b2ap3 large snakeoilOne area of the work we do is helping small and micro businesses as a digital communications service provider and coach.  Having been involved in more than a dozen startups over my career, I know that money and resources are usually tight at startups. So nothing irks me more than getting the type of call I did recently from a client saying they were going to work with a 'SEO specialist' who had told them the web platform their site was built on was unsuitable for SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, and that it needed to be redone and then they could get them page one rankings in a week. 

The platform on which their site was built is a leading open-source solution well-suited to the application for which it was built. For small business owners, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

So let's look at the changing landscape of SEO and whether a technical solution will produce the results promised.


Search Engine Optimization can be technical and it can seem somewhat impenetrable if you are not web savvy.  What SEO is supposed to do is improve your results in search queries by search engines.  In the simplest terms, SEO has two parts to it.  One part is making sure that search engines crawl your site, find your content, and categorise it in a way that returns search results for products or services you offer.  The second part is developing a content marketing strategy, then implementing it. 

Content marketing is creating content that is authentic, accurate, trustworthy and relevant to your customer base.  It isn't enough to simply have keywords for search engines to crawl and find for good search results.  Google and others rank sites based on the usefulness of the content to their searchers, not just on whether a page has backlinks or keywords in the metadata.

Content marketing has become increasingly important in a monetized search environment.  Search results are split between paid content - advertising - and organic or earned content.  Google used to be an effective search engine with advertising; now it is an ad platform providing search results.  If your organization does not have the money to spend on advertising, then having in place a strategy to return good search results off your earned or organic content is critical.  Having a technically effective site is a part of this, but without good content, even a technicallly perfect site will still languish off page one.  Without useful content, Google will not rank your site competitively against paying advertisers.

I've written elsewhere about content marketing, and Integrated Media Strategies has had billion dollar results in the areas of economic and workforce development, so clearly it works. But it can also work effectively for smaller businesses seeking to differentiate themselves locally in hyper-local search results. What won't work is the kind of stuff being pushed by snake-oil salesmen telling you that a few keywords on a different platform will do the trick. A significant amount of the work we do is troubleshooting and cleaning up after companies better suited to selling snakeoil than actually delivering results.

Technical SEO stuff - keywords, metadata, Google Webmaster Tools validation and the like - is part of the work we do. For our more affluent clients, we'll do it turnkey. For our small business clients, we coach and train. We use SEO extensions that makes it simple to see what's been done, what remains to be done, links, duplicates and scores.  And we help clients prioritise the time they spend on process - writing content, optimizing content and sharing content across a variety of social platforms to develop the visibility needed for effective marketing.

Like the meme at the top of the article, snake oil just seems like a bargain. As for the client who called, I explained why what he had been told was less than truthful, then followed it up with an email with links to Google and other first-order sources of information. Needless to say, the site wasn't switched to vapourware. 


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