Every single business with which we talk wants to work with an SEO professional. In fact, we’re often asked about how we can help with SEO. They believe search engine optimization is this magic tool which is the key to unlocking unlimited growth potential. It’s not that easy, and it can’t be that easy.
We don’t advertise SEO as a service. That said, we know enough about it to tell you when you’re getting a raw deal from your SEO professional. Here’s what we’ve learned after working in the digital space for years.
The rules change all the time
Let’s take a step back for a second and define our terms. Search engine optimization is the process of making your website visible on search result pages for specific keywords that are important to generating revenue for your business. For example, we try to rank for “Google AdWords Westchester” whenever someone searches for that term because it’s what we do. This is the organic ranking that people covet so much.
How do search engines determine who shows up when someone searches a specific term? Complex algorithms. An SEO professional will understand those algorithms and how you can leverage their mechanisms to your benefit.
Here’s the thing though. Just as SEO professionals start to understand how an algorithm ranks pages and what to prioritize so that a client shows up higher in results, the formula changes. In order to make sure they provide as much value to users as possible, search engines like Google are constantly refining their ranking formulas, based on types of content, inbound links, load times and even design choices. Because of these ongoing changes, it can be frustrating to pay an SEO professional who, through no real fault of his own, can’t produce results.
You Won’t See Results Overnight
The process of making the algorithm pay attention to you takes a while. There is not a “rank first on Google” button that you can press. (Well, sort of. More on that later.) So you’re going to have to be patient if you want to make SEO work.
I know what you’re thinking. Lots of SEO professionals guarantee rankings within a set timeline. There’s a simple explanation for this. They’re either lying or don’t know what they’re doing.
Run fast and far away from anyone promising fast first page rankings on specific keywords. Because of all the variables present in modern day SEO, a true SEO professional won’t make promises they know they can’t deliver.
No Two SERPs Are The Same
Here’s a trick some of those SEO professionals will use to show you they’re generating results. They’ll show you a list of all the terms for which you’re ranking. It’s usually a substantial list, many pages of short and long tail keywords. It’s also extremely localized and likely entirely inaccurate.
There’s no master organic list anymore. Search engine results pages (SERPs) are dictated by many factors, including browser language, history and proximity to a business. Two people searching for the exact same thing are going to bring up different results. This is a relatively new development that’s better for the user, part of those refinements I talked about earlier. It’s also made SEO much more complex and diverse.
That long output of ranking terms? Drawn from their office, with their vested interest and browser history of visiting your website plenty of times. It’s smoke and mirrors. You should look for a traffic report instead, showing you how people are coming to your website from SERPs. Not being able to produce this is the reddest of red flags.
Real SEO Takes Real Money
You need two things to make an SEO strategy work: time and money. And at least some knowledge about what SEO is and how to establish backlinks, so I guess three things. We’ve already explained how time factors into SEO success. Yet you may not know why money is so important to ranking.
This isn’t money paid to an SEO professional. This is money paid to develop a cutting-edge website and keep it up to date. It’s also money going to producing valuable content to which others can link. High-quality photos and videos especially are important. Perceived value strengthens SEO value, because your best ranking feature is the sum total of interactions real people have with your website.
Then you get to the money you’re paying to a true SEO professional. Plenty of business offer cheap SEO services. Avoid them. Someone who has spent years understanding the machinations of Google and Bing charges a significant sum for their time. Don’t be cheap about this. Pay the best man for the job. There’s a real difference.
Ads Work Better
Remember how we mentioned that we rank for “Google AdWords Westchester?” A lot of that is because we know a ton about how to make paid advertising work on the Google platform. We’re a Google AdWords Certified agency that has seen 5-10% clickthrough rates on our clients’ ads, with revenue to match.
When you pay for ads, you’re automatically placed in front of the highest ranking organic listing, regardless of other ranking factors. This is premium real estate and search engines know it, which is why they’ve made this shortcut available. You may think that most people skip right over the ads and go into the organic listings because they know those are paid ads. You would be wrong.
And you know what happens when you run a successful AdWords campaign? Your organic SEO rankings improve. Google specifically uses website traffic and time on site as ranking factors. The more people you’re getting to go to your website, the more valuable the algorithm believes it to be.
If you’re going to pay for it anyway, why not take the shortcut and pay Google themselves for the ranking, instead of an SEO professional who has to spend hours trying to game the system. One that you’re going to keep having to pay anyway to maintain that ranking as the rules change.
There’s Only One Surefire SEO Method
There are plenty of websites that have used the power of an SEO professional to get to and stay at the top of the rankings. They’re using some combination of content, traffic and links to make sure they stay there. It’s not easy and takes a real commitment to get there.
The best way to stay relevant on search engines by providing value to your customers. The more people visit your website, and find you through search, and share links to your page, and find your website useful, the better your ranking. No amount of gaming the system will change that. After all, Google is selling a service to their users. If the results they provide aren’t relevant or valuable, they lose value. Commit to providing a service.