Posts Tagged Search engine optimization

SEO : the biggest con of the 21st Century?

It seems like an age now since Eoghan McCabe of Contrast wrote his controversial “SEO is Bullshit” blog article back in 2008. That article was followed up a few weeks late with an article titled “SEO is Still Bullshit” which included discussions and comments from some of Ireland’s most respected SEO experts.

At the time, Eoghan’s article and subsequent comments irked me quite a lot. He, like every other SEO sceptic totally ignored the value and definite “need” element of SEO and focused purely on the usability issues that were generated by poor techniques used by most SEOs in order to get websites ranked in the Google search results.

In hindsight and after many more years in this business, seeing the rise (and fall) of (too) many so called SEO expert individuals and companies; I’ve finally woken up to the fact that SEO is in fact total bullshit.

Yes that may sound quite alarming coming from someone who has sold the importance of Search Engine Optimisation for over a decade. But the simple fact is that SEO has probably one of the biggest cons of the 21st Century.

I say this with complete sincerity and assure you that this is definitely not an article designed to create linkbait as was suggested at Eoghan’s reasons for his original article.

Let’s look at the very basic facts surrounding SEO.

  1. Ranking a website is easy!
    Yes believe it or not it’s quite easy to get your website ranked on Google or any other search engine. Granted, the more competitive the key phrase wish to rank for, the harder it is to rank.

  2. Google wants to find Good websites with relevant content
    A very simple fact of the matter is that Google wants to rank websites that are relevant to the search being performed. Searching on Google would be a waste of time if the sites it ranked in the top results were not relevant to what you were searching for. A simple rule of thumb is to build a website that a user likes to visit and is easy for a search engine to find relevant content. That’s not rocket science is it?

  3. SEO is not Rocket Science
    I’m sure you’ve been there before, discussing search engine optimisation with a so called expert and he/she talks in riddles and makes SEO seem extremely complex. Well it’s not – there can be quite a lot to it if you are targeting a competitive key phrase, but in most cases it’s pretty straight forward.

  4. SEO only drives traffic!
    One major misconception I come across with people who know a little about SEO is that they sell SEO as a way to drive business through your company. Well the fact is that all is SEO does is drive traffic. Of course with more traffic, it should in turn produce more sales – putting more effort into focusing on building a website site that will convert as many visitors to your website as possible will in the long run be more useful than having a website that only a search engine can understand.

  5. SEO does not Educate!
    A lot of SEO’s sell SEO as the holy grail in terms of marketing your business. The fact is that SEO only targets people who already know about a service or product you provide. If you have a brand new concept or product that n0-one knows about – SEO will not help you get in front of the people that are likely to buy your product or service.

  6. SEO is just Good Web Design
    Every website we build now includes FREE on-site search engine optimisation – we just call it building search engine friendly websites. A lot of SEOs like to class themselves as elite God like beings that are more important than Web Designers themselves. But they’re not and the reality is that you should be thinking about making your website search engine friendly from the time you start building your website. I used to be shocked at how little HTML knowledge a lot of SEO experts actually have. Iif you don’t understand how a website is built under-the-hood, how the hell can you really understand SEO??

  7. SEO Forums / Blogs aren’t always right and are often taken out of context!
    One of my pet hates is discussing SEO with someone who has read up a little about SEO and automatically assumes that the information they have read is the Bible truth. If you happen to be reading an SEO article online, please check the date the article was published. Chances are the information you have is incorrect or well out of date.Also, please ensure you are taking everything in context and not just jumping at conclusions without testing. SEO is all about trial and error – NEVER assume anything!!

    For a classic example of how unconfirmed theories send shockwaves through a whole industry, read this article – a prime example of an out there theory… http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/7594-is-email-reputation-now-a-google-ranking-factor

  8. Matt Cutts is not an SEO
    Yes I’m sorry Matt lovers, but have you ever seen any websites that Matt himself has personally performed a search engine optimisation job on? Well I haven’t, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t of course! 

    Yes, one thing he has got over us all is that he has inside information. How much is questionable as he rarely seems to throw out anything more than the obvious.

    He’s constantly being taken out of context, with a lot of people taking what he says as “fact”, without reading into the actual meaning of his comments in the overall picture of things.

SEO? The bottom is that anyone can can do it. That sole reason is why we now have a market saturated with SEOs that claim to be God’s gift to Number 1 rankings on Google.

The SEO industry has become one that preys on vulnerable companies who will never truly understood how the web nor search engines work, but believe the hype that is discussed at length at nearly every business seminar across the country.

