This article was written by Bart Burggraaf who is a Partner at MediaGroup Worldwide.
Google was revolutionary. No search engine before it took the approach that it did, and Google was rewarded with an enormous cash cow as a result. When we ask questions like ‘should we be doing SEO’ the real question should be ‘what kind of SEO should we do, and is it worth it?’. To answer that question, we need to understand how Google works.
So for those of you not intimately familiar with search engine optimization, the approach Google took is similar to how we judge the performance of academics. The way we judge academics is by seeing the amount of references their scientific papers got, and from what quality of publication those references were. Similarly, if a lot of quality websites link to another website, that is a really good signal that that website should be considered important.
Once we know the importance of a website, Google needs to know what that website is about and what keywords to rank them for. So they look at the content of the site, the text that is linking to this site (anchor text) and the content of the site doing the linking. With this information of importance and substance combined, Google shows your website in the search engine results pages (or not) for specific phrases.
Now, marketers ruin everything, so Google has had to tweak its algorithm over time to focus less on quantity of links and more on quality, among other tweaks. As a result a lot of ‘spammy’ techniques no longer work and you need to be careful that everything you do looks natural, but the core is still there. Get a bunch of links from good sites and ensure your websites’ content is relevant, and you are golden.
Now to the other part of the question we should be asking – is SEO worth it? On the whole, yes. Ranking for key industry terms means tens of thousands of new visitors every month and considering the price of advertising to get those same visitors, the ROI of SEO is insane. It takes a while to get ranking and you might give up just before you reach the top 5 of the results where all the real action is, but you shouldn’t.
The issue is that a lot of companies that do aggressive SEO are not serious companies. Not the other way around, serious companies could/should do aggressive SEO but just to say that right now the majority of companies doing this aggressively are not serious. Companies that are not serious get a bunch of complaints, people come to their site and leave right away, they don’t have a lot of mentions on other sites or social media, etc. So any success in SEO is short lived.
SEO is not a tactic you can do to stop marketing in other places. It is not the cure for a bad product or brand. It is a great tool to use for serious companies, and it should probably get more budget and attention than it is getting right now.
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