When it comes to SEO, you’re probably doing it wrong

Smashing Magazine recently featured a great article about search engine optimization (SEO), titled The Inconvenient Truth About SEO. It repeats much of what I’ve been saying lately:

Most website owners perceive SEO as a dark art, shrouded in mystery. They have heard phrases like “gateway pages” and “keyword density”, or have been bamboozled by technobabble about the way websites should be built. All of this has left them feeling that SEO is the purview of experts. This is a misconception reinforced by certain segments of the SEO community.

The problem is that these kinds of complex techniques do work, to a point. It is possible to improve placement through a manipulation of the system. However, although it can have short term benefits, it will not last without continual investment. This is because the objective is wrong. SEO shouldn’t be about getting to the top of Google for particular phrases. In fact, we shouldn’t be optimizing for search engines at all. We should be optimizing for people. After all, that is what Google is trying to do.

You should read the whole thing.

I tell clients all the time that SEO is more about minimizing errors and ambiguity than about stacking some virtual deck. Sure, there are some technical issues that might be a little difficult for the layman to understand, but that should be baked into your website from the start. At worst, it should involve hiring a third party to review your website and straighten out the issues. In other words, SEO should be a one-time cost rather than a monthly fee.

If business owners stopped worrying about what the “gurus” said about SEO and started trying to create more engaging content on a regular basis, they’d be rewarded with better search engine rankings.

Content is king

If you can be more succinct, more interesting, and more engaging, you’ll be more popular online. That popularity will translate to leads, and those leads will translate to sales.

The cost of doing it the right way is time; that’s why so few people do it the right way. You might argue that time is money, and that it’s better to your spend money than your time getting your website working better, but you’d be wrong. It might be easier, but it’s not better. No one knows your business (and your competitive advantage) better than you.

I install an SEO plugin into every website I build. I always urge my clients to submit the meta titles and descriptions themselves. Descriptions needs to be 155 characters or less. Being forced to explain different aspects of their business so succinctly is invaluable in rooting out and eliminating ambiguous and superfluous content. Thanks to the digital era in which we’re living, attention spans have shrunk. Consumers like their information in bite-size chunks. Give it to them that way.

We all get caught up in the myriad features and advantages of our services. What customers want to know about is the benefit to them. That shouldn’t be complicated, but it is. I see it all the time.

Once my clients have had to frustratingly come up with succinct explanations of the benefits of their services, they are able to develop better elevator pitches. Once they have better elevator pitches, they can go back and edit their web copy to better engage with readers.

This is the path to success. At least, it’s a better path than paying some “SEO specialists” to have your site linked from a shady network of artificial microsites.

If you want to read more about the productive way to approach SEO, feel free to browse through some of my other posts on the topic:

When it comes to SEO, you’re probably doing it wrong
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