Like most business owners who have just set up a web site I am grappling with the mysteries of search engine optimisation (SEO). For a start, I needed to get to grips with the jargon and, thankfully, I found out early that SEO as well as being the science, the doing, also stands for a person who does the SEO – the search engine optimiser. Having realised that, I was able to move forward to attempt to unravel more difficult challenges.
The aim of SEO is, I understand, for your website, having been indexed by search engines, to pop up first or, more realistically, on the first two pages of the results when users search for the products or services you provide. By search engines we really mean Google, because Google accounts for 90% + of all searches.
This sounds pretty straight forward you would think, so its only a matter of finding out what you have to do to make this happen. Or, all you need to do is ask a suitable SEO (the person) to tell you what to do, or pay them to do it for you? Surely? Well, unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
You now come to realise that SEO (the science) is, to put it mildly, a rather inexact one. It could be seen as the alchemy of the 21st century: the attempt to turn the dull lead of my website into the shiny gold that the SEO (the person) tells me is possible, if I would only hire them to solve my problem.
The trouble is that when you ask what exactly the SEO is going to do, the answer is usually rather vague (and you get lost in the jargon). Furthermore, when you ask another SEO, you are likely to get a different answer (and another lot of jargon).
It is said that if you ask 10 economists in a room how to solve an economic problem you get 12 answers; with SEOs I think you would get 15! But we can’t entirely blame the SEOs. Their difficulties begin with the fact that no one understands exactly how Google’s search engines work, except Google and they won’t give away their secrets.
We know that search engines “crawl” the internet burrowing into web sites to index their content and to rate them on such components as content quality, authority, readability, links to other sites, ease of use, etc., etc. And we know that Google has developed ingenious algorithms to control this process. But exactly what improvements to each component of the site will make the difference to Google’s rankings no one has made clear to me.
Should you hire an SEO?
So should you hire an SEO to answer these questions? There are many views on this, so lets go to the top and ask Google itself. This is what Google says:
“Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time. Make sure to research the potential advantages of hiring an SEO, as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site.”
In short, according to Google, an SEO could potentially improve your site, but they could also damage it. I don’t find this totally reassuring!
Three further questions
Only partly reassured by Google, three further questions come to mind:
- If you have had your site built by a well-regarded professional web designer (and have paid good money for the privilege) won’t your site be sufficiently search engine optimised from the get-go anyway? In which case, would you need SEO? And, if so, how much SEO would you need?
- If everyone else who owns a website is having SEO work, are we all spending time and/or paying out money just to remain in the the same position relative to each other, with no change to the rankings?
- Finally, a well-regarded SEO, (who quoted me several thousand pounds for his SEO work) pushed by me to provide some idea of what his work would achieve said that he was confident that it would improve my site’s rankings by 3% over a year!
SEO for Dummies?
I called this blog SEO for Beginners. Perhaps, in my case, I should have called it SEO for Dummies, because frankly I am no further forward than when I started! Perhaps you could enlighten me?