If you’re hoping that we’ll cover the magic formula to guarantee yourself the #1 top placement on search engines here, you can stop reading now. We can’t. We don’t know it. Neither does anybody else, by the way. And even if they did, they wouldn’t within 30 days.
Here’s the deal, folks. Search engines are a moving target. They HAVE to be. Not only does technology change like clockwork, but unscrupulous folks constantly try to “game” the system and rig things to get ahead. “All is fair in love and war,” right? Or you can take the Machiavellian approach that “the end justifies the means.” The whole point, though, of a NATURAL ranking (also called an “organic ranking”) is that websites achieve their position based on the merit of their content relevant to what people are searching for, rather than a ranking that is attained by artificially playing an angle to gain an advantage.
As a result, search engines handle their criteria (their “search engine algorithms”) in three ways. First, they keep them super-double-top-secret. Second, they continually make them smarter, becoming more discriminating and countering the antics of people who try to play them. Third, when cute little tactics are employed by people to gain unfair advantage, the search engines penalize those gimmicks when the algorithms are updated. A few tricksters may still accomplish their goals periodically, but overall, search engine companies are VERY focused on the integrity of providing untainted results.
The difference between “tactics” and “strategy” is quite simple, and very important in working with search engines. Tactics are short-term efforts intended to react or respond to the immediate here-and-now to achieve quick results. In the SEO world, they can be a house of cards. Strategy, on the other hand, is a long term plan the employs proven techniques and generally proactive methods to steadily move forward in achieving your goal: top placement on the major search engines.
When you are seeking a qualified SEO professional (someone who studies the search engine TRENDS and that understands the big picture), ask about their strategies. If what you hear appears to be “special ways to take advantage of loopholes” rather than a well-formulated, long-term plan, then you are likely dealing with a tactician rather than a strategist. If the tacticians plan fails, the cost is YOURS. In other words, they may be clever enough to fool the system for a month or two, but eventually when their methods catch up with them, your website goes “bye-bye” from the search engine listings. Unfortunately, there’s usually some clause in your SEO contract that says “no guarantee, no refund.” It’s up to YOU to be the smart one and not get conned by someone who is boastfully “smarter than the average bear.” They’re either fooling the search engines (temporarily), or they’re fooling you. Either way, they get paid.
Look for the SEO person who is willing to explain what they do. Unless you have studied the SEO process and have kept up on all of the latest trends (in other words, it’s part of what you do for a living), you’d be crazy to try optimizing your site yourself. You would likely fall prey to some of the “gotchas” that search engine algorithms are programmed to detect, or you’d miss the mark altogether. Yet a number of SEO people seem afraid to “share the secrets of the trade” because they either 1) feel that you’ll do things yourself and they won’t earn your business, or 2) they’re trying to protect you from doing something damaging to your site. One reason is obviously more noble than the other.
Regardless, we like to educate our clients. We look at it this way: when we go to the doctor, we like to know what he (or she) is going to do to us. If they pull out a rubber glove or a needle, it’s nice to know what it’s all about BEFORE anything happens… and it’s certainly not something that we would endeavor to try to do on our own. In a not-so-vivid kind of way, we see website and SEO work in a similar fashion. Just as we’re not trying to put an M.D. after our name when we expect the doctor to explain a procedure to us, your website solution provider shouldn’t try to make an expert out of you by giving you the basics of how they do business. So ask. It won’t hurt, we promise.