SEO Snake Oil

For the record, this isn’t a blog post taking a lazy swipe at an entire industry. I honestly believe that Search Engine Optimization, when done properly, will vastly improve your website and its presence. But like many industries that require a laptop and an internet connection, SEO has also been infiltrated by a vast horde of charlatans looking to make some very easy money very quickly.

Know Your Enemy

If you run a website, no doubt you will have received numerous (often quite pushy) emails from people claiming they will get your website to the top of search results via strange and complicated mystic arts that only a select few understand. Only with their help can you defeat the evil Google overlord with a vast array of keywords and back-links, and submissions to every online directory in the world. And those claims are dressed up in gibberish buzzwords just to add that extra level of mysticism.

Trust me – Google is not the enemy. The changes they make to their algorithms aren’t designed to screw over website owners. They’re designed and constantly re-evaluated to provide a meaningful service to users – you know, the people that will potentially visit your website – so take note of the changes they make and embrace them.

Mobilegeddon

As an example, in April 2015 Google announced that it had made changes that would favour mobile friendly sites. My Twitter feed exploded with angry users (many claiming to be SEO experts as it happens), upset Google could demote a site simply because it doesn’t have a responsive site or mobile version.

As far as I’m concerned, those angry people have lost touch with users; mobile browsing didn’t happen overnight. If you’re not constantly thinking about experience from the users point of view, you are seriously failing would-be visitors.

There Is No Magic SEO Pill

There’s no secret SEO formula or shortcut to guarantee overnight success online. Purchasing any service that claims otherwise is a waste of money, much like buying Twitter followers or Facebook likes. Your goal should be engaged visitors not meaningless numbers, and that takes time and effort.

So what positive steps can you take right now to make sure your website is headed in the right direction?

  1. Make sure it’s responsive. A static website is absolutely unacceptable.
  2. It has to be fast. If your site is sluggish when loading, try:
    • losing unneccesary plugins
    • using a CDN – which could be costly, though CloudFlare is a decent (and free) alternative
    • minimizing CSS and javascript, and gzip html
    • compressing images
    • moving to a dedicated server if you’re on shared hosting (can be costly)
    • a different host
  3. Use H tags properly. H1 to H6 are for section headings, with H1 being the page title.
  4. Name image files in a meaningful way, and always add Alt tags to them for the benefit of people using screen readers, and the benefit of crawlers like Googlebot trying to index your site.
  5. Ensure the metadata for each page and post accurately reflects your content.
  6. Fix any broken internal links, e.g. a url you’ve changed from the original, with redirects.
  7. Don’t duplicate your content.

If you’re not sure how to perform these tasks, hire someone to help.

And when it comes to SEO, hire someone with a proven record who doesn’t make outlandish quick fix claims – common sense should tell you that any “SEO expert” claiming to get you to the top of Google in just a few weeks is not to be trusted.