What Is SEO?

Let's start with the easy answer; SEO is the shorthand for Search Engine Optimisation.

The complete answer is a bit more involved. Spend 1 minute going through the following explanation.

  • What is it used for?
  • Should you bother?
  • What are your options?

SEO is an attempt to make your online content more visible. The typical aspiration is to be "number one in Google".

Your Google ranking, where you appear in the search results, depends upon 3 things: what you do, what your competitors do, and how Google changes its rules.

So where does this leave us? Google's rule-of-thumb is that they wish to display the most relevant results, for whatever a particular user is looking for, at a particular time, from a particular location, on a particular device, bearing in mind what they've looked for and at before.

This means that in an ideal world, you would simply produce good content - a mixture of words, pictures, video, and whatever. Preferably of a decent length and quality. The best stuff would rise to the top naturally.

In an ideal world, anything that is done to distort this process, would be frowned upon. This is Google's approach, and they continually tweak their algorithms and ranking signals to counteract any such activity.

Technically, SEO is such a distorting activity. A logical conclusion is that under some circumstances, doing nothing can be a pragmatic strategy. I have been made aware of one agency that charged its clients for doing nothing. I can't condone that practice.

But we don't live in a perfect world, and there is always commercial pressure to get ahead. At the other extreme, there are so-called "black hat" techniques. These abuse the system in an attempt to get quick results. This may be viewed in the same way as stealing a car. It is an easy way to get a vehicle. I can't condone this practice either.

By now you should be confused and demoralised. However, simply produce stuff that you would find useful if you were in the market for what you do. Don't get involved in anything that sounds too good to be true. And don't view SEO as the be-all and end-all.

Let's take a step back, and consider the business purpose SEO tries to address. Your real objective is unlikely to be the maximisation of visitors to your website, Facebook followers, or retweets. It should be number of enquiries, number of customers, volume of sales, net profit, etc. If viewed in isolation, SEO can be the tail that wags your marketing dog.

Having said that, if done properly, it can align with the commercial goals of the business in a powerful way. However, for most businesses, traditional SEO is less important than it once was. Historically things were simpler, and it was your only option. That has changed on all fronts. There are other options within the online marketing arsenal. Some are probably a better fit for you.

If you view and implement SEO in a considered way, then congratulations. But what if you have a problem? If you don't care about your website marketing, then it's not really an issue. However, you wouldn't have read this far, would you?

Usually I would suggest that you first contact whomever looks after your online marketing. However, they're the ones that got you into this situation. That is why web designers pass clients to us. Get in touch and I can tell you how we could help you.

By Kenneth Mackay, 29th November, 2016

This is one of a series of articles that deal with common issues when promoting your business online. We hope that you found it useful. Go to our online marketing tips to see previous pieces of advice. If there are any topics that you would like covered, please let us know.

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