Are you struggling to attract customers to your business? While there are hundreds of marketing strategies you can use, SEO has proven to be the most effective marketing strategy ever known to man. You see, most customers find you because you they searched for you on Google. They didn’t deliberately type in your company name in the search bar but instead they typed in keywords that were related to your business. Through the help of SEO or search engine optimization, your website will rank on the first page of Google which makes it easier for potential customers to find you. When your website is optimized, it will show up in search engine sites like Google, and it will lead your customers to your site. In this SEO Guide, Carson Sharein, the founder of Webgator and a self-confessed technical SEO aficionado, shares everything you need to know about search engine optimization.
Advertising in Search Engines
Do you know how search engine sites make money? They sell ad space. At present, Google showcases ads in the top 4 spots of a search engine result page (SERP). Whenever a user clicks on an ad, Google will automatically charge the advertiser a certain fee regardless if the user bought a product or not. In other words, business owners who shell out money for these ads can wind up spending a fortune without guarantee that they’ll get a return of their investment. Sure, paid Google ads can help boost your business but the process is quite risky, money-wise. In most cases, business owners will stop paying for the ads after just a few weeks or months of not seeing any improvements.
You will see right underneath the ads, at the top portion of the SERPS that there are other websites listed. Generally, the ads that you’ll find are around ten for every page. These listings are called “Organic” results. These free listings are there for the users’ benefit. The owners of these websites are not paying Google for the ad space. As a matter of fact, they are getting customers from people who are actually using Google to search for their products and services. Unlike paid ads wherein Google charges the business, with free listings, Google won’t charge you with anything even when a customer clicks on your site. Is this what you want for your business? Do you want your site to be showcased in front of millions of people by being at the top page of Google without having to pay Google a single cent? When your website is at the top 10 listings on page 1 it’s just like putting up a store in a prime commercial real estate without having to pay rent!
How To Make It To Page 1 of Google
It may look easy but the process of getting your website listed in the top 10 is, in fact, far from easy. Although Google generously offers free listings, there is a catch. Google has established a complex set of rules to meticulously evaluate and review every listed website. The rules are what you call Google’s algorithm. Google makes use of ‘bots’ to check each website on a regular basis and see if these sites are in line with the rules and compare them to other websites of the same category. Through this algorithm, Google will then rank each website in that specific category. The websites that have carefully followed all the rules will get a higher rank. The website you’ll see at the top 10 are the websites that Google chose to display on page 1 of the SERPs.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a method of optimizing a website to make sure that it complies with Google’s algorithm better than all the other websites of that category. When doing SEO, you have to have a clear grasp of Google’s algorithm but here’s another challenge, Google is extremely secretive about its rules, which means if you want to make it to page 1 you need to spend a lot of time testing and researching. It is also important that you have a vast experience and a lot of knowledge of how websites and search engines work. This is why when it comes to search engine optimization you need a specialist.
Common SEO Mistakes
Search Engine Optimization is a specialist field. The problem with business owners is they easily assume that any person who knows about IT or computers also knows how to do SEO. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Majority of IT companies and web designers subcontract their SEO projects to an SEO specialist while they take commission for the projects. There are cases where they attempt to do SEO themselves but remember that if you don’t have the knowledge and the skills, you’ll run the risk of disappointing your customers because there’s a big chance it will lead to disaster.
Another common mistake is when you compare apples to apples. This doesn’t apply in the SEO industry. There are so many business owners who have yielded to spammy emails and obtrusive sales strategies of overseas marketing companies that are known for selling unbelievably low-cost offshore SEO services. A word of warning, many of these offshore companies have no accountability and they have zero ethics so if their work ends up in a disaster, which is almost always the case, it’s going to take a very long process to repair the damage they made. Some of their works are beyond repair leaving business owners with no choice but to start afresh.
What Does Google’s Algorithm Use When Ranking Websites?
