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Is SEO smoke and mirrors? 1

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Peter Thompson

One of the great modern myths in today’s Internet world is called SEO. I am anticipating on receiving some ordinary feedback here but I would like to express my honest view in regards to the profession.

SEO is a phonetic for a term called search engine optimisation. But, what exactly is it? Marketing companies and “specialist SEO” companies spruik their expertise with alluring headlines like “be on the first page of Google within one week” inferencing they can generate amazing results in no time.

The more time you spend working with SEO, the more you begin to realise how much of it is common sense and that the actual science behind it is the magical illusion of smoke and mirrors.

With some fine tuning and extra special ninja style technique your site will start performing. And pigs can fly.

Here is the SEO pitch

SEO companies speak in fancy language like: keyword density and rankings, keyword stuffing, the Google algorithm, getting penalised and blacklisted and for those of you who aren’t particularly experienced in the field, these sound like very aggressive and dangerous items for your website. However, with the help of experts for $1,000, $2,000 or $5,000 a month you will be fine and your site will become the darling of the Internet.

Not a bad deal is it?

They charge high recurring fees that will probably result in minimal effects on your website but you will only realise after many months slip by.

SEO firms are very slippery when it comes to being measured. They represent themselves as some sort of dark side expert that knows the inner workings of Google and how to trick the search engines in order to achieve first page rankings for your most important keywords.

It’s odd really. I always thought when you cheated a system you get caught and when you get caught, you get punished.

For certain, SEO companies use sophisticated, commercially available software such as SEOmoz and AHREFS to generate automated reports. The software vendors allow, for an additional subscription fee, the SEO service provider to rebrand the reports in their own name so it looks like they did the work themselves.

These reports look impressive and the information in them is good but it didn’t take the time promoted by the SEO company to generate them. Indeed, these software licenses are not cheap so if you decide to go it alone you are going to need someone to configure and administer them on an ongoing basis to get their full value.

Why they won’t deliver results?

Most importantly, SEO firms will not understand your business the way you do and they never will. And we all know that generating the right content for the target audience is what is the most important aspect of SEO.

Good SEO people are probably better known as digital marketing or web consultants

There is a number of genuine technical elements to a website that will help make it easier for your readers and search engines. Remember, the quality of a website is not about where it ranks in Google, but more about what happens when a visitor arrives to your site.

I will say it again – the quality of a website is not about where it ranks in Google, but more about what happens when a visitor arrives to your site. Full stop.

If you feel you have to engage a third party SEO company at least have them articulate their tasks and objectives in plain English.

Remove the “lingo” and have them clearly express their goals, value, deliverables and measurability. As the time goes by without the clear deliverables documented, it can become quite unclear what was the objective and how is the site progressing.

Choosing who to work with is the challenge because the headline of getting onto the first page of Google in no time is pretty attractive isn’t it?

Try to improve the quality of your site yourself

Google is pretty clear about what is required to improve the quality of your website. Notice that I didn’t use the term rankings but rather quality. Google actually explains things pretty well on their webmasters guide.

It gets right to the point about what is required to have your site better configured to service your target audience. And, unsurprisingly the primary answer is better site content, navigation and providing information to your target audience that helps them find the answers they were looking for.

Some of the advice is a little more technical than what I have just explained but the principles are easy enough to follow and with some investment in time, you can achieve some good results and not be fooled by the rhetoric promoted by so called SEO companies.

One alternative might be to forget about the SEO company and hire someone to create content internally. Because great content will help better define what it is your company does and more clearly articulate the value of your products and services to your target audience.

Defining what your company does, why it’s better than the competition and why someone should buy something from you is hardly something that should be outsourced.

At least the process with an external copywriter needs to be very consultative if you cannot acquire those skills in house.

If you happen to be wondering why I am writing this article, it’s because The GCOMM Post’s primary objective is to provide advice, experience and opinions for its stakeholders and we would prefer to see our stakeholders more profitable than the competition.

That’s right, we are working for you or at least trying to keep everyone’s eyes open.

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About Peter Thompson

Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson founded GCOMM in 1996. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering/Information Systems from Griffith University and his MBA from Nyenrode Business Universiteit in Holland. He believes in building great teams of people, both in business and socially.
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  • Vlada Milanovic

    Is SEO bubble really bursting? I see many SEO companies adapting their pitch to something more content marketing oriented. At least serious companies do.