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During almost every website I build I get asked by my client's what I'll be doing to make sure their site ranks high for XXXXXX search term. Unfortunately this stems from the widely held belief that SEO is some sort of magic Voodoo that is done by the site code only. We can't blame clients for wanting to rank well in search since it's such a traffic driver but we can educate them so that they think of SEO properly.
I'm not sure where this dumb idea about SEO being all in code and trickery came from but the fact is that this is wrong. Sure a well coded site using current best practices is a huge leg up in gaining search engine ranking but if there is no original, good content on the site there is nothing to be crawled by search engines.
I think back about one client who had lots of content on their site. They put up something new each day. It was relevant to their field even. Unfortunately it sucked. All they did was grab a news story that related to search terms they wanted to rank for and put the headline on their site with the first paragraph from the article. Sometimes they added a link to the original source. The article was followed by a link to their contact form.
While this is content, and it is published regularly, it's not good original content so ultimately they're just wasting their time. SEO comes from good original content.
Unfortunately with the client I list above about 4 months later they came to me complaining that they still weren't ranking for the search terms they wanted to rank for and started blaming me for it. When I asked if they were writing at least one original article a week I was told:
In a perfect world we'd take the time for that, but it's just not going to happen.
This has lead me to one response to clients when we start talking about SEO. As soon as they start to talk about it I ask if they're going to write original content at least once a week. If I get any other answer than “Yes” I tell them to stop talking about SEO. If you give me no original content to work with there is nothing I can do.
When you think about SEO you need to be thinking about a long term plan for how you're going to achieve ranking for search terms. It's not instant pay off, but a long term commitment to produce good content.
I currently like to cite the paddling site I run with a friend. I've been heavily involved in the site for 3 years. The first design/code I did for the site sucked. I can live with that reality. I was new to WordPress and hadn't dug into SEO much so the markup was not well suited to identifying content to search engines.
I only rebuilt the site last year and while we did see some increase in repeat traffic and see more people clicking on more articles with the redesign, we really didn't see an increase in search engine visitors. We see about 1000 people a day come directly from search terms. Having talked with a number of other paddlers running sites we're far and above the highest in about 90% of the cases.
We out rank local stores for purchase specific search terms. I don't even sell anything.
We have accomplished this with approximately 100 articles. When we want to rank for a new search term, or better for a current one, we come up with 3 or 4 articles to write that would pertain to the term then sit down and write them. Then we wait a few weeks and guess what, we start seeing people come to our site via the terms we wanted to rank for.
That's my big secret.
So stop thinking that some company can come in and help you move from not ranking at all to ranking number 1 on Google for a term. Sit down and get some original content on the site. Do some work instead of expecting someone else to do it for you. Stop being lazy. Setup a long term plan and follow through on it. Sure it's not easy but it's what needs to get done.