Friday, 21 August 2009

"My fav topics are SEO, Spirituality,Tech News, Astronomy, etc..."

The title of this post, and indeed the quotes in the image, come from genuine Twitter bios.

Can I let you into a little secret? Search Engine Optimisation [SEO] is NOT some kind of mysterious modern alchemy. And it ain't rocket science. In fact it isn't any kind of science. It is a procedure. It is a procedure (in the original, non-computing sense of the word) which is an integral part of website construction and will be done automatically by the people who build and maintain your website, whether you have a whole department who do it in-house, employ a user-friendly system like our WebAdvantage® or pay an outside service to look after it for you.

Simple, obvious and no secret really. However, many people would have you believe SEO is some kind of black art requiring a new age digital shaman to point his wand at your HTML tea-leaves and javascript coffee grounds, and then pronounce his spell that will somehow - magically beyond the ken of mere mortals - lift your website into the top flight in search engines across a whole plethora of search terms.

And who are these people who would have you believe that SEO needs secret powers of sorcery? Why, it is the would-be sorcerers themselves of course.

Once upon a time in the mists of internet history (ie up until about a year ago) the fashionable service for these people to try and sell you was the traditional 'New Age' quackery of 'Life' consultancy and enhancement: "Listen to me; follow my blog; buy my book; come to my retreat and get your head straight. I have all the answers." And don't forget you can pay by Paypal.

Well, there's not much space on that old bandwagon and the tune itself is getting very tired and worn, so our would-be gurus and wizards have looked around for a new religion. And Search Engine Optimisation fits the bill perfectly: its very name is a gift to the weaver of mysteries and the creator of anxieties and insecurities. And that's what they want: they want you to worry that your website hasn't had the seal of approval, the golden tweak from an expert. SEO sounds special, complicated, technical. It has something to do with computers - it lives and breathes in the strange Digital World. Clearly the work of the Horned One. It has a sexy acronym - S - E - O. It rolls off the tongue and it is very close to CEO, possibly the most emotive, testosterone-powered acronym to come along in a generation. But most importantly, you don't need any training or experience - you don't need to do any work - to persuade the people that you, and you alone, have been favoured with this mysterious gift. I can; you can; anyone can style themselves as an SEO expert. We can all hint that we are one of the secret SEO illuminati.

But it's all an illusion. Don't be sucked in by these chancers. Don't get me wrong: of course there are large numbers of perfectly respectable consultants who happen to list SEO as one of their services. Fine. But my point is that it is not essential to have someone do it for you as some kind of special 'extra'- it should be an integral part of your website. And even if you are a complete newcomer to the procedure and are going to do it yourself, you can read Google's advice to webmasters and do a perfectly good job. Much better to concentrate your energies on giving your visitors/customers something special and attracting them to your website that way.

Of course if it is your particular fancy, you can make SEO as complicated and as involved as you like. You can spend endless hours examining every little nuance and trying to extract 'gold' from a website the search engines already think is perfectly acceptable. Sure, practice alchemy. Whatever turns you on.

Meanwhile the illuminati will continually try and persuade us that only they know all the little 'SEO tricks' which will lift your website from 193 to 172 on that very particular keyword. Tricks may briefly get you increased visits but those extra visits will be valueless because those extra visitors weren't looking for you. And remember the opening words used in the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of the noun 'trick': "a cunning or skilful act or scheme intended to deceive or outwit someone." Alternatively, my old Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1964) has: "Fraudulent device or stratagem..." One of the things the search engines work really hard at is the exposure of fraudulent SEO - they don't like being tricked. It is not good for business.

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