By now, every business large and small has come to understand that they need to tweak their web site to cater to the search engine. The Internet is a big place, and you can no longer take the position of “build it and they will come.” They won’t.
Unless that is, you take definitive action to make them come. Search engine optimization (SEO) is how you do it. Problem is though, there are differing opinions as to what that really is and how much it should cost. In the early days of the Internet, SEO simply meant creating a lot of pages of content, with a search phrase embedded in every sentence. The idea was to “game” the Google search algorithm, and it worked, but only for a little while, and we’re thankful for that. Keyword packing only results in lots of very badly written copy that’s written for an algorithm, not for people. Even if your keyword-packing tactics do get traffic to your site, once the actual people have found you, the klunky writing style of the keyword-packers will only make you look unprofessional and foolish.
Yes, you do need to write your web site copy with Google’s search rules in mind, but you can’t stop there. There are real, live people coming to your web site, and you have to write for them, and that means taking a much more organic approach to SEO rather than the mechanical keyword-packing, forum-spamming, artificial link-building tactics taken by the low-cost providers.
In addition to keywords, SEO also means creating mentions of your company and site in other locations, mainly for the purpose of creating links back to your main site. This helps your Google rank, and is a great tool for building traffic, but only if it’s done right.
Like the keyword-packers who generate bad copy that is little more than vessels to hold keywords, some link building services promise to give you an impressive number of links back to your site in a short period of time. The fact of the matter is, this is an organic process and it takes time to do it right. Here’s the dirty little secret these guys don’t tell you: They build spammy links by joining forums on your behalf, inserting links back to your site, and making article and forum comments that are meaningless nonsense–and make you look like a complete idiot. Most of these posts get deleted after a short time, but those that do persist will harm your reputation. This is not money well spent, and you don’t want those type of links.
And while we’re on the subject of dirty little secrets, here’s another one, relating back to the keyword trickery mentioned above. There are low-cost providers out there, who will offer, for what seems to be an unrealistically low fee, to get you ranked on the first page of Google SERPs, “guaranteed.” First of all, no reputable SEO expert is going to make guarantees, because there are too many factors out of his or her control. And, the way they are able to make these guarantees is by leveraging what are called “long tail keywords.” They make these guarantees, but if you read the fine print, they get to pick the keywords that you will rank for. If you want to rank for a primary keyword, for example, “tablet computers,” it’s going to take a lot of work. The “guaranteed first page results for $300 in one week” guys work this way: You’ll rank on page one, alright–but not for the key phrase “tablet computers.” You will rank on page one for a series of longer, very infrequently searched key phrases, such as, “macaque monkeys using tablet computers to search for bananas”. Obviously, the long-tail key phrases are very infrequently searched, so ranking on page one is easy–but does you very little good.
My key message is this: Search engine optimization doesn’t come in a box. It’s not a “package”, and it’s not a mechanical process. It’s ongoing, it’s organic, and more than anything, it involves sound marketing practices and just plain, old-fashioned good writing.