You can go straight to the myths down the article and reread the brief later. This short article is based on real paying clients big and small. I have been doing consulting work with celebrities, e-commerce, retail, industrial local and international clients for their online businesses since 2002. The information here is backed by the most successful Internet professionals and even the known ones from Amazon, Apple and yes Facebook.
They apply to ALL websites no matter what type and what industry.
Brief on SEO and Google
SEO is not new. It has been around ever since webpage addresses (URLS) were aggregated and organized by different entities in the mid 90s. The basic idea is to make the website page appear at the top most of these listings or “directories” such as Altavista back then, whenever key phrases are inputted in an input field. Website owners and their partners until today compete to be at the top of search results, using different tactics and strategies, with the big assumption that more search viewers will enable them to realize online goals they have, may it be simple hits and exposure or conversion to more subscribers or more sales.
Top search engines today such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo are well aware of these tactics and strategies and routinely defend themselves from being gamed by SEO experts and instead officially encourage best practices so that search results would be “fair” and “relevant” and “accurate” to what the searcher is looking for.
Beyond simple site structure and use of keywords which obsolete search engines and directories used before – as they were prone to manipulations and inaccuracies — Google pioneered the PageRank (PR) algorithm, which later was loosely adopted by other search engines. At its core, it is a mathematical formula wherein a web page gets a quality score from other pages that links to it, and thereby increasing its authority and that authority will have a higher quality score when it refers to other web pages. This is often referred to as backlinks.
One useful metaphor is a soccer or basketball team, where the players as the game or series proceeds gets higher value or authority every time the ball is passed to each of them. A high value player can increase value of another player if the former “assists” or passes to the latter.
It is not foolproof but with the PageRank formula on top of continuously changing and improving criteria, Google became the most accurate search engine available with the idea that a kind of democratic vote by other web pages is the best signal that a web page should rank high. Other search engines followed suit.
Other factors – aside from on-page use of keywords, domain name selection – especially in recent years, have emerged to improve the accuracy of search results. Among them are, website usability, social media, site speed, mobile friendliness.
Given the state of affairs, SEO became a multi-billion industry even outside Google with many firms and experts claiming to outsmart these search engines. But in our opinion, attempting to outsmart Google and other search engines is a very misguided strategy.
What we (and Google) advice are simply the following: 1) stick to fundamentals of marketing as is done in the real world, 2) keep codes of the website clean, fast and implement best practices for web development, 3) when appropriate, make use of current trends (mobile, social media, UX/UI etc.), 4) get referral links, make use of ads and platforms and influencers 5) have specific long term and short term SEO goals and above all 6) strive to have useful and engaging content that is properly targeted to the right market.
Above all never assume that the keywords or key phrases you rank for or want to rank for are the actual ones that will result in your sales and other business goals.
Critical Limitations of SEO
It is very crucial to understand that even the best SEO campaign even with good advertising mostly affects hits and increased viewers (traffic) only. Most often, SEO has a corollary relationship not causal relationship to more important fundamental business goals such as conversion to subscribers or sales.
For those important business goals, a conversion of marketing funnel must be designed properly along with compelling content and follow through systems.
The conversion/marketing funnels are what converts hits and viewers to important metrics such as sales.
Common SEO myths
- “I’m sure what keywords I should rank for.” – Nope. Almost never. Well at least, you may know you need to rank for your brand name but all other else, you will be probably wrong. Keyphrases must be backed by intensive research and historic customer data.
- “If I rank in my chosen keywords I will get exposure I need.” See #1. And even if you do rank, they may be worthless keywords which does nothing to affect your business goals. More importantly, go very, very deep to analyze that vague word “exposure”. Decades ago, on TV and radio, audience have no choice but to be “exposed” to product advertisements. It makes sense that exposure will convert well to sales before with people having little choice. Now, it is very different when every viewer you have countless choices and will not likely take action after “exposure”. Exposure should not be your goal! I have seen countless successful websites with almost no general exposure.
- “I can hire some IT guy to do his magic, if I have enough cash to blow and he’s really good, I will be number 1!” Nope. Nope. Real SEO is 10% technical savvy or even less. Real SEO requires in depth marketing knowledge of a specific audience and creating content with the language that market uses.
- “I have a web developer/designer (she is also good in UX/UI and social media). She can do this for me!” See #3 . The best person to do your SEO is you the owner. The second next best person is an experienced copy writer, ideally with direct marketing background in your industry.
- “SEO is what I really need.” I will often argue SEO is the last marketing strategy you need. There are really just ONLY 3 kinds of traffic: direct, search and referred.
Google Analytics now breaks it down into 5:
Now these traffic sources or “channels” can be broken down further but let’s just say for the meantime that each of the five can be quality traffic (those that will eventually contribute to your goals) or useless traffic (sometimes called “drive by traffic”). And yes useless traffic is bad for you.
Among these five, which of them have the most likely quality traffic? In other words, which ones have the largest potential to increase your business goals and you should focus on?
Take a guess.
I guarantee you will be wrong… and my answer is backed by all the best marketing professionals in the industry.
Ready for the answer? Scroll down…
Email and Direct traffic!
Why is this? That’s a long discussion I need to shelve for now but if you have studies real world marketing you would have clues. And you would know why SEO is probably not yet what you need.
If you are not convinced, focus on the word OPTIMIZATION in SEO. If you are optimizing something (in this case marketing) that is not yet working at the basic level, you will only speed up an efficiency.
If not SEO, what can I do now?
- Visit the following links. They explain things better than I possibly can:
– Value Stream Loop– 1000 True Fans
- Revisit as many customers of your business that you can get hold with. Break down the exact steps how they discovered your product and how exactly they bought and all the steps in between.
- Segment your visitors based on their interests. There will always be at least 3 buckets.
- Research Online Sales Funnels or Online Marketing Funnels.
- Forget exposure, think conversion.
- Visit the following links. They explain things better than I possibly can: