The SEO Fallacy & 5 Reasons to Skip It
How many times have you thought . . . “I have just GOT to get my site to rank better on Google! But How?” There is so much conflicting info about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and no guarantees. How do we play this Google game?
SEO is a growing industry built around the hope of bringing more customers to your website. With more eyes, it means more sales.?.? Some SEO companies promise to bring the whole world knocking. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, a lot of the SEO industry is empty on many levels. Below are the 5 Big Reasons to Pass on SEO (outsourced), but first, some background:
Putting Search Engine Optimization In Perspective
In today’s world, being found via search engines is vital. The internet is an innosphere of its own, and search engines effectively pit small companies and tight budgets against the giants. It is not fair, but we are forced to play. Making your site work well with Search Engines is not an option, it is more a matter of . . . How?
Second, this article is from and for small business. The smaller you are, the more applicable the context. I don’t know the deeper ramifications of larger businesses, though I think much is the same. Except, of course, the larger budgets.
Third, SEO — Search Engine Optimization — is a term whose context is changing with time. It did mean friendly for search engines to find and catalogue your site. Now it’s more like “display at the top of the search results.” Both definitions misrepresent to some extent the actual goal to “channel interested visitors that want to see your website.” We call these Search Engine Quality Results.
In the search engine world a perfect scenario is just one result for each search — the one that gives exactly what the searcher is looking for. No? If Google could provide you the perfect match and send you to the one page on the entire internet that COMPLETELY satisfies each need, then that is true search engine success. Imagine the time you would save!! Unfortunately, that vision opposes the stated mission of SEO companies — to increase your traffic.
Let’s look at some conflicting goals, and discuss the SEO dilemma. Hopefully the perspective will help you decide about handling your SEO.
The Big Reasons to Skip SEO
Return on Investment should be a driving force in any business. Unfortunately, there is little or no assurance for ROI with website SEO. It’s even more nebulous than other types of marketing. In most cases, SEO happens slowly, over months, so commitment to the process (and price tag) is long — like forever. Hiring an SEO company is one way to off-load the hassle, but at $1000 or $2000 or $3000 a month, for a tiny business, that’s a lot of investment to return. BUT, and this is the important part, there is no guarantee.
What do you want? The text on many SEO provider websites hints at, but fall short of making promises. They talk about #1 on Google, or First Page, but they can’t, and won’t guarantee it. It’s a (nearly) empty sales pitch.
For most things we buy, there is a quantifiable metric on what we receive. Pump gas, and you pay for each unit of fuel. SEO is different. Yes, they attempt to quantify, and it’s hard, especially when trying to prove value, but it’s wishy-washy at best. They promise traffic increases, but that’s about all. Sure, it feels good to see traffic — but, is it valuable? Are you paying for visitors that immediately leave because it’s a totally wrong match? Read this post on The Metrics of SEO.
Not many places layout ROI in web marketing, though this post on Monitoring ROI is definitely going the right direction.
Let’s face it, without metrics, ROI is meaningless — which makes SEO not much more than a weighted gamble. A bigger shot-gun blast does not necessarily mean more sales. A lot of folks waste a ton of money chasing promises of SEO that don’t materialize. What we want is Search Engine Quality Results.
2. Opportunity Cost.
In the context of marketing money potentially spent on SEO, what is the opportunity cost for using that money on something else?
What are your “Next Best” opportunity costs?
These examples are easy to contrast. However, I’m not recommending anything. Just think about what might be effective for you. Your situation is unique to you, so only you can make those decisions.
Now, finishing the story about Mechanical Elements. From an ROI perspective, even though traffic was way up, and sales were only up a little, increased profit was not enough to pay for itself.) No ROI, see #1 above.
3. Garbage Out, Garbage In.
You are the expert at your business. It may not be rocket science for you, but you know it, and you know how to properly interact with customers. How long does it take to train a new employee to always say the right things to customers? If that time is really short, like an hour, then an SEO company will be OK for you. If that time is longer, like days or weeks, then you’re likely to get some garbage.
Writing content is a service of most SEO companies. Content is super important in search results because the search engine is trying to give customers the best sources of information. If your content is from someone that does not understand your business, what impression will new visitors get?
Secondly, most SEO companies write content for computers, not for customers. Their goal is to increase your traffic, so they write for robots. (Some will argue this point, and some do a good job, but many, maybe most, do not.)
When visitors come to your site, you want them to receive good information, with the right tone. If you put Garbage out there, and go fishing with garbage links, you’ll get garbage visitors — the ones that bounce away. There is no reason to pay to get visitors that don’t read or interact with your website.
