Before You Begin: Common Questions About SEO

If this is SEO, what is SEM? Or UX? Or that other thing…

What about SEM? That’s “Search Engine Marketing” and isn’t that better for me than SEO?

Well, in my opinion, there’s very little difference. You’ll also hear people talk about Search Engine Marketing, Content Marketing, Social Marketing, Conversion Optimisation, and “UX” – short for “User eXperience” as if they are some sort of black art, a dark magic that only they truly understand. When they do this, they’re not telling you the whole truth – today you might not understand what these things are, but you don’t need to go to Hogwarts to change that.

All of the things in this list, ultimately, are just techniques aimed at doing one of two things:

  1. Getting more people to your website.
  2. Making the people on your website do something you want them to…

Oscar Wilde said that “there’s nothing new under the sun” and that’s certainly true of the Internet. There are no new things – just new ways to do the things we’re already doing, just better.

So, when we talk about SEO in this book, we’re really going to be talking about a whole range of processes and techniques that can:

  1. Get more people onto your website.
  2. Make the people on your website do something you want them to.

and some of these will certainly cross into the worlds of SEM, Content Marketing, Social Marketing, Conversion Optimisation, UX etc.

There’s a very good reason that I called this an SEO book though – more people search for SEO than any of those other topics combined. 

That’s lesson one right there – find out what words and phrases your potential customers are searching for, and make sure you use the same language.

Nah, I’m good. I don’t think I need SEO…

Before we get into the main part of the book… I’m going to get something off my chest. I’ve honest-to-goodness heard people say “Oh, I don’t do SEO”  like that’s something to be proud of. 

Here’s maybe the most important tip in this book…
it’s not something to be proud of.

In today’s 100% digital world saying that you “don’t do SEO” is the equivalent of saying “Oh, I leave my business completely to chance” or “Oh, I let my competitors steal my business all the time”.

It’s ridiculous.

Now, if you’re one of these people you probably aren’t even reading this book but… just in case… I’m going to give you a get out of jail free card.

SEO is changing.

In fact, it’s changing so much, so often, that that sentence is probably the only one that I won’t rewrite in the next edition of this book. And there will be a next edition, there has to be, because…

SEO is changing.

When I sat down to write this book, I didn’t want to use the phrase SEO because, in truth, optimising your website is about far more than optimising it for organic search. It’s about improving the user’s experience. It’s about making sure you provide a great online service, tightly integrated with a great offline service. It’s about protecting customers data. It’s about speed, reliability, compatibility, and accessibility.

It’s about every aspect of your business becoming digital and supporting your digital strategy – which, as the world is now completely digital should just be called “your strategy”.

But… that’s a lot to get on the cover of a book and most people, rightly or wrongly, still call this stuff “SEO”.

So, here it is, my “SEO Book” and lesson one is this – you need to do SEO.

Isn’t SEO dead?

Wait a minute. I read the Internet. The Internet says “SEO is dead!”

Yes, I’ve heard it too but, like Samuel Clements, the rumours of SEO’s death have been greatly exaggerated. What is dead is SEO as we once knew it. The days of looking for technical “tricks” to work around the search engines algorithms are over and the days of any sort of automated content generation, magical link building, or SEO-by-posting-comments-on-other-people’s-blogs are seriously numbered (probably to minus 1 day and falling).

There’s a simple reason for this, and it’s Google’s own “Web Spam” team.

Google has invested a huge amount of time and money in building a team dedicated not only to improving its index, but also in protecting it. They are on a crusade to ensure that their search engine remains the first choice for any Internet user and their primary enemy is anyone who is trying to position a site in a better position than the one it “deserves” according to their algorithm. If you’re an SEO provider, sometimes that means you’re Google’s enemy, whether you meant to be or not. But, let’s face it, if your brand has been accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary as the verb for searching the Internet, you’d want to make sure you protected your investment too, wouldn’t you?

Under the auspices of the web spam team, Google  has released multiple significant updates to its index including the famously codenamed Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and more. The ramifications of some of these are still being felt by businesses today. Google is also still updating, and adding more update projects to its schedule. Tracking Google updates has become a daily task for webmasters and SEO consultants, with whole web communities dedicated to analyzing and discussing what Google may, or may not, be doing.

It’s easy to see why people would be proclaiming that SEO is “dead”.

Obviously, I don’t agree, or I wouldn’t be writing a book about SEO today. Throughout this book though, I’ve been careful to stay away from any tool, tip, or technique that I believe may fall foul of a Google update any time in the future. Am I psychic? No, sadly not, but I do have a few very simple rules that I believe can guide you in understanding which tactics are likely to be viewed as “spam” by Google in the future.

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