Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an interesting topic, one that takes years to understand. Nobody has a formula for SEO, even though some people promise to make you #1 on the results. Consulting firms will often have you believe that they are the best at getting you to the top of the results within search engines like Google, or Bing. These same firms will use gimmicky phrases and make claims and promises that are simply impossible to keep. The bottom line is, Google makes almost their entire revenues based on paid links and advertisements, giving site the ability to show up before organic results. What makes any company think they can outsmart Google engineers?
They can’t. And, if they do, it won’t be for long simply because, the way search engines serve results is constantly changing. In fact, big search engines like Google and Bing actually hide the way they serve results, because allowing people to see this formula would actually create a competitive advantage to firms who understand the formula. Since nobody knows the formula, other than those who are contractually bound to secrecy, your website’s success within search engine optimization is based upon one thing, and one thing only – its content.
To show up ranked highly in results organically, you need valuable content. There are other SEO white hat techniques which are supported by Google and other search engines, such as using “alt tags” on images and optimize your META Descriptions, but content is king!
There are times when your website has valuable content but is not being returned in search results. One of our most recent clients, a restaurant review guide, had fantastic content – organized and community-driven. Despite this, the site was not showing up in search engine results.
We utilized some white hat techniques to make their site show up in the top 5 results organically for a set of 10 keywords. The first was to add descriptions to the images on each page. Search engines are “blind.” That is, they cannot see images, only read text. So if there is relevant information being shown through images, it should be explained through the use of an “alt” tag. Secondly, the website’s internal structure was incorrect. What looked visually appealing to the human eye was actually nightmarish and disorganized to a search engine spider. By reorganizing the code, we were able to give the relevant content and code to the spiders in a more organized fashion, without changing the website’s appearance.
Here’s the take-away. If you want to come up highly in search results, make sure your website has relevant content and brings value to the user’s experience. Do this and your website will shoot to the top of search engine results.
The next time you hire an SEO consultant, be sure you ask what they will do and why what they are doing is necessary. Consultants are used to answering questions such as these and understand the difference between white hat and black hat techniques. Ask which white hat techniques they are going to use, and if they are going to use any black hat techniques . . . and why.
Search Engine Optimization – The process of rearranging a website’s code such that search engines understand the pages’ content more easily.
Organic Results – The results for a particular search which the search engine feels matches the search terms most appropriately
Paid Links – Websites which pay to have their links listed before (or on the side of) organic results.
Black Hat – Techniques that are meant to trick search engines into ranking a website highly. These tricks are found and fixed, and often get your site banned altogether
White Hat – SEO techniques which are approved and encouraged to ensure your site is listed organically for relevant search terms.
Search Engine Spider – A computer program which crawls around the web reading all of the web pages they can, indexing the content so that it can be returned in organic results.