SEO is hard, and not all businesses will succeed in their first effort to achieve search engine optimization success.
Failure is usually born from a lack of understanding of how SEO works, and how long it will take. What you need to be successful with SEO are realistic expectations. Too many people think that SEO is going to be fast, easy, or cheap. The truth is, it is none of the above.
It is not fast
What used to take six months to rank for can now easily take a year, possibly several.
It is not easy
What do you know that's easy that takes years to conquer?
It is not cheap
Considering the amount of time it takes for SEO to work, time = money.
SEO is not just a shotgun tactic. Search engine optimization is a strategy. It is the making of your company's online identity. And while the whole of it may not be fast, easy, or cheap, there are free tools to help you get a head start.
Free SEO Tools
There are plenty of tools to choose from. Most of these tools are subscription based or are proprietary to SEO companies. However, if you look in the right places, there is an abundance of free tools, including two from Google.
- Google Search Console allows you to see where your site might be breaking down, dead pages, poor user experiences, etc. Once these are identified, you can make improvements to increase traffic and conversions.
- Another go-to tool is Google Analytics. It offers detailed insights as to what pages on your website get traffic, the number of your website's visitors, the devices they use, screen resolutions, etc. This valuable information allows you to better curate your optimized content to your target audience.
Creating content is hard
Sit down and commit yourself to come up with a content calendar. A content calendar contains scheduled topics for weeks/months in advance for you to write about. That way, when it comes to writing day, you're not scratching your head wondering what topic to dive into.
I draft my content calendar for 52 weeks. This approach gives me a whole year's worth of topics ahead of time. While it takes a few weeks of research, the front-loaded efforts make content creation a smooth sailing process after that. You don't need to go as crazy with your topic planning as I do but start somewhere. Perhaps, start with a content calendar that has one month's worth of topics planned out.
While scraping content from other sites is not good, repurposing your own content can be fruitful.
After you've organized your content calendar and started producing weekly blog topics, that content can be repurposed into all sorts of other valuable media, including infographics and videos.
The more diversified media and content that is on your website, the better for you. Google will see your diverse portfolio of blogs, infographics, and videos on your target topics, consider you an authority on the subject, and reward you with higher rankings.
Stop Worrying About Google Algorithm Changes
Google's algorithm will always be changing. Because of the constant changes, business owners tend to take one of two mindsets.
- Dive in head first and go on a "money run." Get what gains you can, while you can, by any means you can. Crash and burn later.
- Strategize and don't try to game the system. Build up a credible online reputation and wait for the rewards long-term, all without the risk of an abrupt stop later.
#1 can bring a quicker return.
However, the gains are usually short-lived. By being too aggressive or using manipulative SEO tactics, you eventually create a footprint. And once Google identifies a footprint, the red flags go up and the search engine penalties can come out.
#2 takes longer. A lot longer.
But by building a reputable brand you set the foundation for long-term rewards with no search engine penalties.
Build It and They Will Come
Write blog posts which people would actually want to read and share. Make your website inviting, informative, readable and enjoyable. Tailor your content towards a real audience; not just search engines. It is important that your website reflects your passion for your industry. Your site should follow its mission and the search engines will follow.
There is no need to stuff your blog posts excessively with keywords and other gibberish which is aimed at a search engine. Play a straight game, be an authority, make the website readable and build content for real people to read.
The biggest benefit of outsourcing is saving time. Almost every process in building or maintaining a website can be outsourced. This includes copywriting, programming, web development, customer service, and more. However, the biggest potential problem is quality control.
The concept of outsourcing is not bad. What is important is to know who you are outsourcing to. With so many freelancer websites that offer SEO, it is important to remember that you get what you pay for.
Nowadays, it is no longer realistic to get proper SEO for a couple of hundred dollars. Simple math can tell you that all the time required to improve site structure + content creation + content distribution = a lot of time that is not free or cheap. If an overseas company says they can do SEO for $300, they're just taking your money and running.
Transparency is the key to quality outsourcing. Your SEO company should set clear expectations with you on where your money and their time will be spent. They should be able to tell you what they are going to do, the types of content that they will create, the links and mentions from other websites they will pursue, how they will build brand awareness, and other tasks. If they can communicate clearly, then that will minimize your risk in outsourcing.
BONUS: If an SEO company says that they have a "proprietary" method or tool, this is usually garbage. Run.
What is the best "SEO package?"
A common question my agency is asked is "what are your packages?"
While other SEO companies may offer packages, we don't. Here's why.
I've taken the position that SEO is "all or nothing." You either go all in and do it right or why bother?
With that in mind, packages don't make sense. With SEO packages, one of two decisions will be made. Either a sales guy will oversell the customer on more than they need just to get the higher commission, or the customer will choose the cheapest package; while the SEO company knows that cheap package won't deliver the results the customer needs.
I'm sure there are some scenarios where packages may make sense. But until I better understand what those scenarios are, I quote SEO campaigns on a per-customer basis based on their specific needs. That usually boils down to three variables:
- What is their industry? Is it hyper-competitive, like weight loss? Or is it really niche with the minimal competition? More competition = more work needed = more cost.
- What is their geographical target? Are they a local business that is competing within only a city? Or are they state-wide versus national versus international? Broader the target = more work = more cost.
- How is their website built? Let's be honest; all websites are not created equal. If a website runs on Wordpress, yay! Easier to work with. If the website has a thousand static, manually built HTML files, eek, that's going to take a long time to work on.
The two things you need to have a successful SEO campaign are realistic expectations and patience. It will take a lot of coordination between you and your SEO company. You have the knowledge of your industry and they have the skillset to showcase your knowledge. Help them help you and you're one step closer to dominating Google.
In the past decade+ of running his international search engine optimization company, SEO National, this husband and father of three has spoken at conferences, been featured on BuzzFeed, USA Weekly, and has optimized websites for INC5000 companies, NBA teams, and businesses featured on Shark Tank.