Thoughts

Stop Overcomplicating SEO

SEO is extremely simple. SEO agencies need to make it sound complicated to justify their monthly fees. This post will dispossess you of any confusion. Refer back to it frequently whenever you are considering paying a retainer.

I have worked in SEO for 10 years. I’ve seen it all. 

  • A major corporation threatening to sue us for linking to their website. 
  • A client crying in a meeting because a campaign that gained dozens of links (including the BBC) didn’t get enough retweets. 
  • An hour-long 8 person meeting to discuss what to call a set of 4 blog posts. (Meanwhile the website was missing category pages for even their most basic services.)

Repeat After Me

SEO is very simple. 

Anyone who says it is complicated is lying* or incompetent**

* Lying so they can charge you more for their services. 
** Incompetent because they need to convince themselves their job is more important than it is. 

Much brainache (and the issues I listed above) could all be avoided if everyone repeated my favourite mantra:

More pages, more links.
More pages, more links.
More pages, more links.

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing

I need to clarify: of course there are scenarios where SEO becomes convoluted. But they are generally reserved for websites with millions of pages in highly competitive sectors. 

I once attended a thrilling talk about how content is displayed on the Zoopla website. It was a technical marvel and very impressive. However, for the vast majority of website owners it would have been bewildering. 

Any time you feel bewildered about SEO, refer back to the above mantra and then read the following:

De-programming your bewildered brain

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the practice of making your website appear higher in Google. 

It is not Google Ads (an advertising platform using a completely different system). And it has nothing to do with Social Media and Email Marketing. 

Good SEO takes ages (7–12 months for *initial* results). There are no instant wins (or at least none that can be replicated easily). 

If you try to cheat, you will destroy your rankings and never succeed. Google has way more computing power than you. 

A little R’n’R

SEO is based on two main things: Relevance and Reputation. 

Relevance

You establish relevance by creating pages that are relevant to a user’s search phrase. 
For example, you should have a page about ‘White Shoes’ if you want to rank when people search for ‘White Shoes’. 

Ideally, you should have a page for every phrase you want to rank for. That might mean you need hundreds of pages, but nobody said this was easy…

You need to optimise your pages in the following way:

  • Meta-title: the title of the page. 
  • H1: the name of the product, service, post or category. 
  • Text: 500-2000 words about the thing you’re selling. 

Don’t name your pages stupid things that nobody searches for. Google doesn’t care about your brand’s weird naming conventions. You will only rank if you use the same language as everyone else. 

I.e. 
Leadership Consultation Programme -> Business Coaching
Milky Dream Emulsion -> White paint
Cappuccino Dream Collection -> Brown duvet set

This may seem artless, but please ask your accountant how much longer you can afford to ignore common sense. 

Create as many well-optimised pages as you can. 
That’s it. 

Reputation

You improve your website’s reputation by earning links from other websites. To decide which website is the most reputable, Google relies on links and only links. 

Linkbuilding is a game of quality rather than quality. Link quality is scaled based on the ‘authority’ of the website. ‘Authority’ basically means how trustworthy a website is seen to be by Google. 

High authority websites are hard to earn links from. The highest authority websites are major news publications. You can’t just ring them up and ask for a link, or pay for a link. You have to earn it. 

Google doesn’t like manipulative practices. If you pay for links you will get caught. Google will remove you from its index and you might get a fine from the Advertising Standards Agency. 

Never pay for links. 
No really don’t. 
Use Digital PR tactics instead. 

What about technical SEO?

If you’ve been paying a retainer for technical SEO, this will be a hard pill to swallow:
for small businesses (and most websites) technical SEO isn’t that complicated. 

Here’s what we normally do when working with an underperforming website:

  • Restructure the content (make it easy for users and search engines to find and read your content. This usually means redesigning the navigation of the site). 
  • Mobile optimisation (Around 70% of browsing takes place on mobile devices. So your site needs to load properly on mobiles or Google won’t rank it. 
  • Site speed optimisation (Slow sites = bad user experience. Google won’t rank it). 
  • Internal linking (Find lots of opportunities for your pages to link to each other contextually. Good for users and search engines). 
  • Remove duplicate content (If two pages are too similar, Google won’t know which to rank so will rank neither). 

For some sites built by artless charlatans web development agencies, it’s easier to just rebuild the site from scratch to get it loading quickly / on mobile. 

If you want an easy life, build your site using WordPress or Shopify. They are both robust and offer a lot of straight-forward solutions to common SEO problems. 

Then what?

That’s it. If the site is built with a solid architecture, it just needs pages and links.  

More pages, more links.
More pages, more links.
More pages, more links.

I’ll share guides on how to create pages and build links at some future date, but in the meantime here are some common phrases screeched at me by people with fragile egos.


FAQs

“Nobody is visiting our service pages”
Are you sure you’ve given them a generic title and not called them something stupid? Remember, if you don’t use the same terminology as everyone else, people won’t be able to find it. 

“We tried SEO in the past and it wasn’t for us”
You didn’t do it properly. You were too impatient or your supplier was incompetent. 

“I heard that [Social Media Followers / Online Business Directories / Links from my site to others] will help my SEO. Is that true?”
No

“We post to our blog every Wednesday. Are we doing good SEO?”
If you’re posting well-researched content which features important industry topics then that is good. If you are posting any old shit for the sake of it then that is bad. 

“How much will it cost / How long will it take?”
It depends. How competitive is your industry? How much content does your website have compared with your competitors? How many links does your site have compared with competitors? 

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