I’ve heard this a lot recently and it’s a frustrating start to any real conversation about SEO’s place in the marketing mix. It’s easy to blame the SEO company and a new and unruly industry where constant change is a given. Yes, there are players who will take advantage of the complicated nature of the service they deliver. But it’s also about being an informed purchaser of one of today’s essential marketing services, so…
What do you need to know to buy SEO that works?
You need to know:
- What SEO is – and what it ISN’T
- How to choose a good SEO agency.
You don’t need to know the detailed technical side of SEO, any more than you need to understand how a clutch works to drive a car. You do need to know enough to check the tyres, put petrol in the tank and get the vehicle you trust your life to serviced regularly. You do need to know the environment you’re operating in – the road rules and what traffic signals mean.
What is SEO?
Search Engines such as Google are like the index of a cookbook. They help you get found online under a particular set of categories. Search Engine Optimisation is setting up your online presence to be found by Search Engine users as effectively as possible.
Unlike a fixed book index, the “index” or ranking a Search Engine gives a web page or a site changes all the time. It changes because:
- To try to add value, providers like Google continuously improve their indexing and evaluation processes.
- Search Engines don’t just index, they also attempt to evaluate sites and pages for interest, quality, reliability, trust and expertise.
- Millions of businesses are going on line, more every day. The ones that are already there are constantly adding and changing their content.
The process of optimising your site for Search Engines is a process of making it as attractive as possible to:
- Search Engines; and
- The people that Search Engines bring to your site
What SEO ISN’T!
SEO is not a one-time or annual purchase. The days of buying an annual Yellow Pages Ad are pretty much over. With more content online every day and Search Engine criteria changing every day, SEO is like housework – it’s never “done”.
SEO is not a global process – it requires clarity and focus on who you want to find you and what you want to be found for.
SEO is like gardening – it requires time and a good gardener to deliver results. Focussed SEO and quality content input will grow a better return on your investment.
Choosing your SEO supplier
To get the most out of your SEO dollar, you need to do the legwork to find a quality service provider. Key questions to ask include:
- Is SEO your core business?
(If they’re a graphic designer, a developer or a hardware supplier, they’d have to be very good to be doing their day job AND keeping up with Google.)
- How long have you been doing SEO?
(Lots of people TRY and do SEO – not many are good enough to keep delivering value that their customers can measure)
- How do you keep up with SEO developments?
The other set of questions to consider is the questions that your SEO supplier is asking you – (or not asking). SEO is one element of a targeted marketing strategy, so they should be asking:
- What is the value you deliver to your customers?
- What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
- What is your marketing strategy?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What social media channels are you using to communicate your value?
If they’re not making SEO just one component of a full digital marketing strategy, the value you get will be limited. If they just want to apply their toolkit, you’re at risk.
It’s a jungle out there
The Internet hasn’t been around all that long, and there are lots of risks in this new market place. There are good digital marketing agencies out there – there are also lots of ill-informed amateurs and the usual sprinkling of crooks. Choose your SEO supplier the way you choose your dentist – carefully.
Ian Hopkinson is the original “mad scientist” – a digital creative who is passionate about the online market place and its potential to enable businesses to compete on a global stage. He is the Founder & Principal Consultant at Mad Scientist Digital.