The PC revolution of the 90s, coupled with the dot-com boom which followed has resulted in massive amounts of online content. There are almost 2 billion websites online currently, and at least a tenth of them are active. Needless to add, online content is generated at unprecedented rates.
Let’s put this into perspective, however: at the end of 2016, IBM Marketing Cloud reported that about 90 percent of present-day online data was generated during the last two years – or even less! In mind-blowing numbers: that’s about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day! And that’s a lot of zeroes: in case you didn’t know, a quintillion is 10 raised to the power of 18!
Apparently, not all of this content is relevant, and a fair proportion of it is repeated – multiple times. Even so, if you’re living on the small island of Ireland, you’re certainly faced with a serious problem. Namely, how do you set up your website to top the search results for your target audience – say, those few thousand people living in Northern Ireland interested in your specific business, product, or service?
If Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is your instinctive answer, this post is for you. If you are starting up a business in N. Ireland and have not come across SEO yet, we still recommend reading on!
When you run an online search, you barely scroll beyond the first page. In fact, you often restrict yourself to merely the top 5 matches. This is where content marketing companies and search engines want a bite of the optimization cherry – promising to show your results at prime spots when users look for a specific set of keywords. Though this approach can work on paper, what you need to understand is that the top spots of any search query are extremely limited and there are hundreds of thousands of SEO practitioners out there who promise the same to all their clients.
Here is a real-life analogy to explain the irrelevance of SEO and websites. Optimization is a medicine which is required when the patient (website) is ill. It might appear attractive on the surface since it provides a quick fix, but all it really does is merely brush away an actual problem (poor development) under the carpet. Even if it offers a short-term solution, it is not sustainable.
Just think about it – do you really think you’re going to SEO your website to such an extent that it will beat Google/Yahoo/Bing’s search algorithms and find its way to the top based on SEO alone?
Very unlikely, I’d say!
Our philosophy is to prevent the disease itself, so you never have to worry about curing it. This can be achieved by spending time, energy and resources on the development phase of a website. If you pay enough attention to get the right development team to deliver your website and its content, you would not have to worry about hiring an SEO “expert.” SEO is a created, manufactured industry that never tells you the root-cause of the problem – poorly developed websites; all it tells you to do is to spend more and more money to fix it.
This simple yet versatile phrase has been tossed around in business circles since forever. Strangely enough, it remains one of the most ignored and underutilized management mantras. No matter what the industry (advertising, television, theatre, sports, consumer electronics, etc.), it is always about content.
Web sites are no different. Good, relevant, compelling and organic content would slowly but surely get recognized and get your more visits, more eyeballs, and more traffic – which will eventually lead to a higher conversion rate. You would rather want 1000 visitors to your site with a conversion rate of 2% than attracting 5000 visitors through paid SEO campaigns and having 0.1% conversion.
Cutting straight to it: SEO practitioners attempt to manipulate search engine results. Nothing more and nothing less – no matter how much their sales representatives sugar-coat it. When you are out to manipulate some (or all) of the world’s popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, you better have the best brains in mission mode.
Ask yourself – does the SEO company you are considering really look like they would have the world’s best software engineers working for you? If that thought is overwhelming enough, let us take a step back and think if they have the best software engineers in Northern Ireland working for you. In case the answer is not evident by now, it is a resounding NO!
Secondly, let us assume for a moment that the SEO firm really has the expertise to decipher the complicated algorithms of some of the world’s most popular search engines. What is the next step? Tailoring your website’s content to trick search algorithms into believing your website is best for the keywords associated with your business.
Given that the internet giants have some of the most complicated (and patented) search engine algorithms working for them, do you really think it is possible to alter your content in a one-size-fits-all way that would score high with all search algorithms?
The answer, again, is a resounding NO!
The Internet is a dynamic community with varying user habits and demographics. Today’s top search engine, Google, didn’t exist 20 years ago and, up to then, Yahoo was the internet community’s preferred choice. Hotmail was one of the pioneers of e-mail, and it does not even exist nowadays. Orkut, the most popular social networking site of the last decade is defunct today – and even Google could not make it competing against Facebook! This is the uncertainty of the Internet and its user behaviour.
When you search for the best restaurants in your area, the top results would invariably point you to a food rating website rather than an individual restaurant. When you run a search for the best mobile phone, the top results are not about a particular company but an e-commerce website (most likely Amazon) or a blog that has review-based content. Looking for the best hotel would take you to a hotel aggregator’s website. And the top results for each of these queries would depend on the search engine.
In an era of online uncertainty where the top cab company of the world (Uber) doesn’t own a single taxi and the most trusted website for booking hotel stays (Airbnb) does not own any hotel, how can an SEO service provider be trusted to get your website to the top of popularity charts by adding a few words here and few phrases there?