There’s no doubt SEO is important, but its value in most cases has been greatly over exaggerated. For any website to be a success, you must create a search engine friendly website at the very least – whether you should go further depends very much on the competition in your field.

SEO is in the gutter as far as I’m concerned – from the companies that offer you “guaranteed No. 1 spots on Google” to companies who offer “link building services” from websites with little or no value. And of course we have the SEOs who think 301 redirects are the solution to all your problems, it just gets more ridiculous as time passes.

Maybe Eoghan saw all this long before the rest of us, one things for sure… he certainly seen it before me.

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Online Marketing has gone to the dogs

It’s been nearly 8 years now since I started online marketing company 2bscene. At the time, there weren’t many dedicated online marketing companies around. Most companies offering online marketing services were either web design or advertising agencies trying to cash in on what was clearly going to be a massive growth area of business.

Search Engine Optimisation was still pretty much in it’s infancy and I had built up 4 years experience of search engine optimisation of websites before I started 2bscene. God, in those days it was a hell of a lot easier to rank than it is today.

Of course, Google Adwords wasn’t around then, so there were fewer online marketing opportunities. We did have a number of online advertising options, but they were limited generally to banner advertisements and advertorials.

There was nothing as popular, nor as effective as Google Adwords is today. Banner advertisements were beginning their steep decline in click through rates and search engine optimisation was hardly heard of.

In fact organic search engine optimisation was the only real option for many businesses to get found online, yet little knew about this little secret never mind recognise it’s potential.

I have to admit, I didn’t come from a marketing background when I started 2bscene. I naively opted to study music and live my dream rather than contemplate choosing a college course that would enhance my career! However marketing was something that always interested me greatly.

I had gained significant marketing experience (and interest) in the companies I had worked with before setting up 2bscene and felt I could effectively build and grow a company selling online marketing services. Online marketing was a new and exciting way for businesses to promote their brand and there were very few companies offering the service in Ireland. Therefore the only thing I could be judged on was the results I achieved.

Fast forward 8 years and oh how the landscape has changed.

I had many reasons for setting 2bscene up as a solely online marketing services company. One of the main reasons was to distinguish my business from other web design companies.

At the time web design companies were popping up all over the place, everyone you talked to knew someone who was a web designer. Of course, you could still only count the good ones on one hand, but the surge in growth of these cheap and nasty web design companies was rapidly helping to deteriorate the web design market. From students working from their parents bedroom to the fly by night web designers who have disappeared off the face of earth, they all did little to enhance the reputation of a “web designer”. In fact, they did the complete opposite.

I get it all the time from new clients “we had a falling out with our web designer” or “we can’t get in touch with our web designer”. The perception of a web designer followed through in many advertising campaigns with the likes of IBM featuring web designers off snowboarding while their was a disaster taking place at the office. Web designers became a breed of people who could simply not be trusted to be there in a time of need.

The student type web designer brought web design to a level where a lot of people expect web designers to work for free or next to free. In their naive approach to business, they’d undertake to do a job only to realise they would bore with the client and their requests quite rapidly. In some cases, they thought the best solution was to do a huge amount of work for free in order to get the client off their backs. And of course, there were those who simply said the job is too big for me and disappeared, never to be contacted again.

Now the same thing seems to be happening with the online marketing industry. In fact, everyone wants to be or claims to be a search engine optimisation expert nowadays. I’ve never in my life encountered so many people in any other industry I’ve worked in, that claim to know more than the expert they have hired to do the job for them.

A times it can be a major struggle to have a reasonable discussion with a client/potential client about how best to market their website. There are a lot who feel that they are near experts in search engine optimisation because they have done “a lot” of research on the subject. A little knowledge is probably the most disruptive of all.

It doesn’t help much when businesses like “Snap Printing” decide that they are all of a sudden web marketing and web design experts because they now offer these services to clients. Pretty much all of our clients have been approached by UK online marketing companies offering to get their site listed at the top of Google for €x per month which is clearly a total scam. Yet, clients still question and compare the work we do, to what these shower offer.

Look let’s face it, search engine optimisation is not rocket science and is not hugely difficult when you know what to do. Anyone who has done even the most basic research on search engine optimisation could possibly rank a site for a non competitive keyphrase, that’s fact. But there is one key skill to search engine optimisation that I feel is the most important strength and that is… experience. Because search engine optimisation is changing all the time, having the experience to notice the changes that have occurred and why makes the job a whole lot easier.

