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Ah, Google. The search engine we love to hate. As web users, it feeds us all kinds of goodness, serving up just the results we want and omitting the ones we don’t.
But as businesses with websites, Google can have a make-or-break impact on the success or failure of our sites.
And even though Google’s mantra has always been, “Write content for your audience, not for search engines,” there is a practical reality to the fact that even the best of content can be buried under pages and pages of results.
Some of the problem arises when otherwise well-intentioned business owners – and sometimes scammy SEO companies – try their hand at search engine optimization.
And that’s exactly the topic that Mike Brooks and I discussed on this episode of the Social Media Unscrambled Podcast.
Listen to the episode for the full effect, and read on for some of the key topics we discussed so that you can stay out of Google’s time-out chair.
Avoid Magical Thinking
Some search engine optimization companies will promise you just about anything you want to hear.
Lots of backlinks. Tons of clickthroughs. “Number one” spots on Google.
The truth is that SEO is neither simple nor quick. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes paying attention because the thing that worked today may be considered “black hat” (and that means a very, very bad idea) next month.
SEO companies are often here today and gone tomorrow. If you’re looking for someone to help you, be very aware of the legitimacy of the business. And this should sound familiar: only work with people you know and trust.
Don’t believe grand promises no matter how much you may want to. Demand an education. Ask for reports.
If you don’t you could be setting yourself up for a Google penalty. And the worst thing about a Google penalty – other than the fact that your site will disappear from search results – is that it can take weeks or months to recover from one. And, as Mike shared in the podcast, you may never recover from one. Sometimes you may need to ditch your site and start over.
And that’s never worth the promise of quick, easy results.
One of the scariest things when it comes to Google penalties is that you may not have done anything wrong.
After all, Google itself will tell you to get backlinks. And so you go out there and patiently, diligently, build backlinks.
Then one day you notice your site is gone from search results.
Well, if you’re like most website owners, you probably went out there and built a bunch of links to your home page. And Google noticed this oddly high number of links to that one page. And Google decided that those links were probably a result of your optimization efforts.
And if there’s one thing Google doesn’t like, it’s you doing SEO in an effort at influencing how Google shows its results.
So what’s a person to do? The fact is, you need to hire someone (who you know and trust) to stay on top of these things for you. It’s highly unlikely that you have the time, along with running your business, to become well-versed in SEO and to keep up with all of the latest algorithm changes.
It’s a full-time job for a reliable and competent SEO company to watch your analytics, evaluate your site performance, study and understand the nuances of optimization and keep a site in Google’s good graces.
Imagine how much time that would cost you.
Social Media Matters. But Not Always In The Way You Think.
Good social signals can be good for SEO. Your Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile all contribute to a little ecosystem of content around you and your business.
That’s great when it comes to getting search listings because any of your social properties can show up in search even when your website may not.
But there’s another, even more important reason to be on social networks that has nothing to do with the logistics of SEO: credibility.
When someone can find you on your website and on any number of social networks, they will have a completely different perception of you than if all they could find was a few web pages with a couple of canned “about us” sentences.
As Mike says, people “bounce around”. Long gone are the days when corporate websites are your customer’s only option. They now have the ability to find you and see you in action all over the internet. More importantly, they expect to find you.
If you’re not on social networks, you’re missing the conversation and it will go on without you. It’s just that simple.
Don’t Try This At Home, Kids
Search optimization and marketing is a pretty significant undertaking. You may be able to tweak a few title tags but the opportunity cost of attempting to take on SEO alone is tremendous.
The truth is that in business, there are things we can do on our own and things we can’t. We hire accountants because we know we need someone with a different level of insight (and we don’t want to go to jail or give up 80% of our revenue!)
We hire payroll companies because there are some things that need oversight and a process that we’re not equipped to handle.
We hire IT people because the thought of crawling up into the attic to run Cat 5 cables and then figuring out what to do with them afterwards is simply too daunting.
SEO falls in the “too daunting” category. It’s not a DIY project. Maybe once upon a time you could get away with a couple of tweaks and see some success but not anymore. Not considering how many changes Google is pouring out on us. Not considering how much competition is out there.
It’s time to recognize the limitations of a DIY approach and get serious about your place in search results.
So if you’ve noticed your traffic dropping or are wondering why you’re not getting the leads you used to, you just might be in trouble with Google.
And if you’re worried about that, reach out to me so I can help.