MOLLY SCHOEMANN: It’s not that I don’t believe in the healing power of Search Engine Optimization, it’s just that…Ok, so I don’t really believe in the healing power of Search Engine Optimization. It’s not that it isn’t legitimate– it just seems like the kind of thing that is easily misused and abused. The same can be said for Social Media Marketing; it also seems to have been embraced by all sorts of companies that probably shouldn’t have bothered. Do I really want to follow an insurance company on Twitter, or be Facebook friends with my bodywash? Hmm…no.
There are so many people out there who don’t understand how SEO works, and there seem to be an equal number of companies eager to make a buck off those people, by treating it like a magic bullet that will solve all of your business woes. Everywhere I turn, there are companies that specialize in SEO and social media marketing offering it to managers at other companies that don’t really know what it is, but that feel like they need it, because everyone else has it. So they’d better order themselves some SEO before it’s all gone, and where can they buy some good Social Media Marketing?
It reminds me of how a year or two ago blogging was the new thing. Everyone, start a blog! It will get discovered and will make you $$$! You can work from home writing your blogs! Granted, blogging had been growing enormously for several years up to that point, but once it became more mainstream, it was suddenly touted as an instant moneymaker by untrustworthy companies and people to gullible other companies and people. Again—do I want to read the blog of the company that makes my breakfast cereal? No. I will pass on that.
Now, it seems, the same thing is happening with Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing. The problem being, in my relatively inexperienced but still deeply skeptical opinion, that you can dance around trying to lead a prospective customer to your website all you want, with links, and ads, and by being in their top Google searches and trying to be their best buddy online, but if they’re not looking for what you have, then you’re wasting the time of everyone involved.
Still. This is just me mouthing off in a grumpy manner. I would imagine that as SEO, if done right, is a legitimate business-increasing pursuit, and as such, I will leave the nuts and bolts of that explanation to someone far more expert on the subject than I. Take it away, Nava!
NAVA BRAHE: Molly, SEO isn’t an easy nut to crack, but when it’s done right, there’s no disputing its efficacy, or its impact. I was as much of a skeptic as you, but when you get an “in” on the technique from the right people, the proof is very much in the pudding.
When I moved back to Toronto last year, I stumbled into the world of SEO when I answered an ad on Craig’s List, placed by an SEO firm looking for a copy writer. I thought, sure, I can write copy, but I really had no idea what “keywords” were. Google was something I used sporadically, and was told not to trust it in no uncertain terms during the semester I took “Research Methods” in grad school. Since I was new on the scene and needed a job, I thought, what the hell; I’ll give it a shot. It was tough in the beginning, but now I find it more challenging, and more rewarding than I ever imagined.
The key to proper SEO is to go “white hat” all the way. That means absolutely no spamming. The “black hat” SEO outfits will stuff keywords into their copy like Stove Top into a Thanksgiving turkey. That’s wrong. And you can tell when you’re reading spam-laden copy. The keywords are grammatically incorrect, and the copy is poorly written around them. Those are the guys who give quality SEO a bad name. I like to equate it to buying a counterfeit designer handbag, and trying to pass it off as the real thing. You know it’s a fake, and the trained eye can spot it from miles away. Proper SEO is barely discernable, only to the people who do it, like me. And that’s the key – you want the web site you write copy for to be compelling, not oozing greasy cubes of extraneous information.
As easy as that sounds to accomplish, you sometimes want to tear out all your hair. I’ve written web copy about carpet cleaning services that was more difficult than writing a graduate paper on the Holy Sonnets of John Donne. Really. Much as I hate to do it, I have to incorporate the words, verbatim, that people plug into search engines. For example, if someone wants to have their air ducts cleaned in their home, they might plug the words “duck cleaning” into Google. There might only be a handful of people doing that, but unfortunately, I do have to consider that faux pas as credible information. To someone with a Masters degree, that’s something I find very difficult to wrap my head around.
SEO and Social Media Marketing are related, but they’re not the same thing. It’s become the norm for web sites to encourage readers to “like” them on Facebook and follow their Tweets on Twitter. Blogging is ubiquitous, issuing press releases and writing articles for link generation is a bona-fide cottage industry. Again, done right, there’s no beating it.
Ironically, the downside to all this blood, sweat and research is the Great and Powerful Oz himself: Google. They’re forever changing the parameters and yanking the rug out from under all us SEO-ers. Why? Because they can. Google really is “Big Brother”. The less you think about that, the better off you are. I prefer to think of the shifting search engine-landscape as a new challenge I wake up to every so often. It always keeps the job interesting, and it prevents me from becoming complacent. When you work in this industry, it’s important to always be evolving. I’ve had my struggles, but the more I work, the more I realize that SEO was a blessing in disguise. Not only has it introduced me to a valuable new skill, it’s restored my faith in credibility and pride of ownership. I’ve written and optimized copy for everything from hemmorhoid cream to bikini calendars, and I’m proud of every word. The beauty is, I’ve only just begun.