Tag Archives: search engine optimization

Feeding The Spiders

As happens from time to time in this space, today’s post might seem a little geeky. Please bear with me – there is a broader business point that emerges from the somewhat technical premise! 

I was discussing Search Engine Optimization with a prospective client the other day. For those of you who don’t know what that is, you can think of it as the process through which web pages are optimized to rank highly in search for particular terms. As you know from your own use of a search engine, ranking on the first page of results tends to get you more clicks than being on page 3. It used to be a highly technical process, and while there are still some fairly technical pieces to it, the best practice I follow when working on it with clients is pretty simple: create a great user experience.

Oddly, it helps to think of the search engine spiders (the robots that comb the web for pages and organize them) as people. If you create a great user experience for a person, odds are that the spider will find it attractive too and ingest the information properly. What do I mean? Great content is a great user experience. So is a site that’s easy to navigate with clear buttons and no broken links. Content that has been proofread and is error free makes a great user experience. While there are some technical things – title tags and back links to name two – that require attention, it’s the user experience that it driving SEO these days.

We can say that about any aspect of business, I think. A great user experience – a pleasant, functioning environment married to great customer service – is the most basic requirement. Solving a customer’s problem and providing great value while doing so (notice I didn’t say at a low-cost!) is the recipe for success.  Thinking about how best to feed the search spiders can help create a better business experience overall. Does that make sense?

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Getting Found

Perhaps the biggest challenge in business is “discoverability.”  That’s just a fancy term for your business getting found.  If you’re a bricks and mortar operation, it might mean an eye-catching sign.  If you’re a digital business or a business that has a digital presence (are there any businesses that don’t?), it means doing the work needed so that when customers are using the web they can find your site.

That concern is something I get asked about by clients all the time.  They hear about Search Engine Optimization but don’t understand what it is or how to do it.  I’ll preface this by saying I don’t profess to be an SEO expert.  I can, however, get clients through the rudiments, take care of the technical basics, and, if our work shows results, bring in a resource to do the advanced stuff.  So with that in mind, let’s spend a minute on how your business can be more discoverable.

You might find this odd, but the answer is simpler now than it was a few years ago.  Many of the technical parts of SEO are no longer as important as they once were.  What’s important is a recurring theme here in the screed: focus on your customers or prospects.  Making your site content useful to a shopper will have the effect, in most cases, of being great SEO.  What do I mean?

People search either to buy something, to find a place and get there, or to find information.  The latter is why you do informational content (like this blog), the former are product pages, etc.  Making every page of your site clear with respect to what question you’re answering or problem you’re solving with probably mean you’re using the words people (not robots) use to find answers.  That’s good SEO because it is focused on user experience.

Yes, there are a couple of technical things you should do (good title tags is the main one) and you need to hope that people build links to your content (they will if it’s great!).  But the most important thing you can do in order to enhance discoverability is to be useful and clear.  For those of you who are hearing from SEO experts that want to charge you a fortune, you’re welcome (mail me – I’ll tell you where to send the check).  For all of you, I hope that helped.  Did it?

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I’ll admit that today’s screed is a bit more narrowly focused than it is on some days. That said, it’s about a business that touches us all and a business practice that might serve as an example.

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might know that one of Google’s informal mottos is “don’t be evil.” More formally stated (as it is in their business code) it’s:

Do the right thing: don’t be evil. Honesty and Integrity in all we do. Our business practices are beyond reproach. We make money by doing good things

It also made their IPO documents:

Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long-term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short-term gains.

So far, so good.  What’s bugging me and many others today is Google’s announcement that they’re going to be encrypting all search data.  They started doing that on a smaller scale almost two years ago (you can read my post on it here).  For those of us who are in the business of helping companies understand how and why people come to their digital businesses, it made life difficult.  If you’re engaged in search engine optimization, it put a dent in your abilities as well.  However, at the time, Google said it was a measure taken to protect user privacy (for users signed into a Google account) and it wouldn’t affect much of the data.

Fast forward.  It HAS affected a lot of the data and yesterday’s announcement means ALL the data about how people were searching and found your site is gone.  Some are calling it the day SEO died.  I think it’s evil.  Why?  Because you CAN get the data – you just need to pay Google for it.  Their idea of privacy is bullcrap. You can’t offer privacy, but still SELL the data to AdWords advertisers.   There’s also some rumblings that they’re doing this to protect against the NSA program but if the data is still available I can’t see how that would work.  Business practices beyond reproach?  I think a neutral party might say not so fast.

I respect that Google offers a lot of free services, most of which are among the best offered anywhere.  But dumbing down how businesses can make the web a better, more usable place hurts everyone.  Part of why Google and other search engines work is that many of us work hard to be sure our content is discoverable by and clear to the search engines.  This could make search results less accurate.  It also means the ads Google serves will be less well-targeted.  It also means that while big companies will continue to pay for expensive services that offer workarounds, start-ups and smaller businesses will suffer.

I come down on the side of this being evil.  You?

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