Just What Is This SEO And Is It Real In 2017?
The time has arrived when we should review Search Engine Optimization, it is widely discussed and promoted as a service but exactly what is going on, and why should we be interested?
SEO is regarded as being the ultimate craft and skill among digital experts, and among website builders all over the world. The development of the web as a public space, as a means to publish all kinds of content that is easily accessed by us all, brought with it an entire raft of related issues, and problems. Just how can we ensure our materials actually get through to the groups of people we intend to address – how can we maximize our visibility?
This in essence is the objective of anyone taking the trouble to publish something ‘online’. Bear with me here, I know this may seem simplistic but it is important we are crystal clear about what we are dealing with. There is far too much over complication and obfuscation taking place among IT exponents and digital services; it is somewhat akin to any professional area, the language used serves to exclude many people and therefore creates an exclusivity, an impression of high value – like Food Criticism for example.
It was the enormous growth of Google, specifically, that triggered the emergence of SEO as being a distinct service area.
Optimization Is Nothing New
Certainly the basic principles of optimizing published materials are by no means new, every publisher of books and newspapers understands the importance of making their offerings as appealing and marketable as possible. So, we need to understand that optimization refers to any effort you put into producing something, or performing an activity, which is intended to improve and boost the quality and performance of that production – maximizing the chances of success.
OK, the intentions and principles of optimization are pretty clear, and easy enough to understand. So what kinds of things can we do to optimize our websites, videos, articles and other digital content?
Before we begin talking of technique, method, steps and tricks we need to be very clear about the realities of the world. Even if something is optimally positioned, glaringly visible and accessible, this does not mean it will automatically be more successful; there is the question of just how desirable and viable a business offering is to begin with. We are all familiar with offerings that are very poor quality but they gain popularity, fashions and trends are an unpredictable phenomenon, people can be highly unpredictable!
Who could have foreseen that everyday tap water packaged and marketed as being ‘spring water’ (reverse osmosis filtered-most water originates in springs at some point) would become a massive industry? If you spoke to an ordinary person in 1975 about this you would have been laughed out of the room.
SEO has generated an entire specialist group, in fact large businesses have sprung up to serve up the latest wisdom and guidance, and of course wherever there is money to be made and kudos to be gained personalities also emerge as being thought leaders and champions of particular schools of thought. SEO has polarized into two main streams, these are: White Hat & Blackhat. Very dramatic and romantic labels!
To chart the development of these two polarities would take a long time, and involve a lot of research and description. It is not useful to do this for the sake of offering a useful account; that would be a project for a completely besotted nerd. For the purpose of this article it is sufficient to identify the major characteristics of them both, and to assess if these two schools are still of any interest to us as everyday users of the WWW in our businesses.
- Fully support and follow the Terms of Service of Google
- Perceive SEO as being a long-term process
- Are concerned with producing high quality content
- Accept that ranking occurs incrementally
- Are methodical and scientific, but also aware of ‘wild cards’
- Strive to work ethically, and fair minded
- Regard the Terms of Service of Google as a challenge, to be appeased but circumvented
- Always chasing quick results and dramatic numbers
- Have zero interest in the quality of content, will use any technical short cut to produce it
- Have impatience with the entire process
- Are sometimes criminal
- Tend to regard internet users with contempt, and can be sociopaths (not necessarily and certainly not as a rule).
Just like the old Western movies, when the good guy wore a white cowboy hat, and the villain a black one – this duality, of good and less good intentions is of course a little simplistic. Although there are obviously always those who seek to profit at the cost and inconvenience, and even well being of others.
There are forums which cater to the white and black hatted communities – however this separation of the SEO camp is becoming less and less relevant due to improvements and evolution of search technology, and how the internet syndicates content.
As always I seek to provide the most useful account of this topic, as opposed to being academic, or technically detailed. Business owners, as people seeking to make our living, serve our communities, and just use technology in an everyday context are too often presented with impenetrable information. Those who seek to profit by positioning themselves as ‘Experts’ too often are disingenuous.
Private Blog Networks
The current state of play regarding SEO is that the major service providers offer you leverage of their expertise, and this often takes the form of what is known in the game as a ‘PBN’ – this used to refer to networks of websites that had a high page rank, and overall rank, these private blog networks were outed by Google and the algorithm adjusted to remove any advantage from these links.
However, the PBN of today is likely to be a legitimate site which also occupies a high search rank – but it is highly specific, often domains with a few years on them, and indistinguishable with a typical website in a given niche. The ideal ‘PBN of today is in fact just another site ideally which can be leveraged to provide ‘link juice’.
Now, PBN’s are strictly against the terms of service of Google – but the cunning webmasters know that links are still the major currency of website ranking. They are not the only factor by any means, but the world wide web is built around linkages, it is inescapable. So the more successful SEO services gain their reputation through owning lots of high ranking websites they can place links on to provide significant leverage to your site-thereby giving you an ‘unfair advantage’ for which you will pay a generous fee. Make no mistake about that – it costs.
Is this the only way SEO can work, is it really so corrupt? Well fortunately back-links can be gained legitimately, and there are other factors which contribute to your site, or digital content syndicating and gaining position. SEO is now all about every aspect of building web property, each element adds its weight – now more than ever you need to have people who know what they are doing when you have your website and other content published. It is critical that your digital presence be managed to attain wide distribution of your presence – it is no longer about simply being found on page 1 of Google. The mobile and social media revolution has resulted in an opportunity to gain more visibility from syndication.
In terms of White & Black hats, those SEO services offering you quick results are most likely to be those who own, or have commercial access to hidden resources – there is a risk involved because these are strictly against TOS (terms of service) and businesses have suffered in the past by unwittingly gaining their online traffic from PBN links and being discovered by the ever-vigilant Google engineers and being de-indexed.
There are however, absolutely ‘kosher’ SEO services, these tend to be from those offering a range of digital services, not simply ‘SEO’. Because optimization is a compound, complex and all-inclusive approach – the net result of building websites, producing content, video, text with a high quality production value and with syndication as the objective, is that your web presence gains rank, and visibility. If you also add some legitimate powerful links gained honestly, and with skill & outreach – you are going to gain the best possible outcomes.
Search Engine Optimization is not simply a service which you apply to a business website, it is now all about ongoing management, it is the sum total of many different approaches, it is the entire production values of any given online publication.
No doubt I will get attacked by some for saying this, everywhere there are self-styled experts who seek to bamboozle business owners and collect their inflated fees, to promote themselves as being ‘miracle workers’. SEO is certainly a valid digital topic, but it has changed significantly – SEO begins when your website/video/content is first developed, don’t be deceived by the unscrupulous purveyors of false information – as always ‘Caveat Emptor’ is the watchword, we certainly offer SEO services, but they are integrated into everything we do, if you are not optimizing your digital content as you go, you are planning to fail.
The nature of SEO will always attract controversy and mystique, because the mechanisms by which online content gets to be made visible are complex, ‘links ‘aint links’ could be the throwaway term, not only visible but targeted and positioned favorably- Syndication is the ultimate objective.