There are certain areas that Google looks at to determine the ranking of your website:
- The quantity and quality of optimized content
- The health, speed and mobile-readiness of your site
- The quantity and quality of relevant incoming links
- The number of relevant visitors on your site
- Social signals such as likes and shares
If we lived in a perfect world, Google would have wanted all websites to be built perfectly with high quality content that authority sites would want to link to, websites that get shared across various social media platforms and sites that get a lot of attention. Unfortunately, majority of business owners are so preoccupied running and maintaining their businesses that they don’t have the time to produce great content. There are no authority sites that would want to link to them and customers aren’t interested about what their business is up to on Facebook let alone share any of the posts from their website. There is virtually no way traffic is generated to their site.
The goal of search engine optimization is to ensure that your website is designed to be more attractive compared to the websites that rank in the top 10. Approaching SEO in this manner makes it realistic to rank on page one.
Winning with SEO Precision and Power
If we base it on theory, SEO’s approach is very direct. It starts with the use of a wide range of SEO tools to measure the strength of all the websites that are ranked in the top 10. After completing the technical analysis, you can then conclude how much work is needed to outmatch those sites.
The goals of an SEO campaign is to achieve precision with your content optimization and build a powerful website with authoritative incoming links.
How Long Does SEO Take?
If you are able to manage to rank in the top 10, congratulations to you! It’s a one of the most coveted achievements in the world of SEO. Unfortunately, ranking in the top 10 doesn’t always happen overnight. The truth is, getting this perfect spot takes time and it usually requires months of SEO work. Then again, it would also depend on where your site is ranked before it gets optimized. There are cases where a minor adjustment could already move your website to page one of the SERPS in 24 hours!
In majority of cases, it is a long-term goal with guaranteed long-term wins. Nevertheless, ranking increases will still be evident during the duration of the SEO campaign. Some improvements are already evident in the first 24 hours since changes have been made.
Business owners can have the option to invest in Google ads while they wait for their website to be fully optimized or they can utilize other available advertising platforms like word-of-mouth and referrals.
How Much Does SEO Cost?
Search engine optimization involves specialist proficiency, the use of different analysis tools, extensive experience and a feasible budget for building authority with relevant backlinks. Generally, an SEO specialist charges between $150-$700 per hour for their time. This amount will cover the cost of their time and third-party tools and services that they use for the campaign. These overheads can cost a lot.
Getting quality links from authoritative websites is perhaps the most expensive part of an SEO campaign. It’s because quality content needs to be developed and more often than not, a publisher fee is needed. For example, in order to acquire a link from a website like Forbes.com, it will cost you an average of $2000. However, you can get backlinks for $200-$500 each.
How Long Do I Have To Be Paying For SEO Services?
As soon as your website is ranked in the top ten, you will only need to pay for maintenance. SEO maintenance consists of continuous website updates and linking. The reason behind this maintenance is that owners of competing websites are continuously aiming to land a spot in the top ten. If you don’t do maintenance, your rankings will imminently go down. In any case, SEO maintenance costs are generally lesser compared to the initial monthly cost you paid for to get ranked.
How To Detect SEO Scum
The world of SEO is often described as “murky” because there is very little transparency, there is no authoritarian body and there are so many contradicting views. You can think of SEO as the Wild West! There are a lot of SEO cowboys out there who are carelessly using bad SEO practices in an attempt to acquire cheap wins. These SEO strategies usually involve fast website optimization and a cheap automated link building machine. When things start to head south, they put the blame on some Google update or make up other excuses.
The good news is that while there are bad SEO cowboys lurking there are also a lot of good SEOs and these SEOs are responsible for getting you the results you want. As much as you’d want to keep only the good guys, you can’t escape reality and murky SEO cowboys are always going to be there, which is why you need to be careful and learn to identify some of the common signs of SEO scum.
There are a lot of SEO agencies that do not disclose what they do. When they are asked, they usually say that the techniques they use are confidential and that they are prohibited to share them. There may be some truth to this but the question still remains, what loophole are they trying to exploit? It’s very likely that they are using an unethical method that does not promote lasting results. In any case, SEO agencies should be clear with what they are doing every month. If they appear to be hiding something then perhaps their only secret is they are not doing anything at all.
