“SEO doesn’t work.”
Likely not the words you expected to read from an SEO Specialist. That’s okay. I didn’t say them. However, I’ve heard them from cynics, skeptics, pessimists, and otherwise bitter people who want everything in life to come with a guarantee — children, weather forecasts, and politicians included. Not gonna happen.
These are the words of someone who doesn’t understand the process. What those who verbalize this sentiment mean is that they can’t control SEO at the level they’d like. They can’t guarantee a specific amount of traffic or predict a precise ROI. It’s not like the days of phone books when ranking at the top of the search results happened as soon as you named your company AAA Whatever.
There are no guarantees in SEO, but there are some techniques to make your website more visible to search engines and techniques to help people find you online when they’re looking for what you have to offer. If somebody (an SEO Specialist included) tells you they can guarantee you’ll rank number one on Google, run!
Many Things Lie Outside Your Control
SEO is like farming. There’s no guarantee a crop will produce, but that doesn’t stop the farmer from doing the hard work to prepare the field. Planting more and more seeds won’t fix all the problems. Many things lie outside the farmer’s control, the biggest being the weather. He can pray for rain and farm in an area with a high average rainfall, but it’s still no guarantee the crops will flourish this year. See also: the Dust Bowl.
Forecasts only do so much. The best you can do is focus on the elements within your control. For a farmer these things include:
- clearing the field of rocks and weeds
- tilling the soil (a.k.a. breaking up the dirt clods)
- plowing rows
- planting seeds
- deterring pests (“Scat, you varmints!”)
- watering (irrigation for those familiar with the rural life)
Optimize For Unpredictability
In the realm of search engine optimization, Google algorithms are the unpredictable weather. You can’t control them. When optimizing your site for search engines focus on the following elements:
- using SEO friendly URLs
- writing fresh content on a consistent basis (No plagiarism and no reruns.)
- checking meta descriptions for clarity and proper keywords (Don’t stuff. Keep it cool, bro.)
- writing alt text for images (Tell the search engines what they’re looking at.)
- building a site that’s easy to navigate (No cornfield mazes or click Labyrinths.)
- titling web pages appropriately (Use real words, not creative customizations of words.)
- making sure the site is properly indexed (Invite the search engines to visit.)
- building high-quality backlinks (Invite visitors on other sites to come visit.)
To say SEO doesn’t work is akin to a farmer saying plants don’t grow. It’s just not true. Either conditions aren’t right or someone is lacking the proper education.
Maybe that’s where you find yourself in the realm of SEO. You know digital marketing is not an option. You’ve seen the numbers about the value of social media. People keep talking about SEO, but you’ve heard mixed messages and aren’t sure what to believe. You may even feel like you’re wading through a load of cow manure.
Is SEO Relevant?
Ask yourself these questions to see if SEO is relevant.
Have you ever used Google, Yahoo! or Bing to research a company or product?
Have you ever changed your search words based on the results you saw initially?
Have you ever clicked on a link in a blog post or article to find out more about a particular concept, word, or phrase?
Have you ever left a website because you couldn’t find what you were looking for?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then SEO is relevant to you.
If it’s relevant to you, then it’s relevant to the customers you want to reach, because they use similar search techniques.
The only way to guarantee SEO is to be able to do two things: predict human behavior and steal/understand Google’s search algorithms. Neither are likely. Plant the seeds anyway. You can’t grow a crop if you don’t. Where some people smell manure others recognize fertilizer. Just don’t pile it too deep.
SEO works because people continue to use search enginesto find answers. It works because those search engines follow specific guidelines (even if we don’t always know exactly what they are). It’s hard work to be sure, but the yield is worth it when you’re able to feed your family.