A few thoughts on SEO, chapter 1
SEO - Search Engine Optimization – the holy grail of web design.
Writing is just one ingredient in a website, and since I come at website design as a writer, not a computer coder, I’ve been spending a great deal of time reading everything I can find about some of the other primary ingredients, including SEO.
The underlying concept seems simple enough. If I want to find somewhere to get a haircut in my town, I should be able to type “where can I get my haircut in my town?” into my Google search bar and voila! A list of options appears.
And if there were only 100 websites on the internet, total, and only 5 of them had anything to do with cutting hair, this would probably be a 100% perfect system.
But what about when there are over 1.5 BILLION websites? And what if some places that cut hair are barbershops, and some are salons that also color hair and do manicures, and what if some are a chain, and some are a one-woman scissoring operation? What if one or two are close to your house but technically over the town line? What if three opened last week and four closed?
Hmmm, now the whole search effort just got a lot more complicated.
Of all those factors, though, the one that I come back to again and again is this: there are over a 1.5 BILLION websites.
Anyone trying to find you is looking for a needle in a haystack. No, they’re looking for a strand of blonde hair in a haystack. What are the odds that they find your hair – aka your page is on the first page of Google results? Do the math. 1.5 BILLION. It’s ridiculously unlikely.
And if that’s not daunting enough, the math, remember this: Google doesn’t publish an instruction manual for how to be found in their search results. There’s no recipe. Think about it – they can’t. Because as soon as they did, everyone would run right out and do it . . . and there’s still only room for 10 winners on page one. The recipe would instantly be obsolete.
Why bother, right?
The internet went and got so big and so successful that no one can get found there anymore. Which puts us right back where we were before the internet – word of mouth. Referrals. Networking. Human beings interacting like human beings.
Because I am a small business, my next client is going to arrive at my website because she heard about me some other way. She’s a friend of a friend, most likely, or I met her in line at Target.
(In an odd coincidence, the day after I drafted this post, I stumbled across this article on Twitter - in which the author reminds us how important the in-person meeting can be!)
Do I try to work SEO magic on my own website? Sure: website design! women entrepreneurs! Scottsdale website design! female web designers! Those are some of my "long-tail keywords." I sprinkle them (and others) into my posts, my site, and my social media.
But I also don’t sit waiting for searches to return me on page one results.
So my advice, if you are a small business (Jeff Bezos probably not reading this), is this: Sure, do some SEO on your site, but don’t obsess over it. Certainly don’t fork over gobs of money to an SEO expert. Instead, save your time, money, and energy and do some old-fashioned networking. Tell your friends what you’re up to. Ask them to connect you to people who might be interested in what you do. Carry business cards and don’t be afraid to hand them out with a smile, a handshake, and an elevator pitch.
Get up and go find your clients. Don’t expect them to find you in that haystack.