Recently I assisted a young woman in starting up an online clothing store. To establish stronger ties with the producers we had to tour a few cities throughout the country and hold meetings to discuss the orders, deliveries, production fees, minimum amounts, stocks and supplies, and other details.
At the very first meeting the owner of a company producing underwear, who spent her whole life selling and sewing panties, offered us her SEO expert services. With the words: “I know a few tricks that will rank you first on the internet”, she expressed sincere readiness to assist us in positioning the new project on Google and other search engines (without additional payment).
A few hours later we were in another city, at a meeting with another clothes producer, who minutes after presenting his portfolio explained to us how we can appear first in Google in no time and again offered his services.
In just one day I was offered to be consulted twice on the same topic by people, who had no real idea about what SEO means. I was surprised in the beginning. Why didn’t they offer me marketing techniques to sell their own products? Why didn’t they talk about the habits and demands of their clients? Or good and bad practices in how to sell clothes? They offered us search engines optimization, guaranteeing the top position.
Is it that easy?
Everyone wants to be first on Google. So far, the most humble website owner I have met was the one who targeted the top five. All the rest insisted on No 1. This is the goal of the SEO, too – to place you in better positions for searches for concrete keywords. For instance, if you have a website for hotels and someone is looking for “hotels in Paris” – to see your website first in the list. This way the chance for this person to enter exactly your website is much higher than if you are raked on the 18th page. In fact, the chances are considerably higher.
SEO experts’ job is similar to that of alchemists in the past. They do something but no one knows what it is, how it is done, and what the end result will be. Of course, the importance of the optimization of your website and its content is indisputable. If you do not follow the standards set by Google, the chances to force your way up are slight. However, I would not advise you to make serious investments in the dark, without the assistance of a consultant. There are several reasons for this.
What the… is happening?
A year ago I held an interview to appoint an SEO expert. Having rich experience in this field I tried to assess the skills of the candidates. None of them had used the Google Webmaster Tools instrument, while only one of them had heard of it. To make it clear to you, it is similar to being a garage worker, who does not know what a jack is and has absolutely no idea how to use it. Can you imagine replacing a tire without a jack? I guess it will take a few days for the four tires, as well as at least a couple of hernias.
The fact that each of the candidates had the self-esteem to claim to be an SEO expert but they never used the major optimization tool, seriously bothered me and I decided to go through the SEO thoroughly all over again. It turned out that this service was an easy way for technically incompetent people to make good money. Although there are real optimizers and experts on the market, they are now less than 5%.
Currently, almost any designer, programmer, manager, or even an underwear store owner thinks they are good enough to position a website atop of the list on Google. Not only they believe it but they also guarantee it to their clients – shortly before they start ruining the website. This is one of the ways to tell the real expert from the sham one – the professional will never guarantee you that the website will be positioned on a concrete place within a concrete period of time. The professional may guess what the results will be, give you some directions, assure you of the chances to improve the positioning to a certain extent or rate, but they will never engage themselves with concrete position and deadline. Even Google’s employees cannot guarantee this.
My personal experience in this field shows that every website that meets several hundreds of rules recommended by the experts has a real chance to position itself higher up in the search results. I guess you will ask me about the hotels again – there are millions of websites emerging for the word “hotel”, so what if all of them have met the requirements – which ones will appear in the top 10 (on the first page)? The selection principle was announced by Google again and it is the quality of the content. This is something that may boost your PageRank. This is the thing that will show the search engines whether your website is worth being in the top positions or not. This is the thing that consumers seek and demand.
Thus, instead of starting your project with the idea of how much money you are going to pay for No 1 position, you should think of the content that you are going to show on this top position. Why do you need the No 1 position? So what if a consumer has entered your website if there is no point in this visit?
How on earth does SEO work?
We should note that focusing on one concrete word rarely brings good results. For instance, if you have a cell phone store, it is hardly important for you to appear on the first position for the “telephone” searches. Indeed, this could be a good exercise for some SEO expert but also an absolute waste of money. Why? If someone is looking for “telephone” on the internet, it is not guaranteed that this person is looking for a cell phone. Neither is there any guarantee that the search is for a phone you have at stock.
In fact, your goal is to catch “the long tail” of concrete phrases and not words. For instance “HTC One 8m”, “HTC One price” or “HTC One second-hand”. These are phrases used by consumers searching on Google to get results connected with concrete cell phone brand and model. Sometimes, to avoid the magazine reviews, consumers add the word “price” which brings more results with links to stores. If they add “second-hand”, the results will be absolutely different and there will be more websites of the eBay.com type. These are the winning phrases you should work on.
Let us go back to the example with the hotels. Let us assume that your hotel in Paris appears first in the list for the “hotel” search. At first sight, this looks perfect. However, many people are looking for hotels in Madrid, London, or somewhere else. Thus, the perfect positioning does not necessarily lead to sales, while the resource invested in such positioning will be huge.
I will give you a real example. Recently, a free advertising website appeared on the internet. It did not offer anything special but yet managed to successfully and actively deceive Google. No matter what you searched for – from car parts to kidneys for transplantation, this website always had an answer. Naturally, after you enter the website, you see that the information you are looking for is missing and that this is a fraud, but you have already entered there. Fortunately, you click the link to enter as fast as you click the BACK button and you continue your search for better results. This website is neither popular nor successful, nor earns any money. It is simply there – among the top positions for almost every possible search.
The good news is that Google delays but never forgets. A website may dare to lie the search engine but only for a restricted time. Indeed, it will first accumulate certain traffic but then it will disappear from the results or be positioned on the 82nd page, for instance, where it belongs. Such disappearance may ruin any project because you do not exist unless you are in Google.
The reason for the market to be awash with such services is people’s stupidity and laziness. It is easier to pay an “expert” to lie to the search engines, which will bring fast money, than to work hard, to lay the foundations of a really successful online business, which would exist for years instead of just for a couple of months. Such a frivolous approach towards your business may corrupt the good job done by the team of programmers and designers and cause irreversible harm to your project.
And if we go back to those millions of websites with the word “hotel”, the possibility for each of them to meet all rules is close to zero. The reason is the same as why people do not go to the gym – laziness and endless excuses. Keeping a good shape requires hard work and persistence. That is why everyone wants to lose 60 pounds in a week just by taking a single pill. And many companies gain profit by selling these pills. At the same time, those, who want a healthy and nice body, are sweating in the gym and making great efforts every single day to enjoy the visible results that will be seen months and years after they stop exercising. The same is valid for the optimization.
- Meet all rules and standards Google requires from you.
- Provide high-quality and original content on your website.
- Update the website regularly. Depending on the topic, this may mean once a day or once an hour.
- Play by the rules – each deviation to the dark side of the optimization may cost you much.
- The more time invested to make the website better and valuable for the consumers, the more consumers you will attract.
- If you already have a website, hire an expert to make an audit and put it on the right track.