Does SEO Help? Some Intriguing Questions Answered…
Over the last couple of years a lot of upheavals took place in the field of organic search. Much of that has been on account of Google changing its algorithm with the aim to provide better search results to the users.
Some of these algorithm changes – euphemistically termed as Panda, Penguin, and now Venice – have wreaked havoc on the fortunes of small web businesses across the globe. And how?
In this article, as an owner of small web business, I will attempt to answer some intriguing questions with regard to the much used and abused concept of search engine optimization or SEO.
I consider myself observant, so even though I may not measure up to the experience of seasoned SEO experts, I guess I can still throw some much desired light on what SEO is in today’s scenario, and how small businesses can go about it.
I write this article for the benefit of fellow small businesses like me, and I would urge you, my readers, to correct me or voice your opinion in the comments box below.
Has SEO changed?
No, the concept of SEO hasn’t changed, which is about communicating with the search bots with regard to the importance of a webpage or a website for a certain set of words, called keywords. What has changed though is the process of communication with the search bots.
Is this communication with search bots necessary?
Oh, absolutely! Otherwise, how else do you think the search engines – mind you they are not humans, but machines – will know what your website is about?
And if the search engines do not know about your website, how can the visitors know? After all there are billions of websites out there…and yours is just one of them. So it is important that you create your website in such a way that the search bots understand what your website is about.
You said the process of communication has changed. Can you explain?
Let me trace this ‘process of communication’ as I call it to the earlier days of SEO. Back then, the key to send signals to search bots was to extensively use the keyword meta tag. Over time this led to 2 major types of abuse.
One, people stuffed too many keywords or key-phrases in there and that was pretty confusing. Two, people used unrelated keywords – for example using sex-related keywords in say a crafts site – with the sole aim of attracting maximum eyeballs.
Many more aberrations – mostly deliberate – of ‘faulty’ communication followed in the years thereafter, the recent being that of link cultivation.
When people realized that Google pays importance to incoming links with anchor texts, a huge industry grew up whose main business was to get you links.
All shades of link manufacturing came to the fore – some sophisticated, some not so – and they actually helped a lot of businesses make loads of money from the organic traffic in the search results.
How do the things stand now?
It took Google quite some time to work out the changes it did, starting with Panda, and then Penguin and Venice. Google still makes changes to search algorithmic often, numbering to about 500 in a year.
After the latest changes, it does seem that the excessive importance on links has been tempered down, and there is a renewed stress on contents that are unique and add value for the readers.
How important is web content in the present scenario?
It is the most important aspect of SEO today as it always has been, albeit overtaken by ‘links’ for some time in the past. There are several ways to look at what contents can do to a website, but the common among them is whether the content is adding value both
- to the website as a whole, and
- for the viewers who visit the site.
Can you elaborate in more details?
Let me first deal on adding value to a website with contents. 2 important issues are how niche a website is, and the depth of content. For example, if your website is on used car sales, you need to remain focused on selling only used cars, and maybe prefer even a narrower niche like selling SUVs or sedans depending on the demand in your locality.
If being niche is one key, the other is to continually add value contents for your niche website. When you do this over a period of time, the search engines start acknowledging your website as a good destination for the niche that your website deals in.
Value for website viewers refers to the spread of your contents. A used car site for example must have good many images, videos, and of course things like buyers’ experience, insurance matters, Q&A section, car components, special offers, and so on.
In other words, the aim is to
- first choose a profitable niche for the website, and then
- provide fresh and sufficient value addition to it, and finally
- remain committed to the process of value addition.
Are links any more important for SEO?
Yes of course. But now there is a shift toward identifying and awarding what I call ‘deserving links’. Deserving links come without being asked for. They are natural links. In the above example of used car site, if it is developed with value addition in mind, it will attract natural links from similar other sites because for the latter it will be sort of value addition for the benefit of visitors to those sites.
What about social media?
According to statistics, more people use search everyday than social media. But don’t let this misguide you. The point is, the ‘search’ users are anonymous, but the users of social media have distinct identities. In other words, social media is where the biggest congregation of actually identifiable people is.
And since business follows crowd, it is therefore absolutely necessary that you or your business have presence in at least one or more of the big 5 social media websites, namely Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn.
Another reason for social media presence is that it allows building up reputation for website activities, and that in turn adds weight for better rankings in the search results.
Do you offer SEO service?
I don’t offer SEO service, but I offer video-based SEO e-learning course in my website. This is a foundation course on SEO for web startups and small web businesses, and it explains clear step-by-step approach to using SEO from scratch for building up a web business.