I get the feeling that I think a bit differently about SEO than most. (This is probably because I like to work in facts and demonstrable proof — two things that the world of SEO has some widespread issues with.)
First and foremost, I feel like we’re well past the era of “gaming Google”. The tricks that worked a couple of years ago no longer work, and Google is constantly updating their algorithm to curtail search result manipulation. And as you already know, Google doesn’t publicize information about their algorithm. Even people who work for Google don’t fully know the intricacies of how pages are ranked. (Naturally, you can assume that any SEO expert who claims to have inside information on how Google works is lying.)
Why? Because Google wants to deliver the most relevant search results to its users. Period.
Search engines have no interest in playing SEO games.
If you really want to understand SEO, I recommend bearing that in mind. Tricking Google is a fool’s errand. Just give the search engine what it wants!
This is a simple, logical methodology that I apply to any SEO work that I do. From my experience, there are two main factors to consider before anything else:
- Proper set up and ground work (meta data, W3C compliance, alt tags, sitemaps, Google Search Console settings, etc.)
- Worthwhile on-page content (site pages, blog posts, etc.)
As far as I’m concerned, these two elements make up 90% of SEO work. (Legitimate link building comes later.)
Most will agree that these are important, yet you’ll often find one or both of these elements neglected under the watch of an SEO expert.
Just last week, we were called in to evaluate the SEO work of another marketing company. It took all of fifteen minutes to determine that they weren’t earning their hefty paychecks. Here’s what I discovered right away:
- There wasn’t a single image alt tag on the entire site. (This is a bad sign right from the get-go.)
- Title tags were sloppy, and I was informed that the company waited almost six months into the contract before putting keywords in them.
- Headlines in on-page content had almost no keywords of any kind.
After months of SEO management from this company, the website’s most basic SEO needs hadn’t been addressed. This alone was enough for me to condemn the work. They failed to pass the “proper set up and ground work” test.
My next question involved content. If the company was charging hundreds of dollars a month, they must at least be writing unique blog content and posting it regularly, right?
Nope. They hadn’t written or posted a single blog post during the life of their contract. To their credit, doing so wasn’t in their contract, but this left me wondering “what in the hell are you being paid to do?”
After speaking to their rep on the phone, I still didn’t have an answer. (Although she did say that part of their service was ensuring that all images have alt tags…)
Needless to say, that SEO company lost a client after we reported back.
The Problem: SEO is Mysterious, So It’s Easy to BS
If there’s anything in the modern world that’s wide open to snake-oil salesmen and con artists, it’s SEO. This is because there aren’t a whole lot of solid answers, so most people are keen to defer to anyone claiming to be a wizard. No one really knows what’s going on, so the most confident baloney peddler gets the followers. It can be very cult-like.
I’m not fond of being caught up in trends that have no basis in reality, so I start with the obvious truth and work out from there:
1) Google wants your website to be set up correctly, safely, and in a pleasing way, and 2) Google wants to connect people with what they’re looking for in a precise and expedient fashion.
Everything regarding SEO should stem from that. Not tricks, not “hacks”, not non-existent insider secrets.
Make Sure Your SEO is Actually Doing Something
The takeaway here is to verify the work of your SEO, whether they be a solo expert or a large company. While I’m not quick to accuse anyone of deliberately collecting a check without doing any work, our recent dive into that website shows that a LOT of key things can be missed.
Also, if someone is supposed to be increasing your search engine ranking and they’re not producing original (not mass-produced) content for you on a regular basis, find out exactly what they are doing to actively improve your SEO.
I don’t like wasting money, and I don’t like seeing other business owners doing it, either. If you’d like me to take a look at your website and give my opinion on its SEO situation, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.