Google Adwords and other pay per click solutions are similar. Pretty much anyone can get an account set up and get your site listed in the top results, but the value add from a professional comes in when they help you get the most bang for your buck. Experience is what makes the pros stand out from the rest.

I find it incredibly sad that the industry has come to this as I feel like the bubble is about to burst on the whole industry. In the past, there was a massive burst bubble for the web design industry. Web designers admittedly charged well over the odds for a simple website that never had a chance of generating a return on the investment. This led to many businesses believing that having a website was not a worthy investment for their business and opted not to have one at all. Web designers in the past year saw a massive rush by the companies without websites finally realising that the web was the way to go, but again a lot opted for the cheap option rather than choosing a true professional to do the work.

When I look around at the new so called experts that are leading the industry today, I find it hard to see any real quality. It seems to be the same old faces who you can rely on and trust. The problem with that is that a lot of these are too busy to handle the smaller clients and therefore the smaller online marketing companies are picking up the pieces and doing a pretty woeful job.

A recession is no better time to weed out the poor companies, but I just hope it doesn’t take too long for these guys to get found out!

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Google update Keyword Tool accuracy

Google in 1998, showing the original logo
Image via Wikipedia

If you haven’t used the Google Keyword Tool lately to find keywords to target in your SEO campaign, you should really go back and check again. Google recently updated their keyword tool and have made it a lot more accurate than it was in the past.

Those used to using the Google Keyword Tool, probably took these results with a pinch of salt. Google Keyword Tool was nothing more than a very good guide as to what the most popular search terms being used to find a product or service relating to your business.

Every SEO has his/her way of deciphering the data presented by Google’s keyword tool. Some simply divided the results by 10, while others divided it in half. Whatever your method was,you should really go and reassess your keywords as soon as possible.

Some examples provided by other online marketing experts show massive differences in what is reported in the latest update compared to the old date. For example the term “Golf Clubs” once recorded as having over 165,000 searches per month is now down to just over 33,000.

Google of course, haven’t commented on the update – it’s no wonder considering a lot of people based their online marketing strategy on the free tools they provide.

What are you waiting for? Go check your keywords now https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

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Tools for Building a Successful Online Marketing Campaign

Online marketing is quite a broad term used to describe the act of marketing a business or web-site online. It encompasses all online marketing activities such as Search Engine Optimisation, Pay Per Click, Email Advertising, Google Advertising, Banner Advertising and of course Social Media Advertising.

If you’ve ever met someone and discussed online marketing with someone who works in the online marketing industry, you were probably amazed at how much knowledge this person had of the Internet and its usage. Every Internet marketing expert I know loves to recite the latest statistics on the growth of social media marketing, browser usage and pretty much anything other useful online statistics. Most people I know look at online marketing as some sort of god like skill that only the elite and very web savvy fellows can possess. Much of this can be blamed on the self hype created by a lot of these new wave “marketing experts” who think only they possess this knowledge. The reality is that anyone can do this job and a lot of the tools they use to gather key statistical knowledge about your business is at your fingertips and generally for FREE!

Researching your target market is the key to a successful marketing campaign, whether online or off. But what information should you be looking for and where can you find it?

  1. Keyword Tools
    It sounds like the most obvious place to start, yet the majority of people I encounter every day don’t know that they can get statistics on the number of times a search for their product or service was searched for on a monthly basis. Not only do they not know they could get access to this information, they certainly didn’t know it was free!Keyword Tools are the best place to start when planning any online marketing campaign.

    Keyword tools allow you to quickly establish the amount of interest there is in your product or service by showing how often a keyphrase was searched for on a monthly basis across the major search engines. Most go one step further and create a list of other suggested relevant keyphrases that that people are using for when searching for the products or services you offer. A good keyword tool will also you to drill down to see statistics relating to searches in your locality as opposed to just globally.

    Google Keyword Tool is probably the best free Keyword Tool available on the web today.
    https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

  2. Google Ad Planner
    It’s not surprising that since Google make the majority of their revenue from Advertising that they would offer another great free service to help you establish how best to market your business online, step up Google Ad Planner.

    Google bought Doubleclick back in 2007 for $3.1 billion. Since then they’ve rolled out the Google Ad Planner to its network of advertisers. What’s great about Google Ad Planner is that you can research and select some of the web’s top properties that you would like to advertise your business on. It allows you to view statistical data such as the number of visits per month, search terms used to find the website and the demographics of users (where possible) of most of the webs largest online properties. You can pretty much see statistical usage information on any website that have advertising opportunities open to the public.