There are quite a number of digital agencies that are good at promoting upsells as necessities. They could try to persuade you that your business needs a new website or that you need a new Facebook marketing campaign or that your website needs to develop regular content every month. Sure, these things do help support your campaign but they aren’t needed so your site could get ranked in the top 10. You know you found yourself a good SEO specialist if he or she can work with anything. An upsell may be necessary depending on your case. For example, if your site is poorly designed, it could affect conversions. With a new website design, you could acquire more sales. However, if they tell you that a particular upsell is needed for SEO, you should ask for a second opinion before you yield to their service. In the case of getting a new website, if the transfer isn’t successful, you could lose all your rankings.
Jack of All Trades – Master of None
Be wary of agencies that claim to be the best in everything because more often than not they are specialists of nothing. Trust us, if you want to get the best results you should go to a specialist for every area of your marketing. Search engine optimization is a highly specialized field and the success of the campaign relies largely on the person behind it. Famous digital marketing agencies use click-bait articles and ‘trip-wire’ lead generation strategies, slick sales staff on commissions while the interns does all the work. Once you’re in, it can be impossible to get away and you can’t do anything about it because they are safeguarded by their fine print. If you want to get good results, take all the time you need in finding a specialist that has extensive experience and an untainted track record. Don’t be gullible and don’t allow yourself to be persuaded by testimonials alone. It is important that you know who is working on your SEO campaign and that you know they are qualified and capable of making it a success.
There are so many deceptive digital agencies that lack the skills and the knowledge to handle SEO campaigns and they usually prey on innocent business owners like you. They usually attempt to gain control of all you digital properties and convince you that it would be best if a single company handled all properties, which is theirs. They want to monopolize all your properties by building, hosting and managing your domain, your Google properties on top of SEO. Once they are in control of everything, they will lock you out and hold everything for ransom if you attempt to leave. If you do decide to pay for the ransom to regain control over your digital properties, the cost will be very high. When you try to move on, the agency will remove majority of the linking they did for your site and redirect it to a competitor’s site to try to sign them up or they will set up a new site in the same industry and point all the links to that site. The sad reality is that SEO pirates are virtually everywhere.
SEO Techniques – The Good, The Bad and The Shady
Many SEO specialists keep their strategies close to their chest. However, since SEO lacks regulation and is continuously evolving, each SEO professional is trying their best to stay ahead of their competition and on top of Google’s algorithm adjustments. But there are a number of common techniques that have stood the test of time and have been used all throughout the years in the SEO community. Some of these techniques are proven and tested to perform well. These are what you call ‘white-hat SEO’. Meanwhile, there are other techniques developed that were mainly used to take advantage of loopholes in the algorithm and these are called ‘back-hat’ SEO.
Google has compelled SEO consultants to incorporate techniques that are obviously manipulative. In many cases, using only the white-hat approach would mean that a site will never rank in the top 10. In fact, Google’s algorithm appears to reward black-hat SEO more than white-hat SEO.
This is where the skill of balancing both methods come in handy and learning how to control them so they can be tweaked and removed when Google stops responding to them. If you get this wrong, your website could be in big trouble and may never recover.
The following details the list of common SEO methods with their classification:
Private Blog Network (PBNs)
It’s no secret that backlinks is an essential feature of SEO because without these links, your site will never rank. However, acquiring backlinks can be difficult because it will cost you a significant amount of money. Every week thousands of domains expire and some of these domains have already had years of use and have backlinks coming to them. This is where PBN gets in the picture. SEOs will purchase domains that have already expired and set up mock websites on them. The mock site will be used to link back to a client’s site. Basically, these links are controlled and the websites are fake, but technique is effective and it’s cheaper to set up compared to buying links. There are SEOSs that own thousands of websites in their network, this is what you call a black-hat technique. There are rankings that are purely supported with links coming from PBNs.
Automated SEO Software (ASS)
There are SEOs who discovered the efficacy of using software that creates thousands of backlinks. This type of linking is hardly done directly to a client’s site since it can be very risky. Nonetheless, these automated links are sent to social properties that are already linked to a client’s site. Obviously, generating thousands of backlinks in one click is considered a black-hat method. At present, Google has mastered the art of identifying automated links, which is why they are rarely used because it produces negative results. One classic example of this is Web Spam. If the SEO Company you choose utilises this software, you’re better off.
