Message and SEO

Written by Jamie Freeman

When we're talking to prospective new clients we're often asked if we 'do' SEO. There usually follows a ten minute ear-bashing in which I attempt to explain Message's position on the subject! I thought it might be a good time to try and distill those rantings down into a clear and concise statement.

Our approach to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

A few years ago I coined the concept The Holy Trinity of SEO which describes the three activities required to make a 'findable' website. The simplicity and truth of the concept is precisely the opposite of what most SEO companies want you to know. They want you to think it's:

  • A specialist activity
  • Mysterious
  • Complex
  • Expensive!

It is none of the above.

The phrase 'SEO' is bandied about so freely that it has become just another checkbox on marketeers to-do lists. It's become a verb: "we must SEO the website."

But 'SEO' is not the goal! Making the website findable is the goal. Here's how to do that:

  • Write some relevant text content
  • Build your site with clean, standards-compliant code
  • Get other sites to link to you.

Er, that's it. If you want to pay someone a monthly retainer to massage your Google results, that's your call. We don't think you need to.

Google doesn't care

Google, with it's truly vast development resources, is constantly optimising it's search algorithms to better understand the human beings who use Google. It's trying to understand us. It's optimising for humans.

SEO's (yes, it's a noun too) are constantly trying to optimise for Google.

If they spent their time optimising directly for humans they would actually get better results, because that's ultimately what Google wants.

OK, Computer

Who knows your human audience better than you? You might need the services of a copywriter to help you tell your story more clearly but that's copywriting, not 'SEO'. Write good content for a human audience, that's all you need to do. You don't need an SEO to do that for you, they have no magic dust to sprinkle on your website.

We are still, to this day, being asked by SEO's to add Meta Keywords to websites. This is despite Google publicly declaring - years ago - that Keywords are not used in search results. At all. Not even a tiny bit. But this type of tinkering is all the SEOs have.

We get asked to muck about with heading levels, even to the detriment of the document structure. We get asked to put all sorts of nonsense into the page titles, despite the fact it makes the site look and read like spam. (We then patiently explain to the client why they don't really want us to do that to their website.)

The best, most honest SEOs we've met say that most of their work is in repairing badly made sites. Our sites are standards compliant and accessible. They don't need repairing. 'SEO' on our sites is a waste of your money.

Spend that money instead on more good content, better photography, and enhancing the user experience. Maybe even spend it on AdWords.

But don't spent it on 'SEO'.

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