website SEO is a busted flush

Why SEO is a busted flush

website SEO is a busted flush

In 2007 the Credit Crunch was running rife and I was in the unfortunate position of having to sell a house, not a good time to have to unload your largest asset. I had three Estate Agents quote a price that was over£ 30K lower than the house had been valued at just a year previously.

Up to this point I had run a lot of search engine optimisation (SEO) campaigns selling affiliate products, info products and a very successful entertainment business. I’d been involved in the back n forth arms war between Google and the SEO superheroes and had followed their findings avidly. The gradual advance of the Google Search Algorithm meant SEO had moved on quite some way from cramming a ton of white keywords on a white background into the footer. Things had changed significantly and I’d learnt the craft well so I decided to test every piece of learning I had ever picked up about web marketing and went toe to toe with the 800lb Gorilla of UK property sales… Right Move…

It took me several weeks to do all the ground work but eventually I ranked my “Property for Sale Guildford” website “Propertyforsaleguildford.co.uk” at number one above RightMove.co.uk for the keywords Property for Sale Guildford, House for Sale Guildford and similar keyword search phrases.

It took 4 months but we eventually sold the house, with a bidding war and we got 2% less than the pre credit crunch price.

SEO ROCKED!

It made me £25K over and above the prices quoted by the Estate Agents. Happy Days!

This single project was then responsible for kick starting my SEO business: other company’s wanted to know what I knew and paid me to tell them, build their websites and run their web marketing.

FFW to 2013… Matt Cutts announces the death of guest blogging and I was done with SEO.

Over the 5 years since my house sale the Google Algorithm had been upgraded faster than a Billionaire accidentally sitting in economy class. First link wheels got weeded out, then blog networks and articles, GONE and all manner of additional back linking (links from other websites) and off site content methods slowly and surely evaporated quicker than  a puddle in the sun.

Eventually I was being paid by my clients to write guest blog posts, beg for back links to their website, build the odd video and generally fiddle around the edges of a slowly drying up pool of opportunity.

And then Google, via Matt Cutts made an announcement at the end of 2013, Guest blogging would no longer attract their approval. In fact they would be penalising people for their guest blog posts, they were now on the list of things you could no longer do for SEO purposes. So I was left with a handful of minor tools with which to improve website ranking and whilst these still had a very minor effect it was no longer the short term visceral spike with which I could show a dramatic return on investment and make money.

I was out

How could I realistically charge my customers £300+ per month for a service that was now only going to actively harm my customers?

Google wants to show websites that have the best data, info or content relevant to the search intent. Not website’s that can best manipulate the search results. YOU may think you deserve to be top but then so does EVERYONE! Google has to be more democratic and give search results that most fit the searchee’s requirements.

The upshot was a move towards personalised and semantic search tuning search results using previous searches and preferences (hence Google Plus and the rise of Social Graph). Searching for information on a band? then searching for some music videos? Likely as not the music videos will all be by the band you just searched for. Same with holidays and hire cars, restaurants and locations. If you visit your own website daily it will ride high in your searches, giving you a false sense of success. However Google is just showing you a website that you regularly visit and therefore must want to see.

Sure you can still tinker and get some effect, that will, I guess, always be the case but if Google spots you attempting to fiddle the natural search results then you’ll sink like a stone from first page to, well, 2nd page might as well be nowhere.

The point is Google KNOWS what is natural for any website at any stage of maturity, traffic level and content. If you have a website that is 6 months old, has 10 pages, 5 blog posts (the last one done 3 months ago) a handful of likes/shares and tweets and 200 visits a month then shoving 3000 backlinks at the domain is going to set off alarm bells at Google HQ, they will have a good idea what number of links a website in your industry, with the traffic levels you have and the type and quality of your content will attract. Gain   a link profile that is unnatural, and at the very least the beast is going to swivel an eye in your direction, worst case you get sand boxed and then penalised.

