SEO, I know, right? You hear about it all the time, but know very little in details. It’s almost like an urban myth, yet exist it does. Important, it is. Frustrating, it very much can be. Can it not be? Read on.
To be honest, frustration will probably always be a part of SEO. The reason? Technology and its overwhelming control over how we connect in today’s society. Read the following dialogue and see if any of it seems familiar to you.
The House Always Wins
To be number one on Google. Statistics show first results on Google get the most clicks (almost 57%). As you move down the page, the percentage drops to where second page top results only get 4% click-thrus.
Let’s think about that for a minute. Hypothetically, let’s say your ‘blue widget’ company has 100 competitors in the area. Each wants first result placement for the keyword phrase best blue widgets. Only one will get it. Yes, nine spots are left, but as I said, the click thru percentage drops.
Now, factor in going nationwide with each state adding another 100 competing businesses. That’s 5000 companies vying for the same top spot (and this is a conservative number, not counting non-business entries).
"Wait, what? Is this really the way it is? Is there a trick being played upon the unsuspecting?"
Al Gore’s Rhythm Changes
Let’s say you follow all the guidelines available that supposedly will help your website rank. You start to get decent placement. Maybe a third page entry after 90 days of patiently waiting to be index. That won’t make the phone ring so more work is needed.
A steady outreach program to gain some high quality backlinks is employed. Another 90 days and the website has moved to second page. Better, but still not the desired result. Social Media engagement; contests, polls, insightful tweets and retweets are used. Relevant blog posts are published. You slowly see the website move to page one within a six month period, yet you still only manage a third result placement.
Then, the unthinkable happens. A few weeks later, that first page placement in now gone. You’re now on page 15. Seems some of those backlinks don’t agree with the search engine’s new algorithm.
"This can’t happen! There are rules. We followed the rules! Didn’t we?!?"
All in the Name of Eliminating Spam
That’s what they’ll tell you. We were getting rid of the spam. Clean up the SERPs so only the most relevant content is provided. What they don’t mention is the collateral damage. Though your status as a casualty of the ‘Spamalot’ war may be temporary (at least until you submit a re-inclusion request), the business you lost during your downtime won’t make up for it.
Yes, you followed the rules, but the rules got updated.
In a warped sort of way, it makes sense. Google’s bread and butter is advertising. Advertisers using Adwords need traffic. If their ad platform lacks quantifiable results, advertisers leave and Google loses money.
"So, search engine optimization sucks? I’ll just use social media."
Yeah, many people opted out of search in favor of social media. And for a while, that worked for them. Unfortunately, it’s changed… dramatically. If you haven’t looked at your Facebook Insights, take a closer look. Your Fan page has probably suffered a dip in Reach. Why? Because you’re not paying to use it, that’s why.
These platforms have not really figured out how to generate revenue, other than to advertise. Hence, your organic posts go down, in order for the platform to allow you to ‘boost’ your post, i.e. pay for increased visibility.
"Ok, I’ll do a little paid advertising (PPC, banner ads, promoted tweets, etc.) to push the traffic until I get this search thing under control. That’ll work, right?"
Once Around the (Ad) Block
Here’s the thing about advertising; we like it when we need it. Otherwise, we don’t need to see it. That’s why the rise in ad blocking software has advertising platforms worried. Even now, with iOS 9 allowing ad blocking extensions for Safari, getting your message to potential customers presents a big challenge.
Don’t get me wrong. The potential to run an effective paid ad campaign online is still relatively high. It really is one of the only ways to immediately get in front of the right demographic.
"Now I’m beginning to see the light. You’re saying SEO is just one part of an overall effective online marketing campaign, right?"
For the most part, everyone exposed to SEO, whether as a website owner, business owner or marketer, goes through similar situations as these. It’s how the game is played. And if you think about it, it IS a game, mostly controlled by the various digital media platforms.
What you have to do is discover those rules and try to perform somewhere in between playing by the rules and breaking the rules, i.e. always trying to push past the competition. My feeling is if you play by the rules, you’ll always be overshadowed by your competitors. If you go too far and actually break the rules, penalties will eventually be served.
The ‘experts’ will provide what they think are the rules, but there are no definitive set (other than a vague outline from the various SEs). But here’s what we do know:
As you can see, organic search has some strong performance data associated with it. If you can analyze and use the data to your advantage, then SEO becomes much less frustrating. Because it is a process, getting to a success point requires patience.
Frustrating? Yes, but not without huge benefits to your business.
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