SEO Process

OK, the “normal” thing for me to do at this point would be to ask for your email address and then send you a PDF report.

That may have worked a few years ago but it’s getting less effective by the day.

You’d begrudgingly give me a throwaway email address that you rarely – if ever – monitored. Maybe you’d check it once if I said you had to confirm your email to get the report. Maybe not. But any future messages I sent would fall on stony ground.

Or maybe you’d give me your real email address. Even then, any follow-up emails would probably go unread and unwanted. A bit like the nagging kid in the car saying “are we there yet?”.

So we’ll skip that part of the process. It doesn’t work for many people any more.

PDF SEO Process report imageNext is the free report part.

You’d probably download it and start reading it.

Then you’d get distracted and close the file. Almost certainly never to re-open it. PDFs don’t even have the advantage of being on your bookshelf with a marker to subtly remind you that you haven’t finished them. Not that that makes you finish reading all those books either.

So I’m going to go against the rules and use one web page.

The rules say that I should include videos – and I might do that one day.

Why am I working this way?

Because I know your attention span is probably like mine – short. A bit better than channel hopping, sure. But not much.

Plus I only want serious people to work with me.

I don’t want souvenir hunters.

I want people who are serious about taking their internet presence to the next level.

A bit of history

When I started on the internet in 1995 there were an estimated 23,500 websites in the whole world. We used a browser called Mosaic and probably found sites by word of mouth or maybe via the fledgling Yahoo directory.

At that stage, Google wasn’t even a research project let alone the 800 pound gorilla of search it is today.

Things changed over the years – search engines came and went, technology improved, that kind of thing.

As an aside, my first computer CD player was double speed, cost £400 and buffered videos painstakingly slowly. Viewing a video on the web in 1995 was beyond even the adult entertainment industry’s dreams.

But Google slowly began its objective of world domination.

It’s close to that achievement nowadays.

It’s estimated that there were over 612 million websites in the world at the start of 2012. No-one publishes figures on how many pages that represents but if we agreed that there are probably trillions of pages (a trillion is a million million) I don’t think we’d be far off.

Google does its level best to crawl round as many of those as possible.

It also tries to make sense of the results it gets.

The results it gives us are good enough that most of us use Google for search, most of the time.

In the USA about 2 out of every 3 searches use Google. Most of the rest use Bing or Yahoo.

Here in the UK the figure is roughly 9 out of evey 10 searches use Google.

Bing, Yahoo and Ask (when it’s on TV) make up most of the rest.

That’s why most of the world concentrates on Google. It’s market leader by a wide margin.

It makes most of its money from the ads that litter your search screen. We put up with the ads – and sometimes even click on them – because the search results are pretty good and the other shiny objects Google gives us like free email, free maps, free document sharing, etc mean we’re conditioned to like them.

Giving something small in order to get something big is textbook (that’s why I was supposed to offer you a free report). Check out Robert Cialdini’s excellent book Influence to see how you’re permanently being manipulated and how, in turn, you can manipulate the people you come in contact with.

Yup, I’ve read that book. Which means that consciously or unconsciously I’m manipulating you at the moment to do business with me 🙂

Where does SEO come in to all this?

SEO (search engine optimisation) is the art of manipulating websites so that they come up higher in the search results.

In an ideal world, the best sites would filter their way to the top of the results.

And they kind-of do.

But with over half a billion sites on the web that’s not always going to happen in our lifetime.

Before we look at the SEO process in detail, let’s take a look at what Google’s computer program (algorithm) has to do in order to serve you up with relevant results for whatever takes your fancy in the blink of an eye:

  • Find pages on the web – it uses a robot crawler to continuously trawl the web for new or changed content.
  • Scrape the content of these pages for further analysis.
  • Decide which language the page is written in.
  • Work out what each page is about, so that it can provide relevant results.
  • Check whether the page is totally unique, fairly unique, vaguely unique or a pure copy of other pages.
  • Work out whether the content on the page is written well or not.
  • Do the same kind of thing for anything else on the page such as images and videos.
  • Check which other pages have linked to the page.
  • Decide how “good” these linking pages are themselves.
  • Give the page some kind of score for all this.

