The Seven Secret Skills of SEO Work
There is a lot of talk on the web regarding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how, if you just do this one little thing, you will be at the top of Google. If only it were that easy! In fact, now I believe there are seven distinct skills that a search engine optimizer needs to possess. Most people possess one or maybe two of these skills, very rarely do people posses all seven. In truth, to get all seven, people who are good at two of these need to actively develop the other skills. This takes time and effort plus, if you are running your own business, do you really have the time to do this?
The seven skills that I believe are necessary for SEO work are:
Web Design – producing visually attractive pages
HTML coding - developing Search Engine friendly coding that sits behind the web design
Copy writing – producing the actual readable text on the page
Marketing – what are the actual searches that are being used, what key words actually get more business for your company?
An eye for detail - even the smallest errors can stop spiderbots visiting your site
Patience - there is a time lag on any change you make, waiting is a virtue.
IT skills - an appreciation of how search engine programs and the algorithms that are used actually work.
Many website designers produce more and ever more eye-catching designs with animations and clever rollover buttons hoping to entice people onto their sites. That is the first big mistake; using designs like these may actually decrease your chances of a high Google rating. Yes, that’s right; all that money you have paid for the website design could be wasted since no-one will ever find your site.
The reason is that before you get people to a site you need to get the spiderbots to like your site. Spiderbots are pieces of software used by the search engine companies to trawl the Internet looking at all the websites, and then having reviewed the found sites, they use complex algorithms to rank the sites. Some of the complex techniques used by web designers cannot be trawled by spiderbots. They come to your site, look at the HTML code and exit stage right, without even bothering to rank your site. So, you will not be found on any meaningful search.
I am dazed and amazed how many times I look at websites and I suddenly know they are just waste of money. The trouble is that both the web designers and the company that paid the money really do not want to know this. In fact, now I have stopped playing the messenger of bad news (too many shootings!); I now work round the problem. So, optimizing a website to be Google friendly is often a compromise between the visual attractiveness of your site and how easy to find it is.
The second skill is that of optimizing the actual HTML code to be spiderbot friendly. I put this as different to the web design because you really do need to be “down and dirty” in the code rather than using an editor like FrontPage, which is OK for website design. This skill takes lots of time and experience to develop, and just when you think that you have cracked it, the search engine companies change the algorithms used to calculate how high your site will appear in the search results.
That is no place for even the most enthusiastic amateur. Results need to be constantly monitored, pieces of code added or removed, and checks kept on what the competition are doing. Many people who design their own website feel they will get searched because it looks good, and totally miss out this step. Without a strong technical understanding of how spiderbots work, you will always struggle to get your company on the first results page in Google. We actually run seven test domains which are testing different theories with different search engines. Remember that different search engines use different criteria and algorithms to rank your site - one size does not fit all.
Thirdly, I suggested that copy writing is a skill in its own right. That is the writing of the actual text that people coming to your site will read. The Googlebot and other spiderbots like Inktomi, love text – but only when written well in properly constructed English. Some people try to stuff their site with keywords, while others put white writing on white space (so spiderbots can see it but humans cannot).
Spiderbots are very sophisticated and not only will not fall for these tricks, but they may actively penalize your site – in Google terms, and that is sandboxing. Google takes new sites and “naughty” sites and effectively sin-bins them for 3-6 months, you can still be found but not until results page 14 – really useful! In addition to good English, the spiderbots are also reading the HTML code, so the copy writer also needs an appreciation of the interplay between the two. My recommendation for anyone copy writing their own site is to write normal, well-constructed English sentences that can be read by machine and human alike.
The fourth skill is marketing, after all that is what we are doing – marketing your site and hence company and products/services on the World Wide Web. The key here is to set the site up to be accessible to the searches that will provide most business to you. I have seen many sites that can be found as you key in the company name. Others that can be found by keying in “Accountant Manchester North-West England”, which is great, except no-one ever actually does that search. So the marketing skill requires knowledge of a company’s business, what they are really trying to sell and understanding of what actual searches may provide dividends.
The next skill is an eye for detail. Even a simple change to a web page can create an error that means the spiderbots will not crawl your site. Recently, I put a link to a page that didn't have www. at the front of the address. Interestingly, the link still worked but the spiders stopped crawling, and it took my partner to find the error. We have recently bought a very sophisticated html validator that picks up errors that other validators just fail to see. These errors do not stop the pages displaying correctly to the human eye, but cause massive problems with spiderbots. Almost all the code that I look at on the web using this validator flags major errors, even from SEO companies.
The sixth skill is patience, or is it a virtue! Some people want to make daily changes and then think that they can track the web page results the next day. Unfortunately, it can take a week for absolutely correct changes to take effect, in which time you have made six other changes. Add to this Google's reticence to allow new sites straight on to its databases by adding some waiting factor of, maybe, three months for new sites, and you have a totally uncontrollable situation. We say to all our clients that a piece of SEO work should be looked at like your marketing campaign that runs for six months, since it is only after that time a true judgment of the effectiveness of the work can be made.
The final and seventh skill is an appreciation of how search engines and algorithms work, for that is where both IT and maths experience is useful. People who have programmed at detailed systems level have a natural feeling for how spiderbots will read a page, what they will search for, what tables they will set up, what weightings they may give to different elements. All of this builds a picture of the database that will be created and how it will be accessed when the search is undertaken. Unfortunately, this skill now is the most difficult one to learn as it relies on many years experience of systems programming.
So, in summary, now I would say "If it was easy everyone would be doing
this”. I hope you will see that professional Search Engine Optimization
companies need more than a bit of web design to improve your business.
Make sure anyone you choose for SEO work can cover all the bases.
Can we assist your business? Just email us now with your site details and we'll have quick look and let you know what we can do for you.