May 15, 2015

Don’t Buy the Snake Oil-- Shedding Some Light on SEO

SEO Tactics

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to SEO, and along with it, unscrupulous companies wanting to take advantage of businesses that crave better rankings. Sadly, we’ve seen modern-day snake oil salesmen pushing SEO tactics to our clients that simply don’t work, or worse yet, hurt their search engine rankings and/or website usability.

Yes, you read that right. Paying the wrong guys to do your SEO can actually hurt your search engine rankings. Even if they do increase traffic to your site, they can often butcher the website’s usability in the process, resulting in less time on site and fewer leads.

What these charlatans count on is your confusion. Google’s search algorithm takes into account hundreds of criteria every time you do a search. And, yes, while many things such as proper meta tags, image optimization, and link quality can be adjusted to influence search results, always keep in mind that Google’s search engine has one mission: to return interesting and relevant content to the user.

And Google is damn good at that mission. Their engineers are constantly updating their algorithm to make sure that searches return solid results. Google’s recent efforts continue to put additional weight on well written content and less on dated SEO tactics.

So how do you know if an SEO firm might be out to take advantage of you? The simplest litmus test is this: if they make no mention of updating the content on your website, you need to take a pass.

Here are a few others:If they won’t share specifics with you on how they’ll optimize your website.

  1. If they won’t share specifics with you on how they’ll optimize your website.
  2. If their own website is poorly designed and not coming up prominently in search engine results.
  3. If they can’t provide referrals for websites that they’ve optimized.
  4. If they’re promising first page search engine rankings. This is not something that can be unequivocally guaranteed and should be considered a red flag.

Content Marketing and SEO: Like PB&J

How can you tell if an SEO firm can help you get better rankings? In my mind, the first test is simple: they don’t offer just “SEO”.

Content Marketing and SEO go hand in hand, and they need to be thought of as two tactics that are part of the same strategy. While SEO can be considered a specialty, it should not be thought of as a standalone service.

Without content, there is nothing to optimize. Your website needs articles, videos and images to engage visitors and give Google something to index. These need to be developed with human visitors in mind first, and search engines a distant second.

However, with that said, if you want your amazing content to be found easily, you need to apply certain SEO techniques within your content marketing campaign. Technical optimization of your website will increase the likelihood of your content being found and read by the right visitors.

You can’t effectively have content marketing without SEO. Without content marketing, the search engines have nothing to index. Without good SEO, your content marketing campaign is doomed to fail.


One last thought to keep in mind when evaluating your SEO strategy and vendor choice: What Would Google Say?

On their webmasters support page, Google gives this sage advice:

“Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, ‘Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?’”

Google does a great job simplifying what the snake oil salesman count on seeming overly complex. Develop your website for human users, update it frequently with interesting and relevant content, and keep key SEO principles in mind when you do. In that order.

If we can answer any questions or provide clarification, contact us at any time.