If you have read this far, you must be perceiving us as anti-SEO activists that are out to talk people out of their long-established belief, even though we have given you food for thought a few times before. Let us zoom out for a moment and look at the entire SEO story from a macro level – what brought it into existence, why it is thriving and to what extent the present generation SEO gurus are capable of adding value to your content.
Debating the legitimacy of SEO is polarizing internet community just like politics, sports and religion divide non-specialists. During the early phase of the internet boom, SEO had a strong case. Google was the default search engine riding on top of a secret search algorithm. However, marketers and engineers did find a loophole or two in it and exploited them to tailor the search results, at least until the time it took Google to realize and fix the flaw.
Over the years, a multitude of search engines have evolved – evidently running on different algorithms – which makes SEO practice ineffective. Each search engine eventually found out about its flaws and fixed them within a few months – if not weeks. Gradually, this cycle shrunk from months to weeks and from weeks to days. Today, we are at the peak of the internet evolution, with Artificial Intelligence powered bots crawling the internet and helping search engines separate the fluff from the stuff – making baiting them through content virtually impossible.
Want a lovely all-singing all-dancing dinner that you’re never going to forget? Then you should be aware – ask the chef if you don’t believe us – it takes time. There is an order that must be followed to deliver all the different elements in a presentable manner. Timing is key to delivering it at the right temperature and in a proper sequence – which would make its consumption a delightful experience. This is a fundamental rule of life, and web development is no exception. It simply takes time and a lot of patience to synergize all the elements, deliver them on time, in the right order and at the right temperature.
This is where the experience part comes into play. You have to know what you buy – otherwise, you’ll be hoodwinked into buying the wrong thing. To go back to our analogy, if the customer isn’t looking to pay for the full meal experience, then cutbacks in the kitchen are the obvious and expected result. You can cut out many elements and employ many time-saving processes and still end up delivering a meal for under a fiver which includes crisps and a drink. However, that meal is called a toast and is precisely what a poorly designed website would look like to your clients and visitors.
What does this analogy have to do with anything technical?
Well, we use it to show to you that it’s easy to know if you just had a good meal or not – for the simple reason that you are the one consuming it in the end. It’s your customers and clients who will consume the virtual dinner that you had created for their pleasure. If the cutbacks are severe enough, it’s no longer a restaurant or a café, nor a food stall. It’s just a guy with a toaster.
Just like everything else in life, if you want to make something work, you need to work and work hard. And if you know anything about websites, you’ve probably realized by now that designing a website isn’t just a walk in the park. Coding to well-established standards, adhering to the principles of UX design, testing rigorously and repeatedly, and creating authoritative content is all part of it.
Compromise either of these elements, and SEO would have the same impact on your website a light breeze has on a mountain. Or, to put it even more vividly, SEO amounts to nothing more but an expensive set of makeup products which, when applied most optimally, still end up fooling only the distant onlookers that the doll beside you is an actual person. You don’t want a body without a soul for a partner – a pretty face lacking depth and human qualities; in the long run, what you want is a three-dimensional being who has all of its facets equally developed.
Why should it be any different when it comes to websites?
In a country such as Northern Ireland which has internet penetration of well over 80%, your website has the potential to reach a large percentage of the population if it is developed the right way. Till now, our take on SEO would have put you off in a big way.
But wait: before you start believing all is doom and gloom in this world, let us change your perception straight away – it definitely isn’t!
After having you saved from getting caught in the downward spiral of SEO (you’ll thank us later!), we now reveal the secret behind an organic way of editing your website that is sustainable in the long run.
Relevant, unique and regularly updated content is a good starting point to get your website recognition. The more resources you allocate at this stage, the less you need to worry about attracting and retaining visitors later. Tagging is another useful way to let your visitors and search engines know about your web page’s content. It is like metadata which web crawling bots can easily parse to calculate a page’s ranking with respect to a particular set of keywords.
Check out our free, no-obligation SEO audit service for your website
Our services are built on the belief that an SEO-optimized website should be a by-product of good website development practices.
The earlier we get an opportunity to work on your website, the lesser will be the requirements for post-development SEO. It will drive genuine, organic visitors and you won’t need to worry about getting flagged by search engine bots for having posted misleading content.
We believe in building long-term relationships with our clients. If you are a business in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, we are offering free no-obligation, IT audit of your online digital presence. This enables us to get a deep understanding of your business model and the technology which powers it. Being an authoritative figure in web development, we are asked all the time for our opinion on various websites and technologies. Consequently, we created this no-obligation website audit to help everyone with a web presence in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Post IT audit, we are able to identify the improvement areas, and our experienced team is available with their suggestions to drive operational efficiencies and to answer your questions. Our audit is 100% free and comes with absolutely no strings attached – you are not obliged to sign us up for future services if you do not see the value.
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