More power to the people!
There are a lot of random thoughts thrown around about Search Engine Optimization. With the new ranking methodology, let’s face it, Google wants you to be relevant and it wants you to be social. How do you get to the page 1 of google search then? Read on if you want to know exactly what’s going on in SEO.
Search Engine Optimization has too many if’s and but’s for its own sake. Actually all the required activities for SEO have changed over the time. It has become a vague term that puts together a lot of concepts that need validation. SEO specialist and SEO agencies keep experimenting with their own concoction of methods and formulas which is more like alchemy than real science. The results are almost never consistent. The fact that you have to try so hard to convince its science proves its not really.
Search Engine Optimization has become a terminology for defining a larger set of things. Dare I say, an obsolete term and there’s not easier way of saying that. Most industry experts will agree that SEO has no meaning of its own. In the world of digital communication, search engine traffic or the ‘organic traffic’ that was originally the basis of SEO has long shifted to the background. The fact that the SEO objectives dried out a couple of years ago is proved by the efforts of SEO experts trying to accommodate Social Media activities into SEO practices.
The Kung-fu Panda
The new world will not have to be dependent on tricks and techniques for getting visibility. Honest and relevant efforts will be the key to success. That sounds like utopia? Maybe! but the folks at Google would not say that. Yes they would like to sustain the SEO industry but not at the expense of their own reputation. Ultimately Google will be able to keep its throne only if their search engine returns the most relevant results. SEO experts understand that and so they try everything in their arsenal to make a website relevant. Yes, things like PR submissions and wooing the bloggers for back-links are good but quite frankly the goodness stops right there. All the further tactics of SEO involve tricking the ‘crawlers’ into believing that your site is good.
Lets be honest with ourselves. Lets look at the origins of SEO. It was always about gaming the system. Trying to build constant stream of traffic with black hat tactics like cloaking and keyword stuffing are not too far back in past. Google kept finding new ways to stub that and they will continue to do it. I am not talking about just the Panda 2.0, I am talking about the future. Google will do everything to keep ahead of your puny efforts. There will be increasingly less explanation from search engines as to what is required to improve the website ranking and that will be on purpose. You are not supposed to optimise search. Its supposed to happen on its own. Don’t you get it…
SEO Game of Shadows
You can go to an online job forum and post a SEO job for certain amount of money. You find out that there are surprisingly a lot of agencies and freelancers bidding for your job. Some bid as low as $50 a month and some go as high as $500 or maybe even more. You find it extremely difficult to digest the stark contrasts in the SEO pricing. Then you meet someone who explains you the ‘whole’ thing and then you get even more confused because now you know the bits and pieces of SEO and you still don’t know what’s the standard price for a good SEO service. Furthermore you develop a creeping distrust for any vendor who offers SEO services because you’re not sure what are you going to get for your money.
SEO has been a cash cow in digital services because it needed relatively low cost resources and the returns were good. It was fairly simple to explain to the client as compared to other marketing services. SEO was the only process oriented service in digital marketing that didn’t require high skill sets or creativity. This was before search engines became that smart. However agencies continue to milk it because business continue to expect more by spending less. The average market rates for content writing fell because SEO services started producing high volume, low quality content to support their processes.
Let me tell you a secret. The cost of doing SEO goes up each time a new Panda update hits the scene. That’s because each new update disrupts the process orientation of SEO services. Everyone starts setting SEO processes back in sequence from scratch. However it is easy to hide these facts from a business because they don’t really understand what’s going on. The problem is the market competition itself in this field. SEO is a one man job no doubt, so in a world of freelancers where does the agencies stand? Of course there will be major differences in pricing.
Not All Businesses Are Created Equal
Who takes the decisions in your company? Is it a tech geek or a marketing genius? It will depend on the leader’s bias as to what road your company chooses to achieve success. Much due to such biases the SEO services survived by vaguely mixing elements of PPC advertising and social networking. The label of SEO works because it is instantly recognizable as a service and is much easier to market as compared to, lets say social media marketing or digital PR.
Trusting SEO entirely is a tricky thing. It leads us to the same old question- What are you trying to achieve? Yes visibility is important but where you want to be visible is up to you. Do you think that all the following 6 types of companies need higher search ranking and loads of traffic to their website?
a. A new ice-cream company
b. A well known ice cream company
c. A new sports gear manufacturer
d. A well known sports gear manufacturer
e. A new heavy engineering company
f. A well known heavy engineering company
Not all companies are the same. Not every company needs the same thing. All SEO agencies come down to higher search rankings when it comes to results (with of-course a few other frills). Its more of a behavioural issue than a strategic problem.
If you look at it, anyone with basic understanding of internet can do SEO. All businesses can do their own SEO but what matters is the time. Why should an eCommerce company put time in doing SEO which can be outsourced at a cheap cost while that time can be utilized to focus on logistics, supply chain management and building partnerships.
There are always smart SEO companies that focus on the client’s needs and understand content partnerships necessary to achieve search rankings. You can checkout this video tutorial from Sparkah and their 19 point check-list of SEO activities to get a better hang of it:
Analytics companies don’t care
Let me recount the story of Snow White. The witch wants to be called the fairest of them all, while Snow White remains the fairest by apparently doing nothing to earn that tag. The witch keeps sending soldiers to kill Snow White while they keep failing because she is protected by 7 dwarfs. Every time the witch thinks Snow White is dead, she goes to a magic mirror who keeps telling her that Snow White is alive and still the fairest. When the witch eventually succeeds in killing Snow White temporarily, she gets the mirror to confirm that by knowing from the mirror that she’s the fairest now.
The mirror is like the analytics platforms of today. They keep telling you how good or bad you are in terms of website traffic. You depend on it to feel better about yourself. What would you do without the data? The SEO guys are like the soldiers. They have a hard task at hand and have a little idea what they are up against. Most people in the SEO business understand that. That’s why those who were in SEO business a decade ago sell analytics today. Surely the magical mirror’s job is much more comfortable than the soldier’s!
What all makes no sense:
- Calling Tweeting and posting links on Reddit, Google+ etc as SEO. (Its social media referral traffic, not ‘Search’ traffic’)
- Forum Posting without community management, interaction and discussions
- Your Social links getting ranked on Google (it has little if not nothing to do with website traffic)
- Blogging or Producing videos for Youtube (it is a marketing activity not SEO)
- Paying a SEO guy to do things that a simple WordPress SEO plugin can do
- SEO experts giving you branding advice
Tread Carefully, be smart and get social. Consistent efforts can get you to top searches on Google. Invest in content. Good content will help you gain relevance. Improve your digital communication. Talk to people, take feedback, work on your brand and forget about chasing numbers. SEO can’t be thing on its own. You have to have a larger strategy where SEO forms a part.
Search Optimization is in need of an awakening and not just a transformation. We can’t ignore the fact that SEO depends on so many things like good Content Writing, Social Conversations and Blogger Relationships. Things like these are high value services and proponents of SEO demean their value for their selfish reasons. We can not allow that any more.
The SEO terminology will probably not die out that easily but I call for its end. Lets call it Online Traffic Optimization or OTO to accommodate all other sources of traffic (Referral and paid). Lets bring in a little transparency by properly evaluating the services. Lets integrate the marketing activities properly and strategically.
What do you think? Let me know. Please comment below.