We are now living in the era of guest posts. As a result of PBNs demise and the incompetence of other SEO methods, Guest Posts are stealing the limelight and are branded as white-hat SEO. Guest posts are articles written for authentic websites. These articles include a link that leads to the SEO client’s website. Generally, these articles are influential and insightful and the best part is that Google’s algorithm responds well to these superior quality guest post links. Perhaps the only problem with Guest Posts is that a lot of agencies are submitting the same articles to the same list of sites making them spammy. So basically, Guest Posts can be considered a black-hat method. With that being said, they are by far the whitest black-hat method available. It will be very hard for Google to disqualify Guest Posts from their algorithm.
There are specific links that Google expects you to have. You see, Google is fully aware that businesses like to have their profile listed across different blogging platforms and business directories since there are technically hundreds of platforms and directories available where they can present their business. Most of these properties permit a backlink back to their business’ website. These links are not regarded as manipulative but rather are used for online exposure and branding. Even greater news is that majority of these platforms are regarded as high quality and have earned Google’s trust.
In a nutshell, there are a number of SEO techniques that are widely accepted in the SEO community and many more than are presented here. The rabbit hole gets very dark and very deep indeed. Basically, in order to achieve success in SEO you need to depend more on knowing what not to do rather than concentrate on doing everything.
How Do You Protect Yourself From SEO Bullies?
Digital abuse is widespread online. Therefore, you need to learn how to protect your business from it. A lot of business owners are clueless where to start. The following are some of the basic things you can do to protect your business:
Own and Control your Domain Name
Never allow a digital agency to take control of everything. You should buy and have full control over your domain name. Sure, you can give them access to the domain registrar if they want to make necessary changes to Name Servers but never allow them to transfer your domain name to their domain register most especially if they own the registrar. Do not allow them to register a domain for you because they will own it.
Host your Website Elsewhere
You should host your website with a third party and not with your SEO company or web developer. If necessary, you can give them access to your cPanel but never allow them to persuade you to move your website over to their hosting because whoever owns your hosting means they have full control over what happens in your website. When you choose to host with a credible third-party hosting company, you can just change the cPanel or the hosting password when you want to change SEO providers.
Choose a Reliable Website Platform (CMS)
When you are having your website developed, you have to ensure that the platform is user-friendly. There are web developers who demand that you use their own content management system (CMS). This can be an issue since you could get stuck with that developer forever because nobody else knows how to work with their code or they may attempt to sell a ‘premium’ platform and say that it is more advanced. Advanced platforms are complex platforms that are designed better compared to standard platforms.
A lot of websites these days are built using WordPress CMS. Although WordPress is reported to have numerous issues, so far the pros still outweigh the cons. WordPress is an easy favorite because it’s very easy to use and any developer knows how to work with it. Heck, even business owners can do basic stuff with WordPress. A lot of SEO agencies also prefer WordPress because it’s easy to optimise sites using this platform. There are some SEO agencies that won’t take on clients if their sites aren’t on WordPress.
It doesn’t matter whether you choose Wix, Shopify, Big Commerce, WordPress, Squarespace, Neto or other CMS, it’s not going to be a problem. However, we suggest you avoid custom platforms such as Drupal and Joomla.
Google’s Algorithm – the Power of Frankenstein
There is no one person in Google who knows how to control website rankings because there were so many engineers involved in the creation of its algorithm and over the years, numerous tweaks and patches were made making people think that Google has become a Frankenstein. This is the reason behind the many inconsistencies with rankings. One good example is when Google instructs us to not sue spammy SEO software but the algorithm still ranks a spammy site and includes it in the top ten. Another example is when Google instructed not to use keyword stuffing but continues to rank a keyword-stuffed site.
In spite of the injustice and inconsistencies and Google’s own ad stuffing in the SERPs, it still remains to be the #1 search engine today and it still provides better results compared to any other search engine out there. It also brings traffic so you can just imagine how many businesses would perish if Google isn’t around.
