As part of my job at the company where I work, I basically “taught myself” how to do SEO.
It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight.
I don’t claim to be an absolute SEO expert, but I have learned a few tricks and shortcuts – I’m talking about ethical, effective, SEO strategies and tactics – not the sleazy and self-defeating kind that gets your site banned by Google.
Unfortunately, I gained this knowledge from hard-earned experience – by having a few run-ins with unqualified, unreliable SEO vendors.
The fact is, there are too many bad SEO firms out there who make unrealistic promises, use weird and shoddy methods, and cause more harm than good.
Especially a few years ago, the field of SEO services was kind of a Wild West, with too many fly-by-night firms claiming to be able to deliver results that were ultimately unsustainable as Google tweaked its algorithm.
The good news?
Good SEO matters and it makes a difference in your business results.
It is definitely possible – more than ever – to do SEO the right way to drive better search results and get more traffic to your site, without doing unethical tricks to game the system and without making your site sound like a robot wrote it.
I’ve learned lots of lessons along the way that may be valuable in helping your company do SEO the right way – or helping your SEO advisory firm to sell your services more effectively by building trust with your prospective clients.
Here are five things I wish I had known before I hired my first SEO vendor.
1. SEO Guarantees Are Often Unrealistic
If an SEO firm is promising you “top 10 search results on Google,” just run.
It isn’t realistic.
In fact, it’s impossible to guarantee a top spot on Google, especially for some of the more popular and competitive search keywords.
It takes a lot of time and work to get your site to climb the ladder on Google.
Don’t expect it to happen overnight, and don’t trust anyone who tells you they can do it.
2. SEO Takes Time
SEO is not something where you flip a switch and watch the results pour in – it’s an ongoing process.
You need to constantly tweak your site and adjust your SEO strategies, and then wait to see how Google views your results.
It’s like planting a garden – you have to plant the seeds, see which ones sprout and grow, and then you have to tend the garden over time to maintain the progress you’ve made.
The Google algorithm is constantly learning and adapting, so your SEO strategies need to keep up.
3. Don’t Worry About Keyword Density
My first SEO vendor tried to get me to rewrite the content for our site as if a robot could read it, and put way too much focus on including a certain percentage of keywords within the overall text.
After a certain point, keyword density just starts to sound ridiculous – it changes the whole voice and flow of your content, and makes it feel like you’re writing for a robot.
Maybe this worked back in 2009, but Google has gotten smarter since then.
Google tends to reward websites that have higher quality content, where the website actually is “about” what it claims to be about – you can’t just stuff your website full of “business” terms and expect Google to send customers to you.
By all means, include keywords and try to target the keywords that are important for your business, but don’t go crazy with calculating keyword densities.
Write with humanity, for a human audience.
4. Quality Links, Not Quantity Links
The SEO game used to be all about getting lots of links back to the site, even if you had to pay for links from shady link farms and other dark corners of the Internet.
The truth is: low-quality links are a loser’s game.
It isn’t about getting tons of links from lower-ranked sites; in fact, that’s bad.
Today, you want really good content that people want to read and share.
It’s better to work harder to get a few good links from well-respected sites (like Search Engine Journal) than to scrape the bottom of the barrel with an outdated link-building strategy.
Google judges you by the company you keep. If too many low-quality sites are linking to your site, your Google results will suffer.
5. Want Quick Results? Use Google Ads
If you need an immediate boost in your SEO, buy Google Ads for your most important search terms. This puts you at the top of the listings right away.
There’s a reason why Google gets most of its revenue from paid search ads: they work.
Check out the Google Ads Keyword Planner tool to get started.
Keep experimenting and learning.
Try new things and see what gets results.
You might be amazed at how much you can do with $500 of Google PPC ads, depending on your business and your target keywords.
SEO never ends, so you must commit to it as an ongoing process.
Spend some time every week or every day on doing some of the simple everyday things, such as:
Creating new content.
Updating your website.
Posting links to your site on social media.
All of this will help you build a sustainable, long-term SEO strategy.
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