Now it took you a little while to just read all those steps.

And I’ve probably over-simplified the process and definitely skimmed over the whole scoring system.

But Google has to do this for millions upon millions of pages, each and every day.

It then has to make sense of this and slot each page into its search results in the order that its algorithm currently thinks is best.

Then it gets a bit more complicated…

Some searches are time sensitive, others aren’t.

For instance, a lot of people probably care about the winning goal of a football match on the day the match took place. But in a week’s time, they’ll be focused on a new match.

On the other hand, there’s not too much changing about Tutankamen on any given day.

Google has enough data on web pages and searches to know this is the case.

So it will split up its search results into things that are probably current “hot news” and things that don’t fit into that bracket.

Google works fast when it needs to. It prioritises how it does this, big time.

I’ve known this for years but it was brought home to me recently when a friend of mine was abroad. Television rights meant that he couldn’t watch the Grand National horse race live (this isn’t a debate about the morality or otherwise of horse racing, it’s just an example of how the SEO process works).

So I was tasked with finding out when he could watch the race on YouTube. Ideally without the title of the page spoiling the result – most of the titles on YouTube include the winner’s name (great SEO, rubbish if you don’t like spoilers).

So I was pressing refresh in both Google and YouTube.

About 25 minutes after the end of the race, someone had processed the video and uploaded it.

Google beat YouTube by almost a minute in showing the video in the search results.

You read that right – Google’s search engine indexed YouTube quicker than YouTube’s own internal search engine.

So when its programmers think it should move fast, it can move at lightning speed.

But when that’s not necessary and the current results are good enough, it takes more time to do the processing.

It uses a mixture of signals to decide which route to take.

It then further complicates things by regularly slotting a new page into the first page of the search results – basically to gauge response – before sending it into the back of beyond while it works out the true position for the page.

So your excitement at getting onto the front page of Google is short lived and turns to less happy thoughts. But that’s just part of the process.

And yet more complicated…

Back when I started on the web, search engines like Infoseek and AltaVista worked on a “one size fits all” method. For any given search, their results were pretty much the same wherever you were in the world.

Nowadays that’s not the case.

Google knows it earns the most money from the ads it serves if it can target them with laser precision.

So it endeavours to micro manage the search results.

By default, it takes account of the previous searches you’ve made on your computer. It does this on a machine-by-machine, browser-by-browser basis, so if you switch between Internet Explorer and Firefox on the same machine and do the same search, there’s a good chance you’ll get different results.

By default, it would like to know more about you. It positively drools over the amount of information you voluntarily disclose on Facebook. So it encourages you to log in to your Google account when you search. If it can encourage you to use Google+, it’s happier still.

But even if you can’t be bothered to “like” and “+1” every site you visit (which gets boring), it will use any data its gathered about you to give more personalised search results.

That is why you sit there scratching your head wondering why your site is at the top of the search results yet no-one except you is visiting it.

That result is yours and yours alone.

Google also knows where you are located. Or at least close enough.

It will tell you this on the search results page and give you the option to change your location if it’s wrong.

This information is used when you search for something that Google thinks you’re likely to want local results for you.

Things like a plumber or a restaurant.

So even if you don’t type your town into the search bar, when you search for something that is probably locally based, you’ll get locally based results. And your friend 20 miles away will get results based on their location. Etc.

Pound coins imageThe same goes for the adverts you see. They can be targeted to a geographical area and even by time of day and day of week. No other advertising method currently comes close, which is why Google make lots of cash.

Truth is, Google doesn’t care about the individual pages on your site except for how they can help the people searching on their search engine and encourage those people to click on the adverts.

It took a number of years for companies to work out how to monetise search engine results – the early search engines completely failed to do this – but the wait paid off.

SEO Process in a bit more detail

If you’ve had the patience to read this far, you’ll know that the process isn’t simple.

And we’ve only scratched the surface.

Most people I consult with come away realising that they know even less than they thought they did.

