You might think, from all the buzz about search engine optimization – SEO – that it offers a cure for all the world’s business ills. Somehow, SEO has been propelled from the backwaters of Internet geekdom into the forefront of modern business marketing. For example, if Google’s own search results are any indication, the interest in SEO yields almost 50% of the interest in general advertising. That level of interest seems way out of proportion to the realities of business advertising.
So Why All The Hubbub?
The excitement seems to be around the notion that SEO means “free advertising”, that it means, if you do it right, millions of people will be clicking through to your site willy-nilly having found you on some search engine and then will immediately do business with you. And behind all that excitement are thousands of overnight SEO “experts” that, variously, all claim to … (pick one):
- Have SEO secrets that will help you get an unfair advantage over the next guy;
- Guarantee you a first-page listing for an incredibly low monthly rate;
- Provide hundreds of high page rank sites that will link to your site;
- Give you 5/10/20 quick tips to immediately improve your rankings;
- Tell you what Google/MSN/Yahoo doesn’t want you to know about SEO;
- Tell you that whatever SEO you’re doing is all wrong; or
- Some other variant of the above.
To some extent, this notion of “free advertising” is not altogether inaccurate. SEO can result in your site being found – free of charge – and it can result in traffic to your site that may, in fact, result in new business. But the reality of SEO is not quite that simple.
SEO Is Far From “FREE”
SEO takes work… often, hard work. For those that aren’t familiar with what’s involved in SEO, below is a lÃst of some of the typical activities that (as the CREST commercials used to say) “when applied in a conscientious program of regular professional care” will result in higher search engine rankings.
SEO Is Not Easy
Doesn’t quite sound as easy as some people suggest does it? That’s because it’s not. And it’s all the more complicated when you realize that every site on that first page, and on the second and third, is trying to do the same thing – but against you! You boost your rank above them. They go to work and boost their site back above yours. And so on and so on… It’s a war and the SEO “experts” are the arms dealers.
Your Goals And Those Of The Search Engine May Be Different
If you’re going to pay good money for SEO, it may also be worthwhile to keep in mind that search engines don’t necessarily have a goal of making you the most findable site on the web. The bottom line for them is making sure that their users find what they are looking for. Satisfying that requirement may mean that you don’t and should not come up first. Google is the number one search engine for a reason: Google users get results they want. Those may not be the results you want.
Short Term and Long Term
In the short run, there may be some serious benefits from investing in SEO to boost your search engine rankings. In the long run, however, there’s probably not much you can do beyond a certain point. Frankly, if you have a finite budget, altering the basic nature of your site and trying to boost how valuable your site is to others (as represented by links to your site) can only be taken so far. After a point, the perfect market characteristics of the search engine will prevail.
Balance SEO With Other Forms Of Traffic Generation
What this means is: yes, do make sure you do the essential SEO necessary to optimize your rankings in search engines. But do it in the context of an overall marketing program. Definitely use SEO to ensure that you get a fair and accurate appraisal by search engines. But also invest in other non-SEO lead-generation methods to bring traffic to your site and business to your table.
Above all, measure the results of your SEO and non-SEO activities carefully and frequently. When SEO reaches the point of diminishing returns, cut the rate in which you invest in it and boost your reliance on non-SEO marketing to reach your goals. In the long run, traditional non-SEO marketing may just be the most reliable and consistent way to boost traffÃc to your site.
About The Author
Kurt D. Lynn has been a founder, cofounder, or senior executive of half a dozen enterprises in both the U.S. and Canada. Currently Kurt provides consulting and communication services focused on the needs of emerging and growing businesses. His consulting firm, KLynn Inc, offers an assortment of proven services for the development of sound marketing strategies, tactics, and project execution. His communication services, while more diverse, are focused on optimizing sales and marketing effectiveness: http://www.klynn.ca
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