Just remember that if your SEO Company is trying their best to follow the rules and do the right thing and they still can’t get your business to rank, remember that they don’t control Google, in fact, nobody does.
SEO KPI ROI – LOL OR OMG
How do you estimate your ROI? Here’s an example below:
Try to visualize a web design company that wants to sell SEO services here in Brisbane. They hire a local Brisbane SEO consultant to carry out market research in order to obtain the best performing keywords. The research shows that the best keyword, at present, is ‘SEO Brisbane’ with an average of 3600 searches every month. If they were able to rank their site on page one for the keyword SEO Brisbane then they should expect to have at least 360 visitors on their site and at least 18 of those are expected to subscribe.
Keep in mind that this particular case study is not completely realistic. The keyword search volumes in the SEO industry mostly consist of SEO agencies checking their rankings and not actual customers who are trying to search for SEO services. What’s ironic is that a lot of business owners do not actually know what SEO is let alone know how to find it. Business owners know what Google is but they don’t know what SEO is all about. Therefore, the service they need to rank in Google is a service many potential customers don’t know how to find. Still SEO agencies continue to compete to rank for those keywords because for them, it’s a sign that they are on the right track and that they are better than the competition.
However, at the end of the day, Google will only rank one website as #1 and any agency that is able to rank in the top pages should be pretty good. Being able to maintain a top ranking for a keyword that only brings in little business will cost an SEO company a lot of money. Nonetheless, this case study still shows how ROI could be calculated in any industry.
Get Ranked, Not Spanked
Getting ranked in Google has its risks. This is because Google’s algorithm activates a series of manual and algorithmic penalties for both on-page and off-page SEO.
A website will get ‘Spanked’ or penalized if there is too much keyword optimization on one page. This is usually the case if the page is optimized to rank in a particular location. In such cases, including the city name in the page is necessary for SEO, however, if the keywords are overdone, Google will use an over-optimization penalty and the site will automatically drop.
Another possible reason for a site to get spanked is through spammy linking or using too many keyword anchors.
There are some public updates to Google’s algorithm that led to sites losing their rankings in 24 hours Hear are some of them:
A Day at the Google Zoo – Understanding Google Updates
Google’s updates have a lot of animal mascots, which explains why Google is often referred to as a zoo. If you are one of those whose rankings got lost in recent years then it could be because of the following updates
The Panda Update
This isn’t the cute and cuddly bear in the zoo, it’s more like a bear that’s been feeding on steroids. This update was set into motion in February 2011 and was focused on targeting sites that have low quality content. Before the Panda Update, many SEOs already knew that they could get their sites ranked through keyword stuffing and low quality content. All this changed when Google wanted to give customers the best UX while using their search engine.
The Penguin Update
Are you thinking about cute and cuddly Madagascar penguins? Sorry but this isn’t a cute animal, it’s more like the evil Penguin from the movie Batman. This update was applied in April 2012 and it targeted spammy backlink methods. There were so many websites that got affected by this updated. As a matter of fact, a lot of aged sites that are ranking at present are actually sites that had no SEO done to them before 2012. The Penguin update was only applied and reevaluated a couple of times a year which made it harder for webmasters to know if they had done enough to be released by Penguin. Nonetheless, Google later on made Penguin run in real-time, which means that a site that has been slapped by Penguin can recover much faster compared before.
The Hummingbird Update
This update was released in 2013 and was designed to target quality content just like Panda but the only difference is that instead of attacking lame content, the Hummingbird update concentrated more on natural language usage as well as contextual meaning rather than individual keywords.
The Possum Update
This update was named by the SEO community and not by Google. It landed in September 2015 and it aimed its target at local business rankings especially those in Google Maps. The update was named Possum because it appeared that some business’ map rankings vanished. Google didn’t remover them they were jus being filtered out of the results.
Other Google Updates
There are also other important updates from Google like Fred update and Rank Brain.
If you’d like to know more about SEO, get in touch with us today at https://www.seobrisbane.com.au/.