16 May Bust Myths, Not Rhymes: Search Engine Optimisation
We recently worked with a client who opened our eyes to some of the misconceptions surrounding Search Engine Optimisation that are held in the world today.
Their site used to be managed by an agency, who handled all the ongoing SEO work. After some time, when results were going well, a decision was made to stop paying an agency to do the work, and to do the work themselves. The result was that old, black-hat SEO practices were put into play all over the site, and that the rankings collapsed. Over the last two and a half years, traffic to the site fell by some 80%.
That’s when we were brought in to help out. With over 400 pages of content that had been crammed with keywords both in the main page and all the META descriptions, the majority of our work went into repairing a site that was being heavily penalised by Google for unethical techniques.
After two months, we were let go due to rankings not increasing enough on a small range of keywords, despite organic Google visits increasing dramatically.
That is, of course, the right of the client. But it opened our eyes to people’s expectations of Search Engine Optimisation. And sadly, the idea that a site that has been heavily penalised and slumping for over thirty consecutive months can be turned around in merely two, and increase in the rankings by 80%, is simply not feasible. Why? Let’s have a look.
I think water is a useful simile, here. People want to make a splash in the rankings, and rise up, so they apply effort and pressure. Think of it like stamping in a puddle. The harder you push and stamp, the more water you displace. The problem is: Google isn’t a puddle. It’s an ocean. An enormous resource, filled with millions of websites. Try stamping on an ocean. You’ll make a little ripple, but it takes a long time for that ripple to filter through. You need to keep stamping to send those ripples and changes out across the ocean surface. And, logically, the larger the effort, the larger the displacement.
If Google simply registered changes instantly and factored them into the results, then they would fluctuate wildly. Google’s algorithms change slowly for a reason. Several reasons, in fact: it stops sites from disappearing due to technical outages, it allows sites to implement changes strategically, it rewards organic and steady growth. All of these factors increase the authenticity of Google’s results. If you wanted to Google your regular hotel in London to make a reservation, but another twelve hotels had rammed their sites full of those keywords, would you want to see the legitimate, established result plummet pages down? No. That’s exactly what Google’s algorithm aims to do, produce the best results for people based on their search term.
That opens up another question. Are the results above you better than you? It’s an uncomfortable question, that may have humbling answers. But if your site has less written content than your rivals, less relevant content to that search term, less quality copy then Google will (rightly) rank people above you, unless you excel in some other area (for example: social media, domain authority, backlinks.)
People have spent far too long trying to trick Google by inserting bits of code, keywords, cramming their site full of whatever they can find to ‘rank’ higher. And sometimes this works, until Google catches up and penalises the site. This is exactly what happened in this instance.
It’s important to remember that SEO is not about trickery, and it’s not about loads of links, and it’s not just about a nice website. It’s about all of these factors coming into play. Take an offline example of a shop. If you launch a new store on the high-street, you could have the best shop in the world, but if you paint the outside and the windows with thick, black paint, then no one will come. Also, if you have the best shop-front in the world, but nothing inside, you’re not going to be well respected. You need both for your business to excel. Offline, and online. It’s about hard work, investment, perseverance, and in the same way that businesses must respond to market pressures and economic environments, sites must respond to updated search algorithms and practices or be left behind.
We must challenge the conception that SEO, and websites, and all things digital are “easy”. They should be easy for the customer, or the user, but just because they’re digital doesn’t mean they’re always easy for the owner. The same hard work and investment is required to deliver results.
Similarly, agencies who offer “Page 1 on Google guaranteed for £4.99” cannot deliver these results, unless they’re targeting a term so specific as “hairdressers on Grange Road in Darlington, Durham, United Kingdom, just past the chip shop”. It devalues the hard work done by real experts. The truth is this work takes time, and it’s not easy. Not everyone can be on page one, and competition is fiercer the less specific the search term you’re looking to target. It’s time to start treating SEO seriously as a long-term business partnership, not as an adrenaline shot to the heart for a few weeks, when sales are flagging.
Personally, I prefer to look at Search Engine Optimisation as a partnership. My reason for this is simple: no one is capable of deciding on business targets and strengths other than the business owners, and no one knows this information as well as the business and its team. No agency can substitute that. The best content and information comes directly from the client. However, agencies, such as ourselves, can deliver insights and analysis and guide the SEO work done. We’re not magic fixes to ranking problems, we’re long-term partners who can help you grow and rise. The most effective results are delivered by companies who produce lots of content, guided and supplemented by work and analysis from a team of experts.
Let’s move forward together with clear and agreed strategies to progress up the search rankings using the latest techniques, and capitalising on the latest algorithm updates, and let’s deliver real results together.
If you’d like to find out more about how Search Engine Optimisation actually works, sign up for a free ticket to our next workshop through our ticketing page.