Or what about this scenario… You have £500 to get traffic with, you can choose to pay Google to put you at the top of the search immediately and they become your ally. Or… You can go to someone who “THINKS!” they may have just fathomed out the Google algorithm, give them your £500 and keep your fingers crossed that the 50 Indian SEO “Experts” they employ to bombard blog comments, forum signatures and article directories and don’t end up creating hundreds of spammy backlinks. You just spent £500 making Google your enemy, and if not right now then at some point in the future when your efforts get spotted and an algorithm changes weeds them out and penalises your website.

You can spend money making Google your ally or spend money making Google your (eventual) nemesis. The point is SEO is all about manipulating the search results and Google doesn’t want that, it wants to place websites on merit for the quality of their content, technical performance and popularity across the Internet and that’s why any business should avoid SEO. They should be creating content that ranks them on merit, not on the skill of their SEO specialist. Eventually they are going to be found wanting and that is not a longer term business strategy.

It’s 2014, THERE ARE NO SHORT CUTS ONLY MATT CUTTS (and his Web Spam team!).

Everything you need to do to gain a Google first place ranking are within your grasp.

1) Write excellent content for your core pages – pages that remain static and unchanging with your sales messages on them. Use words your visitors might use to search for you.

2) Write quality content in your blog posts – this is content that might not age so well but is still useful, think newspaper not book (keywords are still important).

3) Make sure your website loads fast – complying to the latest coding standards and is responsive to all screen sizes and platforms (desktop and mobile)

4) Share your content on social media – use social media like PR to attract traffic back to your blog “Here’s my content, why not come read it?” and point that traffic at your sales message.

5) Rinse/repeat… – keep adding great content that is useful to your audience and encourage them to share it and spread across the net for you.  Have a killer marketing funnel and sales process and cash them cheques.

Just keep at it, sure you might want to get some reviews, a G+ page and a few other strategic back links but the rest will grow organically as they are meant to do and this is a LONG TERM marketing strategy that is as relevant today as it was when I started out in SEO back in the nineties.

Many people use the phrase “SEO” and mean web marketing but it’s not: SEO means manipulation of the search results, optimising the content of your website should mean creating a marketing and sales funnel, writing LOTS of great content, pouring a f*%k ton of traffic on it and making it convert as efficiently as possible so you get the greatest number of enquiries/leads and customers from your activities online.

Invest in your website, make it work well, use the latest conversion techniques to grow your business online, 1% growth per month is over 12% per year, in 3 years you have grown your business by a 1/3rd, hustle harder and optimize your content better and you can easily add big % numbers to your business growth. Conversion gets more juice from each orange, so you get more bang for your marketing buck.

So from now on, remember…

Meta Tags will not make much difference to your search engine ranking.

Seeking out and targeting keywords like a laser is not going to work.

There is no short term easy solution to ranking your websites like 5000 backlinks.

Getting someone else to do Social Media is like asking them to attend a party on your behalf and expecting to get a load of new, close personal friends (and that attractive boy/girl’s phone number you’ve been after for a while).

You might manipulate Google for a while, you might even fool them into ranking you in first place but what are you going to do when you wake up on a Friday morning (any of my sites that were ever affected always seemed to drop on a Friday for some reason) but what are you going to do when they disappear? Drop even more money on ranking?

Ranking takes time, and there’s no promise – ask an SEO expert if they will guarantee a first page position, and their answer will be “No one can”… The more bullish may offer you a guarantee but it’ll be worded very carefully. Sure they’ll give you lots of examples and show you sites ranking well but ask them exactly how much business ranking for that keyword generated… Hmmm… It’s not about ranking for a keyword, it’s about ranking for the RIGHT keyword and if that keyword is valuable to your business then isn’t that worth investing time. effort and money into ranking long term? Short term manipulations end up costing you in the longer term. I know, I’ve been there and done it.

If you won’t commit to marketing your business then I can’t help you, but if you have the will to write blog posts, engage on social media and show your target market the sum total of your expertise (like this blog post) then give us a call and let us help you sharpen, polish and hone your online marketing and make it more efficient than the competition.

To your marketing success!

Stuart Morrison

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About Stuart Morrison

Stu Morrison's background in marketing, entertainment and web development has fused him into a guy thirsty for results in marketing. His regular talks on marketing and web conversion help others to gain more revenue from their websites. He also has a big moustache.