Back in June of 2019, I was so appalled by what I heard was happening with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) agency experiences that I wrote a blog titled: “Expensive SEO is the New Scam”- comparing it to the snake oil salesmen of old.
Unfortunately, not much has changed in the past two years, so I’m sharing the deep dark truth about SEO.
- There are many aspects of SEO – don’t let people “dumb it down” for you
There are a number of factors that affect how Google (where 90% of searches are done online) ranks websites. And that’s what we’re talking about with SEO: how Google “looks” at your website and ranks it, compared to your competition and the appropriateness of your website for a particular word or phrase search.
If you try to do some research on the elements that make up SEO, you’ll find yourself reading an SEO expert’s language about “on page” and “off-page” SEO. For someone who isn’t in marketing, I find these descriptions difficult to follow. Maybe they’re meant to be – so you’ll realize you need to hire an SEO specialist. But that’s not helpful if you’re trying to avoid the scammers.
So here, briefly, in my own words, are what I feel are the most important elements of SEO to know for a small or medium-sized business owner:
- Your website’s architecture and structure – ex. URL’s and tags
- The user experience with your website – ex. speed
- Mobile usability – the user experience in a mobile device
- Links (or backlinks)
- Keywords and phrases
2) One-time SEO vs. ongoing SEO
Your website’s architecture and structure are like the beams or rafters of a house. Once they’re built, they’re there, fixed. You don’t have to think about them; if they were constructed well, they continue to do their job and fulfill their purpose: supporting your website so that Google can crawl it appropriately AND so visitors to the site will have a good experience.
If the SEO on your website isn’t good structurally when it comes to elements like URL structure, title and header tags, mobility use, site speed, etc. – these need to be fixed. Hire a good SEO firm to do this. But once it’s done, it’s done.
The only ongoing expense you have is maintaining the website – making sure that updates are done with good SEO practices and that nothing “breaks” (ex. WordPress plug-ins, etc).
I see scammers telling businesses that this is an ongoing process. It is not. It is done once and, if it’s done well, that’s it. Ongoing SEO is the work on the other elements, including links and backlinks, honing keywords and phrases, and adding content consistently. This is the work that SEO agencies should be talking about.
3) The “long term effects” of SEO
People often are motivated by fear and SEO agencies sometimes take advantage of this.
Here’s the deep dark secret about SEO that no one wants you to know: once you do a good job on SEO and your website is ranking well – you’re in a great place! It can’t be “lost” tomorrow, or next week.
And it’s only the ongoing SEO work you need to focus on – not the more structural SEO.
I’ve heard SEO agencies say “you don’t want to lose your place in the rankings” and “you can backslide if you stop spending $XXX on SEO.” But creating great SEO for your website isn’t like rolling a tire uphill. If you step away, the tire won’t roll back down to the bottom. That’s NOT how it works.
While it is true that a website can be overtaken in the rankings – if you get to #1, for example, you can slide back to #2 or #3. But this can happen for a number of reasons:
- It might be because your competition is spending twice what you are on Google Ads, and is doing a better job of creating great content, and is getting 5-star reviews on their Google My Business page.
- It might be because Google changed its algorithm (which happens) and the keywords and phrases you were focusing on are no longer ranking, so you need to refocus your existing content and create new content.
- It might be that Google has decided to emphasize something like mobile experience – or speed – and your website isn’t very mobile friendly or it loads too slowly.
- It might be that Google is actually competing with you, and serving up its own summary or information to people who are searching, so they don’t need to click through to a website. (Note: fewer than 50% of Google searches now end with a click through to a website!)
I provide these examples to show you that your SEO agency needs to have a depth and breadth of understanding about what your current website ranking means. And what makes it change (if it does).
- Is it because competition is doing better at it than you are?
- Is there anything wrong with your website?
- Is your agency providing high-quality blog content? Or just writing “cheap blogs” that repeat words and phrases over and over again?
- Are you maximizing your Google My Business page?
The ongoing work: honing and focusing on the right keywords and phrases, creating great content and posting consistently, creating useful backlinks, should continue. But this shouldn’t be costing you thousands of dollars unless you’re paying for amazing content; it has little to do with “website maintenance.”
Remember: at the end of the day, Google is trying to give its users the best experience possible and most of what they rank on is based on that user experience. Google is shifting priorities all the time and a good SEO agency is following these shifting sands, and is aware of the subtleties of good SEO practices. They will explain them to you and not resort to fear mongering.
Not sure about your SEO? I’m happy to speak with you about it to clarify any questions you may have.