    If you want your advertisement to appear on some of the webs most popular websites, this is where your research should start.
    www.google.com/adplanner/

  3. Facebook
    There are over 1.5 million people in Ireland with a Facebook account, that’s simply a market too big to ignore. Facebook offer an advertising system similar to Google Adwords that allows advertisers to target specific users based on a number of different criteria such as sex, age, location, interests etc.

    A lot of web marketing experts use the Facebook “Create an Advert” system to get an idea of the demographics of those using Facebook. It’s quite a nifty little tool that updates immediately on screen as you select different criteria. Of course, you don’t have to complete the advert to access this extremely valuable information. Another great tool that is absolutely free!

    www.facebook.com/ads/create/

  4. Google Trends
    This is probably the least effective of all tools mentioned, but it’s definitely worthy of being in the list. Google Trends allows you to compare the world’s most popular topics. One really good feature in Google Trends is the ability to see the rise or fall of certain search terms used to find your product or service.

    For example, you could try a search for “online marketing, SEO“. The results will show you how people searching for the term “online marketing” has stayed pretty stagnant over the last 6 years, while searches for “SEO” have grown substantially. With this knowledge I can see what terms are best to focus now.

    Another cool feature to Google Trends is to see which terms are most popular in different countries.

    www.google.com/trends

  5. Google Adwords
    I always suggest Google Adwords as a tool to anyone who plans on marketing their business online. I’ve left it until very last because it’s the only one of the tools I have suggested that is not free. However, although it’s not free, it can be a hugely beneficial tool for gaining insights into the habits of those people you are targeting can be.

    Even running a small Google Adwords campaign on a budget of just €50 will give you invlauable information that you simply wouldn’t be able to gather in any other way. Google Adwords is instant, your advert is live within minutes and you can quickly analyse the performance of your advert on so many levels.

    Setting up and running a Google Adwords campaign is simple, but running an effective one is actually quite difficult. You should spend time learning about Google Adwords and how it works to fine tune your campaign.

    www.google.com/adwords

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Getting your website listed on Google

Another common question we are asked on a regular basis is, “How do I get my website listed on Google??

Getting your website listed on Google, is probably one of the easiest things to do when it comes to marketing your website online. It takes only one of a few small steps to make Google’s search bots aware of your website. But just how quickly these search bots come crawling your website to include your website in their search results page depends on which route you take to try get it listed.

When you do eventually get your website listed on Google, remember that this is only half the battle. If you haven’t taken other steps to optimise your website, the likelyhood is that that your website will only be found if someone is looking for your brand or company name.

When 75-80% of people looking for a product or service they require, you can quickly establish that being found only for your business or brand isn’t going to be enough to get the kind of traffic you want.

Here are 4 simple ways of getting your website listed on Google:

  1. Use the Google Add URL page
    Google allows you to add your website address to Google using the following page http://www.google.com/addurl/. This is probably one of the slowest methods of achieving a listing on Google but it works none-the-less.

  2. Get links from other websites
    This method is by far the best way in which you can use to get listed on Google. Links from third party websites are the cornerstone of search engine optimisation, so if you have another website or know someone else who has one, ask them to put a link on their most popular page back to your website.

    It’s not enough to get a link from a page hidden deep down in someone else’s website. The trick is to find a page with a high Google PageRank*. Pages with a higer PageRank are generally crawled by Search Engines more regaularly than those with lower PageRank.

    *The PAGE (and not website) that you receive the link from should ideally have a Google PageRank of 4 or more. You can check a web pages Google PageRank, by downloading and installing the Google Toolbar (www.google.com/toolbar). You will need to edit the settings in order to turn it on.

  3. Socialise
    What I mean by this is that you should start letting people know about your website. Whether that be through posting your link on Twitter, Facebook or even commenting on your favourite blog or discussion forum it all helps to generate links back to your website.

    What I don’t mean is that you should go spamming the world with links back to your website. Using Twitter for example, you post a link to your website and ask your followers to the visit the website. Or when commenting on a blog article, include your website address as part of the posting process.

  4. Add your site to Search Directories
    If all else fails and you are finding it hard to get links back to your website, you can always look at getting links from web directories. There are thousands of search directories that allow you to add your link for free. The same methodology for getting links from other websites applies, look for PAGES with a PageRank of 4 or more.

    Here are a few Irish directories you could add your website to:
    www.search.ie
    www.armchair.ie
    www.browseireland.com

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