Who should “do” your SEO? Lessons from the Smart Business Show

3 Jun

by Jonny Cameron

who should do my SEO

“Improving your site’s visibility in Google’s search results” was the name of a talk given by two Google employees in last week’s (May 29th-30th) Smart Business Show in Northern Ireland. But were the tips actually valuable, or about as much use as a LinkedIn endorsement?

The Google employees are cool, with branded tee-shirts, floppy hair, Spanish accents and even more Spanish-sounding names (I think they may have been Spanish). A talk by Google, on how to rank better in Google, meant that swathes of obsequious business people filled the small room to scribble down notes and in most cases, satisfy themselves that their business was about to start ranking highly.

The fundamental question that all beginners want to know is:

“How can I rank higher in Google?”

And this is the question that Google seem so keen to try and address (in a side-stepping “we’re not telling you” sort of way), but in actuality they should be answering the question:

“How can I drive more sales from non-paid search engine traffic?”

Consequently, the question asked in the name of the talk wasn’t really answered and did little but help to fuel people’s preoccupation with rankings.

They said some useful things.

A run through Google Webmaster tools is always useful, it tells you how Google crawls your site, if there are any areas for improvement or if there are any serious errors.  Features like the data highlighter are much underused for things like events and customer reviews. Using these features will certainly give you a greater chance of making sure people choose to click on you vs. a competitor, providing you are ranking towards the top of page one (how do we rank there again?)

The central emphasis of the talk was also on usability. A bad user journey means people will not stay on your site for very long, the relevance will decrease and so, most likely, will your search engine rankings.

“If you take away one thing from today, it’s usability!” were the last words before people put the corporation’s tax controversies to one side, half heartedly applauded and shuffled off to put their learnings into action.

They also said some, not so useful things

The problem with the term“Improving your site’s visibility in Google’s search results” is that it is a bit vague. What constitutes an improvement? Implementing some of the technical recommendations and creating persuasive user journeys will certainly help.

But, the elephant in the room was link-building. The more quality links, from relevant, authoritative sites that you have, the more non-paid search engine traffic you’ll get and the closer you’ll be to selling more. We see it time and time again.

So why not tell people? It could be that it is a practice that has had so much abuse in recent years (building thousands of links using doorway sites) that Google are now keen to clamp down on all link building. Matt Cutts recently poured scorn on guest blogging. But how about if Google emphasised the importance of quality link-building as part of a wider marketing strategy, building relationships, synergies and adding real value to target customers. Wouldn’t the internet then be a better place? Better sites would get better links.

The thing I disagreed with most however was the advice that:

“The best person to do your SEO is you”

Replace the word SEO above with any other business activity and the statement seems ridiculous.

The best person to do your accounts is you

The best person to deliver goods to customers is you

The best person to do your cleaning is you

They even went as far as to say in a previous session, a man stood up decrying his experiences with an agency, compared to when they had an in house person “doing their SEO”.

There are bad agencies out there, but a good agency can “do your seo” a heck of a lot better than you and you’ll know this because you’ll see a clear return on investment. You’ll see that you’ve sold more from non-paid search engine traffic.

SEO isn’t a one-off, easy activity that once done, stays done. It’s marketing and it requires strategy, time and if you have it, a bit of money! By all means “do your SEO” if you have the following:

  • copywriting
  • link-building
  • marketing and PR
  • website usability
  • keyword strategy
  • social media marketing
  • mobile marketing
  • content marketing
  • time!

Saying that the best person to do your SEO is you, because you know your business best may well be true. But successful businesses need to know their customers. Insight, data and purchase intent are all things that a good SEO will tell you! In ten years time you could know your business better than you know your own family, but if you don’t know your customer, you aren’t going to get very far.

What misconceptions about SEO have you come across?

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