SEO: Why it’s not a one-off exercise

Just doing SEO for your website launch, then leaving it, is like having a shop with its windows boarded up. People will come when invited to the grand opening, but after that they’ll walk past every day and forget you’re there.

You’ll understand why I say that later. But first, let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing.

What is SEO?

  • SEO –an abbreviation of Search Engine Optimisation.
  • Search Rankings –the order of results returned from a search engine. The higher your page appears in the rankings, the more chance you have of being seen by readers.
  • Search Algorithm –the complex calculation that search engines use to decide whose web page gets ranked where. The thing that calculates the search rankings.

So now you know the jargon, what does SEO actually mean? Well, it’s all about the actions you take to get your pages ranked as highly as possible in the major Search engines. Notice that I didn’t say “in Google”. Whilst Google is the biggest, most popular search engine, there are other smaller, but still significant players like Bing (which is Microsoft) and Yahoo. That said, I’m going to use Google for the rest of this article. Just for ease.

The algorithms got clever!

Search algorithms have evolved enormously in recent years, especially with advances in artificial intelligence. They now understand what your content is and how useful it is to readers. They consider how long people spend on each page, how you got there, where you go afterwards and thousands of other complex, subtle factors.

SEO is no longer about loads of keywords squeezed, sardine-like, onto a page, like it used to be. Now it’s more about understanding your customers’ problems and providing useful information to help solve them.

If you can do this, you have a much better chance of climbing higher in the rankings.

Good content isn’t enough

So, you might be thinking that a bit of keyword research and well written content will be enough to get you noticed by Google. It may well be. But not for long. You see, while you sit around slurping latte and admiring your brilliant copy, the rest of the world moves on. If you don’t keep up, you’ll just end up with cold coffee and no new leads. And nobody wants that (except maybe your competitors).

There are three main factors that are constantly evolving, frustrating your efforts to reach that elusive page one of the search results…

  1. Search algorithms

The search engines themselves are your biggest enemy. Contrary to popular belief Google isn’t out to make life difficult for you and your website. It’s just trying its very best to get the right outcome for its own customers – Mr. & Mrs. Joe Public who are pushing the ‘Search’ button. To do this, the algorithms are ever changing.

In fact, Matt Cutts, the respected former Google search guru, once stated that Google updates their algorithms 350-400 times a year. Yes, you read that right – 350-400 times a year – that’s almost one a day! No wonder it’s so hard to keep up. Oh, and by the way, they keep the details of the updates as closely guarded a secret as Colonel Saunders’ secret recipe. When major updates come out, there are often some hints as to what’s changed (e.g. ‘mobile responsiveness is now a major ranking factor’), but no details. And nothing for the minor tweaks they do. All you can really do is monitor the results of your efforts, watch for trends and adjust when you see results dip.

  1. The market

Your website lives in the real world. And the real world around your site is constantly changing in a couple of important ways:

  • Fashions change – things that are popular one day are suddenly unacceptable or old-hat the next. If your website is using these terms, it’s suddenly had the rug pulled out from under it. People won’t use the term to search anymore and your ranking suffers.
  • Language changes – new phrases come and go in common use all the time. TV programmes, social media, world events and so many more things have an astounding impact on what people say and what they search on. Who’d have been looking to rank for, or even really heard the term ‘global pandemic’ in 2019? But people will use these new phrases in their searches. If your site still uses the outdated phrases and you don’t keep up, your search ranking will get left behind.
  1. Your competition

Your website doesn’t live in the vacuum of deep space. Your competitors are all vying for the same precious places on page one of Google. You only need a few of them to start new SEO campaigns and you’ll be pushed down the rankings. To make matters worse there could be new competitors popping up with their own take on SEO, keywords and brilliant content. And there you go sliding further.

It’s like a gigantic game of snakes and ladders, where the rules change constantly without anyone telling you.

The shop with boarded up windows

So, by now you should understand what I meant by my opening statement. If you do your keyword research, build brilliant content ready for your site to go live and shout about it on social media, you’ll be starting in a good place. Google will love you and so will your readers.

But if you don’t do anything else, the algorithms will eventually move on and leave your SEO efforts floundering. Your competitors will find new ways to engage with your audience and steal them away. And people will start searching on that new buzzword that was coined on Love Island so your pages will be marooned on their own desert island.

And did I mention that it takes a while for SEO to get traction? Usually a couple of months. But it can lose that traction overnight. Then you have to start all over again.

So, what can you do?

Hopefully you now you understand why SEO must be an ongoing exercise if you want to drive traffic to your website. But do you have time to keep it going yourself?

A specialist who’s immersed in the chatter and detail around the search engine algorithms, who can pick up the subtleties and nuances of the changes required and can tweak your campaigns can bring you real results.

Paul Drake
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Paul Drake

Paul spent more than 30 years working in IT in large corporates before going independent, forming WhiteStar Systems Ltd in 2012. His full-time web design business started in Jan 2014 and quickly flourished. In September 2019 the business expanded, taking on a graphic designer, an apprentice web developer and an office in Northampton. The expanded business was renamed WhiteStar and began offering a full set of digital agency services, including branding/rebranding and graphics services; web design, hosting and support; SEO; marketing support; copywriting and social media support.