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SEO: A Primer, and Demystifying the Process

“I want my site to be number one on Google, or at least be on the first page of Google.”

If I had a nickel for every time we’ve been asked that question (or some variation thereof), I would live on a beach someplace very warm that serves drinks with tiny umbrellas in them.

The 2000′s saw a steady increase in the interest of businesses, from the small to the big, in ways to improve their websites’ ranking on various search engines (hence the term “Search Engine Optimization”, or SEO). As the decade progressed, SEO really came to be synonymous with improving a website’s ranking on Google (Microsoft and Yahoo might disagree, but, I can’t think of very many clients who have been concerned with their rankings on any search engine but Google).

As the interest in SEO grew, so too did the mystique around how to actually accomplish such lofty goals as being number one on Google. Google released very little detail as to what actual formula it used to calculate a website’s ranking, a tactic that it continues to employ to this day.

The Basics
Over the course of the past decade and a half, though, astute observers and former Google personnel have managed to piece together a sort of bedrock for the foundations of SEO. This foundation consists of techniques that all website creators should know how to implement (e.g. choosing an appropriate domain name, implementing appropriate meta tags); furthermore, they are simple enough that any website creator should also be able to explain to you what they accomplish and why.

Any business that creates a website for you should ensure that the site has all of the SEO basics above in place and is as SEO-ready as possible upon deployment.

The Challenging Parts
The techniques above, however, only get a website a portion of the way to its goal. In fact, perhaps the single, most important part of any SEO campaign (yes, I mean campaign) is relationship building. What we have learned about Google’s SEO rankings’ algorithm is that Google heavily favours websites that both link out to other, highly-ranked websites and that are linked to from other, highly-ranked websites. For example, your start-up, e-commerce website is much more likely to be ranked more favourably if it contains a link to a well-established supplier and that same supplier’s website links back to your e-commerce website.

This back-and-forth linking implies a stronger emphasis on marketing and proper relationship-building. These are areas that cannot simply be dealt with by changing a few lines of code on a website: They are areas that require dedicated staff to seek out and build good, strong relationships, which is no easy task on its own.

The other area of SEO that is perhaps the most time-consuming of them all is that of developing and maintaining relevant content on your website. Google places a lot of emphasis on fresh, relevant content on websites. Each time its “crawlers” come across your site, it scours its pages for content and runs algorithms against it. This can include (but most certainly is not limited to) content on the main page, questions in your FAQ, and the content on your site’s blog.

Competition and Saturation
Consider the following: Let’s say you are starting up two new websites about cars; one is a website for reviewing cars, and the other is an online store for a specific type of car battery, the Acme car battery. When performing SEO, the keywords and content that are placed on a site are very important. For the first website, we might choose keywords/phrases such as, “car”, and, “automobile”, and, “review”. For the second website, we might choose keywords/phrases such as, “car battery”, and, “Acme car battery”.

Based on the above, ask yourself the following: Which of the two sites is likely to have more competition? In other words, which of the two sets of keywords/phrases is likely to be more saturated? You’re right: The first website. Thus, the second website is more likely to have a higher ranking than the first; but this comes at a cost, namely that a person searching is less likely to be looking for something so specific, i.e. the Acme car battery.

Content decisions such as the above are primarily what SEO companies look at on a regular, ongoing basis. The whole SEO process is not a one-time matter. SEO companies dedicate one (or more!) staff member(s) to an account to help ensure that its customers’ websites are as “SEO-ified” as possible. These staff employ tools to help guide their decisions, so don’t think that the process is entirely esoteric.

Furthermore, there are no guarantees as to how long it will take to actually see tangible results, i.e. when a website has actually moved up appreciably in Google’s rankings.

Wrapping Up
So you can see that, given the above, when an SEO company “guarantees” you’ll be number one on Google in two months (or guarantees you that you’ll be on any specific page in any specific period of time), you should be skeptical. Ask the hard questions of these companies. Help combat what I call “eso-terrorism”.

Companies that do engage in SEO can typically spend-at an absolute minimum-thousands of dollars a month, if not more, on such practices. Staying on top is not a cheap process.

BHS Consultants believes in arming the client with knowledge. Use this article as a starting point to help take some of the mystery out of SEO.

BHS Consultants can also help with the following:

  • Evaluate your current website for SEO performance.
  • Update your website to improve its SEO readiness.
  • Work with you to develop and implement an “SEO Plan”.
  • Build your website from the ground-up to be SEO-ready.

Contact us for more information! We’d love to help!