Search Engine Optimization Set Straight

Over the past few years, website owners have been barraged by promises to improve their website search engine rank. In many cases, website owners can benefit from the advice of a search engine expert, particularly in cases where the site is offering a valued service. Unfortunately,  with SEO, the process involved is so technical that many owners will not understand the ramifications of or the work that is being performed. Similar to taking a vehicle in for maintenance, a mechanic might show you problems and print reports from different machines, but in the end, it is a leap of faith that this is the same advice they would give their next of kin. As a website mechanic, I will try to clarify some of the basic services related to search engine optimization to give you a better idea of what you need, as well as tactics to avoid.

Is search engine traffic what you really need?

Let's assume that you were able to have a sudden boost in visitors arriving from Google. Do you have any measures on how well your site can convert this traffic? Conversion in this case can refer to inquiries, newsletter sign-ups, or actual product sales.  Whatever the goal is, it is important that you have a handle on where you are, and make realistic projections on where you would like to be. For example, there is no value in gaining a thousand visitors, if they can't find the sign up button. Consider soliciting feedback from friends or using a third party such as usertesting.com, which can provide valuable feedback on how well your site promotes your conversion goals.

I'm a SEO expert, you'll be ranked on the first page!

(And we have a timeshare plan you'll love!)  As a person who maintains your website, YOU are the key to SEO working for your business. If you or your company is not involved in actively promoting the website on a continuous basis, a high-ranking site is not sustainable for a small business and your initial results will erode over time.  You are looking for a SEO tutor or partner who will prepare the correct infrastructure, plan, and ongoing workflow for you to follow and continue to promote your site in order for it to steadily gain search engine relevance over time.

Do SEO specialists really have special tools and methods to increase your ranking?

Yes, there are numerous tools which can be used to help tweak your website for various search engines. In my experience, however, these tools are informational or designed to automate basic jobs. Good SEO consultants and firms are also copywriters, as one of the most important aspects of optimizing a page is being able to  translate your message so it is understood by website visitors and search engines alike. Legitimate optimizations are always documented by the search engine companies themselves, so bear in mind that if you are offering something people are looking for, the search engine is designed to find you.

But I've got some niche site links to boost your ranking!

There is no disputing that fast results can be made using this technique.  The benefit is much like acquiring an existing business to get its customer base. The frightening part is that you will often have no control over these sites, only that you are paying for a initial boost.. Depending on the context, the practice is also rather gray, and the non-tech savvy can be easily taken advantage of and end up in a bad neighborhood. Transparency into how your business is being promoted by the SEO consultant is a must, as you are giving them the reins to link your business with ideas and principals which might contradict your own.

In conclusion

Ensure your website is making the most of existing traffic, and that new visitors can easily find the information or service you are offering. Measure your current conversion rates and build a case for a suitable return on investment that search engine optimization may improve. There are many good search engine firms and consultants who can provide real results. Look for one which will provide measurable realistic goals, and provide visibility into the methods they use. In doing so you'll not only steer clear of bad practices which may tarnish your business, but also be able to continue improving your website optimizations long after the initial groundwork is complete.