SEO isn’t Informercial Magic

I used to love late-night infomercials. Richard Simmons helped me get in shape. Billy Mays removed impossible stains. Ron Popeil showed me how to set it and forget it. In the 90s, I was promised magic. For three easy payments.

Now the promise of easy magic has invaded your inbox. Search Engine Optimization is the new Shake Weight.

How did we get here?

Yahoo was the first successful attempt to sort through the ever-growing web. They adapted the idea of the offline directory, recreating it online. If you were looking for news, recipes, or art, Yahoo recommended a group of websites. Yahoo attempted to keep pace with the internet’s exponential growth. But their directory strategy couldn’t keep up.

Google indexes web pages through links. This means that as the internet grows, Google search index grows. As you create and link to new pages, Google finds them and ranks them. There is no discovery or curation. Instead, Google relies on “spiders” to crawl from link to link, site to site, indexing everything along the way.

Yahoo surfaces websites, but not web pages. Taking you to the front page of a website is like handing someone a book and saying, “The answer is here.” When Google started surfacing web pages, a real change occurred. They handed you the book, identified the page and line, and showed you the answer.

What’s the problem?

With all the world’s information at your fingertips, surfacing valuable links became a challenge. With millions of people typing exactly what they were looking for into a small box, your position on the resulting list of pages is a critical concern. And SEO, SERP, SEM, and a slew of industries were born.

SEO practices took shape through the discovery and trading of tactics that placed your pages higher on the list. Things like keyword spamming, useless backlinks, hidden pages information, and excessive tagging. SEO professionals charged companies for these tactics. And then Google responded. They started issuing regular updates to prevent this system-gaming.

So the SEO industry adapted too. And then Google. And on and on. The proliferation of these companies has resulted in their spammy and annoying marketing. They have to break through, so that you break through. Or so they say.

What can you do?

There are no quick tricks. There is no SEO button. No secret sauce. No internet magic. And most of the time those late-night salesmen are just salesmen. The truth is that unique, quality content published in a timely manner is more valuable than any SEO secret sauce.

Start with an SEO audit. It’s easy to find an online service for this, and they’ll help you find simple opportunities.

Work with your web development team to implement best practices on your site. SEO isn’t just about the words on your page, Google also considers user experience. Your site should be mobile-friendly, with appropriately sized touch targets, compressed images and an easy-to-use navigation.

Work with your content team to create relevant and helpful content. Make sure you’ve thought through your headlines, keywords, and how the content will be distributed.

Verify your business. With Google, Facebook, and Twitter. This lets Google know they are surfacing the information you want.

Pay attention to best practices. Google is constantly releasing updates on how it ranks pages in search. Be ready for these changes.

SEO isn’t magic, but it is something you are capable of doing yourself. Don’t believe the inbox spam.