Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be a little like a game of Snakes and Ladders. Certain valuable, relevant content creation can lift your rankings while other techniques like “keyword stuffing” mean you ride the slippery snake downward on Google rankings.
More importantly, as the web has evolved in the last decade, so too have SEO and Google’s ranking methods. And what may have been the optimisation ladder of 2005 , could be the viper of 2011.
SEO Changes in the last decade
A quick snapshot of SEO in the last decade will assist when you are assessing your SEO expert, so you know at least what questions to ask. Because the methodology has changed consistently in the last ten years. Its important to employ someone who observes “best practise” in SEO AND Social Media Strategy.
Ten years ago, SEO professionals would say organic rankings were all about optimizing page-level elements, such as title tags, headers and on-page copy. Five years ago, SEO strategists were probably harping on the importance of inbound links pointing to your website.
In December 2009, Google introduced real-time search, which incorporates news results and Twitter updates into search results. Google’s universal search (which displays content from YouTube and other networks) is another way social media content has been brought into search results.
While html tags and backlinks are still important today, getting real SEO results these days requires a strong online brand at various online touch-points with content that is valuable unique and well written. And someone who knows what best practise is. If they don’t understand sourcing or citation, give them a miss.
How do I know if my SEO expert will provide me snakes or ladders?
If your consultant did an SEO workshop 2 years ago, plus a trainers certificate and says they are certified, you need to look deeper. They are only certified for that point in time and may have missed some significant developments.
Real SEO practitioners should have a combination of the following:
1. Be at the bleeding edge of online business nous, internet research, have several years coal-face business experience
2. An understanding of content and are avid researchers, always looking for the next online radical change.
3. At least college degree qualified in English and have some understanding of valid research (stats and algorithims)
This means someone who is up-to-date as of yesterday in terms of SEO algorithm’s, that’s right, yesterday or at least in the last month. I would suggest that the person you use have at least an analytical mind, preferably have an understanding of algorithm’s. And most definitely a better than average understanding of the English language. Ask them if there were any advancements in the last 2mont hs regarding SEO. If they say “metatags and backlinks”, don’t hire them.
What Questions Should I Ask?
They need to be able to look at your business as a whole and understand online buying behaviour, user experience, landing page optimisation and real value add, value driven content. They need to understand how the “Big Three” Social Media Sites contribute to SEO and how the new Google weighting toward Social Media Sites, prevents fake content, content farms and social media imposters from posting cheap mass produced posting content.
Blogging Content, Content Farms are Snakes
If an SEO company provides an article for you. You should ask the question, are they Australian, English or US native speakers and do they have a portfolio of work you can review. After all its your brand they are writing about. The average cost of a writer in Australia to create a 250 word article is around $150- $500 depending on how much research is needed.
Because content is now more important than advertising in drawing customers toward you, you should think seriously about the quality of writer/content creator you employ. In fact, I would go so far as to say a reallocation of your advertising budget into quality content creation should be a priority. Including articles or contributions that make your company look “silly”.
Social Media Content Ladders
Since Google has increased the authority of social media sites as weighting higher than “website backlinks or metatags”; we have seen a proliferation of outsourcing of social media content offshore to India, the Phillipines and other low cost content producers (SEO snakes).
A quick scan of content produced by such sites shows that large corporations should “never” outsource to these third parties because of the poor English, poor understanding of v alue add content and lack of thorough content editing. Always check if the price of content creation is cheap, the results will be cheap as well.
You also risk the content being downgraded, if it is poor, rehashed, irrelevant or does not add value. In worse situations, it may not have been edited correctly which will affect your corporate brand not only Google rankings.
Danny Sullivan from Google and Bing adds these points as SEO ladders:
Both search engines count referencing of a given piece of content via Twitter as an indicator of authority (apart from the links coming from those references).
Both search engines attempt to compute the authority and quality of an author and give that author’s tweets preferential treatment.
Both track links shared within Facebook.
So next time you pay peanuts for content you may not get monkeys but you’ll certainly be riding the Google snake downward on search relevance and rankings.