From the outside looking in, search engine optimisation (SEO) can appear to be a daunting activity. Taking every little piece of data from a website to cater it for a complex mechanism the size of Google is just too overwhelming for some business owners and marketers.
This is a natural response and people should not be castigated for it, but that is not an excuse not to respect its value in the world of online commerce. Much like pharmacy prescriptions or aeronautical engineering, we don’t have to have a personal education on the topic to understand its place and relevance.
No matter what your particular background or circumstance, there is an adjustment to make from the traditional forms of thinking to the new world, one where SEO enjoys an ever-growing influence. What students were taught even 5-10 years ago is almost outdated given the speed of change.
So let us break down the main points of concern for both amateurs and those who have studied the practice before.
General SEO concerns
The bucket list for SEO is a steep one. Factoring in backlinks, headings, social media, keywords, multimedia and more is a lot to take in from the get-go. This is what many skeptics would immediately ponder as they look to question the validity of optimising for search engines:
Success rate vs. paid marketing
The great divide between the organic method of SEO and the artificial practice of paid marketing or pay-per click (PPC) stands as one of the great debates in the digital sphere. What exactly garners the best results and why should you invest hundreds and thousands of hours elevating your brand when a commercial can be crafted in minutes?
This concern or talking point is not off the money. Well, not entirely anyway. The best experts in the field argue that the best technique to implement is a combination that embraces both philosophies to their zenith. Paid marketing can provide an immediate kick-start of visibility and traction that SEO can’t obtain, but in the long-term the biggest entities will be reaping the rewards of organic growth.
There is no escaping the fact that SEO is a game of repetition. Amongst all the updating with new content and fresh ideas, there is a repeated process that has to take place to ensure that your domain rises through the rankings.
This individual labour of human hours and endeavour does take a toll. Yet it should be viewed as an investment like any other mode of marketing, helping to accelerate your message and promote the standing of the brand in the niche you are competing in.
It is vital then having examined the PPC method and discussing labour that the bottom line of cost enters the equation. Investing in a website costs money, tapping into a reliable Internet connection costs money, paying staff to update software and implement the optimisation strategies also costs money.
However, should you be educated on the subject and aware of the opportunities at hand, then SEO will manage to outperform the alternatives. Handing out fortunes to marketing companies for print ads, billboards, radio spots and other outlets can cost thousands. Many software programs and accounts like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google + are completely free to utilise.
Starting basic SEO costs nothing with many freebies available on the journey.
So now we need to boil our concerns down to the actual performance. Is the labour and cost worth the tangible output of going through all of that hassle at the end of the day? Well it is, but let us offer a clarification – only if SEO is executed correctly.
Operations that aggressively venture headfirst into the method can quickly become unstuck as they are blinded by a few highlighted techniques in isolation. Your efficiency levels will deteriorate if you fail the following:
- Being flexible
- Adapting your niche and circumstances to the demands of optimisation
- Look to include peers and brands of authority into your content
- Update and research keywords regularly
- Be persistent with posting content
Recent industry studies have illustrated that the best SEO strategies are managed in conjunction with a targeted PPC platform. Yet the inverse is also true, ruling out the possibility of a quick fix solution that will elevate your search engine standing or online visibility based on one mod of fast tracking.
Concerns for more experienced SEO operators
That’s right. Even digital marketers who spend their livelihoods operating in the SEO field are needing to educate themselves on new trends and algorithm shifts that are keeping them on their toes. If you are slightly beyond the amateur stage or consider yourself an expert, there are still some points of conjecture that require a degree of deliberation.
Satisfying more than one search engine
Given their sheer dominance in the field of search engines, many rightfully assume that Google’s monopoly of the market is all encompassing. Online professionals that exclusively deal with this domain can easily garner success without ever needing to steer away from the brand. All the best to them.
Yet the alternatives to Google should not be seen as a burden to lump more guidelines, rules and an additional interface into the mix just to make it confusion. With outlets like Bing and Yahoo being equally user-friendly, enterprises including Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia can open up your message to billions of potentially new visitors.
These engines all play by variously different rules, but some of them are less stringent on the factors that Google requires, allowing for less work in the process. At the end of the day, what is the point of a World Wide Web if your business cannot take advantage of that?
Fitting in keywords
The topic of keywords is a reasonably simple one to grasp early in the piece. Essentially, these are terms that help the likes of Google track your page for relevance before ranking them on a scale of authority and placement.
Flooding your site with keywords is considered a black-hat SEO tactic that is cynical and will actually hurt your operation in the long run. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that quantity equals quality.
Why this issue is complicated for SEO marketers is the evolving trend away from the traditional mode of keywords to fast forward a brand’s message. Now Off-Page hits from social media and multimedia integration have factored into the process, making search engines more selective in their keyword scaling.
Whether you prefer the words “incoming” or “inbound” links is really not the issue at hand here, because your preference to include references from key sources will be a major signal to the search engines as to your knowledge and relevance. Those who have an SEO background will be able to pick up on the subtleties of the art form, but even in that scenario, there is always something about backlinks that is shifting ever so slightly.
The concern over this domain can arrive in the form of many questions:
- What backlinks should be used?
- Where should they be placed?
- Why promote another brand that could be competing in the same niche?
- What value do backlinks have in the long-term?
The best method to eliminate confusion in this respect is to run your domain through a software tool that will give you a rundown of your backlink performance. That could be Google Analytics or another platform of your choosing.
Once that is completed, the web owner should ask two questions:
- Is the backlink from an authoritative source?
- Does the backlink help to improve your search engine ranking?
Should the answer be in the affirmative to at least one of those two questions, then it makes sense to include it.
Consider the example of a milk producer from a local farm outlet. They might want to engage visitors and locals to their brand and because they on-sell their product to a Coles or Woolworths, they decide to include that backlink because it adds currency to their Google standing.
Like anything else in the world of SEO, use backlinks to your advantage and utilise it in conjunction with a coherent keyword strategy. The objective is to work smarter, not harder.
Confusion over indexing
A consistent misconception about SEO is that domains are ranked as a collective. In other words, the entirety of Apple.com is running against Microsoft.com with all of the individual products that fall under this banner, from tablets to smartphones and desktops. This is simply not true.
Optimisation is categorised under something titled SERPs or search engine results pages. Therefore Microsoft’s page dedicated to their tablet offerings is ranked against other outlets like Apple for the very same thing, giving Google the capacity to catalogue this data and crawl through the information with efficient ease across their enormous database.
For those web owners who like to be fastidious, tidy and organised with their listings, indexing is then not an issue to worry about. On the flipside, SEO operators can consider the activity a hassle to embark upon an extra layer of work after they include a string of features and tick all of the other concerns like keywords and backlinks.
The good news is that Google’s own XML sitemap allows users to simplify this task. By implementing this tool, the search engine can crawl through the web quicker and place your URL link with greater accuracy.
The bots can work in mysterious ways, but if you follow the prompts and systemise your pages, they will respond in kind.
Kieran is the Social Media Manager and SEO Expert at SEO Shark. He is an expert in Social Media, link building, PPC and of course SEO. In his time off work Kieran enjoys reading and playing rugby, as well as following all kinds of sports! You can read some more of his articles here.