SEO: Search Engine Optimisation

SEO, as developed around the first dot.com boom, is all about smoke and mirrors.

Deceit.

It should be long dead and buried, but it's still practised by multitudes of Indian firms reading from decade-old "secret" texts and resold via their white-label resellers in Western countries.

Here's the story.

In the beginning, there were multiple search engines. People went to the search engines because they wanted answers, fast.

Google's business model was to give them answers, fast. That meant Google wanted the best, most comprehensive, accurate and recent information that was directly relevant to the search to be displayed at the top of the search results. They started developing search techniques to deliver those results. 

Users responded to this business model and now Google dominates the search world.

Website owners however felt that the work of creating all this information was too much.

They soon discovered that they could trick Google into thinking they had good information.

In the beginning, Google relied on what the site told them about its content. So the SEO gurus would just stack each page with hidden keywords and Google would be tricked.

Smoke and mirrors.  Too easy.

Then Google started directly assessing the quality of the content. More recently, they started assessing the user response to a site visit, for example by measuring whether users stayed with a site a while (a measure of satisfaction) or whether they had to search further. They started measuring how influential people who interacted with the site were. The range of measures expanded dramatically.  And Google started detecting SEO tricks and imposing search-rank penalties for them. Gross SEO trickery can get sites pushed permanently to the bottom of Google searches.

Now SEO is not too easy, it's too hard: it's less effort to actually give people what they want, which is good quality information.

You'd think this would have driven the SEO mob out of business, but they are still furiously spamming inboxes and there are still business owners who will swear you can get a page one by keyword stacking or back-linking or some other trickery (not that they have ever done it), oblivious to the serious harm that such behaviour can do to a website's ranking.

So here's the truth about optimising your search engine results. Find out what your target audience wants, and give it to them. Comprehensive, accurate, up-to-date, stick-to-the-facts information that's quick to sort through and easy to read. You'll get to page one. It may take you a little longer, but your results will be more stable and durable.

Of course, there are some things you can do to help. Keywords that help the search engine bots. Constantly refreshing material. On-site video and user-interaction. Perhaps social media connections.

Beyond that, the list of small things you can do is endless and ever changing. None of these small things is in any way as important or powerful as giving people the information they want.

SEO as a business model

Classic SEO was only ever concerned with getting people to your site. Inbound traffic was counted. Not with what happened to that traffic after it reached your site.

Why is that? Because if your success was based on tricking Google, you were also tricking your customers. They were looking for information, you tricked them into going to your site but the information they wanted was not there. So no transaction resulted. They now knew you as a poor quality supplier, they didn't come back and they warned others.

Traditional SEO is based on deceiving customers just as much as it is on deceiving Google.

And deceiving customers was a bad business practice before there was electricity, let alone websites.

Beyond SEO

You can look beyond SEO, to ask, How does my website advance my business model? What role must it play in my business model?

Asking these questions suggests a very different course of action for your website, its development and its promotion. See our page on websites for more on this.

It lead necessarily to increased customer focus, greater customer interaction and an emphasis on completed transactions leading to repeat customers.

SEO is one, not very big (and getting smaller) cog in that wider view.