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by Stephen Logan on 15th October 2009
If this were a law court, the title of this blog post may be deemed something of a leading question. However, the question over the validity of SEO is one that continues to be raised, and rarely more vehemently than in a recent piece by Derek Powazek.
As a representative of the accused, you shouldn’t expect much of the following retort to be all that sympathetic to Mr. Powazek’s assertion that SEO is an industry full of ‘Spammers, Evildoers, and Opportunists’; however, a riposte may be necessary to raise a case for the defence.
First and foremost, SEO is what you make of it. Powazek himself is a designer, and just as some web designers out there are more intent on peddling profits than they are in producing quality content, the same is true in SEO. In fact, most industries, offline or on have their fair share of charlatans; but why single out SEO?
SEO Improves Visibility, Your Website Should do the Rest
The argument that a good quality site with good quality content should effectively market itself is interesting, if a little flawed. First and foremost, content is king, if your site is good it should succeed; there can’t be any arguments over that. But imagine this figurative site had a fantastic design, offered exceptional services but had no copy or navigation. You can extol the virtues of an aesthetically vibrant site all you want, but if nobody finds it, what use is it to anybody?
Great sites need to be found. SEO can be a natural process; you may write pages of optimised copy without even realising it and gain a number of links back due to linkbaiting qualities of what it offers. To take the element of chance out of it, you need to find an SEO expert.
There is no mysticism to SEO; all the information you could ever need to optimise a site is out there, ready to be absorbed by anybody who cares to find it. Unfortunately, most businesses – particularly smaller ones – don’t have the time or the resources to self-educate themselves in the relative benefits of keyword implementation, link building and local search.
What may be obvious to one person, might be complete nonsense to another. In the same way that I could rewire my entire home from scratch if I followed advice, the likely outcome is a lot of wasted time and possibly a result that was worse than before. We hire experts for their knowledge, regardless of whether or not we could actually do it.
Optimise for Google & Visitors, Not Each Individually
The mantra offered by Derek Powazek is as simple as it is baffling - ‘Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again.‘ ‘Make something great’, this should be the objective of every business. We all, knowingly or otherwise, seek out quality in all walks of life. Unfortunately it falls down somewhat at ‘tell people about it.’
Who do you tell? Your friends? Family? Peers? Competitors? Animals in the zoo? There could be any number of great things that are out there lying dormant and undiscovered. Surely it’s about telling the right people. How do you go about contacting the right people? You get yourself noticed.
The assertion that everything that deserves to be found will eventually fall into the right hands is hopeful at best. Whilst we all hope that it will happen; hope is not enough to guarantee success. Not that SEO will guarantee success of course, but it is one more marketing channel that will help get your website extra exposure online.
SEO is an enabler. Bad sites will in all likelihood be unsuccessful, SEO or not; good sites though, no matter how small, may thrive due to a little optimisation intervention. This is why any ethical SEO Company will discuss your site, the business behind it and the aspirations for it; if the quality is low and the expectations are unrealistic – you won’t outrank Microsoft! – then they should say.
Where there’s money to be made, people will take advantage of that. Just as you get cowboy builders, financiers and designers (heaven forfend), there are bad eggs in SEO. As a website owner, it’s your duty, if you can’t do the optimisation process yourself, to weed these out and find a genuine company, with genuine testimonials who can offer genuine services. It’s not as difficult as it may sound.