The best way to start this process is from scratch.

Ideally nowhere near a computer – they just get in the way and distract everyone involved. (Much the same as a television does in a bar).

We’d start by working out what you want the end result to be and working back from there.

It could be that SEO isn’t going to provide the best return for your money.

I’m cool with that.

Because I’ll get paid for our first meeting whether or not you use my company to do your search engine optimisation or decide that you’d be better off with a mail shot or a leaflet drop or whatever.

So you’ll get unbiased advice. Even if pay per click (almost the sworn enemy of SEO) would be your best solution.

And you’ll get much more than your money’s worth from that first consultation. That much I guarantee.

We’ll sit down together and get an overview of where you are now and where you want to get to.

Then we’ll create a road map to get you from A to B.

You’ll need to allow a complete day for this.

With breaks in the day for lunch, coffee, etc.Brain image

Because your brain will be frying if you try to take everything in at once.

Like most things in life, there’s no single “best” way to get the results you want.

So part of this process will be choosing the route that you’re most comfortable with.

We’ll go through what happens before people get to your website. That’s usually the results that Google shows. If people don’t click through at this stage, your website is wasted.

If you take nothing else from the time we have together, this examination of your “shop window” on the web will almost certainly improve the results you get from your website.

And the good news is that part is easy to implement. Granted it will involve some thought before you implement it but that’s part of the process we’ll go through.

Hand in hand with the shop window is your site itself.

Granted my site isn’t perfect by a long way but websites are a work in progress and it serves its purpose at the moment. It also fits my attitude to business – I’m not an in-your-face salesman which is why this page isn’t splattered with “call me now” messages, etc.

Your site needs to match the image you want to convey. It’s often people’s first point of contact with you nowadays and if it comes across wrong, they’ll click the back button.

It also needs clear calls to action. An invitation to call you maybe. Or the option to get you to call them at a convenient time. Or a slick shopping cart process that lets people buy whatever you’re selling without fuss.

Each site is different because each business is different.

My years of experience on the web come into play here. I know what works, what doesn’t work, whether the views of people like site usability guru Jakob Nielson need to be taken into account and so on.

And I know people who can help you to implement any techie stuff if your current designer draws a blank.

The final part of the consultation is what you need to do to promote your website.

That’s the official SEO part of this process.

All the weird stuff like getting links pointing back to your website without incurring the wrath of Google.

Which isn’t easy.

Google is making Thor look mild mannered.

It’s motto of “Don’t be Evil” is increasingly taking on the NLP meaning whereby negative words are ignored and “Be Evil” is much more the order of the day.

You have to walk on eggshells with it nowadays.

Which means that SEO results take time.

Which, in turn, suits Google down to the ground as they hope you’ll give up SEO and pay them for every click.

But it also means that you need to know what to do, how long to do it for, and so on.

So we’ll cover all that when we meet up.

If you’re the kind of person who baulks at the idea of paying for information that will help your business, we won’t get along very well.

But so long as you’re prepared to spend some time and money meeting up for half a day and then are prepared to go off and implement what we’ve discussed, you’ll get excellent value.

I’d suggest starting with a one day consultation. That will give you enough to go on with for at least a month, probably a lot longer.

Then meet up again in two or three months time, work out where you’ve got to and where you need more help.

By that time, you’ll know a lot more, be able to pick my brain and get even more out of the SEO process.

So, the moment you’ve been waiting for, the call to action!

Well, almost.

I nearly forgot.

You can come to Cheltenham for this meeting or I can travel to you. Or we can meet somewhere inbetween.

I’m lazy on travel.

So if you want me to come to you, it will cost a fair bit more. Hopefully enough to give you the incentive to travel to the Cotswolds.

Finally then, the call to action:

Phone my personal mobile number 07967 478272 and we’ll work out when we can meet up.

And the boring bit: payment is by direct credit before we meet. Not that I don’t trust you. Just that I’m useless at credit control so payment in advance takes that hassle away from me.

So, another old school call to action. Call me now on 07967 478272.

I look forward to helping your business succeed.