Hint: At Least a Virus DOES Something
By Tony Panaccio
Ignition Branding Consultant
As we grew from children to adulthood, we began to shed the myths of youth to embrace the realities of the world. We discovered:
There is no Santa Claus.
- There is no Great Pumpkin (Sorry, Linus).
- There is no Tooth Fairy (which was okay with me, because it creeped me out thinking some omniscient creature could get in my house and sneak around my bedroom without me knowing it).
And so it is with a heavy heart, knowing that we will lose some of that innocence we all shared when the Internet was new, that I offer this one last piece of vital information for marketers everywhere: There is no such thing as SEO.
Now, breathe. Take it easy, and focus. It’s the truth. SEO is the biggest scam since they killed Mr. Spock (come on, you KNEW he’d be back in Star Trek III).
The way it works is similar to the way mechanics used to behave before the DIY (do-it-yourself) revolution — you show your Web site to an SEO specialist, and they tell you that your metatags are all wrong and that your content does not contain enough keywords in context. Then they tell you it will cost anywhere between $400 and $2,500 per month to fix it and maintain it. Since none of what they said made any sense, but it sounded good, you pay it, thinking that your traffic and profitability will increase. But it doesn’t.
Here’s why — back in 2012, SEO specialists and Google programmers were in a pitched battle. Every few months, Google would update its algorithm to defeat the work of SEO specialists, then the SEO guys would change their tactics. Then, a few months later, Google would introduce a new algorithm to fend off SEO tactics, and then the cycle would start over again, like a tech game of cat and mouse. But then Google introduced Penguin, a new algorithm that ended the game. Subsequent updates of Penguin have made the noodling that SEO specialists do with your keywords and metatags meaningless.
The point NO ONE understood when they employed SEO specialists was that SEO is essentially cheating. Google’s primary algorithmic function was to reward sites with high traffic and relevancy and punish sites that didn’t. Using SEO tactics was tantamount to hiding aces up your sleeves in order to get a Google ranking that your site did not actually deserve. However, because SEO artists acted like they were geniuses that could beat the system, people started believing that there was a magic wand you could wave to make your site perform better, like a diet pill that helps you lose weight without changing your diet and exercise. If you don’t believe those diet pill claims, you should be kicking yourself now for believing the claims of all those SEO techs.
Now, to be fair, Penguin may not be unbeatable, but even if some SEO tech figures out a way, it’s not like Google is likely to sit on its hands. If I was a betting man, I would bet on Google to win the fight against SEO techs every time. After all, if the best minds at Apple can’t seem to cut off Google at the knees, what makes you think a bunch of independent coders with no standards of practice can do it?
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a path to better traffic. A magic wand won’t conjure a building into existence, but construction workers with a plan can still make one. The same goes for your Web site. The difference is that instead of believing in a magic wand, you might actually have to do the work to generate traffic organically with the merit of your site.
Here are some tactics that actually work, no matter what changes Google makes to its algorithms, because these tactics actually play by the rules of the game.
1) Register — Each search engine has a registration portal that is easily found, where you can register your Web site. It simply tells the bots and spyders that your Web site exists and it invites them over to index it for that search engine’s users. To be certain that your site updates get on that radar screen, we recommend you register it every 28 days. It costs nothing and does not take a coder to access.
2) Content — Google likes it when you update your site, so do it as often as your resources allow. Blogs and wonderful fodder for search engines, because they tend to attract readers. Now, you can’t just throw anything in your blog. Copying and pasting someone else’s work is a common dodge, and it doesn’t work, because if Google has indexed the same copy from another page — even if you’ve made cosmetic changes to the copy — Google’s algorithm will know it and rate your site lower as a result. You need organic, original copy. Moreover, blogging about how cool your products or services are doesn’t work, either, because consumers don’t care. Blog should inform, educate and entertain, so consumers actually want to read them.
3) Social Media — When you have informative, educational and entertaining blogs on your site, use your social media assets to make people aware it is there. Most of the status updates on Facebook are articles on other sites, anyway. As long as your blogs aren’t overtly commercial, people will like them, share them and promote them for you. That drives more traffic to your site that also raises your Google ranking.
4) Rich Media — About half of all Internet traffic at any given point in time is accounted for by Netflix and YouTube, so putting informative or entertaining videos on your site — and maybe even establishing a YouTube Channel — will also attract visitors, especially if you use social media to draw attention to them.
So, we’re sorry for dispelling the myth. We know reality can be a jagged little pill to swallow, but look at the bright side. Now, you can stop spending all that money on SEO and channel those resources into a content strategy that actually works — no matter what Google does.
(Tony Panaccio is a 30-year media veteran and a Managing Director at Ignition Branding, a marketing and content firm based in Tampa, Florida.)