SEO has become somewhat of a buzzword lately. Individuals and companies are being spammed with daily emails that promise to put your website on the first page of Google. This unsolicited spamming not only fills up your inbox, it also tarnishes the SEO concept. It seems like everyone and his/her dog have jumped on the SEO bandwagon with false promises. Having said that, let us look at SEO and what it aims to achieve.
A website is a company’s or individual’s online ‘avatar’ – it represents you in cyberspace. It is the ‘face’ of the company that appears when the user searches online. Google, in their infinite wisdom, built their search strategy around the concept of rewarding sites that are technically well maintained, fresh, dynamic, user friendly, add value to the user’s requirements and are accessible to their web crawlers. This list is by no means finite, and I merely aim to summarize and to bring home the fact that Google (or any other search engine for that matter) rewards the ‘better’ sites and ranks them appropriately.
Just like your car needs maintenance from time to time, so does your website. To do this, SEO focuses on on-page optimisation, which entails the physical work done in the site’s backend. This work includes actions such as optimising the selected keywords into the site’s landing pages, structuring the URLs, optimising meta tags and headings, repairing broken links, creating alternative text for images (Google sees an image as white space, unless the image is tagged with alternative text to explain what it is), content optimisation and creating social media links.
However, ensuring the site is technically perfect is not the only important aspect of SEO – ensuring it is taking part in the digital conversation by doing off-page optimisation is just as important. Listing the site on appropriate directories, making press releases, doing social bookmarking, amongst others, achieve this.
That brings me to one of the most important aspects of off-page optimisation – namely a properly planned social media campaign. If the website itself is a company’s online avatar, then a well-planned social media campaign is the ‘voice’ of the avatar. Social media is the perfect vehicle for creating new and fresh content – and fresh content is very important to search engines. It is also a good way to create relationships with prospective clients, and in turn, these relationships will create links to the website. Sharing value-adding and relevant information with other people online will again be shared, and re-sharing this information results in a snowball effect to the benefit of the company involved. So, social media does not only serve to create new content, it ensures a growing audience as well as improving a company’s visibility, and ultimately, brand visibility.
Sadly though, some companies are still reluctant to engage in social media. Perhaps they feel threatened by it, perhaps all the horror stories about hacking, trolling and online scams are the reason for being shy to use it. The truth is unfortunately that the lack of a planned social media campaign will hamper the effectiveness of the rest of SEO – akin to an engine that runs on only three of its four cylinders.
A well planned SEO campaign, that includes a social media drive as well, will assist in making a company visible on the Internet. If executed properly, it will result in more page views. However, it is still the company’s responsibly to turn these increase in page views into extra sales. If the website itself is unpleasant to look at or fails to project a professional image, the product overpriced or irrelevant, and/or the company does not respond to online enquires, the SEO campaign will be in vain. SEO can bring the horse to the water, but it cannot force it to drink…. That remains the Company’s responsibility.