I've been involved with search engine optimization for nearly a decade now and over the years continued to adapt to and adopt the ever-changing techniques that are associated with maintaining relevance in search engines and keeping ahead of competition.
As search still remains an inseparable part of the online experience in nearly every aspect of information query, it's important to evolve an SEO strategy that supports the overall content of your message as well as adapt that strategy to support individual pages of your site.
As much and as often as the landscape of search changes, one thing that never seems to change is how most clients misinterpret what SEO is and the time it involves to be successful.
So let's go through a few things and set the record straight.
1. SEO is not a quick-fix solution.
Search is generally the first tool people turn to for any type of initial query. This means a large part of the traffic you depend on for recognition is organic search. In order for traffic to find you through a search engine, your content has to answer a user's query. In other words, it has to be optimized for search.
There's no SEO add-on or plugin technology that you can purchase that optimizes your content for better rankings in search engines. And while relevance is dependent on keywords and language, it's not a magic wand type of event where proper placement of either suddenly gets you those rankings.
It's a time-driven, data-driven, built-in effort that relies on detailed research, constant measuring of data, and the tweaking of relevant keywords and page content, that hopefully boosts your ranking potential over time.
There are SEO fixes you can do right now to set those things in motion, but even the best of on-page optimization is not enough to boost rankings on its own.
2. SEO is not just about on-page optimization.
As I stated, on-page optimization alone will not drive rankings. It can if there is zero competition for your industry – as can be the case with specialized niche marketing – but that is generally not the norm with most businesses and should not be where you put your money.
Part of better rankings also comes from credible, outside sources linking to your content. Search engine ranking has always been about popularity. When other high-profile sites link to you, it lends credibility to your content. The more reputable sites that link to you, the more query-relevant you become to search engines like Google. And that helps drives up rankings.
Outside sources can be many things:
related industry sites, mentions from well-established news sites, social mentions, or a link from any authoritative site that establishes relevance for your content.
your content marketing efforts. This includes branded content you create for your social media pages that point back to your site's content, or from video content, images, webinars, slideshares, and other media that do the same.
paid traffic. In particular, advertising. While paid traffic is a separate entity from SEO, it involves proper keyword selection for the content of your advertisement just as SEO works keywords into your website content.
3. SEO will not make a bad product good.
As credibility is everything when it comes to ranking, you can have the best on-page optimization and all the content marketing and advertising you can create, but if your product or service or information provided gets panned by others, you will not convert traffic.
Reviews make or break you as an organization. And how others feel about your products or services will affect your rankings, too. If you want good rankings in Google or Bing or another search engine, you better make sure your stuff is up to snuff or it will reflect in those review sites that mention you poorly.
With Google's recent Hummingbird algorithm upgrade, context is becoming more and more a metric in calculating content value.
Google doesn’t reward inferior products with top rankings. They want to show only the best results to user queries in their search engine. No amount of SEO will help you in this case.
Some final thoughts on SEO.
For the most part, SEO is merely an educated guess at what makes for good ranking practices, similar to throwing enough mud against the wall and seeing what sticks.
Bottom line is that you can't expect SEO to overcome any ranking issues unless you consider everything it involves. But Google and other search engines hold their algorithm secrets close to their chests, so neither you nor any SEO expert will ever know precisely what works.
However, SEO experts have thrown enough mud at the wall to realize that with a combination of on-page optimization, content marketing, advertising, external links, social mentions, positive reviews, and, among other things, time, search engine optimization can take a poorly ranked site and improve rankings so that your business attracts a higher percentage of traffic.
Nothing is guaranteed with search rankings. And your site may take all of the above or just a few of the above to work. But the one thing it will definitely require before you see any success is time.