Mar 23 2010

The Relevance of SEO

A few people in the web world have started an argument about whether websites need to invest in SEO. I understand why website owners would be confused about the topic, but it should be pretty straightforward for web designers. This article was a long time coming, they just provoked me to sit down long enough to fill up a page of my opinion. Actually, I think these people are trying to say what I’ll be saying: make a good website, and the rest will come.

The SEO That Doesn’t Matter

Many people think they get their website built, and then spend time and money on getting it search engine optimized by stuffing keywords anywhere they can. And they watch their rank go up a space or two, and then try to stuff relevant keywords anywhere else they can. Sometimes, there might be an analysis of keywords in regards to competitors’ sites, and then trying to pick better and more keywords than they do.

I’m not saying this kind of stuff does nothing. If you fit in relevant keywords where they should go (read: don’t stuff everywhere), and make sure you use keywords that customers are searching for, you can see a bump in ranking. But it’s miniscule compared to what really matters. And the amount of money you’ll spend getting such a tiny bump makes this matter even less.

What Really Improves Your Site Traffic

The things that really matter are the easiest things to do right. In short, be awesome, and get others to agree with you. Being awesome includes having web pages that describe what you do and how you do it so well. Then, spread the word, and having them “agree with you” by telling the web they should visit your web pages.

Be Awesome. Oh, and some content, too.

First of all, if you’re not awesome, then no one wants to read about you versus the people that are awesome. The whole point of Google Search is for Google to try to provide searchers with the most relevant and best information for their query. So whatever it is you’re awesome at, you need to make a couple pages explaining about said awesome topic.

In doing so, make sure your pages are well structured. The title tag should be a phrase that describes the page; not a place to fit 15 keywords. Something you would want to read in the SERPs and would be motivated to click on. Go ahead and make your heading tags (h1-h5) relevant sub-topics of your title. Make sure you provide a few good paragraphs and/or pictures about the topic at hand. Yes, you can use relevant keywords, but keep the text feeling natural. And, you’ll be getting a great benefit from having a “pretty” URL. Forget the query string cryptic mumbo-jumbo. You can likely just lowercase and dashify your title. This is everything Google themselves tell you to do.

Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means. Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.

Google’s SEO Starter Guide

These kinds of things are what a web design company and a copywriter will help you do.

Something that I’m always suggesting to any website owner that asks me about increasing their traffic, I always always always suggest something like blogging. Continuing to create quality content only does good for your website. Each new post you create, is another landing place for visitors. It can be about a specific topic, so you start to gain traffic for that topic from Google. Likely, if the topic is specific enough, you’ll be one of the best ranked pages for that search query.

For instance, since I’ve started blogging, I get traffic I wouldn’t otherwise get for topics like “basic password hashing”, “mootools tabs”, “css 3d effect”, and “javascript date math”.

After you’ve written your amazing content, and made so super useful to visitors, you need to get other people to agree with you. Google openly states that one of the biggest factors in whether they will link to you is if other websites link to you. Those other links are proving to Google “I felt this is page relevant and useful for the topic it is about”. Google is essentially trusting the web community to promote the good content above the mediocre.

So you promote your site in places that would want to know. Comment on other blogs with a link back to your blog/site. Join in on discussion boards about the topic, proving your knowledge. Your signature can contain a link back. Or, after a few selfless offerings of information, perhaps you can fit a link back to an article your wrote into one of your answers, where it is relevant.

You can leave a link in your email. And when you get an email asking about a topic you’ve already written about, you can provide the link in your email answer. Some people will eventually put links to you on their own website. Eventually, even bigger websites will do the same. As this happens, you get not only the traffic from that link, but Google increases their trust in you, and will raise you accordingly in their search results.

These things will make the biggest impact on your traffic. Anything anyone else offers might help, might hurt, but nothing will do as much for your website as providing awesome content, and getting people to share it with others.

  • #opinion
  • #seo
  • #bestof