Joel Gross

SEO- The ins, the outs, the ups and downs

SEO (search engine optimization) is a complicated dance between three parties. Businesses, search engines, and the end users, who if the SEO campaign is being properly focused, are also valuable potential clients. So many SEO company make it seem like it is a much more simplified process and demonstrate a low knowledge of the industry, a high willingness to oversell and over promise, and a equal measure of greed to support their reasons for doing so.

Let’s talk about the first party in search engine optimization strategies and by far and away the controlling entity. Search engines. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and a myriad of smaller less relevant or more specialized search companies craft the SEO marketplace. Because Google controls a healthy 60%+ of the market, they are often the focus for our SEO efforts. Search engines each have the stated goal of improving the search experience for the consumer (party three). Of course, they have the unstated goal of making money which is actually more important to them than the experience of the user. How do we know this? Prime spots at the top of a page, where literate humans innately first focus, are occupied by paid advertisements. The first three prime spots are not set up for the actual user experience, they are set up for Google to make money. Latest beta page reviews for their SERPs, make it look like there will be an increased number of ads on that first impression, and even less organic search results. What does that tell you? Google cares more about advertising revenue than it does the actual organic search result.

Google can’t come out and publicly state that however. They have to try and maintain their role as an ambivalent father figure guiding us mere mortals to one site and another, all with a proud knowing smile on its face. I don’t think that they’ll be able to carry on the charade much longer, as more search options become more competitive, and as Google continues to quite publicly abandon the quality of its organic search product in favor of money, money, money.

Google the white, contemplating how they can take your money.

But he looks so nice, and pure white. He couldn’t be evil?

When you’re working to try and achieve good ranking in search engines, the biggest difficulty comes in trying to work within the constraints of the search engine algorithms. What are search engine algorithms? Search algorithms are essentially bits of code that help to automate the process of indexing the internet and making recommendations based on ‘search quality’. Because search engines are such a large source of revenue and were easily manipulated by early SEO companies, these algorithms have become more and more complex. The latest batch of updates from Google were termed ‘Panda’. They were designed to help limit content farms and site scrapers that used popular content on other sites on their own sites and were able to achieve ranking based on that. Google’s stated goal was to target low quality content sites and help push them down the ranking. Admirable? Yes. Successful? No. In effect, Google also managed to damage a large number of sites that it felt had lower quality than what they did in reality. Not every site met Google’s criteria for great content, so when they made the change a lot of other types of sites got hurt. But Google being Google, there was no apology to those businesses or individual, or any attempt to make things right.

A high quality SEO company like ours has to work within the constraints that Google puts on its search functionality, even if we feel like they could and should do their job better. Working outside of the constraints that Google puts on its SERPs (search engine results pages), is termed ‘black hat’. It is a huge liability to us, to our clients, and can result in Google punishing one and or both of us for those back door tactics.

So what does working within the constraints mean? It means there is a lot of technical corrections done to a site before we begin external efforts. We have to make sure that the site looks appropriate in Google’s eyes in the ways that we direct traffic, include search or sort functionality, and in the content that we have incorporated on the site. Google likes to see original longer content, likes to see photo incorporation, they love to see video (especially Youtube since its a Google money maker), social media relevance, quick page load times, and secure, well coded functionality. That’s quite a mouthful, and its only what the SEO company does for the business or individual who is hiring them to promote their site to number one in the rankings. In competitive industries, there are likely to have been five or six hundred competitors who tried SEO efforts to get the same results. Probably around 80% of the SEO work done is low level, low understanding garbage sold for $199 or $299 a month. Those sites are easy to outrank with that first step in a high quality SEO campaign. The next 20% were likely done with a better understanding of SEO and of how the search engines work. Those website designs will probably need an additional approach.

What is the next step? Google wants to know that your site matters to someone on a given topic, outside of just your business. How does it evaluate whether or not your site is actually relevant to others? Well, we know it already has crawled, or examined, your site coding to understand your content. It next wants to see high quality, relevant, organic links. Most business owners will have heard a back link spiel, or linking concept spiel from every SEO company they have talked to. Low end, low result SEO companies that sometimes use illicit black hat tactics are likely to use back linking as their primary campaign strategy. They usually just go out and buy 100’s of links to your site from third party, off shore companies that sell such things. Its surprisingly cheap, and requires no work on their part.

The problem is, that Google is aware of the quality of these links, and should it determine that they are a part of a paid linking scheme, you can get punished. Even if you or your SEO company is not caught, the links still don’t count as much. JC Penney was recently caught and punished by Google for a paid linking scheme- they lost 9 pages of ranking (sending them into oblivion) because of it. But the millions of links that they had purchased weren’t that valuable anyways. Google views links as a vote of confidence. If I stood up right now and said that Donald Trump would be the next great President of the United States, you’d all think, who the hell cares what you say. Because I don’t have recognition as being an expert on politics, and I don’t have any sort of previous accuracy in predicting presidential elections, my ‘vote of confidence’ in Trump doesn’t matter that much. Google looks at low quality, irrelevant links the same way. If a video game site is giving a link to a doctor’s office or to a law firm, who cares? Google can spot and sort both content and can tell how one might or might not be relevant to each other.

A great SEO company, like ours, targets relevant links for two reasons. First, Google cares. If I land only 10 great relevant links to your site, they count for 10,000 low quality relevant links in our SEO campaign. But more importantly, a relevant link means you’re probably getting an additional avenue of exposure in front of valuable clients. If your site sells products at are aimed at stay at home moms, a link from a leading stay at home mom blog, means you’ll get traffic from their site to yours, and that traffic will have a higher likelihood of buying or contacting you for services. And its a win for SEO. I’ve effectively managed to jump two steps ahead of the other SEO firm by simply working within Google’s constraints.

The last factor in SEO is user experience. Google tracks certain user behaviors and uses them to evaluate ranking as well. If you’ve ever seen an analytics report, you’ll see stats that are almost exclusively about user behavior: Click through rates, conversion rates, time on site, number of page views, etc. Those are stats that reflect how people use your site and whether or not they find it valuable. Low bounce rates, high conversion rates, high page views, high time on site, all reflect a site that is well designed for its end user.

A good SEO company also knows how to work with conversion optimization techniques. Essentially those are techniques that encourage a specific type of desirable user behavior. Want someone to buy? Check. Want someone to call you? Check. Want someone to sign up for your email subscription list? Check. Knowing how to influence customer behavior in that manner is really all about studying, studying, studying, and lots of supporting testing. Invariably, that knowledge and on going research makes our time requirements bigger for each SEO project and makes our costs higher. But, that knowledge and actionable intelligence also improves our ability to deliver revenue or results! We’re pleased that we consistently show greater returns on investment than other SEO companies who employ black hat or cheaper less thorough tactics.

In the end, a well run campaign makes all three parties in the search world happy. Search engines are happier because we’ve done the work to build a great website that is very focused on users. The end user is also quite happy because the website design seems intuitive, natural, and is filled with great stuff for them to read, watch, look at, or purchase! And you, as a business owner, are even happier because you’ve seen your investment in online marketing finally pay off. Nothing feels better than being able to pat yourself on the back for choosing the best SEO company in Los Angeles and in Seattle, Washington.

If you’d like to have that moment in the sun, give us a call at 310.827.3890.

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