I get asked, at least once a week if we ‘do’ SEO. This is my experience with SEO:
Typically, it’s used as a d-bag intimidation tactic to get people to simultaneously 1) feel stupid and 2) give them money.
To me, SEO is ongoing work that happens when you’re doing online marketing, maintaining a well built website, and mixing that in with other avenues (maybe a mix of paid ads, offline events, and more). Like how when you watch what you eat and exercise, you get more energy and sleep better. It’s a great byproduct but not one you’re necessarily concentrating the hardest on.
This is what I always want to say in response when someone asks what I think about SEO:
SEO means building a website correctly.
To me, most SEO problems can be prevented by building a website correctly. This means:
- having unique page titles and descriptions for each page.
- having words on the page people are looking for.
- interlinking content so it’s easy to browse.
- making items easy to share on social media.
- more common sense stuff people shouldn’t have to ask me for as a professional.
I personally don’t believe in charging people $X to do things one mediocre way and a higher amount of $Y to do things the best way I know how. Part of building a website is doing the small things that add up and make a difference. It means building the site thinking about search engines.
(A note here: Do I think adding, say, a sitemap will make a crappy website rank number one in search for a certain key phrase? Not so much but having some things in place to make life easier for The Google usually helps your cause.)
SEO means thinking of mobile first.
A kind of big idea that summarizes SEO in the last two years is ‘mobile first’. So what does that mean?
More than 50% of website visitors are coming from a mobile device, which makes mobile visitors (for most websites) are the majority.
The mobile version of your website doesn’t get to be a crappy, pared down version of the desktop version of your website anymore. If you have to decide between a website that is mobile friendly and a website element that is pretty, you should be picking mobile friendly.
To overly simplify, thinking mobile first means:
A) a responsively designed website (one that looks good and works well on all screen sizes)
B) a fast loading website (we don’t all have five bars of cell reception 100% of the time). Don’t make your website visitor look at this:
If you need examples of terrible websites: http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com
SEO means maintaining your website.
If you think once you’ve designed your website you never have to touch it again, think again.
Search engines want up-to-date software and new content. They want people linking to the website. If you haven’t looked at your website in three weeks, why do you expect Google, or the blogger you want to link back to you, to care more than you seem to?
A website, like your house, will constantly need cleaning, repairs, redecorating, etc…. because people are using it. And that’s what happens when people use things regularly: they find ways they want to make it better.
SEO means making choices.
So it’s very hard (ok, I’ll say it, impossible), on one website page, to optimize for ‘rental property’, ‘rental home’, ‘house for rent’, ‘residential rental’, etc. If you try to put all those words on your site, you’ll sound like a synonym generating robot. If you keep changing what term you are using, the page will feel inconsistent.
(Ewww example above via: https://www.accelebrate.com/)
And this is where we get tough, people. You can’t be all things to all people. You have to pick. Who is your audience? What words do they use? What do you need them to get to on your website?
Doing SEO well means making choices. Bigger (and some smaller) websites are collecting data on us for a reason: so they can offer a customized experience. Amazon doesn’t try to design one website to make everyone happy: it selectively shows information depending on who you are.
Your website can be collecting information about visitors to some degree (check out the concept of ‘remarketing’ if this interests you) but most of us folks with smaller websites need to pick who we are, and who we are not, and think about attracting people via search accordingly.
As you see, I’m not telling you I don’t care about search engines or building websites that search engines like. I am just advocating for all of us stepping away from this idea of ‘doing’ SEO and instead thinking of SEO as a happy byproduct from good websites and online marketing campaigns.