Does SEO stand for Snake Essence Oil?
Running a business, your inbox is likely hit daily with offers from people you don’t know saying your site is low in Google rankings but they can help.
Sent straight to the depths of the spam folder with a roll of your eyes, those unfortunate souls who actually make Search Engine Optimization their business are fast becoming the modern equivalent of snake oil sellers–and not entirely without cause.
The thing is, optimizing your website so search engines find it is crucial. To break it down in layperson’s terms, think of your website as the sign you hang out in front of your business. You pay the most skilled local crafter around to create a beautifully made sign to portray your business in all its glory, replete with the best materials, artful logo and pleasing colors…
The Emperor’s New Sign
But if you don’t optimize your website’s content so search engines can find it, your beautifully made sign is completely invisible to everyone else. Or visible only to those you take by the hand and show it to.
The problem with one-size-fits-all SEO is that someone who doesn’t know you, your business, and how you approach your work will never do this justice. S/he may know the basic formula for how to make a sign visible, but it may end up in a whole other language. Or not being seen by your target market at all. S/he may try to get your sign seen so forcefully, s/he knocks the whole thing down and breaks it.
A truly powerful helper in implementing successful SEO knows the dance with search engines requires skill, balance, subtlety and the trick moves: dynamic content, appropriate keywords and photos with proper focus and placement. Most importantly, someone who will be indispensable in successfully optimizing your website’s SEO will know your specific brand, target audience and business aims like the back of their hand. This is where a local professional becomes invaluable.
Your enterprise is more than just your website, it’s also your store front, the quality of your services, your artwork in the gallery, the culture around what you do and why, and who likes and needs what you contribute. No spamster SEO optimizer will ever understand what it takes to represent your business fully based only on what they find on Google.
A good SEO consultant will listen and ask you questions to understand what your clients are looking for and precisely what you provide, along with giving you objective suggestions. They will hear your thoughts on your aesthetic vision for your sign and also find the middle ground to ensure your epic sign is seen by those who should. Someone with a little objective distance can often help in viewing your biz from a new angle but they should never present it in a way that violates your legal concerns, ability to conduct business or ethics on how you market your wares, creations and services.
The Bad, and the Ugly
The hubris in these uneducated offers can be downright detrimental–a pair of wary business partners told me their small company’s website was literally broken, flagged by Google and rendered non-functional for business–all because some swindling SEOers tried too hard. Some will say your site should dominate every listing on the Google search page. In reality, if the first page includes your website and social media links along with affiliate sites, articles and positive reviews which link back to your site, you are in a much better position than those who simply tricked Google into listing their site repeatedly on page one.
I’ve seen someone claiming to know SEO recommend setting search terms that would have violated the terms of a product’s trademark. This comes of not knowing enough about the business but thinking you know what terms would generate traffic.
The Bottom Line
Yes, you should consider SEO. If you have a mind for it, you may be able to do it yourself though it often helps to have some outside input and takes a certain level of skill and patience. You should feel trust with the person who does this work, that they hear what’s important to you and have a thorough understanding of your art or business to represent it well. Get recommendations from those you trust. Find someone who understands your business or is willing to learn. Choose wisely and beware the snake oil.
If you have questions on SEO or website content, get in touch with me. We’ll schedule a free initial consultation to see if working together feels right for both of us.
photo credit: Harold Kuiper via photopin cc<