When I network outside of my own industry, I’m reminded how much I take my knowledge for granted. I sometimes forget that not everyone eats, sleeps, and breaths digital marketing—especially search engine optimization.
I was speaking at a local networking event, and while on the topic of SEO, several people insisted that they knew all about it, and then proceeded to tell me about the importance of the keyword meta tag, and how making sure to include all the right words was critical.
Given the amount of misinformation about search engine optimization on the internet, I can’t say I’m surprised when people have outdated, misguided, or flat out false ideas about it. So today, I’m going to share six things every business owner needs to know about SEO.
SEO is an ongoing process
A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a potential client, and when we came to the topic of search engine optimization, he said “Oh, we don’t need to worry about that—we’ve already had that done.”
Despite the fact that some people still think it’s just a task that you check off the list, SEO is an ongoing process.
Think of it like exercise—you wouldn’t go to the gym once, spend a few minutes on each machine, and then expect to walk out with the body of your dreams, right? Search engine optimization works the same way.
There isn’t some magical formula that once you get dialed in, your website just ranks. Sure, there are certain guidelines you need to follow, but in addition to that, you’re also competing against other websites on each of the 200+ factors in Google’s algorithm.
There’s always room for improvement, so you must continue to optimize everywhere you can. Page speed, mobile responsiveness, user experience, content, inbound links, etc. If you don’t, you’ll lose out to competitors who do.
Results don’t happen overnight
Even if you do everything correctly, and you have the budget to do everything right now, you still won’t see results overnight.
Here’s why: Let’s say you wrote a ground-breaking post that everyone in your industry loved, shared, and linked to. Let’s say, hypothetically, that this post earned you 100 new links.
First, Google has to find your new post. How quickly they do will depend on:
- How authoritative they deem your website to be. More authoritative sites tend to be crawled more frequently.
- How authoritative the sites linking to your post are. When an authoritative site links to your post, it could be crawled and indexed sooner.
Next, Google needs to find all of the new links to your site. This will depend on how authoritative each of those sites are in the eyes of Google. That might be days, weeks, or even months. And it can be months after that before you see any improvement in ranking.
No one can make a guarantee
I know it seems like a guarantee makes good business sense, but it’s exactly the opposite in this case. If someone offers you a guarantee on search engine optimization—RUN!
An ethical and honest SEO professional will never offer a guarantee because they cannot guarantee where a page will rank. But don’t take my word for it—listen to what Google has to say about it…
Would you trust a stock broker who offered a guarantee on your investment? A doctor who offered a guarantee on your longevity? A politician who offered a guarantee on…well, anything? Of course not, because no matter how proficient, experienced, and well-intentioned they may be, they simply can’t guarantee a specific outcome.
Neither can search engine optimization professionals. Any who claim otherwise are lying.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of manipulative “guarantees” in this industry, and I’ve never seen one that didn’t fall into one of three categories:
- A guarantee to rank for specific keywords, but they are keywords that no human would ever search for, thus, will never generate exposure, leads, or sales.
- A guarantee to rank for specific keywords, but the SEO company uses black hat techniques which may produce results in the short term, but will eventually get your domain penalized by Google.
- A guarantee to continue working for free if your website doesn’t rank for specific keywords within a specified time frame, but the SEO company simply stops working or responding.
Keyword meta tags don’t matter
Keyword meta tags have zero impact on search ranking. I mean, not even a little bit.
Think about it from a logical point of view. If the keyword meta tag was a ranking factor, site owners would simply copy them from top ranking sites, and search engines would have no way to determine where any site should rank.
Again, don’t take my word for it…
Inbound links are the most significant ranking factor
Legitimate editorial links from other websites pointing to your website are the single most significant ranking factor in Google’s algorithm today. This shouldn’t really be a surprise though, since this has been the case for well over a decade now.
The difference today is that Google has gone a long way in combating manipulative linking practices. What was once standard practice and acceptable by Google’s standards just a few years ago will get your website penalized and deindexed today. This includes:
- Blog commenting
- Social bookmarking
- Reciprocal link schemes
- Interlinking sites you own/control
- Link directories
- Article directories
- Buying links
- Links embedded in free themes
- Links embedded in widgets
You might think “Everyone else is doing it, so I might as well too!” or even “I’m so smart that Google will never catch me!”
Well, my friend, smarter people than you (or me) have tried, and failed.
What you need to understand is that Google has teams of engineers whose only job is to catch people trying to manipulate their algorithm with links. And they have petabytes of data, massive computing power, and a complex algorithm to look for patterns that you haven’t even considered. Trust me when I say they will catch you. Are you willing to suffer a manual penalty that could remove your website from Google for month, years, or even forever? If your answer is “NO!” then steer clear of violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
So how can you safely build links today? There are still a ton of legitimate ways to build links, but most people will stick to the easy, outdated tactics because they’re lazy.
If you’re willing to put in the hard work that others won’t, you’ll reap the rewards because not only will you earn quality links that will boost your organic ranking, your competitors using shady link building practices will lose their organic ranking, further catapulting you to the top!
Quality content is the second most significant ranking factor
Top-quality content that your visitors care about it the second most significant ranking factor in Google’s algorithm today.
Most experienced marketers know that today, simply publishing content won’t provide any improvement in ranking because average content earns no links. It’s not even enough to publish something good. Nope, today, if you want to succeed online, you need to publish content that blows people away. Content that stands out instead of trying to “me too” readers to death. Content that is so awesome, they’ll link to it willingly without being asked.
And that doesn’t mean just writing about your products or services anymore. Today, you need to reach outside of your traditional audience and engage a broader audience. Which, coincidentally, also opens up tremendous link building opportunities that your competitors haven’t even thought of.
Here’s a great example—while consulting with a local divorce attorney, we identified several legitimate and relevant categories outside of their industry, including: real estate, zoning, business, accounting, and even celebrities. Here are a few topics within those categories:
- Selling a home during a divorce
- Rezoning property to sell as part of a divorce settlement
- How to handle a family-owned business during a divorce
- How to structure a divorce to minimize taxes for high net-worth couples
- Techniques to keep the terms of a divorce settlement private
We also published interviews from divorce attorneys outside of the area he serves. That’s relevant content that presents a different perspective than his own, and is even more likely to be linked to from other lawyers.
There’s nothing wrong with writing about the products or services you provide, but that should be a small portion of your content. You have to write about the things your audience cares about. They don’t care about you until you give them a reason to, and you’ll never do that by rambling on endlessly about your company. Look at some of the companies that are creating amazing content that keep their audience engaged: GoPro, WP Curve, MOZ, John Deere, and Article 15 Clothing—you see a common denominator. Their content isn’t about their company—it’s about their customers! As a result, they have an engaged and loyal audience of buyers who eagerly promote the company on social media, and/or link to it from their own blogs.