Good SEO practices are looking more like good business practices

I recently had an e-mail exchange with a long-term client who wants to drive more traffic to his web site with SEO, a perfectly reasonable desire for someone who wants to increase business in hard times.  Unfortunately, web site owners are often told by “SEO experts” that by following a specific recipe, they’ll have more new business than they can handle. Real SEO experts don’t make such claims.

 

My client’s marketing consultant provided me with copy and keywords to post, which I dutifully did.  Less than 24 hours later, I received an e-mail from my client asking why his pages were not doing better in Google and Bing.  Now, I’m not an SEO expert, and I’ve never held out as being one, but I think it’s fair to say that adding a new press release with some targeted keywords will not result in a #1 listing on a specific keyword search on a specific search engine less than one day after being released into the wild.

 

I haven’t follow the SEO scene for years, but there are a couple things I do know:

 

  1. Without research, it’s impossible to know why any particular competitor comes ahead of you on certain keyword searches.  Knowing why this occurs requires an intimate familiarity with your competitors and the online content they serve.  It takes time and effort to gain this knowledge, and it’s expensive…if only in the amount of time spent gathering it.
  2. The practice of SEO has been a sort of arms race between search engines that want to connect users to content they’re looking for, and businesses that want #1 rankings.  These objectives are often in direct opposition to each other (sometimes blatantly so).  In the old days, it was easy for SEO “practitioners” to get high search engine rankings through simple keyword stuffing, doorway pages, and other simple deterministic methods.  As search engines became increasingly sophisticated, so did the SEO methods used to game them.  The more elements and nuances that search engines took into account to determine content relevancy, the more that professional SEO began to resemble old-fashioned reputation management, positive word-of-mouth, and adherence to honest business practices.  The bottom line is that there are fewer and fewer shortcuts to driving traffic using SEO.
So what advice did I gave my client?

 

  1. Know what you’re passionate about.
  2. Know what services your business is best positioned to deliver.
  3. Know what markets you serve best.
  4. Review 1-3, and then reduce and focus your web content accordingly.
  5. Having trouble with 1-3? Be honest about assessing your strengths by asking yourself this question: what are the things I do that others in my industry would say I make look effortless?
Again, I’m no SEO expert, but I suspect that by focusing your SEO strategy on 1-5 above, you can effectively move the needle.  Basically, I advocate for a back-to-basics approach.

So what do you think…am I off-base?  Does my advice suck?  Would love to read your comments.

How to Tell if IT Hype is Good or Evil

Plenty has been written about the “Gartner Hype Cycle.”  It’s a solid concept you should already be familiar with if you’re in IT, but that’s not what I’m interested in here.  I’m fascinated by how people take advantage of IT hype and opportunistically use it for good or evil in their institution.  My definitions of “good” and “evil” are subjective:

  • Good hype = puts the hyped thing to work to solve a real-world problem
  • Evil hype = uses the hyped thing to further an agenda

At one end of this see-saw is 100% practical application, on the other is 100% pure self-interest.  How can you tell if the hype you’re listening to is good or evil?  Where the fulcrum lies depends on the motivation of the “hyper.”  In my experience, motivation is usually obvious.  As practiced by individuals, evil hype artificially inflates the perceived expertise of the speaker, and is used to influence (typically) uninformed decision-makers.  Another way to assess whether hype is good or evil is in how much it helps adoption of the hyped thing in the service of a real world problem; money may or may not be a factor, depending on the situation.

IT professionals are exposed to an enormous amount of hype.  The reality is that many technologies actually do live up to their hype.  It can provide visibility a new technology needs to grow by capturing the imagination of a broad swath of people.  It can drive forward a solution to a need that’s real, but hard to realize.  Hype can also make something seem more important than it ought to be, and needlessly waste everyone’s time and energy.  It’s important for IT professionals to maintain perspective, especially when we’re in a position to make decisions or advise those who do.

What do you think?  Do you have any examples of GOOD hype?

Dilbert Comic Strip from January 7, 2011

Getting Started

As the tagline suggests, this blog is going to be dedicated (at least initially) to my pursuit of a doctorate, along with some thoughts about my experience with technology in Student Affairs.  My first post – well, the post AFTER this one – will be about my decision to “go all the way” with a doctorate.

After 15 years of professional involvement with the web, you’d think I’d have started blogging sooner.  Should be a little fun (and cathartic) for me personally.  I hope that what I have to say may be useful to others who are considering going down this path.  I welcome your input.

Continuing Adventures in Higher Ed & Technology