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Search engines are not the enemy

Tegan Mathews

Usually when a client asks us for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) advice they start with, “I know I need SEO but…” and then proceed to share their “reasons” why they have avoided it previously at all costs. But SEO and search engines are not the enemy that everyone thinks they are.

Sure, their concerns seem legitimate enough, “It doesn’t make any sense to me”, “ I’m afraid of getting overcharged”, and “What if I spend a bunch of money and then don’t get the results.”

And when uttering these words their faces screw up into a painful distortion of angst, overwhelm and utter despair. Add to this that they have usually avoided SEO for so long that they are now in a place of desperation because their competitors are ahead of them and it’s not a pretty mix.

To alleviate their pain, I reassure them it’s not as bad as it seems and walks them through the following information and analogies. As with anything, it’s just a matter of having it explained in a way that makes sense and with minimal technical terms.

Once you have a basic understanding you will feel more confident and hopefully more open to exploring SEO and all the wonderful benefits it can bring your business. Knowledge is power after all.

Having said that, SEO is a specialty area and there is a fine art to being able to make it work so you won’t become an expert overnight. The good news is that when you are just starting out, or if you don’t have the budget, there are lots of things you can do yourself to get you started.

Once you are ready to get serious we recommend hiring an expert. A good SEO specialist will save you time wasted on learning yourself and they will be up to date with the latest changes. The investment will be worth the return.

Here are seven points to give you an overall understanding of why Search Engines are not the enemy.

Start with a great website

There are several things your web developer should have already completed or included in your website but unfortunately, not all of them do.

  • It almost goes without saying that the website should be responsive (able to be seen properly on all sized devices)
  • There should only be one H1 (largest) sized heading on the page and it should include the relevant keyword that’s been chosen for that page
  • Each page should have a keyword friendly page url, instead of it just being “about” or “services”, or worst still, a bunch of numbers and letters
  • With all of your images on your site be sure they have had the relevant keyword for that page included in the name, alt tags and description and check they have already been resized for web so as not to slow your site down (ideally under 200kb)

Understand a search engines job

By understanding and aligning your goals with those of a search engine, you can create a win, win experience all round. A search engines job is to provide a good experience for its user, who is also your potential customer. If they don’t then the user may choose to use a different search engine next time.

A good user experience is when they place a query and the search engine provides a list of answers that are relevant, up to date and fast to load. These are provided in order of popularity because we all want the most popular (most of the time). If you can help the search engine to do their job, ultimately that will help you too.

Be relevant & popular

Many years ago it used to be that if you had the right keywords on your pages that would be enough to be relevant but these days there are hundreds of different factors that search engines take into consideration.

Popularity is also considered and therefore simply adding lots of content isn’t enough anymore either. You need to be getting your content shared and talked about (as in links and comments to your content)

Know your customers

The real secret of SEO is not to adjust your website and content to satisfy the search engines, and NEVER to try and trick them (you will never be smarter than Google!) but instead, to write for your customers.

Know what it is your customers are trying to achieve or what information they are trying to find when they use the search engines and provide it to them. It really can be that simple! And if you don’t know, the easiest way to find out is to ask them.

Search Engines are still robots but you don’t need to be

Search Engines are still robots and therefore don’t comprehend information the same way humans do…yet! For example, a human can see an image of a hiker on a mountain top and feel inspired but a robot needs to be told “this is an inspiring image of a hiker on a mountain”.

Therefore, there are still things you need to do to your website in order for the search engine robots (commonly known as crawlers or spiders) to present your website as the relevant solution for your potential customers search.

Some I mentioned earlier are ensuring your images have descriptions, having keywords in your page URL’s and having a keyword relevant main heading, but when it comes to writing your content it’s more important to focus on being human than pleasing the robots.

Write as a human being, like you would if you were having a conversation with a customer of yours. This is super important because the crawlers/spiders have been designed to be able to tell the difference between a sentence written by a human and one overloaded with keywords written by a robot to try and trick the system.

Choosing the right keywords

Now I’ve talked a lot about different ways you can use keywords but none of that is any good unless you choose the right keywords in the first place. So, what exactly is a keyword? It’s the word(s) your potential customers type into the search box when they are looking for your product or service.

You might think you already know what those keyword(s) might be but it’s always a good idea to check by using one of the keyword research tools. We always recommend Google’s because it’s, well, it’s created by Google so it makes sense but there are lots of others available if you want an alternative. Here’s a list of different keyword tools by Andrew Raso of SEM Rush.

Indexable content

You could go to all of this trouble and be doing everything right according to the book but is your content actually being ready by the spiders?

These days there are so many different platforms, themes and ways of building websites with all sorts of bells and whistles. It’s difficult to know if the search engine robots are actually getting through all the code on your site. If they can’t then they won’t be able to find the words your potential customers are searching for and index your site accordingly (give it a ranking).

You can check what the robots are reading and compare it with the keyword(s) you have chosen by using one of the tools listed in this blog post by Josh Dreller of Search Engine Land.

Search engines are not the enemy

So by now, you’ll have a better understanding of how Search Engine’s work and have come to realize that search engines are not the enemy. In fact, if you think of them as a friend in business to partner with, that would put you in good standing.

But none of this is any good if you don’t put it into action or have a way of measuring the results. Work out where you are at now, not so you feel bad about it, but so you have a benchmark to start from.

Then make sure you have Google analytics set up on your website as a minimum so you can test and measure as time goes on. Being good at SEO really comes down to knowing your customers, measuring results and testing different methods.

By understanding SEO and working with the search engines instead of against them, over time your SEO will definitely improve. Align yourself with what the search engines are trying to achieve and search engines will become your friends.

Tegan Mathews

Tegan has over twenty years experience in sales & marketing both nationally and internationally and the founder of several businesses, her first at the age of 14.

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