One of the first things people ask me when they find out I’m in digital media marketing is:
“Oh so.. you do SEO?”
…And then the conversation gets very dark from there.
I start hearing horror stories of how business owners outsource their SEO to companies or consultant only to have things go very sour, very slowly. And no matter how it starts, it always comes down to the same horrifying sentence:
They said it would take three months to see results and there was no way for me to know what would happen.
The worst thing about the “it will take three months” line is the thought of being slowly taken advantage of, with a smile on your face.
I know. It happened to me once upon a time in a previous business venture.
At first I had to be the understanding shoulder to lean on for these poor souls, like the proverbial bartender listening to stories of sorrow and woe. But after a while, I came up with a response that would bring solace to these poor business owners. I’d look them straight in the eye, and simply say,
SEO is dead.
The reason I say SEO is dead isn’t because it’s actually dead. There’s a place for SEO in every business and every website. However, what most business owners think SEO is about is outdated, it’s been long dead. And flogging a dead horse won’t get you to the finish line any faster.
To really understand the problem of SEO in taking your business into the cloud, we need to look at the history of SEO, how it developed, and how the industry has failed to keep up with where it is today.
When search engines were invented, they needed a way to figure out how to rank websites. There were tens of thousands of websites on any given topic, and it was growing fast!
The most logical and easiest way to rank these websites on relevancy and credibility was to measure how many “backlinks” there were. A backlink is simply a link from another website that links back to your website. They started to measure backlinks, rank it accordingly and it worked for a little while. But business owners became savvy and started to play the system. They realised, “If we put as many backlinks as possible all over the internet, that will raise our ranking.”
The search engines fought back. They thought “The internet is getting filled with thousands of empty spammy websites with thousands of unrelated links just to raise the ranking of a few websites. We need to do something about this.” So they went back to the drawing board…
… and back and forth and back and forth. You get the idea.
Well, the search engines (let’s collectively call them, I dunno, Google) updated their algorithms so that not only do backlinks have to be from relevant websites, they also have to be from credible websites, and they have to be surrounded by relevant content. And recent changes to Google algorithms show that social media integration plays a big part in ranking too (more shares = more relevant)
(I’ll write an article in the future about how trying to rank on Page 1 of Google is becoming a thing of the past too.)
So if you follow the history of SEO, you’ll quickly realize that SEO companies started at the beginning to provide a specific service. And that is to create as many backlinks as possible, to rank your website higher on Google.
So, notwithstanding the changes in technology and search engine algorithms, that type of ranking is also just bad form. Here’s why:
It’s not just about traffic!
I had a client who shared a story about how they hired a SEO company last year for thousands of dollars a month. They promise to deliver a hundred visits every week. And… the dreaded clause, “it would take three months to see results”.
Well, they did deliver their promise, but the problem was no one was buying. The traffic (remember traffic is people) was there, but sales stayed the same. In fact, when they checked their analytics, they found it that the traffic was not local, and wasn’t even going beyond the first page of their website.
When my client went back to the SEO guys to complain, they pointed to the numbers and said, that’s what we promised, that’s what we delivered. “It’s not our responsibility to sell your products/services for you.”
The first problem with a situation like that is, if you’ve got traffic coming in to your website and they’re inactive, you don’t really know why they’re inactive. You don’t know if it’s because you need to work on your sales pipeline on your website or if the traffic is just dead traffic.
Here’s the other problem and much more concerning for any small business owner.
The reason these companies say it will take 3 months for results to come in, is because they don’t know who your audience is. They don’t know who YOUR clients are.
Hopefully by now, you’ve lost all hope for SEO and you’re sitting there with your head in your hands, wondering how to move forward. What comes next? What’s better than SEO?
Well, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The answer is…
The answer is to build prequalified (or organic) sources of traffic. Pre-qualified traffic is simply: people who are already looking for, and have proven that they are looking for what you are offering. Following that logic, it means that it’s better to have five backlinks from pre-qualified sources of traffic, five backlinks that will get you 100 visitors a month, than having one hundred random backlinks that will get you 100 visitors a month. Which one sounds better to you?
Here’s a few ways to get pre-qualified traffic.
If you’re selling a product, or if you’re starting out, the best way to get people onto your website is to run ad campaigns with measurable ROI. Ad campaigns that have a specific goal, which allow you to track conversion rates in real time. Online ad campaigns are extremely powerful when done correctly. And the results are immediate.
The second one is to have strategic and mutually beneficial partnerships with other websites that will send traffic your way. Approaching other businesses that have a strong online following, whether they are a blog, e-magazine, or business, can help to boost your brand and raise awareness of your own business. The trick is to partner with websites that are already engaging with your target market, but aren’t your direct competitors.
Probably the most obvious one. You want to engage with your target market one-on-one. Engage and relate to their passions. Identify with their pains and draw them in by building authentic relationships using the media platforms at your disposal through social media and blogging.
SEO was never meant to be the horrible creature that we examined at the beginning of this article. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. and like I said, there is still a place for it in every website.
So, what exactly are you Optimising for Search Engines?
Leave your thoughts in the comment below.