We regularly get asked about our SEO services and we now take a very different approach to many of our competitors. Many still believe in charging a monthly fee for ‘SEO services’. I know for a fact that one prospect went with a competitor because we didn’t supply these magical SEO services. They came back after a year of little progress with their traffic levels.
It’s not that I think ‘SEO is dead’ per se, just that it has changed fundamentally and for good reason. It’s changed enough for us to re-evaluate our services.
I’ve been involved with SEO projects for over 10 years. In fact, Reverse Delta entered the recruitment sector as SEO specialists in 2005 when there was a pressing need. At that time many web designers didn’t really understand the way Google (and other search engines) worked. We reviewed hundreds of recruitment sites over the years and regularly saw the same issues cropping up:
- Badly written pages with no keywords
- Embedded jobs pages from a recruitment system on a different domain
- Difficult to index jobs that were invisible to Google
- All jobs on a single page that was impossible to index
- Poor site and URL structure
- Lack of titles and heading tags
- Redirects, frames and splash pages
We would routinely pull sites apart and put them back together. This started to get a little tedious and also showed a gap in the market. It was through this process that FXRecruiter was born.
The wrong approach for the right reasons
Like others, we’d try to ‘game’ the Google PageRank system, by acquiring links to the sites from various places around the web (including the legendary DMOZ where a link was considered gold dust). This is now considered wrong …and quite rightly so. We all did it and Google encouraged us by telling us that links to the website would increase our PageRank, which we all obsessed over and constantly monitored on our Google Toolbars. Google stopped publishing PageRank. It was the wrong thing to obsess about.
When Real People started to matter (again)
Keyword stuffed pages with lots of incoming links are not necessarily the most relevant pages for real people. Google knew it had to change or people would go elsewhere – Bing is just a click away. Google wants to give the best possible results, not spammy pages cooked up for SEO.
The Google algorithmic changes over the last couple of years have simply been about cleaning up the results, and making sure Google keeps its crown. Social media signals are increasingly important. Keyword stuffing and link building are actively discouraged. Search results are personalised so we can no longer obsess about our rankings either: what I see may be very different to what you see.
SEO can typically be boiled down to three things, and little has changed in the last 10 years other than ‘social’ factors:
- Content– the words, their relevance to a community, who links to it or ‘likes’ it on social media
- Code– the way the site coding has been written so Google can make the most sense of it
- Domain– history, topicality, authority, trust
There’s a good summary of success factors here from Search Engine Land. This is recompiled every two years by a variety of industry leaders, so isn’t just one person’s opinion.
No more link building
Good content will be naturally linked to and shared via social networks. This increases your domain’s authority and relevance. Each article you write is a potential magnet for traffic. The more articles = the more traffic. We see a direct correlation every time. Why have only one ‘advert’ in Google results when content management systems make it so easy to add new?
No more ‘structural’ SEO
The coding of most leading content management systems is already very well optimised. It should be a case of just adding good content. If your CMS doesn’t do this, you’ve bought the wrong CMS and no amount of SEO tweaking will really provide a cost-effective solution. Get a decent CMS that does the basics out of the box (eg WordPress, Joomla, FXRecruiter) rather than throwing good money after bad.
That leaves content
The words matter and ideally should come from a specialist who writes bright, engaging copy that people want to read. Too often we see the text come in late in a project as something of an afterthought. Make the most of the content you already have. Ideally have someone internal owning this who can keep creating new content once a site is launched.
It’s not just about creating the content. It’s about communicating it to your community, social network sites and groups, using RSS and email, and generally creating interest in your content. Your content should sit on your site, and not on an external blog. Your job ads should be well written, containing the keywords that real people use. Clear calls to action can then encourage further engagement. Automated emails can bring repeat visits.
The changes to the way Google analyses sites benefit real users and good news for everyone but the ‘black hat’ SEOs who used to pollute our search results. Indeed many SEO agencies are re-positioning themselves as ‘content marketing’ companies. They know the old dark arts of SEO are dead.
Of course, digital marketing is more than just SEO: it is a holistic process that includes having a well coded site, with great relevant content available on all devices and channels, automated communication tools, and supplemented with engaging calls to action. Get this right and you will get the traffic you truly deserve.