What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It starts off with an evaluation of your website based on how users will experience it and how the major search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) will look at it. After the evaluation (called a Web Performance Audit) the physical optimization starts. This is a process that involves changing things on your website itself (On-Page Optimization) and the way your website is referenced by other websites (Off-Page Optimization).
What is the Purpose of SEO?
Improving the way search engines index your website means that more people will find your website. More website visitors equals greater exposure, and greater exposure means more potential customers. There are many businesses that use a well-optimized website as their only marketing strategy!
Should I use SEO or SEM?
SEM or Search Engine Marketing is a form of Pay per Click advertising that can be very effective when used properly. (Google AdWords is probably the most well-known form of SEM.) It basically means that your ads are displayed next to the search results when people search for things that are relevant to your ad. When people click on the ad they are taken to some page on your website that relate to the product or service advertised. It is an effective, targeted marketing system and you only pay when someone clicks on the ad which makes it budget effective as well.
Having said that, most people find that effective SEO, when implemented over a period of time, will have even better results than SEM. In fact, we can mention at least one example of a company that uses simultaneous SEO and SEM and their results are 80% from SEO and 20% from SEM!
What is White-Hat / Black-Hat SEO?
Some SEO practices are ethical and generally approved of by search engines. These practices are known as White-Hat SEO. It essentially means that a website is optimized primarily to make it useful to visitors, to make it easy to read and full of relevant and interesting content. Search engines want to send their users to good, relevant websites.
Black-Hat SEO involves practices that are developed to exploit the system instead of really improving the quality of the website. It will usually get your site a great number of hits really quickly, but since the practices are frowned on by the search engines, when the algorithm changes those exploitable loopholes are usually plugged and your site may be penalized or blacklisted, leading to a sudden, huge drop in hits. A good example is the whole backlink rush of a few years ago (and some people are still doing it). Google sees your website as reliable and credible if other reliable and credible websites are linking to it. So many people started spamming other websites with links back to their own websites in any way they could. These days Google’s algorithm is clamping down on people who do that – in other words, be very careful with backlinks! They can still be very valuable, but they have to be implemented with great care.
How long does it take before I can see results with SEO?
This is like asking how long it will take you to dig a hole. It depends on the size of the hole, the size of the shovel you use and the amount of effort you put in. The same applies to SEO. Your results will depend directly on the quality of SEO you put in, as well as the amount of effort / budget you spend on it. But for most people their SEO efforts start showing results within a few weeks, but it won’t be earth-shattering in such a short amount of time. For real lasting results you should have an SEO expert putting in consistent effort over a period of at least 6 months to a year. You should see a steady growth in website visitors if you do this.
Should I do my SEO myself?
Though there are definitely some things you can do yourself, we do not recommend it (and not just because we are SEO consultants!). This is for two reasons. Firstly, the search engines often make changes to their algorithms. This means that something that works for SEO today might not work anymore tomorrow. Secondly, when people are caught implementing unethical (Black-Hat) SEO practices (knowingly or unknowingly) the search engines tend to penalize them by pushing their websites to the bottom of the search results. As an example we would like to mention the real-life example of a man who has a car rental agency. He specializes in providing cars for overseas tourists coming to South Africa and his website is his only form of marketing. He did his own SEO and got a journalist friend to post articles with backlinks on various sites. Things went really well and his business grew at an impressive rate. But one day (just before December) suddenly his website hits dropped to zero. Google found his SEO practices unethical and they blacklisted his website. Obviously this had a huge impact on his business, so much so that he had to cancel his December holiday and spend the whole December at home trying to fix his website and his standing with Google. In the end they accepted his attempts at fixing his site, but they still penalized him for 6 months. For someone who relies on his website as his only marketing tool that is a huge problem!
So we definitely recommend that you make use of a good SEO consulting company. They will have a good relationship with Google which means that they will also have insight into upcoming algorithm changes and the effects those changes will have on your website’s ranking.
SEO is important. It could be one of the most important things you ever do with your website. But it’s important to do it right – Rather get the right people to do it and do it properly the first time. It could save you a lot of problems later on!