Pulling back the curtain on the dark art of SEO [Q&A]
Search engine optimization (SEO), making sure that websites appear high in search results, can often seem like it exists in a sort of twilight zone somewhere between science and witchcraft.
So, how does SEO work? What can it do for your business? And if you do any business at all online, can you afford not to do it? We spoke to Chris Rodgers, the founder and CEO of SEO agency Colorado SEO Pros to get answers to these and other questions.
BN: Why is there such a mystique surrounding SEO?
CR: SEO is really just not understood by most people, there's no magic, witchcraft or tricks that sends you to the top of the search rankings to make you rich. SEO is a complex marketing channel that requires ongoing work over a considerable period of time in order to increase rankings (for the right terms), increase organic traffic, and ultimately achieve conversions that make your business money.
BN: Isn't it just about getting the right keywords?
CR: No. This is akin to saying having a fast car is really about having 4 wheels. Yes, you need to target the right keywords but there are over 200 factors in Google’s algorithm combined with an AI processing engine that no one completely understands (including Google). SEO results are determined by a combination of on-page SEO factors, off-page SEO factors, and technical SEO factors. We are also managing Google’s constantly changing algorithm as well as a constantly changing competitive landscape.
BN: How do you know your SEO is working?
CR: If your SEO is working you should see KPIs consistently increase over time (assuming you have properly set up tracking within analytics). Typical KPIs you want to be tracking include; keyword rankings, organic traffic, landing page organic visits, and most importantly, website conversions such as form fills, phone calls, and websites sales.
BN: Can you do it yourself or do you need an expert?
CR: There are certain aspects you can do yourself (such as content creation), but you definitely don't want to manage an entire campaign unless you have been trained by a professional and have ongoing support through the process. Doing SEO the wrong way can lead to some extremely negative outcomes such as Google penalties, lost performance, and ultimately lost revenue.
BN: What are some of the errors people make with their SEO?
CR: Some of the biggest mistakes include trying to do it yourself, developing a site before you have established your SEO strategy, buying links, buying SEO services from non-professionals or do-it-yourself practitioners. SEO is expensive for a reason, if you can't afford to hire a professional agency consider hiring a consultant on a limited basis. If you are south of $1k/month you are in the danger zone and may be hiring someone who is cutting corners by outsourcing or using software that can lead to penalties and poor SEO outcomes. You truly get what you pay for here, ask yourself what the value of ranking #1 for your top keywords might be for your business, are you paying an amount commensurate with that value?
BN: Isn't SEO a constant battle against Google's algorithms?
CR: In a way yes, but if you are following Google's guidelines and not trying to scam your way to the top it's not that crazy. It is challenging to deal with a moving target, but only the scammers and black hat practitioners have that much trouble with Google's algorithm. If you are following the rules and truly trying to provide value to your site visitors through high quality content, Google wants you to rank. If you want to skip the work and just rank ahead of better developed websites, you are going about it the wrong way and will not be happy with the long-term results.
BN: How do you see SEO evolving over the next few years?
CR: Content is still king, and this is not going to change. However, the content that people want and how they consume it is changing. Voice search and mobile usage are two of the biggest trends moving towards the future. Creating content around questions people are asking and making sure your site is optimized for mobile and loading quickly (two to four seconds per page) are some steps you can start taking now. Google will continue to try to advance their algorithm to make it easier for good quality websites and business to rank higher, without the technical know-how that SEO agencies like ours provide. Focus on building a high quality site with lots of expert level information, and try to provide your customers with the detailed information they need to make decisions and solve problems.