4. Your Company Reputation.
Point #3 above is about fishing with garbage. The big problem is it degrades your company reputation. If content does not reflect your business, then you’re misleading visitors. At best, they leave your site feeling it was a waste of time. At worst, they engage, then leave with a negative view.
The Solution: Write your own content, or work with someone that writes what you really think. Be the master of your presentation.
Traffic is not what matters. Valuable potential customers matter, so have the SEO company bring your bounce rate down and visitor interaction up. SEO companies want to measure traffic and show the numbers going up (because it’s easier), but Don’t drink the “Traffic” tonic. Traffic alone is snake oil that just keeps you spending more and more for less and less. Look at what you’re really paying for each new lead, then ask if these are the leads you really want. Is the SEO company finding your ideal customer?
Admittedly, this is a conflicting topic because traffic is required, but you need the “right” traffic. The way to accomplish that is to carefully consider The Metrics of SEO, then hone your direction for ROI.
5. Search Engine Retaliation.
The goal of search engines is to give searchers exactly what they are looking for. That’s hard, so they are constantly improving and changing their algorithms to hone results.
On the other hand, the goal of SEO companies is to get you more visitors, and they don’t really care what visitors come. You may have heard about “Black Hat” and “White Hat” techniques, but even “White Hat” are not consistent in finding customers who want to see your website. So, when the search engine programmers see things that are not helping searchers find what they are looking for, they change the algorithm. If your website falls in one of those changes, your ranking suddenly falls too. SEO companies will blame the search engine, but they are really deflecting your attention from their techniques so you’ll pay them more. It’s a vicious cycle of spending.
Many SEO promotions focus on “Secrets” — as if success in SEO is some magic or sleight of hand. Titles like “SEO Secrets” perpetuate the feeling. (Though what they say is not particularly secret.) But, that’s exactly what will get you in trouble with the search engines. Be really careful when it comes to “Tricks” for search engines. Even if it’s “White Hat” now, and it works short term, it’s going to bite you as some point. (See the SPAM example below.)
Content is the most important part of any Search Engine Optimization campaign these days. Make sure your content is valuable to potential customers. Someone from your company should direct and approve all content that goes on your site — and it must be on your site, not on the SEO company site. Don’t let the SEO company farm it out to Asia or somewhere. Yes, writing good content is a hassle, and yes, it takes time, but do it.
SEO, as you may know, is also about how many high authority pages/domains point back to your website, but the same is true for pages within your website pointing to each other. In SEO terms, “link juice.” Talk to customers and do Social Media to increase outside links.
Write really useful material and others will link to it. You don’t want your website associated with link farms that many SEO companies use. You also don’t want your website associated with SPAM on totally unrelated sites.
Do It Yourself Search Engine Enticement:
My experience says SEO efforts are best directed internally. There is so much, because making your website attract and retain customers is about much more than just Search Engine Optimization. It’s usability, engaging content, conveying confidence and trust, guiding customers, answering questions, and so much more. One SEO company won’t handle all of that.
On the other hand, you know your customers (and potential customers) better than anyone, and spending an hour or two a few days a week is enough to move the needle. There is nothing wrong with getting outside help, but direct it. Your website content should be yours. Hire someone to revise, edit and format your writing if needed, but I recommend you (or someone in your company) take the lead.
For website structure, there are a ton of great “Free” resources to guide your efforts, then find a good freelance SEO guru to consult with. Finally, don’t forget the look and usability of the site because meaningful visitors are people. It should be more than just pretty electronic brochure. Give it meaning.
If your market is local, focus on local SEO rather than everything. Use the My Business and Maps tools to set yourself up better to appear for customers that are local. Use all the free resources you can, like Yelp and others. These can help significantly.
It’s Your SEO
Here are some really important things that happen when directing your own SEO:
- You control your destiny.
- You will learn, and you will control the cost.
- SEO that you do will persist.
- Content aligns with your goals and your customers.
- Over time, your website will generate valuable leads.
Personally, I feel so strangled sometimes by the catch-22 of the search engine. There are a million businesses out there trying to be on Page 1 for their set of keywords — even when the same word means entirely different things in different industries. (Think about the word “Design”.) Yes, it’s aggravating, but in today’s world, it’s a rare company that really does not have to play.
Hire freelancers or others to help with details you don’t yet understand — maybe even as a push to kick it off. The person managing your website is a good source — get them on board. Use several of the many free services out there to optimize the quality of your site. Growing your website audience is not easy, but do it right, and results will last. Good Luck!
Oh, and if you do hire an SEO company to help, don’t let them hose you. Make sure you understand and agree on your needs and the right Metrics of SEO.