created by that massive increase in the number of consumers who turn to the Internet first rather the Yellow Pages when looking for local service providers.
Though I found myself initially resisting the idea that SEO could be done in a rational and effective way, I have come around. Web marketing is dynamic, a fact I often encourage clients to embrace. Change has now come to SEO and before I am struck blind, I want to announce my conversion. In 2010, SEO has a legitimate place in your Web marketing mix.
Google Search: 6,546,172,000 searches for 65.4% of total searches
Yellow Pages Search: 25,260,000 .3% of total searches
Source: The Nielsen Company, November, 2009
Quote: Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. ~John Kenneth Galbraith, Economist, 1908-2006
The Web still surprises me from time to time. Improvements in Search Engine Optimization are real and can help businesses like yours. Two years ago, I was a real sourpuss when it came to SEO. Now, the current facts lead me to make a conservative but positive endorsement of SEO 2.0. If you have an up-to-date website and have taken care of your local online business listings, it may be time to consider SEO as a cost-effective way to generate more leads for your business.
I’ll see you on the Web.
|This article was written by Market Hardware's Griffin Davis. Reach Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach anyone on his web expert team at (888) 381-6925.|